Away from the glitzy buildings of Ginza’s main crossing, behind a drab frontage down a nondescript side street, sits a wine bar that really stands out from the crowd. In contrast to the majority of Tokyo’s wine bars, Cheese and Wine Salon Murase embraces New World rather than Old World wines and boasts of a huge selection of 230 bottles to prove it.
Softly spoken owner Kenichi Murase doesn’t seem like the type to break out from the crowd, but when he opened his own bar six years ago after working as a sommelier for Okura Hotel in Toranomon, that’s exactly what he did.
“I think the taste of wines from these countries really suits Japanese palates, because the flavors are so delicate,” he says.
The emphasis at his bar is on wines made by small family-owned wineries, many of which Murase has visited on trips to New Zealand and Australia.
Though the majority of wines on the list are from these two countries, they have a good selection of Washington wines.
“Washington wines are becoming more and more popular,” Murase says. “Because most of the wines I buy from Washington have been made by small family-owned businesses, they have been made with great care and attention to detail. The grapes are often hand picked, and you can taste that in the wine.”
From a selection of some 19 reds, you might try Dunham Cellars, Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (¥15,500), which has strong tannins and excellent balance. As for whites, Woodward Canyon Chardonnay (¥9,500), also from Columbia Valley, is an equally strong choice, carrying with it a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and a deep flavor.
If you are looking to order your wine by the glass, there is a good selection that changes monthly, with prices ranging from ¥850 to ¥2,400. To charm your palate even further, voluptuous light bites — from oysters and prosciutto to cheese fondue — can be rustled up behind the bar. And if you feel like tucking into something more hearty, there is a good selection of pizzas and pasta dishes to fill your gurgling stomach.
The decor, with its dark-wood tables and bar, is subdued, giving prominence of place to the excellent wine list and sumptuous menu. When you sit at the bar and imbibe the rich scent of melted Swiss cheese, while rolling a unique wine on your tongue, you might find you don’t need any other stimulation.
6-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo; (03) 3575-9100; www.wine-murase.com