Touring Ikeda Wine Castle in Hokkaido
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Wines have always piqued my interest ever since I started traveling. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to a lot of wineries around the world, including those in Canada, Italy, France, and Spain. However, it has come to a surprise that there is also a popular winery in Japan, despite having a reputation of being a country famous for beer and sake. The whole thought made me more excited as we made our way to our next destination – the Ikeda Wine Castle in Hokkaido.
A lot of people consider wineries as somewhat like an adult’s version of heaven. If drinking wine already makes us feel like royalty, how much more if it’s nestled inside in a European style castle?
In Hokkaido, there is a very well-known wine castle which has a very ancient European look that offers short winery tour, lunch and souvenir/pasalubong shopping. This was our next destination after our meaningful visit at the Tsuri Ito Tancho Sanctuary.
The Story Behind the Ikeda Wine Castle
Located in Hokkaido, Japan, the famous Ikeda Wine Castle is a destination visited by tourists all-year round. It is specifically situated at the northeast area of Obihiro city in Ikeda Town. Because of its location, the wine castle is most commonly called the Ikeda Wine Castle, but it does have an official name which is the Tokachi-Ikeda Research Institute for Viticulure and Enology.
Although the winery has not been really blessed by the presence of royalty, it is called a castle because of the building itself has a structure that looks like your old European style castle and its view is nothing short of spectacular. It attracts over 70,000 visitors annually and counting, and tourists can’t help but admire the panoramic view of the Tokachi plains. Yes, it isn’t just about the wine, but it’s also the view that brings the best experience of all.
One of the events that many visitors look forward to occurs during the Autumn season. During Autumn season, the Ikeda Wine Castle holds their famous Autumn Wine Festival that is held at the castle lawn. Everybody looks forward to the activities during this event, but the main activity that everybody looks forward to is the all-you-can-eat-and-drink! Visitors during this event can indulge in the delicious Tokachi Wine and enjoy the mouthwatering beef barbecue, which have been grown and nurtured in the lands of Hokkaido.
The Tour Inside the Castle
During our visit, we explored the different floors that showcases the different process of winemaking. At the first floor, we were greeted by grand stairs that leads to the aging room and this is also where the souvenir shop is located. We also visited the Cellar where we saw the process of cask aging as well as the sparkling wine production. There are lined barrels and vintage wine kept in the underground making this a really authentic winery.
After the tour, we had our lunch in their restaurant. The restaurant offers an excellent buffet meal with a great view of the vast rural landscape of the Tokachi plain, the Toshibetsu river flowing through Ikeda town and the ridges of the Hikeda Mountains. Hows lunch? It was not that extensive but I love their Japanese Beef Curry.
We also visited their Exhibition room where they showcase the history of grape cultivation and wine production in this side of Japan. We were able to sample the wine at the first floor as well. All of the wines have been made with such precision.
Located at the south side of the castle are varieties of grape trees called “Kiyoi” and “Yamako” which are planted only in Ikeda Town. These are harvested in autumn, and then made into a full-bodied Tokachi wine.
Our final stop was at the souvenir shop where they sell poultry products, cold cuts, local cheese and of course, wine. Since we skipped dessert during lunch, we all bought soft serve ice cream to satisfy our sweet tooth.
For those who are trying to stay on a budget, no worries, visiting the Ikeda Wine Castle is of free admission. (Of course, the Autumn Wine Festival has fees included). For those who have brought their cars, there are parking spaces available which can accommodate up to 100 spots, which is also free of charge. And if you want to see more, there is DCT garden IKEDA just beside the castle.
To get here from JR Ikeda Station, it is ten minutes by foot and 15 minutes by car from Eastern Hokkaido Expressway Ikeda IC.
Our Hokkaido Japan trip was made possible by Japan Airlines, JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) and Havas Media. Japan Airlines offers daily flights to Tokyo Haneda and Narita. From Tokyo, JAL also offers domestic flights to Sapporo, Hakodate, Obihiro, Ozora, Asahikawa, and Kushiro.
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