Nagomi Vineyards

Tomi, Nagano


Nagomi Vineyards is run by Toshihiro and Kazumi Ike. The name 'Nagomi' is a reference to the 'Kano (和)' area of Tomi in Nagano, where the vineyard is located. The Chinese character '和' has another reading, 'nagomi', which means to feel calm.

Toshihiro is originally from Tokyo, but moved to Tomi in 2010; he started growing wine grapes in 2013 and started making wine on commission in 2016. He then established his own winery in 2018 and started winemaking in-house; the first vintage was released in 2019.

Toshihiro used to be an engineer, but has always loved wine. His first encounter with natural wine was about 20 years ago. When he tasted Edoardo Valentini's Cerasuolo, which one of his friends brought to a cherry blossom viewing party, he was fascinated by the elegance and power of the wine.

“On a slightly chilly April evening, we sat on the grass in a nearby park, listening to a friend's tale of lost love and drinking Valentini from a teacup. The beauty of the cherry blossoms at night, the sound of insects flying over the lampposts, my friend's silly but somehow funny lamentations about life, all wrapped up together in a single glass of wine. It was a very memorable moment, and I felt a tremor in my heart, thinking that it is fine to express the taste of wine in this way, and that life can be as free as it wants to be. It was the first time I became aware, with a feeling of permission, that “it is totally acceptable to want to make my own wine”. From that point on, all I could think about was how I could learn to make my own wine, and I chose to quit my job and start growing grapes."

Quitting his job as an engineer and turning wine producer must have been a big change for him. However, "I really wanted to make wine. At the time, the number of people making wine on a small scale started to increase, and I couldn't stand still”.

Besides, there was a fair chance that the unique strengths of engineers might also be used in winemaking.

“It is the yeast that turns grape juice into wine. The only thing humans can do is to create an environment where the grapes and yeast can naturally survive. I've been good at making the best out of what is available since I was an engineer”.

Toshihiro turned wine producer and moved to Tomi, but in 2010, winemaking was still not as popular in Nagano and Tomi as it is today, and it was difficult to find farmland to grow grapes for wine.

Therefore, he first learnt grape growing under a grape farmer, through which he built trust in the local community. In his third year of farming, he finally leased farmland and started growing grapes for wine.

Toshihiro studied viticulture at the grape farm and gained experience while assisting in winemaking at the Villa d'est Winery in Tomi and at Arc-en-vigne, a winery specialising in commissioned vinification.

After all, his wife Kazumi is essential in every step of the process, from cultivating the vineyards, to growing the grapes, to the time and effort-consuming vinification.

“When my husband first asked me about making wine, I was surprised, but at the same time I thought it sounded interesting. It has been 14 years since we decided to make wine together. When we started working in the vineyards together, we had more fights than when we worked in the company, but I don't have many painful memories. I think it was probably because we both only looked ahead” (Kazumi).

“We have been working together since I started dreaming of making wine”. Toshihiro's words are filled with gratitude towards Kazumi.


The Kano district of Tomi, where Nagomi Vineyards is located, is a fast-growing wine-producing region in Nagano.

Originally, table grapes, such as Kyoho, were grown in the district, but in 1991, Toyoo Tamamura planted grapes for wine and established the Villa d’est Winery in 2004. Since then, winemakers with a passion for winemaking have gathered from all over the country.

In 2008, Tomi was approved as a special wine zone. Toshihiro and Kazumi moved there and started growing grapes right around that time.

The vineyards face south-west and receive a good amount of sunshine. There is a gentle breeze all the time. Although the altitude is high, the wind prevents cold air from accumulating and frost damage from occurring. The wind also prevents the accumulation of moisture.

The vineyard used to be a field with decayed grape trellises, but after clearing the bushes and removing the trellises and posts with heavy machinery, it is a very pleasant place to farm, with a spectacular view of the distant Japanese Alps.

The soil is clay, which is high in nutrients and tends to produce grapes with a strong flavour. Clay soil can be a drawback due to poor drainage, but their vineyard is on a gentle slope, which allows water to flow through. The soil is also piled up at the base of the vines and finished in high rows, which further ensures good drainage.

The vineyard has gradually expanded in size and is currently about 2.5 ha. In the beginning, it was not easy to secure a vineyard for planting wine grapes, but that year they were able to get a vineyard of several dozen hectares that they had luckily come across. They planted the varieties they wanted to make first. They started with Sauvignon Blanc, and as the years went by, they expanded the varieties to include Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

As little reliance as possible on pesticides, healthy grapes are grown and harvested. Toshihiro is constantly monitoring the condition of the grapes, and is looking to move towards more natural winegrowing and winemaking in the future.


At Nagomi Vineyards, they do not add anything extra. The vinification is done with wild yeasts instead of relying on cultured yeasts, and the addition of sulphites is kept to a minimum, which takes time and effort.

Toshihiro's aim is to "make wine that is respectful of the grapes and the people who drink it".

It is essential to use healthy grapes in order to achieve a finish that is free from unwanted flavours. In addition to sorting in the vineyard, the grapes are also sorted manually after they have been brought to the winery. In order to obtain juice at the favourable temperature, the grapes are thoroughly chilled before preparation. Depending on the style of wine, skin contact or cold soaking of the grape skins in the juice before fermentation is used, and the fermentation temperature is properly controlled.

During fermentation, the caps (skins and seeds floating on top of the containers) are soaked in the juice to extract tannins and colours from the skins.  Punching down and pumping over are carried out in combination. The paddles used for punching down are smaller in size for gentler extraction. Depending on the condition of the must, pumping over may be used instead of punching down, which allows a gentler extraction without destroying the cap.

When you step into the winery, the first thing you notice is the height of the ceiling. This ensures that even in a small winery, the height facilitates a smooth workflow. It also allows for Gravity Flow, which uses gravity to move the wine.

The process from harvesting the grapes to bottling requires changing containers several times. Usually, pumps are used, but not at Nagomi Vineyards.

Instead, gravity is used to move the juice from higher to lower locations. There is less vibration to the juice than with a pump and less exposure to oxygen. The juice can be handled more gently, resulting in an elegant finish without losing the delicate flavour.

The cellar is also set up in the winery with partitions. It is quite difficult to maintain an appropriate balance between humidity and temperature in a small space, but he has found the balance through repeated trial and error. All of these efforts are necessary for the gentle winemaking that he is aiming for.

“I believe that wines produced from grapes grown in the Japanese climate have a unique softness and gentleness that cannot be found in wines from Europe or other countries. They are a perfect match not only for Japanese food, but also for delicately flavoured dishes, so I hope that everyone overseas will enjoy our wines."