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Japanese Producers, Part I

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Japanese Producers, Part I

Staying for two nights in the vibrant city Sapporo was a pretty terrific idea. Not only for its proximity to the vineyards but the eating and drinking scene was ample with the likes of French Panda, Birdwatching and Gris. With their deep local selections, we were able to dive into the wines of Takahiko Soga (whom we would meet) and Bruce Gutlove (whom we would not).

Bruce is an American ex-pat and Japan’s most essential wine mentor. He moved to Japan in the 90s to take charge of Coco Farm and Winery, a winery that employed special needs workers. Upon his arrival, he was minimalist but conventional. But Japan was coming online with the world’s first specialized natural wine importers. That exposure fine-tuned his sensibilities and he soon became the country’s first natural winemaker. When he and his wife wanted a winery and vineyard to call their own, they chose Hokkaido to plant and build. Thus was born 10R (which also offers custom crush for others). The 10Rs we found to drink had depth and agebility and a quality I call halitosis. This is a roasted celery root quality, and for me it’s a positive. Bruce’s wines struck me as what is and can be. And I thought about them a lot as I tasted the wines from those finding their own way as well as others who looked to Burgundy as their modal. Over these few days, I would come across this quality again and again. As far as that importer who called Hokkaido a joke? She qualified, “Except Bruce.”