The staffer was very helpful, but I don't think he knew a lot about the wines. Next time I will ask the manager. He recommended the following:
Soleil Classic Red, Soleil Wines, Yamanashi (prefecture), 2008. Muscat Bailey-A 95%, Pinot Noir/Merlot 5%.Just as a precaution, I got a 2005 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, medium body, in the ￥1200 range (~$13). I'd had some in New York a few weeks ago, and it was a heady woody cab blend, reminicent of the big bold Napa wines from 1996-7, without their big bold price tag.
"A light, easy to drink wine with hints of strawberry. Good with light tomato sauces, sauteed vegetables, and seared meats."
Koshu Barrel Fermentation, Chateau Sakaori, Yamanashi, 2007. Koshu 100%.
"Aged in French oak. Fresh bouquet, fruity taste, slightly dry, well balanced."
I was going to wait till the evening, but curiosity got the better of me. Besides, I had that pomodoro sauce I made last night, with fresh Japanese tomatoes...Opened the red, gave it a swirl and looked at the color. The color was fine -- a little too purple, but then again, the wine was extremely young. No legs, a bad sign. And then the taste.
Dear god. It was so light, no tannins. And yes, there was that strawberry taste. Pleasant, but a little too cute. No structure, no body, no nothing. I tried it with my pomodoro, and it got worse. Granted, the pomodoro was not a "light tomato sauce", but still.
Thank god for the Montepulciano. A beautiful ruby color, the first taste was full of wood and fruit, just the way I like it. The tannins were strong and needed some time, but all in all a decent bottle to have on a daily basis. At the same price, who on earth would try the Japanese wine?
I have higher hopes for the white, which is being refrigerated.