Wine Talk

Snooth User: AdrianSmith

The 'weirdest' wineries out there?

Posted by AdrianSmith, Aug 9, 2014.

So, we have many different types of wineries with tasting rooms, right?

Some are castles... (Castello Di Amarosa)
Some are in peoples homes...
Some are in mansions (Ledson)

So on so forth...

I'm interested to hear about, by far, THE WEIRDEST wineries/tasting rooms out there that should basically be in some kind of fairy tale in reality. 

Has anyone been to one of these, if so was the wine any good? Tell me more!  :-)


Reply by dvogler, Aug 10, 2014.

Summerhill  Winery here in BC has a pyramid that is supposed to do some magic stuff with the wine.

I'd post a link, but I don't know how to do that.


Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 10, 2014.

Great find! - This is definitely on the right lines of what I'm looking for. I love how certain places have their own little traditions, I feel thats what keeps a lot of people going back. If you find a place that you like for its spirit (the wine doesn't have to be the best you've ever had), you'll go back to support its uniqueness. 

Thanks for that contribution!

Reply by outthere, Aug 10, 2014.

I don't get the schticks. You either produce a good wine or you are an amusement park? Kinda like Coppola up here in Geyserville. More of a destination than a winery. Tourists go for it but after one visit theres not a lot of reasons to return, the least of which is the wine.

Funny, we have to attend an event there in a couple weeks.

Reply by dvogler, Aug 10, 2014.

I'd go to see the Godfather memorabilia!

Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 11, 2014.

OUTHERE, i'd been over to Coppola but it was at the end of the day so I thought my palate was getting a little tired. Didn't really find anything too interesting about the wine at all. 

 I agree with you in that USUALLY, but not always, the more architecturally adverse wineries/tasting rooms don't have the best wine, but I think there are probably a couple of exceptions. 

I am incredibly excited to discover those wineries which take their architecture to the next level though, there's just something intriguing about it IMO.

As DVOGLER correctly states, the Godfather collection is pretty fun to see :P  

Reply by madmanny, Aug 14, 2014.

Here's weird.  How about growing grapes in the Australian Outback where daytime temps hit 120.  Growing season is about 20 minutes.  Leave it to the Aussies to tour it into a tourist destination.

I'm pretty sure the starting point was Alice Springs.  You take a camel ride along a dry river bed to the winery for a roast beef dinner and wine tasting.  The journey was memorable as was the wine - worst I'd ever tasted.  Only one drinkable was similar to Manischevitz. 



Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 14, 2014.

Now THAT is a perfect example of what I'm looking for.. there's a story to it. Don't suppose you have a picture that would sum up this whole experience (other than a bottle of vinegar to symbolize the wine ;) )

Reply by madmanny, Aug 14, 2014.

None readily available - have to dig through some pictures at home.  Will try!

Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 14, 2014.

I'd really appreciate that, thank you! : )

Reply by Really Big Al, Aug 14, 2014.

My wife Sandra & I were impressed with the De Martino winery (Isla de Maipo in Chile,  In this case though, the wines were pretty tasty!  They have a wonderful tasting table and a water tower too.  More pictures here:

Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 15, 2014.

That looks pretty charming. i will the communal element element to it. Will do a little deeper diving on this one :) 

Reply by dmcker, Aug 15, 2014.

To me this is weird.

A few years back I used to participate in the annual 'Togenkyo Marathon' up around the border of Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures, mountainous areas to the west of Tokyo. Already well into my office lifestyle I only attempted the 10k event, and that was plenty. Beautiful area, especially since the timing was when all the peach orchards were blossoming--great views with alpine backdrops as my thighs were burning up the slopes, and I was considering puking my guts up.

Getting there, trains weren't as convenient as cars to the venue, so if I was between cars any given year (not a problem in Tokyo, at all), I'd rent one. Take the family and caravan up with one of my business partners, and another friend or two, and their families. Arrive early, spend a day enjoying the altitude and flowers and hotspring baths and local inn and cuisine, then the event. After the event, we'd drive back through central and eastern Yamanashi, which is the major grapegrowing area in Japan. Time for a pitstop or three at the wineries!

Well we tried that six years in a row, hitting approx two dozen wineries. Never found a single good one. A few mediocres that seemed great in comparison, but nothing that I'd want to buy back in Tokyo.

My major memory is of a half dozen of them which had the same winemaking style. Slightly larger or smaller plots, slightly different building arrangements, but the same layout and process inside:

  1. Aluminum barn, everthing aboveground (it gets very hot in the summer, though we were there in the spring). No visible airconditioning units.
  2. Massive oil-drum-type vats (3~5 in any given barn), topless, in rust-colored external paint. Have no memory of the capacity but we're talking *well* into four figures, maybe five, in gallons. At least five meters high, four meter diameter, in several cases larger.
  3. Wine was always being made while we were there--or should I say manufactured.
  4. Massive (5" plus diameter) hard-structured accordion hoses snaking across the ground and up the sides of each drum, pulsing with fairly warm water flowing through them (though in a couple cases used firehoses made do).
  5. Most intense yeast smells I've encountered in my life, casting a very warm, humid olfactory pall throughout the barn.
  6. Empty barrels of must from Rumania and Algeria piled in a corner. Smaller boxes of yeast, also empty.
  7. Men on tall ladders leaning over the barrels stirring with monster paddles, though in some cases there were massive detachable eggbeater units at the top of the barrels.
  8. Large, shaped PVC sheets lying next to each drum, with the biggest, fattest rubberbands I've ever seen lying next to them.


When I first encountered such a scene it took me a few moments to take it all in. Then I started asking questions to the 'winemaker'.

Found out that import duties on imported must are a fraction those on imported wine. So what they were doing was importing must from mainly Algeria or Rumania in usually oil-drum-sized containers. They would then dump whatever proportion of whatever grape's must they thought appropriate into one of the massive tanks. Toss in a box or two worth of yeast, then pull up the hoses and fill to a level near the top with warm water. Start stirring. When done with that, cap with the plastic sheeting, and fasten with massive rubberbands near the top of the barrels.

Go have a beer, and wait.

Apparently the whole winemaking process from there to bottling (with Yamanashi labels) took less than a month. Never saw the second half of the process, since we were always there at the same time each year. Don't know what they did to fine, if anything, nor how they might have sulfited, or anything else. Just saw the jumpstart.

I'd always wondered why most of the 'Yamanashi'  wine I'd had was such rubbish. One visit, and my questions were clearly answered.


Suntory now has a flagship operation on top of a hill overlooking the valley, where they've obviously spent lots and lots of money. No monster drum cans or rubberbands to be seen. There is no way they are profitable off their winery operation there, so money is being syphoned from their other operations, as part of a PR exercise. Their wine produced there is OK (they've gained expertise over recent years from their ownership of Chateau Beychevelle and some past California operations), but really no great shakes and in no way is it paying for itself, especially since prices are skyhigh and the three times I've visited no one seems to be paying the tariff.

Bet those small rubberband operations, however, still are...



Some photos follow of where we ran the distance events, not of the rubberband factories...

Part of the course at the very end of February:

First week of April (time of event):

Along the course:


And in the other direction (to the SSW):

Reply by AdrianSmith, Aug 19, 2014.

Wow. It sounds like you went more for the beauty of the scenery than the wine.. but that is bizarre. Very bizarre. I never really associated Japan as making wine as *WE* know it. Thought they were more into other spirits derived from grape and plum, as well as their Sake. But this is fascinating to know..

You've reminded of a story, when I went to Crete in Greece. We went on a lovely trip up the mountains and there were little metal huts every now and again.. the elderly folks, because they had no pensions or other means of income would illegally brew something called Oozo... now the stuff was completely disgusting, but it made them a enough $$$ to be able to survive. It was just funny and felt so out of place with such beauty surrounding it. 


Thanks for the story and the great pictures, it looks gorgeous!



Reply by dmcker, Aug 19, 2014.

Ouzo can be good stuff, though don't know about the Shine you were getting in those Cretan huts.

Those 'wineries' in Yamanashi were properly licensed commercial operations.

What 'other spirits derived from grape' do you hear are made in Japan?

Certainly there are varieties of plum 'wine' called umeshuu. Some of it very good. Unripe plums are steeped in distilled white liquor, or shochu, usually. Sometimes in Sake.

Reply by lakenvelder, Aug 22, 2014.

The Belvoir Winery used to be an Odd Fellows complex.

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