Sakura and the Sakura Awards, Part 1

Sakura, or cherry blossoms, have proven to be the gift that keeps giving for artists and writers. The blossoms have a tenuous grasp on the branches that quiver in the spring wind and eventually succumb to the inevitable and shed their petals like swirling snowflakes of pink. Sakura are symbolic of the impermanence of beauty and youth and hence the ephemerality of existence. Put in layman’s terms: “Here today, gone tomorrow.” Fortunately, the output of those responsible for the Sakura Awards, officially known as “The SAKURA Japan Women’s Wine Awards,” is not short-lived. The Sakura Awards (SA) were started in 2014 by Yumi Tanabe, a wine educator, writer and visiting professor at Hokkaido University. The panel of judges are all female, and the wines considered are both foreign and domestic. We have always found SA ratings to be highly reliable.

One of us had the great pleasure of attending the SA tasting this year, which was held at the Imperial Hotel on April 19. From the picture below, readers can see that there was much to taste, and many outstanding wines were present. Regrettably, I will have to limit myself to the output of two wineries, one foreign, which I will cover this week, and the other domestic, which will be the subject of next week’s blog posting.

The very first wine that I tasted at SA 2023 was this Austrian Pinot Gris by Nestor, which is pictured below. I was astounded by its opulence and immediately took the flyer featuring it and other offerings by Nestor and placed a very simple tasting note beside the picture of the bottle of Pinot Gris that I had just sampled: “*****.” That, dear reader, said it all. I spoke briefly to the vintner, complimented him on his product, and then went on to taste approximately sixty other wines, returning to the Nestor table before I made my exit from the tasting room. I did this to ascertain whether my assessment would be the same at the onset of sensory fatigue. I made another tasting note: “*****.”

Subsequently, I received additional information on their Pinot Gris from Günther Neukamp, Nestor’s CEO. This is a wine made with great care. There’s lots of oak exposure. There’s MLF. And as the late Frankie Laine put it in the theme from Rawhide, Nestor keeps “rollin’, rollin’, rollin’”…[keeping] “them dogies rollin’….” Yes, you guessed it, Nestor employs manual bâtonnage (lees stirring). If you see this wine in your local wine shop, pick up a bottle or two. You won’t regret it.

The link for Sakura Awards is as follows:

Nestor can be found at

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