Winemaking is a labor of love.
Talking to fruit is the secret ingredient.



TANUSIMARU, Japan If you want to see a man smile, ask Denbee Hayashida to tell you about his wines.
Hayashida, a gracious, engaging man, run Japan's smallest winery in the mountains above Kurume.
The 100,000 or so bottles of wine produced each year at his Kyoho Winery are only a fraction of what E.&J. Gallo, the world's largest winery, turns out in a single day.
But every one of those bottles is a labor of love.

"Most winemakers think of themselves first," Hayashida says, as his eyes begin to sparkle and an easy-going smile spreads across his face. "I like to think of fruit."
More than that, though, Hayashida likes to communicate with the grapes and berries and persimmons that are soon to wear the Kyoho label.
"I walk among the fruit. I talk with them. I ask them what kind of wine they want to be," he says through an interpreter.

While wine may be Hayashida's love, sake is his lifeblood.
Like his father and his grandfather and his great-grandfather and his great-great-grandfather and his
c like 13 generations before him, the 61 years old Hayashid manufactures the traditional Japanese alcoholic beverage from fermented rice.
"Sake," he tells you, "is not just a drink. It gives people power."

And so, he toils long hours each day, dividing his time between his Wakatakeya Sake Brewery and the hillside Kyoho Winery.
"When I work, I never feel tired," he says. "I keeping thinking about what I am making, about giving energy and power to people."
He has done that with some success. Wakatakeya is recognized as one of Japan's finest sake breweries, its products sold throughout its homeland and Europe.

About 30 years ago, Hayashida says, his father suggested that they try their hand at making wines from the grapes (kyoho means "great mountains")grown in the hills of the Minoh Mountains.
What they tried to develop was a wine perfectly suited to Japanese cuisine.

For nearly three decades, Hayashida continued to work on improving his wines. The turning point came about three years ago, he says, when he stopped simply growing grapes and started communicating with the fruit.
"Every fruit has a different personality," he says. "Every fruit has a different way of living, and a different way of dying. If you spend time with the fruit, and get to know it, it will tell you things."

And so, Hayashida talks to the melons, strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, tangerines, oranges, and of course, grapes that become his wines.
The result, he says, are wines that are one of a kind, wines whose light, fruity flavors are just right for traditional Japanese cuisine.

What dose Japan's smallest winemaker think of wines from the world's largest?
"They are very good," he says of the Gallo wines he has tasted. "They're a very solid wine, a very heavy wine."
He would like one day to meet Ernest Gallo, sit down over a bottle of wine and talk.

So far, what they like most is beer and sake, with per capita consumption of wine and hard liquor together adding up to a drop in the bucket.
But Hayashida hopes that if he keeps talking to the fruit and listening to what the grapes have say, that his Kyoho wines will catch on.

Thursday,January 5,1995
By Mark S. Vasche / The Bee managing editor



Hao Chang all rights reserved.