Ayana Misawa is one of the most elegant lady winemakers I have met! She is a fifth generation winemaker working at Grace Wine in Yamanashi Prefecture, about 100km west of Tokyo and north of Mt Fuji.
Ayana Misawa; Photo credit: Jeannie Cho Lee
Trained in Japan, Bordeaux and Stellenbosch, and having worked in Argentina, Chile, Australia and France, young Ayana is now the chief winemaker at Grace Wine. However, being one of the very few female winemakers in male dominated Japan, is not easy. While Ayana is determined and confident, she is also sensitive. I was discussing with someone about the feminine side of wine recently and Ayana is definitely a representative and an inspiration to a lot of like-minded Asian women.
Photo credit: SipSwooshSpit
Koshu (甲州), an indigenous grape and the signature variety in Japan, is as delicate as Ayana. Her father pioneered improvements to vineyard management techniques resulting in much more concentrated fruit. She is further improving it by fermenting it in stainless steel tanks or old barrels to make a refreshing vibrant wine. My first impression of Koshu was that it was vaguely reminiscent of Mosel riesling. Ayana's comparison of Koshu to Hunter Valley Semillon is perhaps more appropriate. With its delicate palate, Koshu certainly pairs well with Japanese sashimi. Ayana reckons it would also be a perfect match with Cantonese cuisine. I can see myself enjoying it with poached prawns, steamed bean curd and light stir-fried dishes.
Photo credit: Luciano Ramo
The Cuveé Misawa Rouge, a blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon and 35% merlot, is the combination of new world fruitiness and old world restraint minus the high tannin. I love her cabernet franc, with an aroma of fresh raspberries that is elegantly understated. Most 100% cabernet francs tend to be too green (in many cases grown in a cool climate region) or too jammy (if grown in too warm of a climate) but Ayana's offering is just spot on. Her spirit is reflected in the wines. They are refined and delicate, yet have character.
Ayana confirmed that in Japan they do indeed have an individual umbrella over each bunch of grapes to shelter them from rain, which is closed when the sun comes out. Such a thing can only happen in Japan!
If you want to try these wines, check out wine'n'thnings.