Spur of the moment is sometimes best. Scott and I were headed out of town for an afternoon drive to mitsuwa. I realized that sake buddy KC alerted me to an Astor Wines sake tasting that very afternoon. Scottie was very sweet and agreed to stop by with me before our saturday afternoon escape.
I arrived at an Astor Wines transformed… This was not the Astor I remembered from my college years at NYU. The new space (just down the block from the original location) is simply amazing. The sake is in it’s own ALL refrigerated section. The selection was large and boasted plenty of old standbys as well as many brands new to me, that I hadn’t seen at the other retailers in town.
KC even had a shelf of his very own recommended sakes – KC’s “Staff Picks”. If your just starting out with sake, head down to Astor and give one of these picks a try. You will have a lot to choose from and KC explains all the flavor nuances on the tag, so you’ll be sure to find something that suits you just fine.
The tasting area at Astor Wines has a super professional setup. We found Mr. KC himself pouring three artisanal sakes that were being featured today. The first thing you notice is the gigantic 60″ flat screen TV mounted on the wall right behind the tasting bar that displayed the sake names and prices.
Now, not only did I have sake envy but also electronics envy, too!
There was a small line of folks ahead of us. Astor uses a divider, the kind you would see waiting in line at the bank or post office, to corral people into a line so that there is no mad crush from all directions to get to the sake. You get in line and you get your time in front of the goods and you have time to taste without being rushed, then you move on. Kinda like visiting the crown jewels, although they use a moving sidewalk to keep the crowd moving along. Luckily things weren’t that rushed at Astor.
KC was great and poured the first of the three sakes for me. The used real wine glasses which is great for taking in the nose of these sakes.
The first sake was Otokoyama “Yukishibare” Tokubestsu Junmai Nama Sake. (Hokkaido Prefecture. SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.4 ) This was a unique sake that is a Nama (unpasteurized) sake, so it held it’s own with the essence of fresh-fruitiness but it had a distinct alcohol kick.
Next I tried the Gokyo Nama Junmai Sake (Yamaguchi Prefecture. SMV: +4
Acidity:1.9 ). This sake left less of an impression on me except that it was big and strong. Maybe it even strong armed me a little bit. moving on…
Last but not least was the Shirataki “Jozen Mizunogotoshio” Junmai Ginjo Sake (“Pure Flower” Niigata). The Pretty-in-Pink- could-be-a-perfume-bottle packaging and feminine name make it clear this sake is perhaps geared towards a woman consumer, however, this lovely brew does make you see the world through rose colored glasses regardless of gender! This sake was clean and balanced and really delightful. This is a sake I would imagine to be a real crowd pleaser because it’s middle of the road and not a “challenging” sake in someways, yet delightful and so drinkable. Since all these sakes were on sale, Pure Flower is the one I brought home with me. Hey, I’m man enough to be Pretty In Pink… all in the name of sake research, mind you.