NIKI Hills: A Promising Brand New Winery in Hokkaido
Only a 30 minute drive from Otaru, a popular sightseeing spot in Hokkaido, lies the town of Niki. Here, resting on a hill that overlooks the beautiful cityscape is NIKI Hills, a brand new winery that just opened its doors. Take in the Hokkaido scenery while enjoying some of the original wine made here!
The Winery on the Hill
NIKI Hills Winery opened in Niki, Hokkaido in July 2019. Its large vineyard spreads over 28 hectares. Sitting on top of the hill is the distillery and underground cellar where they offer wine tasting.
Currently the winery is using local grapes from Niki and the neighboring Yoichi town to produce wine but from the fall of 2019 they will use the grapes grown in their own vineyard.
Wine Tasting with a View
One corner of the NIKI Hills Winery building is dedicated to wine tasting. At the bar counter you can sample the current selection of 3 different types of wine for 1,000 yen. They are poured in big glasses and come with special snacks. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays you get 4 types of wine for the same price. They also offer juices for non-drinkers.
Each wine is served in the appropriate glass.
Outside the building is an open terrace. Each table is shaded under a large umbrella. Here you can enjoy the fresh air of Niki and relax while sipping on some wine. The beautiful scenery makes the wine taste even better.
Tour the Winery and Vineyard
If you book in advance you can join a tour of the winery where the wine making process is explained. It also includes a walk through the garden where beautiful flowers bloom every season. The tour lasts about an hour and costs 2,160 yen per person. Tours are offered in Japanese only.
Winemaking is a very delicate process that includes many stages like pressing, fermentation, aging, and bottling. The taste of the wine can change greatly depending on the temperature and aging period so NIKI Hills is always working to keep their taste consistent. Barrels are lined up in the temperature-controlled underground storage. The wine here matures until its flavor is just right.
Pick Some Fresh Seasonal Fruits
The town of Niki is known as a fruit kingdom in Hokkaido. Around the vineyard is an orchard made with reduced pesticides where NIKI Hills grows Niki specialties like cherries, Campbell and Niagara grapes, prunes, and apples. From 2020 visitors can harvest their own fruit every season. Cherries from July to August, grapes from September to early October, apples and pears in October.
Niki Hills Winery also sells jams and juices made with the fruits from the orchard.
Each bottle costs 486 yen and is 180ml.
Take a Stroll Through the Garden and Forest
The garden extends over an area of 1 hectare and is covered with 500 species of seasonal flowers. It's being developed with a 10-year plan, an eye on the future that will allow it to keep delighting us with new and beautiful colors every year.
The forest behind the winery is being established under the advice of the writer and environmentalist C. W. Nicol. They are planning to grow mizunara oaks that will also be used to make the wine barrels.
Following the little path you can take a stroll through the greenery. The forest provides the winery with clean air and water, two vital pillars that are at the base of making wine. The relaxing nature brings refreshment and peace of mind.
The garden and forest are free to enter.
Take Home Some High Quality, Award-Winning Wine
The winery currently offers about 10 different types of wine. They were brewed here in 2016 and 2017. The first wine brewed at NIKI Hills won the silver and bronze awards at the Japan Wine Competition 2017. The following year's wine earned a gold medal at the "Le Grand Tasting Wine Award Hong Kong 2018". NIKI Hills is the only Japanese winery to ever win this prestigious award. In 2019 their wines won prizes in both UK and New York competitions.
If you want to try some of this award-winning wine we recommend HATSUYUKI, a fruity white with a refreshing tartness made with Kerner grapes.
Aiming to Be a Wine Tourism Destination
NIKI Hills Winery has very high expectations for the future. As the Big Dipper on their logo suggests, they are aiming to become a point of reference for wine in the world. Maybe one day not too far away Niki will be known as a wine town. Meanwhile you can enjoy their wine with all five of your senses in the green hills of Hokkaido.
Interesting note: the general manager of NIKI Hills Winery Keizo Funatsu is also a Polar explorer. Inside the facilities are pictures and clothes from his explorations of the Antarctic.
NIKI Hills Winery | NIKI Hills ワイナリー
Address: 148-1 Asahidai, Nikicho, Hokkaido
Open all year round
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Fees: Free admission, winery tour 2,160 yen (online reservation required 2 days in advance), tasting 1,000 yen
Access: 10 minutes by car from JR Niki Station
Website (Japanese only): https://nikihills.co.jp
*The above article is based on information from September 2019.
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 10 04,2020 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team