NYC: Sake Hana $20 Tasting

Sake Hana presents our Spring Sake Tasting. This special event is only $20.00 for our SAKE HANA CUSTOMERS! Come and sample 14 kinds of sakes,drink and meet the brewers, here all the way from Japan. This is your opportunity to learn more about Sakedirectly from the brewmasters and have a nice early evening tasting to get your Saturday night going! Here are the event details:

*Saturday,April 5th
*Sake Hana(78th st. between 2nd & 3rd)
*from 6pm-8pm only
*$20(purchased before April 1st)
$35(after April 2nd)
**This price doesn’t include tax
*Make reservations at [email protected] or Call 646-498-4224

Sakes being presented:

1. Mukune, Root of Innocence
2. Mukune, Shadows of Katano
3. Tozai, Well of Wisdom
4. Tozai, Voices in the Mist
5. Chiyonosono, Sacred Power
6. Chiyonosono, Garden of Eternity
7. Kanbara, Bride of the Fox
8. Kanbara, Wings of Fortune
9. Rihaku, Wandering Poet
10.Rihaku, Dreamy Clouds
11.Tentaka, Hawk in the Heaven’s
12.Tentaka, Silent Stream
13.Takasago, Divine Droplets
14.Takasago, Morning Glow

NYC: Gaunter at Sakaya

John Gauntner & Miho Imada, Fukucho Brewer Will be presenting Sakes at Sakaya. The event starts with World renowned sake expert and author John Gauntner introducing his favorite sakes. In addition, Ms. Imada from Fukucho Brewery will be pouring Fukucho “Moon on the Water” Junmai Ginjo.

NYC: Tasting at Sakaya

Sakaya Daimon Brewer & Tentaka Brewer Tasting.

Mr. Daimon from Daimon Brewery will be pouring Tozai “Well of Wisdom” Ginjo and Tozai “Voices in the Mist” Ginjo. Also, Mr. Ozaki from Tentaka Brewery will be pouring Tentaka “Hawk in the Heavens” Junmai and Tentaka “Silent Stream” Junmai Daiginjo.

NYC: Cha-An Hanamai Tasting

The spring brings about a special Japanese tradition called “Hanami”. Under the cherry blossom trees that are in full bloom, sake and cuisine with seasonal ingredients are enjoyed.

The event will feature about 6 selections carefully chosen by our sake sommelier, Chizuko Niikawa-Helton, as well as paring dishes from Cha-an’s executive chef, Ms. Tomoko Kato. There will be “ochoko” – small sake cup for a special gift from Japan.
Enjoy newly arrived spring fresh ‘Nama Sake’ from Japan with her! Kanpai!

Schedule: Thursday, April 10th at 8 pm
Admission: $60 per person (CASH only)
(Tax, Gratuity Included)
40 Tickets are limited. Prompt RSVPs are recommended.
*Please note that there will be a BUFFET STYLE SAKE TASTING.

RSVP Hotline: 212-228-8030

Japanese Tea House
230 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
(Between 2nd and 3rd Avenue)

Mon-Thu 2pm-11pm
Fri, Sat 12pm-12am
Sun 12pm-10pm

Rihaku Tokubetsu Junmaishu

Rihaku junmaishuI had the pleasure of getting another chance to try the excellent Yakitori Totto on W. 55th Street. If you have not gone yet, give it a try. trust me. Scott and I were out with friends recently and we quickly powered through a carafe of Wakatake and thought it was time to move on to a bottle. In our price range, the only one they had in stock was something unfamiliar to me. It was a excellent Tokubetsu Junmai sake from Rihaku Brewery. “Tokubetsu” means ‘special sake’. I guess they are allowed to say that when there was some special brewing method.

The taste was full and round and it had a little bitty sweetness to the flavor which was nice. it went very well with the yakatori. We had grilled and/or fried everything. fish cakes, chicken meatballs, pork, asparagus – and Rihaku was a great complement. This sake bottle was a great blue color that almost glows. or maybe I was glowing from too many sips. In any case, it’s a great sake! so try it when you would like something with a pinch of sweet to cut some meaty fare.

Here is are the stats on Rihaku Tokubetsu Junmaishu
Rice Gohyakumangoku
Polished to 59%
ALC 15.5%
SMV +3
Acidity 1.6

Sake Links and Resources

Want to explore the world of sake even more? Here are some Links and Resources:

Recommended Books:
Sake – A Modern Guide by Beau Timken
The Sake Handbook by John Gauntner
The Book of Sake by Phillip Harper
Sake – A Drinker’s Guide (out of print) by Hiroshi Kondo
Insider’s Guide to Sake by Phillip Harper
Sake’s Hidden Stories (eBook) by John Gaunter

Sake Brewery Websites in English:
Mukune: Daimon Sake Brewery
Kagatobi: Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery
Chikurin: Marumoto Sake Brewery
Kikusui: Kikusui Sake Brewery

Sake Bloggers:
Tokyo thru the drinking glass
Sakaya Blog
Shizuoka Sake
The Pour
The Sake Diaries
Kyoto Foodie
Sake and Kimono
Meishu No Yutaka
Learn About Sake
Beau’s Blog

Other Sake Sites:
Kanpai New York
Sake Discoveries
Sake World
Sake Guide

Sake Retailers:
True Sake
Sake Social
Sake Nomi
Astor Wines
Linwood Wines

Sake Importers:
Vine Connections
Mutual Trading
Joto Sake
World Sake Imports

Sites of Interest:
Umami Mart
Japanese Food Report
Japanese whiskey blog

Web Hosting I Recommend:

Sake Production Process

Sake Production Process:

Coming Soon!

SOY…. Borracho

Sake Meetup Crowd at SoyOur Latest wonderful Sake Meetup group was at SOY tonight, and it was a B.Y.O.S. event. (bring your own Sake). It was amazing opportunity to try a wide rage of sakes and meet a wide range of sake lovers. Everyone brought interesting sake and interesting tales to tell. Only 7 of the 28 people who RSVP’d showed up, but we had a blast just the same. All the Sake meetup events have been fun.

here is a rundown of each sake and the person who brought it:

EricEric, our magazine publishing guy from Maine, brought 2 sakes in smaller bottles. the first was Dewazakura Shuzo “Oka” Namazake Junmai Ginjo. This tasted superb and was my favorite of everything I had tonight. The second was koshino tousetsuka junmai ginjo. This means “Winter Snow Flower”. I think it could pass for a daiginjo.

UgenYujin was our friendly web developer who’s been known to outsource! I looked on in awe as he ate a big bowl of fermented soybean something-or-other that he swore tasted like air. As for his Sake pick, Yujin followed the rice trail and picked a sake from his local Brooklyn heights wine shop that used Oseto rice. The sake was Ayakiku Daiginjo. delightful.

MichaelMichael was our L.A. transplant. He was steadfastly Pro-L.A. dispite being surrounded by die-hard New Yorkers. Now that takes guts! Michael brought a super yummy Meibo Yowanotsuki “Midnight Moon” that he first discovered while dining at Bond Street. I found this to taste granny-smith-apple-ly like the Delicious Dewasansan. [Note to Self: book a trip to Bond Street!]

AmandaAmazing Amanda was our resident rocker chick and is the world’s biggest Golden Girls Fan this side of St. Olaf. All I know is that after the Soviets broke up it was a complete Fiasco! Her offering was Kamoizumi Shusen, “Three dots”. It was smart and sturdy but left me searching for that my-pretty-pony something extra. Mind you, this did not stop me from having 2 servings.

SebastienSebastian, our fearless Meetup organizer, is also the resident wine expert. He brought along a Kaguyahime Junmai. To me, this sake was floral, rich and sweet, almost like honeysuckle…. very perfumed. a very full Junmai flavor. I think this bottle wins the prettiest label contest.

LeftyLefty, our Meetup assistant organizer brought the Mizunoshirabe Ginjo that I reviewed on St. Patrick’s Day…. you know, my Chrissy Snow Ginjo! Amanda informed us that Chrissy really stands for “Christmas” Snow. as in, her first name is “Christmas”…. only in 70’s sitcom land. See my review of this sake here.

TimLast but not least, I brought my old fav Mineno Hakubai. Sebastian and I agreed this sake is one smooooth operator. I loved this sake back in December ’05 — you can read my review here. It still is a great, smooth drinking sake. It went well with my Ginger Tofu!

Sake Bottle CapsAll in all, this was a great evening at Soy. We had some superb sakes to try and the food at Soy was delicious, too. I can indeed recommend the Ginger Tofu and 1+ servings of green tea (I can’t believe it’s…) tofu pudding. for real! It was, um, good!

If you’re thinking of attending a sake meetup – you should come! There are always nice people and sake makes everyone friendly! alas, Soy told us that they are legit and getting their liquor license, so our next B.Y.O.S won’t be here. SOY muy triste. 🙁

Chrissy Snow Ginjo

Chrissy SnowGrowing up with Three’s Company I identified much more with sensible Janet, but I always had a spot in my heart for that wacky Chrissy Snow. Such unassuming beauty… and yet so naive and uncomplicated. The image of Chrissy Snow leapt to mind with my first sip of MizuNoShirabe Ginjo. This Ginjo is pure and simple – uncomplicated with a sympathetic edge, just like Chrissy.

Mizunoshirabe GinjoIt’s watery clear, clean and crisp with a light fragrant aroma.

And just as we might recall Chrissy’s particular brand of ditzy-logical reasoning, MizuNoShirabe is also not overly complex but utterly delightful in it’s specific charms. First and foremost, it’s so drinkable. With 14.5% Alcohol, it’s a touch on the lighter side as well. I can envision myself enjoying MizuNoShirabe with all kinds of food. This is a bottle to have on hand in the fridge to share with friends who just might… come and knock on your door.

Be sure to look for this Ginjo at your local Sake retailer. It’s sure to please. You can bet your ThighMaster on that!

The Details:
MizuNoShirabe Ginjo, Brewed by Yamamoto Honke, Kyoto Prefecture, ALC 14.5%, SMV +5

I give Mizunoshirabe a 3.5 out of 5 sake bottles
[rate 3.5]

St. Patrick’s Saké at Landmark

Landmark Sake Tasting GuideIt’s March 17th, that one day a year when everyone is Irish, large crowds search the city for green beer, and even Italian restaurants serve corned beef and cabbage. I’m as genuine 3th generation Irish-American as they come, but I found myself passing by the corned beef and making a bee-line to my number 1 sake supplier Landmark Wine and Sake, as they were planning a civilized sake tasting scheduled for tonight. Luckily I live only a few blocks away, so it’s easy for me to get to Landmark while avoiding the roving crowds of green beer enthusiasts wearing green plastic bowlers on their heads.

When I got got to the tasting, there was a small crowd already assembled in the back. In addition to the friendly staff , there were two suited japanese guys whom I’m guessing were the sake distributor comany reps. There were some friends from the Sake Meetup group. And our friend Satsko also made a guest appearance! Everyone was in a good mood and ready for some tasting!

Five sakes were being featured:

  • Taru Taru Junmai, brewed by Kitoaka Honten, Nara Prefecture, ALC 14.7%, SMV +2
  • Kirakucho Junmai, brewed by Kita Shuzo, Shiga Prefecture, ALC 14.8%, SMV +3
  • Mizu No Shirabe Ginjo, Brewed by Yamamoto Honke, Kyoto Prefecture ALC 14.5%, SMV +5
  • TomoJu Junmai Ginjo, Brewed by Aiyu Shuzo, Ibaraki Prefecture, ALC 15.5%, SMV +2
  • Chiyomusubi Daiginjo, Brewed by Chiyomusubi Shuzo, Tottori Prefecture, ALC 17.5%, SMV +5

Landmark Sake Window displayI ended up buying the Taru, Kirakucho and Mizuno Shirabe. Me? buy a Taru?! I know, I know… I can already hear the howls of disbelief, and I can barely believe it myself, based on the derisive review I gave to a low grade taru last December. However, as the nice suited Japanese man from the Sake distributor explained to me, only cheap, cheap Taru sake has the overpowering, acrid taste of cedar. The bad stuff is something akin to drinking a cedar chip smoothie. The Taru Taru from Kitoaka Honten, however, was indeed a bit more expensive, but the cedar flavor here was a mild and pleasant note in a full, luscious orchestration, not an amatuer tuba player drowning out the choir. Time to get to know Taru a little better…

The Kirakucho Junmai was my favorite of the sakes featured. This is an excellent sake to present to someone as their first foray into the Junmai oeuvre. it’s crystal clear and light in taste – you could say the Evian of Junmais. Well, by that I mean “watery” in the very best sense of the word –
crisp, clean, light, quenching and refreshing.

Landmark TastingThe third sake I bought was Mizu No Shirabe Ginjo. This was good and I feel it deserved closer inspection, so I’ll report more when it comes time to sample this bottle.

I didn’t buy the TomoJu Junmai Ginjo and the Chiyomusubi Daiginjo featured in this tasting. These were both a little too strong-handed and complex for my taste tonight, so I decided to concentrate on the lighter fare offered.

These tastings at Landmark are a great opportunity to try new things and buy some new sakes at a discount. Stop by and ask to be put on their mailing list. You’ll get an email about all the tastings in advance or keep an eye on the NYC Sake Meetup event board – tastings are usually posted there in advance. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have all these sake-tasting opportunities here in NYC. Luck of the Irish, I guess. cheers!

My Tart “Fair Maiden”

Last night I took my friend Scott B out for an early birthday dinner at a favorite Restaurant of mine, Momoya. Even though we were celebrating Scott’s special day, he was kind enough to let me be all bossy and pick the sake. I took a risk and didn’t get an old standby sure-fire winner (like wakatake or dewasansan). Instead I scanned the sake menu and just picked a brand i’d never had… let’s call this technique “Japanese Roulette”.

It was Junmai Daiginjo called Kura No Hana a.k.a. “Fair Maiden” – ya gotta love the english names they come up with! Fair Maiden fared quite well with me. The nose was quite floral and had an above average strength to it. On the tongue, the sake starts out softly sweet and then finishes with the distinct taste of sweetarts candy. The finish is long and that tart flavor lingers in the mouth. I’ve read many places that the Japanese don’t usually drink Sake with Sushi and that doing so is more an American’s view japanese customs. (Anyone know, is this true?). Anywho, this mildly sweet and floral sake worked very well with fresh sushi deluxe. Recommended if ever in need of a fair maiden to make your dinner something special. Happy B’day Scott B!

Here are the stats for Kura No Hana: Uchigasake Brewing Co., Rice Variety: Kura no Hana, Polishing Ratio: 45%, Alcohol Percentage: 15.5%, Sake Meter Value: -2.0, Acidity: 1.2, Yeast Type: Association 1601.

The importer, World Sake Imports had this to say about Kura No Hana:

Transparently light and touched with a sweet kiss of anise, Hoyo’s winsome grace and charm are irresistible. Its floral aroma and luscious flavor extend a demure invitation to the world of sake enjoyment. Delicious as an aperitif, or with salads and light seafood dishes and at the sushi bar; goes perfectly with lobster and scallops. Best enjoyed cold, but not chilled.
Awards: Gold Medal, Daiginjo B class, 2002, 2003 and 2004 U.S. National Sake Appraisal

Diplomacy at Ambassador Wines

AmbassadorI had my very first trip to Ambassador Wines on the Upper east side recently. This is one of the most well known sake stores in the city. Now, normally I don’t run to the liquor store on my lunch hour to stock up on sake, but… this was an exception. I was up in midtown on the WEST side of 54th street for a business conference, and i knew that Ambassador was on the EAST side of 54th street. I had always wanted to go there and check out the sake selection… and I think this was as close as I was going to get – I was on the same street – so I went for it. This involved race-walking across 54th st from 6th ave to 2nd ave in sub-zero temperatures. I had an hour to get there, buy the goods and walk back. When I finally found the place, I walked in and was immediately surprised to see how cramped it was. wine was everywhere. The sales person asked me what I was looking for and I said “sake…”

In no time, I was whisked to the entrance of their “sake cellar”. This is a refrigerated sake room about the size of a small Manhattan walk-in closet. well, it’s bigger than my closet! Then I was handed off to the in-house expert sake-salesman. He asked what kind of sake I wanted – I said I’d like a “moderately priced DaiGinjo” (who wouldn’t?!)

ChiyonosonoHe offered me Wakatake… Been there! He offered me Mu… Done that! I was shown a few other DaiGinjos that were really expensive. hmmmm. We moved on to Ginjos. I must say, the Sake salesman at Ambassador was an expert. He knew his stuff! Normally, I would talk to him for hours, but I was on the clock and I had a 25 min. walk ahead of me and a conference to get back to.

He showed me Chiyonosono Junmai Ginjo… “Sacred Power” from Kumamoto Prefecture (Seimaibuai: 55%, Rice: Shinriki, Yeast: Kumamoto, Nihonshu-do: +2.5, Alcohol: 15.9%, Acidity: 1.5). This sake had a striking label with red letters and a beautiful frayed paper edge – it was even protected with bubble wrap! His description of the taste was of orange notes. Now, this really caught my attention and in the end I ran out of time, so I went with the Chiyonosono. I had never heard of a sake that tasted of orange!

Only problem, this one didn’t. When I got it home, the sake was full and delicious, but tasted to me more of a crisp pear than anything else. I wasn’t upset in the least – it’s all good – life’s just one big tasting in my book. And given Ambassador’s selection and service, I think they deserve diplomatic immunity from grumpy sake snobs.

I’d rate this sake 3 out of 5 sake bottles.
[rate 3.0]

Happy Sake-versary

Wild Lilly Sake TastingScott and I had our first date at the Wild Lilly Tea Room in Chelsea just one year ago. Meeting for tea seems harmless enough, and last march, my tastes ran more to sencha than sake juice. This night was similar to last year in so many ways : we sat at the same table right next to the goldfish pond, I got there first and sat nervously waiting and the wind was just as cold and blistery. Since we are more committed now than on our first date, Scott and I committed to eating dinner rather than having “just tea”. Along with dinner, I knew Scott would be a willing co-conspirator in sneaking some sake-hooch into our anniversary night and lucky for me, Wild Lilly serves a solid selection of sakes!

I went straight for their sample ‘flight’. You get to pick 5 out of 6 sakes they serve by the glass for $25. As fate would have it, they served a taru (sake produced in cedar barrels) so I knew that would be easy to toss overboard – it’s not my favorite. The sake sampling that Wild Lilly served had both ups & downs. On the plus side, the sakes were very unique and even exotic. The presentation was beautiful. they used that eclectic wacky ‘oh-my-gosh-all-our-glasses-don’t-match’ aesthetic I also saw at Chibi’s bar. On the negative side they had a similarity to chibi bar as well. The serving size was small! It made me wish for a second they would adopt a little American Super-Sizing. (or am I just being a greedy sake-hound?). Here is a list of the sakes I tried:

Tezukuri Junmai brewed by NishiNoSeki/Kayashima Shuzo Co. in Oita Prefecture “Champ of the West”

Ichinokura Himezen Jumai, Miyagi-Prefecture “Sweet Princess” alcohol, 8%

Tenjomukyu Jumai Ginjo brewed by by Suishin Shuzo Co., Ltd. Hiroshima prefecture

Harushika Junmai Daiginjo Nara-Prefecture “Deer in the Spring” Rice: Yamada Nishiki, Nihonshu-do: +3~+4, Seimaibuai: 50%

Hanahato Kijoshu (aged sake) brewed by Enoki Shuzo Co., Ltd., Hiroshima-Prefecture “Flowers and Birds” aged for 8 years, Nihonshu-do (Sake Meter Value): -45 , ALC 16.9%

There were two standouts in the crowd – The Harushika Daiginjo and the Hanahato aged sake. Harushika was delicate and clear. So clear, I ordered a small carafe when my few sips from the tasting were gone. The Hanahato was amazing! It tasted like an odd but wonderful port. I want to get my hands on some more. This would have been the perfect after-thanksgiving dessert wine! well, november is only 9 months away.

perfect soupEverything at Wild Lilly was perfectly presented and small in size. This held true for our sake as well as for our meal. But check out the soup that came with our dinner. Have you ever seen such a simple yet elegant presentation? It kinda sums up this whole special evening. Sometimes seemingly small sips are meant not to deprive but to show you the path to true appreciation. I know that sounds very “wax on, wax off”, but I do savor my sips just a little bit more these days. Happy Sake-versary Kleine!

A Dog’s Life – Chibi’s Sake Bar

Chibi's bottlesI finally got to experience Chibi’s bar in Soho. Jerin took me out for my birthday. The windows were lined with Sake bottles however, everything was a little heavy on the cocktail umbrellas. This place was nice and quiet – Jerin had it almost to ourselves except for a gabby poor man’s sex-and-the-city quartet next to us.

The best thing about going to Chibi’s is seeing Chibi himself – the owners french bulldog. Tres cute and outfitted with a snazzy red bandana. Chibi is pretty down to earth for being the star of the show. He seems happy being petted but I think he’s really just sniffing the ground for crumbs off the table.

The sake tasting we had was interesting and well thought out. Jerin had the same flight as I did but his was served in 3 matching glasses. Mine, on the other hand was served in a mish-mash of 3 crazy glasses. Maybe all the matching glasses were in the dishwasher and they needed to improvise. Or, they just knew I was the waaaacky one with the messy apartment. In any case, we both got them served on a cute tray along with a card explaining each sake. Here’s the rundown on the 3 sakes we tasted from Chibi’s sake tasting menu.

Chibi's flight1) Haraushika Shiboribana Junmai Ginjo “spring deer” from Nara Prefecture. Nihonshu-do: +5, Seimaibuai: 60%. This sake was yummy and lightly sweet. It had the nose of a fruit cocktail and fruit tastes on the tongue as well. I liked it!

2) Koshi No Homare (Shiboritate a.k.a. “freshly pressed sake”) “The Pride of Niigata”. Sake Meter Value: +5; Acidity 1.6. from NIIGATA Prefecture. This sake was dry and round and had a full dairy taste.

3) Kamikokoro Junmai Daiginjo from Okayama Prefecture. This Sake had a sharp taste with strong peach-y tones and a balanced acidity. This one was my favorite.

So all in all the night was great. I would go back for the sake, but I would fill up on food beforehand as the food portions are small and expensive. This is a great place to go for a sake on a weeknight.