Tomei's Wine Bar: California grapes on the Motomachi side streets
Yokohama’s Motomachi might have lost some luster in the last few years, with big names heading to trendier areas like Minato Mirai, but its eating and drinking spots haven’t lost their charm. While the main shopping avenue is geared towards weddings, jewelry and brand-name shops—the real allure has always been Motomachi’s side streets.
Among various bars catering to the usual tastes, Tomei’s Wine Bar, caters to just one: the wine lover. More specifically, the lover of wine from California.
Native Michael Scott opened the original Tomei’s in April 2004 across the street. Easy to talk to and passionate about his bottles, he’s happy to help satisfy your palate. He’s guided many through the tasting experience—newbies and oenophiles alike. “I also have a high conversion rate for beer drinkers,” he says, with a laugh.
We sampled a Ferrari Carano 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma. Smooth and velvety soft, it brought back childhood aromas of Mom’s baking: hints of molasses and maple syrup on a messy, flour-covered counter. Drinkable and not too complex—just how I like things.
Glasses of wine at Tomei’s average about ¥1,000—but these are big, healthy pours for grown-ups. Pours that make you want to wrap your hand around the glass—rather than pinch the stem daintily— and talk about the day as you work through full-bodied Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and summer-fruit-tinged Sauvignon Blancs.
Prime example: the 2006 MacRostie Syrah (¥1,500) from Wildcat Mountain Vineyard in Sonoma County. A little harder than the Cabernet, this was more upfront and cool, with a bite of black pepper and a tail of bramble fruits. While we sampled, Scott waxed poetic about vitis vinifera grapes and his search for quality vintners. “We only offer wines we like to drink ourselves,” he says.
While most “wine bars” offer draft and spirits with a just few wines, Tomei’s offers around 20 wines by the glass each night, no spirits and just a few craft beers. To sample even more wines from The Golden State, Tomei’s does a happy hour Tues-Fri, 5-7pm, with 100ml glasses for ¥300, ¥600 bottled beers and ¥500 tapas dishes.
Glass wines change weekly, as Scott doesn’t buy in volume. He deals directly with wineries and heads back regularly on tasting and buying missions. As a registered importer and wholesaler, he can charge less for higher quality wines, and you’ll find bottles you won’t find anywhere else in Japan. Ensconced on the scenic Motomachi backstreets, Tomei’s Wine Bar could have the same motto as California itself—“Find yourself here.”