JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

Gastronomy from Japan & Suntory’s Japanese Wine Vol.16

Chef and Sommelier visiting Tomi no Oka Winery


photographs by Tsunenori Yamashita / English translation by Yuko Wada and Sean Gaston

David Bellin, Executive Sous Chef of western cuisine, and Manuel Rodriguez, Hotel Sommelier of Grand Hyatt Tokyo, paid a visit to Tomi no Oka Winery. Their visit came from a feeling of need to convey the excellence and quality of Japanese wines with the increasing number of overseas guests.

David Bellin
Executive Sous Chef – Western Cuisine
Grand Hyatt Tokyo

A French chef well-acquainted with Japanese culture, residing in Japan for over 15 years with experience in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse’s restaurants.

Manuel Rodrigues
Hotel Sommelier
Grand Hyatt Tokyo

An international sommelier originally from Portugal, growing up in the French vineyards and with sommelier experience in France, Dubai and Singapore.

Naoki Watanabe
Executive Director
Tomi no Oka Winery

A winery manager devoting himself to growing grapes, focusing on soil and exploring the ”appropriate land and grape variety.”


Impressed with careful winemaking and taking advantage of topography!───

The roles of foreign chefs and sommelier in Japan are evolving. With a growing interest in Japanese food culture from all over the world and increasing numbers of tourists visiting Japanese shores, it seems their mission does not only extend to imparting the authentic flavors and culinary techniques of their home countries to the Japanese, but are also sharing the rich food culture of Japan to those overseas. As such, they have become ambassadors of Japanese food culture, while at the same time being the ambassadors of their home country’s cuisine.

This was the first visit to a Japanese winery for both Chef David and Manuel. Executive Director Naoki Watanabe acted as their guide, explaining about the Tomi no Oka Winery from its establishment to its rich 100-year history while leading them through the vineyards spreading over the southern slope of a small hill about 600 meters above sea level. Venturing deeper into the yards, he noted, “We only use about a 25-hectare area in its peak condition for cultivating our grapes, out of the total 150 hectares available. We plant 8 varieties of grapes for red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot and 4 varieties for whites such as Chardonnay and Koshu, separating them by the characters of the field, factoring in sunlight and soil conditions.” Chef David commented to Watanabe, “You plant a wide variety of grapes, taking advantage of topography that encompass hilltops and valleys. This method of planting based on a detailed understanding of each field’s character is amazing.” The manager replied, “Our objective is to focus on thoroughly controlling soil conditions. It’s important to control soil moisture with Japan’s wet and humid climate. So we check not only the quality of the soil but also underground water streams in the selection process of grapes.”

Meanwhile, Manuel has had experience in winemaking with his father from the time he was a child. He gave his impressions, recalling those experiences. “I’m amazed by the development of the winery here, which equals that of France. While there’s an influence from European wineries, it has been carefully created to match the Japanese climate.”

After tasting the complete Tomi no Oka lineup, Manuel summed up from the perspective of a hotel sommelier, “Each wine has its own unique quality, but they share delicate and transparent flavors. With Tomi no Oka, we may be able to enjoy excellent pairings with a wide range of food across many cuisines.” Watanabe responded, “All that we do is to carefully cultivate the gentle and elegant nature of the ground.”

Chef David’s comment most clearly expressed how moved they were, “I felt we could rediscover the delights of Japanese wine by witnessing the wine producer’s passion for winemaking, with their careful attention to vineyards and grape varieties.”


Tomi White 2012 Chosen by Chef David and Manuel─────────────

A rich wine with the nuances of the barrel that matches well with ingredients possessing strong flavors or textures. (David Bellin)

It has some concentrated feeling and roundness. In addition, it possesses a creaminess with a hint of butter or toast, and is exotic. (Manuel Rodrigues)

It’s our flagship, using Chardonnay grown in a carefully-selected lot. You can taste Tomi no Oka’s natural sweetness and softness more clearly with this wine. (Naoki Watanabe)

“Tomi White 2012”&
“Poêlé of Saint-Pierr and sauté of girolles and spinach, with radish and hazelnuts”

“A fish with texture works in concert with the roundness and concentrated feeling of this wine” said Chef David. Saint-Pierr (John Dory) is poeled crisply from the skin side. The butter sauté of girolles (chanterelles), hazelnuts, and mushroom puree with chicken broth are served as a garnish to harmonize with the wine’s creamy and buttery nuances. It is also garnished with spinach butter sauté and red wine vinegar-flavored radishes.

Tomi White 2012
100% Chardonnay
The fragrant aroma of nuts and flint in harmony with the aroma of yellow peaches, pineapple and tropical fruits. A frull-bodied mellow flavor spreads throughtout the month. At the finish one feels a hint of acidity leaving a pleasant aftertaste.

About Suntory Tomi no Oka Winery
Established in 1909 on a hill approximately 600 meters above sea level overlooking the Kofu Basin with a scenic view of Mt. Fuji to the south. The winery aims to produce Japanese wine that will awe wine lovers across the globe, taking advantage of the 3 positive conditions essential to cultivating a good grape: 1. long sunshine hours, 2. low rainfall and 3. large temperature difference between day and night. The winery has won many prizes at competitions both domestic and international. Learn more.

2786 Oonuta, Kai-shi, Yamanashi
☎ +81-0551-28-7311
From 9:30 to 16:30 daily except Tuesdays and Wedesdays. (From August to November, open Tuesdays also)

A dinner will be held to experience the harmony among cuisine prepared by Chef David Bellin and Suntory wine produced in Japan, accompanied with a special discussion by Winery Manager Naoki Watanabe and Hotel Sommelier Manuel Rodriguez.
We will hold a collaboration dinner event at Grand Hyatt Tokyo The French Kitchen with
Tomi no Oka winery.

*Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Tomi no Oka Winery Collaboration Dinner
Date: Friday, September 18
Time: 7:00pm to 10:00pm (Doors open 6:30pm)

◎The French Kitchen, Grand Hyatt Tokyo
2F, 6-10-3 Roppongi Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
☎ +81-3-4333-8781
Roppongi Station via Hibiya Line Exit 1C - 3 minutes
Roppongi Station via Oedo Line Exit 3 - 6 minutes