What more could you want after a day out on the slopes than good wine and even better conversations (and maybe a bit to nibble on)?
If you’re like us and enjoy a good glass of wine to help wash away the aches and strains built-up from cruising through Niseko powder, then there is one name you need to know – Mick’s. A Niseko institution, Mick’s Niseko is both a wine shop and wine bar serving up wines from around the world, Japanese craft beers, ciders, whiskys, and spirits (plus some of Hokkaido’s best artisan foods).
Here, we speak to Mick’s owner and fearless leader Mick Nippard, a self-proclaimed oenophile who makes sure you only drink the best of the best. Learn about how the Aussie ended up in Niseko, what he does in his very limited free time, and which Niseko resort is his favourite.
You’re not originally from Niseko. Can you tell us a bit about your background, and what about Niseko made you decide that this was the place for you?
I am an Australian and when I was “a lot younger” I lived in Sapporo on a working holiday visa. That’s when I first skied in Niseko.
When I moved back with my young family in 2006. My kids were very young and my wife was born in Sapporo so we made the decision to move to have my children grow up around her family and their grandparents. I did a season as a restaurant manager, I saw a great opportunity, which I have since taken, to stay.
Niseko is a place now where everyone comes for a unique holiday.
What was the inspiration for setting up Mick’s Niseko and can you tell us a bit about the bar’s concept?
Mick’s was originally Niseko Cellars and only a bottle shop for take-away. I had a few really cool clients who wanted to share a bottle with me one day, which I said yes too. As we enjoyed the wine, the discussion came to “why not start a wine bar”. That grew into “why not just call it Mick’s”!
The place now fits into 2 categories: wine bar (along with craft beer, Japanese whisky, Sake and some of the finest foods from Hokkaido) and a wine shop.
What’s a typical day in the life for you at Mick’s and in Niseko like?
In winter it starts with cleaning snow from the car to get to the shop! Then clearing snow in front of the shop. Once the snow is all gone its cleaning the shop from the day before, then ordering, checking emails and any orders. Delivery if there are any orders, re-stocking the fridges and shelves. Then lunch and being all ready for a 2 PM opening. I try to also fit in a few nice cups of coffee.
In Niseko for most, it’s about getting first lifts, especially on a powder day! As they say: there are no friends on a powder day
You mention coffee. Are there any coffee shops you recommend?
As part of Mick’s, you’ve set up the Thirsty Club. What’s it all about, and how can people join the club?
The Thirsty Club is where members can order wine prior to there arrival, and I will have it all ready in the apartments so they can start their winter holiday in the best way possible. It also allows members to get access to the rare and aged wines that I have.
About Niseko, do you have a sneaky quiet corner of the area that you like to retreat to?
There are now not many secrets in Niseko left but having a car allows me to get to all the onsens in the area!
Are you a summer or winter in Niseko kind of guy?
Winter is all about the tourists who come and enjoy the perfect powder, while summer is all about enjoying the green season with the locals as we are all too busy in winter to catch up with each other! Also, BBQ is the best way to catch up with everyone.
Are you a skier or snowboarder?
If I ever go out, I love skiing.
Which is your favourite resort on the mountain?
Hirafu is my pick, its close and convenient.
Are there any events coming up this winter season that you’re excited about?
There are indeed. I will have a few winemakers coming to Niseko this season; I stock their wines so we will be doing different events during the stay. Meet the winemaker! The wineries include Le Doubblé Troubblé, Redman, Paccevi and Craggy Range.
Also, Mick’s will be opening up wines by the glass that will be very special! All of these events will be on the website & all my social media outlets once dates are confirmed.
Besides the slopes and the apres-ski scene, what’s one thing everyone should experience when in Niseko?
Do you have a favourite onsen?
Youtei hotel has a great view (when you can see it) of Mount Youtei.
When you go on vacation, where are you headed?
I love to go to warmer places, especially after a long white winter!