A love of dining and a penchant for perfection make wine and Japanese culture a match made in heaven. Vino, along with all its tasty trappings (cheese and tapas), has been embraced in the Pacific Rim for a long time, but nowhere has this love blossomed quite like Tokyo, where a range of beautiful bouquets is ready for tasting.
Here are a few spots to stop by for a sip in the capital city.
The Oak Door Bar
A small and busy lounge within Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Grand Hyatt Tokyo, this social spot is famous for two things: the lively atmosphere and the impressive wine collection. The bar, attached to The Oak Door steakhouse, is a superb setting to have a bottle of wine before sitting down to a juicy wagyu steak cooked to order in the restaurant’s wood-fire ovens. (And after the space completes a renovation in late-February, it’ll likely only grow more popular.)
Stored in wine fridges along the back of the eight-seat bar, The Oak Door’s high-end tipples range from Opus One reds and Australian Shaw and Smith shiraz to the exquisite Canvas chardonnay and pinot grigio made especially for Hyatt by the Mondavi family in Napa Valley.
The prestigious Screaming Eagle cabernet sauvignon, the hard-to-find Krug champagne and other exclusive offerings are also available — off the regular menu, of course.
W The Cellar Grill
One of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets, this wonderful little cellar near Omotesando Street in Aoyama offers excellent wine for very good prices. To find this hidden vino haven, look for the giant wine bottle and head down the stairs, where you’ll see a quaint shop with fully stocked, floor-to-ceiling shelves. In the middle of the space are long wooden benches to sit with friends (or new acquaintances) and try the food and drinks.
Wine bottles at W are sold at retail price (to have on the premises or to take out) with a corkage fee of a few dollars to enjoy them at the table with a meal. The specialty of the house is anything that pairs with your sip. Hot and cold appetizers — including marinated vegetables, cheese and hummus or tapas-sized plates of stewed beef and an excellent pâté — grace the menu.
Featuring mostly French and American varietals, the shop’s sensational selection of Bordeaux is what makes it worth the visit. Pick up an outstanding bottle for $30 or opt for a Chilean or Spanish red for as little as $12. A rare treat in Tokyo, W is a non-smoking venue.
Rooftop Bar, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills
If you seek fine wine with stunning vistas to match, then make your way to the top of this Four-Star skyscraper. On the 52nd floor of the hotel is where you’ll find the highest lounge in Tokyo, aptly named Rooftop Bar.
The view is spectacular any time of day, but the lights of the cityscape after dark are particularly awe-inspiring. Young and hip locals mix with well-heeled businessmen to enjoy the unimpeded peeks from the stylish destination.
The wine list is concise, but carefully curated by the Andaz’s sommeliers to offer only the top sips. There is a decent array of reds (we’re particularly fond of the Chateau Margaux 2010), but most people come here for the champagne and sparkling wines.
The selection is impressive and includes bubbles that are hard to come by in Japan, such as Dom Ruinart and Duval-Leroy, one of the only independent prestige champagne brands. Enjoy the sparkling pours with the shining lights of Tokyo below.
A cozy little basement cellar in Hatagaya, Kinasse is a great place to try Japanese wine, which has come a long way in recent years. Sample sips from Yamazaki Winery and Domaine Takahiko — we recommend a taste of the region’s Hokkaido pinot noir.
A wonderful assortment of Australian wine and a smattering of bottles from across the globe are also available.
Wines are sold by the glass. Small tasting events hosted regularly at the shop are another reason to stop by.
The Japanese believe that it’s quite tedious to drink without eating, so delicious Iberian ham and tasty savories such as ratatouille (or whatever is seasonal) are usually on the menu.