NYC: Dassai at Sushi Damo

damo.jpgSake tasting w/ Christian Choi, Sake Sommelier & Sakurai-san from Dassai sake brewery.

For more information on this event, please contact:

Sushi Damo
330 W. 58th St
NY, NY 10019
(212) 707-8609


NYC: Artisanal Cheese and Sake Class

Deluxe Sakes & Artisanal Cheeses

The world’s finest cheeses deserve the best beverage partners! In this class, Sake Ambassador at Southern Wine & Spirits, Monica Samuels will team up with our own Dean of Curriculum, Max McCalman, to showcase the lovely synergies that superior Sakes and exquisite Cheeses share. The crafting of high-end Sakes and the making of Artisan cheeses have a lot in common. Come taste the many nuances of theses quality sakes enhanced by artfully paired cheeses and experience the gastronomic thrills of these two unlikely partners!

CLICK HERE to Enroll

The Artisanal Premium Cheese Center,
500 W. 37th Street, New York, NY 10018

Japan 2008: Fukumitsuya Brewery

Beautifully preserved samurai houses in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa-Ken

Beautifully preserved samurai houses in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa-Ken

Day 5 in Japan started early with a trip out of Tokyo. I met Fukumitusya Brewery export salesman Mr. Yageta at Tokyo Station and we boarded the train for Ishikawa Prefecture. Although he’s usually stationed in Tokyo, he was kind enough to travel with me all the way to Ishikawa.

Fukumitsuya Brewery is located in Kanazawa City. This small town on the sea of Japan is sometimes known as “little Kyoto” because of the number of historical attractions found here. Given it’s proximity to the sea, Kanazawa is known for it’s fish and our first stop upon arriving was for lunch and we had some of the freshest sashimi i’ve ever tasted. This town blossomed in the Edo period and was the center for many traditional japanese artisan work such as kimono, lacquer and gold leaf. The beautiful streets of romantic samurai houses attracts Tourist from all over the world.

With this tradition as it’s backdrop, Fukumitsuya is a large and well known brewery in Japan making 8 different BRANDS of sake:

Fukumitsuya produces five different brands of sake in Japan:

With Mr. Toshio Kawaguchi Outside the Brewery

With Mr. Toshio Kawaguchi Outside the Fukumitsuya Brewery

Upon arriving at the Brewery, I was introduced to Mr. Toshio Kawaguchi, VP of the Brewery. I got a hairnet, lab coat and special boots to wear for the tour. Hey- it’s a look!

Before we even got inside, Kawaguchi-san stopped and have me a taste of the Brewery’s “Hundred Year Water” which flowed freely in a fountain outside the Brewery entrance.

The idea behind this is that as water melts from nearby Hakusan Mountain, it takes 100 years to slowly trickle through the land to reach the Fukumitsuya well, getting necessary minerals along the way. I was able to taste this water and it’s delicious. They even bottle it for sale. Evian – watch out!

100 Year Water

100 Year Water

The brewery tour of Fukumitsuya was impressive. Designed in a vertical set up over several floors, the sake making started on the top floor with the yeast starter, then went down through the floor to the brewing tanks and then down another floor for pressing. Makes perfect sense!

I was especially impressed with the brewing tanks. Kawaguchi-san pointed out that the bottom of the brewing tanks was curved, not flat. This allowed for better circulation of the mash during brewing. You gotta keep that yeast and koji moving! These tanks also had a water cooled jacket wrapped around them to allow the Toji to precisely control the temperature.

Fukumitsuya is a large scale brewery to be sure, but it doesn’t lose the sense of being hand crafted. This brewery is run as what is known as a “Junmai-gura” or Brewery that only produces Junami-shu. No alcohol added to anything. In their opinion “pure rice” is the way to go. Junmai vs Honjozo is a debate for the ages, but Fukumitsuya makes a compelling, and delicious case for Junmai-shu.

Fermentation Tanks Curve at the Bottom to Allow for Circulation

Fermentation Tanks Curve at the Bottom to Allow for Circulation

There are four of these Junmai-shu sakes that are currently available for sale in the U.S. Let’s take a look:

After the Brewery tour we had a tasting and then a visit to the gorgeous Fukumitsuya retail shop and tasting bar. The retail shop was stunningly beautiful. Sake and sake serving sets were on display and a tasting bar was in the back if you wanted a sample.

My visit to kanazawa and Fukumitsuya was just beautiful. I felt like the luckiest sake blogger in the world! I can’t thank my hosts enough for the beautiful visit to Kanazawa. Yageta-san, Sakai-san, Shinano-san and Kawaguchi-san, I’ll never forget your hospitality. Thank you so much!

Stunning Fukumitsuya Sake Shop in Kanazawa

Stunning Fukumitsuya Sake Shop in Kanazawa

Japan 2008: Wataribune Brewery

yamauchi.jpgDay 4 of my Japan trip takes me on another sake adventure. This 2008 sake tour is starting to pick up speed and the shinkansen has left the station.

This time, I’m headed to Ishioka city in Ibaraki Prefecture to visit Takaaki Yamauchi, the president of Huchu Homare Brewery, makers of the much loved Wataribune and Taiheikai brands of sake. I was lucky enough to get my Sake Sibling Melinda to join me for one more sake escapade!

milling.jpgTravelling out of Ueno station in northern Tokyo, Melinda and I met in the morning and headed out into the countryside on the local train for our one hour trip to Ibaraki Prefecture. The view outside my window slowly morphed from city congestion into rural openness and I began to feel myself relax.

Huchu Homare Shuzo President Mr. Yamauchi met us at the station and we were soon pulling I to the courtyard of his beautiful brewery compound. After arriving, we were welcomed into the historic main building and were served a welcoming tea and sweet by Mr. Yamauchi’s delightful mother.

We proceeded to discuss sake in a wonderful mish-mash of japanglish that gave both Yamauchi-san and myself opportunities to practice speaking each others native languages. However, I was happy to have Melinda there as a helpful translator when the conversation got more complex! (thanks Mel!)

sensei.jpgThen it was on to the Brewery tour! One of the things that struck me about this place was its wonderful beauty. To me the buildings seemed centuries old and the turn of every corner afforded a new photo op. With a gorgeous day as our backdrop, Melinda and I were brought first to the milling area. The milling machine was impressive and Yamauchi-san could read it’s needs like a master. Like a formula one race car driver, he adjusted the knobs and wheels to keep the rice flowing at optimal speed. The one thing was that the milling room was dusty. No fear, they had the perfect solution. A quick blast with a high pressure air hose gun by the exit left us free of any stray rice flour. And it was kinda fun, too.

Our next stop was the rice processing area where the wataribune sake rice was soaked and steamed. Kurabito were already at work at this when we arrived. An overhead flexible tube used vacuum power to suck the rice from the steaming area directly into the brewing tank. pretty neat! Yamauchi-san began to explain the brewing process in English using a wonderful metaphor of progressing through school. The yeast, rice koji were brought through Kindergarten, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. It seems Yamauchi-san is a born teacher. He lead us through the entire production process with an addition lesson in sake chemistry, where he showed us the lab where samples from each sake batch are analyzed.

Wataribune does indeed brew some sublime sake. Here is a quick look as some of their best offerings:

Wataribune Junmai Daiginjo
Wataribune 55 Junmai Ginjo
Wataribune Junmai Daiginjo Nama
Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai

soba.jpgAfter the fantastic tour, we all “graduated” to a wonderful lunch in the rolling foothills of Ibaraki. Yamauchi-san took us the the most delightful soba restaurant run by a husband and wife team. The food was magnificent and the view out the window was stunning. I really enjoyed this trip to Ibaraki and can’t tell you how much I appreciate Yamauchi-san taking the time to give us such a wonderful day. Since his Brewery is so close to Tokyo, Yamauchi-san often jokes with New Yorkers to visit his brewery by jumping out of their plane with a parachute 10 mins before landing in Tokyo to visit his Shuzo. Well, after this visit, Yamauchi-san should look up every now and then… I may just take him up on the offer!

Japan 2008 Sake Summit, Act II: Kumpai

kumpai.jpgAfter a lovely morning sake tasting and tour at Oomuraya Brewery, the intrepid Shizuoka tour guide extraordinaire, Robert-Gilles led Melinda, Etsuko and myself onward to another Shizuoka sake maker.

Kumpai Brewery is a small sake brewery with a big heart. It’s located in Shizuoka City and we got there by cab from the Shizuoka train station. This tiny operation is run by a father and son team: Senji and Shigetoshi Ichikawa.

ichikawa.jpgThe entire camera-wielding sake blogger summit crew descended on Kumpai Shuzo with a thousand questions and snapping a thousand pictures. Despite this mini invasion, Ichikawa-san Sr. and Jr. were enthusiastic and incredibly welcoming.

After a detailed tour of the brewery facility, we were invited to taste! We had a wonderful sake that Melinda and Etsuko promptly ordered for themselves! This particular sake was the Kumpai Momiji Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi. The Ichikawas served this lyrical fall nama with the perfect autumn pairing, momiji.jpgnamely Ginan or roasted ginko nuts. Ginko nuts never held that much appeal to my American palate, but I really turned a corner when eating them with this lovely Hiyaoroshi. I’m now a believer so bring it, Ginko!

Momiji Junmai Ginjo Hiyaoroshi is a sake that tastes hand crafted, soft and luscious. And after having the privilege of seeing the brewery, I understand just how hand crafted it really is. Indeed, even the bottle labels are produced Shigetoshi-san on his computer! This dedication to making fantastic sake even on a small scale is really impressive.

A Special thanks to Robert Gilles for arranging this visit to Kumpai. I was so happy to be able to see a smaller brewery making fantastic stuff and I know I would never have the chance to taste this in the States. A great opportunity! It also doesn’t hurt that Robert-Gilles gifted me a Kumpai One cup! I brought this back to the U.S. and can’t bring myself to drink it because it is so special and rare. RG- thanks a million and I’ll let you know when I crack open that Kumpai One Cup!

To see more about Kumpai don’t miss Melinda’s Kumpai Post, and of course Robert-Gilles’ Shizuoka Sake blog is a treasure trove. So, what’s left to say? well, let’s hear a big KANPAI for Kumpai! (sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

Japan 2008 Sake Summit, Act I: Wakatake

wakatake.jpgMy next day in Japan was too full to fit into one blog post, so here is Act I! Of course, I’m referring to the 2008 Sake Blogger’s Summit held this year in beautiful Shizuoka Prefecture. Forget the G8, we’re talking about the Sake 4: Etsuko from Tokyo Foodcast, Melinda from Tokyo Through the Drinking Glass, our Sake Summit host, Robert-Gilles of Shizuoka Sake, and yours truly.

wakatake_bottling.jpgEtsuko, Melinda and I all met in Tokyo and took the Shinkansen to Shizuoka. Robert Gilles met us on the platform and we jumped into the local train and headed off to our first stop of an action packed day: Oomura Brewery, the makers of the well regarded Wakatake brand. Arriving at Oomuraya brewery, we met the 6th Generation President, Mr. Matsunaga and the Brewmaster, Mr. Hibino. Hibino-san then started us out with a tour of the brewery facility.

We were first shown the rice milling area – Oomuraya Brewery takes great pride in the milling of their own rice as this allows them to be meticulous about quality. All the buildings at this facility were historical and I could just picture sake being made here for centuries.

In addition to the milling facility, we saw the areas for yeast starter, steaming, pressing brewing and storing sake. One interesting little room with lace curtains was off the main brewing area. hibino.jpg Much to my surprise, I was told by Hibino-san that this small room is used for sleeping! Brewery workers must monitor the koji making process overnight and need to bunk down in the brewery regularly!

After the fantastic brewery tour, we were invited back for a tasting. This was a unique opportunity to taste all the major Oomuraya sakes side by side. It’s a beautiful lot and here is what we tasted:

I was ecstatic to try this line up as I have had a few of these that made it to New York, but I was in Japan now! The Junmai Daiginjo is a sake I know well and it was as clean and easy drinking as ever. The Honjozo Genshu and Junmai Genshu side by side was quite an experience. I found the Junmai to have wonderful balance and a clean taste. The Honjozo conveyed a nice sense of umami on the palate with a mild aroma. * “Sake Rock” was a full-bore full-alcohol genshu that had the coolest label ever! I would drink this one on the rocks, but we can’t get it in the states.

Mr. Matsunaga was incredibly gracious and welcoming. I came away understanding more deeply than ever before that for Mr. Matsunaga and everyone at Oomuraya, brewing sake is more than just making a beverage but it is continuing an ancient Japanese cultural tradition. Also, it was clear that as they reach to export their sake to the US and elsewhere, they still remain a local brewery and cherish the local community. The trip to Oomuraya was fun and exciting and… at this point in the day it was barely Noon! More from Shizuoka in the 2008 Sake Bloggers Summit Act II…

NYC: Sake Samurai Tasting at Sakaya!

sakaya.gifPlease join me at SAKAYA for a tasting of some sake from breweries I visited on my most recent trip to Japan!

324 E. 9th Street (btwn 1st & 2nd Ave.)
NYC 10003
212.505.7253 (SAKE)

NYC: Octoberfest at Sakaya!

sakaya.gifJust as beer lovers in Germany look forward to Oktoberfest, sake drinkers excitedly anticipate the release of the Autumn seasonal sake, Hiyaoroshi. Brewed using the newly harvested rice from the previous Fall, Hiyaoroshi is pasteurized once just before being cellared in the Spring. It is then stored, according to its traditional method, to allow it to mature throughout the Summer and develop its characteristic mellow flavors and unique crispness in time for its October release. Unlike regular sake, with Hiyaoroshi there is no second pasteurization before bottling. As a result, the sake is more aromatic and imbued with the bolder flavor profile that characterizes unpasteurized (nama) sake, yet it also has smooth and rounded finish.
At SAKAYA we’ve just received three of the best Hiyaoroshi available in the U.S. from Japan Prestige Sake. Stop by and taste them this Saturday, October 25 from 3 to 6PM to celebrate “Japanese Oktoberfest.”

Japan Prestige Sake Association Hiyaoroshi Tasting; Mr. Kazuhide Yamazaki, Sake Master

Wakatake Onikoroshi Tokubetsu Junmai Hiyaoroshi (Shizuoka), Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Hiyaoroshi (Kyoto), & Urakasumi Junmai Hiyaoroshi (Miyagi)

324 E. 9th Street (btwn 1st & 2nd Ave.)
NYC 10003
212.505.7253 (SAKE)

Seattle: Sake 101 at Sake Nomi

sakenomi.gifSaké 101 at Sake Nomi!

It just might change your life!

Here at Saké Nomi, we believe the more you learn about saké, the more you can enjoy it!

To welcome all the new nomidachi (“drinking companions”) who’ve visited us in the past few months, we’ll begin — at the beginning!

Saké 101: “The Basics,” or “Why Does This Stuff Taste So Good?” will cover all the essential information you need to enhance your saké drinking experience. From how premium saké is graded, to the brewing process and beyond, this fun, casual evening will put you “in the know” regarding this mystical, magical beverage and, quite possibly, change your life!

Our next sessions of this course will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Nov. 1 @ 7:00 p.m. Cost for the course will be $70/person and will include all saké, appetizers, and course materials.

During the class, we’ll cover all the basics during the lecture/video portion, and then we’ll let the saké do the talking during our tasting of 3 different selections.

Class size will be limited to 12-15 people, and spaces will be held in the order we receive the reservations.

If you’re interested in joining us, please reserve your spot as soon as possible, and no later than Saturday, Sept. 25.

To reserve your spot, please contact us at (206) 467-SAKE or [email protected]

Seattle: Sake 101 at Sake Nomi

sakenomi.gifSaké 101 at Sake Nomi!

Here at Saké Nomi, we believe the more you learn about saké, the more you can enjoy it!

Throughout the year, we conduct classes and special tastings focused on different saké-related topics.

In an effort to welcome all the new nomidachi (“drinking companions”) who’ve visited us in the past few months, we’d like to begin — at the beginning!

Saké 101: “The Basics,” or “Why Does This Stuff Taste So Good?” will cover all the essential information you need to enhance your saké drinking experience. From how premium saké is graded, to the brewing process and beyond, this fun, casual evening will put you “in the know” regarding this mystical, magical beverage and, quite possibly, change your life!

The next session of this course is scheduled to take place on Thursday, April 16 @ 7 p.m. Cost for the course will be $60/person and will include all saké, appetizers, and course materials.

During the class, we’ll cover all the basics during the lecture/video portion, and then we’ll let the saké do the talking during our tasting of a variety of selections from the main saké grades.

Class size will be limited to 12-15 people, and spaces will be held in the order we receive the reservations.

If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP as soon as possible, and no later than Tuesday, April 14.

To reserve your spot(s), please contact us at (206) 467-SAKE or [email protected]

NYC: Autumn Akita Sake Tasting

akita.gif“The Seventh Autumn Akita Sake Tasting Event”

ASC was established in June 2006 to introduce AKITA Prefecture’s sake, food, and goods
to the people in the NYC area. This Autumn, ASC is proud to announce “The Akita Sake Tasting Event” on November 14, 2008.

Please join over 21 visiting sake brewers from Akita and different all across Japan to taste over 38 of finest sakes we have chosen for you to try.

You can also savour some of Akita’s delicacies such as Kiritanpo, mashed rice stick, broiled and boiled in soup, Akita miso flavor fried chicken, Iburi gakko (Smoked radish pickles), and many others. For our environment’s sake, if you attended our last sake tasting event, please bring your sake glass !

Guest musicians, Mr. Shu Shioda and Mr. Leo Soeda, will be performing the Violin and Cello for our guests.

Organizer:[ASC: Akita Sake Club]
Sponsor:[Sun Pop International Corporation]

Date: November 14, 2008 (Friday)
Time: 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Location: The Japanese American Association of New York, Inc.
15 West 44th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10036

Space is limited and reservation is required. Please pay the admission fee in advance by check (payable to Masatoshi Yamamoto). There will be no refunds due to cancellation.
Admission Fee: $50
Reservation/Contact: Masatoshi Yamamoto
Sun Pop International Corporation
211 East 43rd Street, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-682-4393
Fax: 212-682-4392
e-mail: [email protected]

Japan 2008: Sake Club Okanaga

*Membership Has It’s Privileges“, or at least that is what Amex says. You know, I’ve gotten through life pretty well without being a member… and I don’t just mean Amex. I’m talking no Fraternity, no food co-op and I’ve never even owned a Member’s Only jacket! However, on my second day in Japan, the wonderful folks at Prestige Sake extended an invitation I was not about to miss: a private sake tasting at their Member’s Only sake club in Tokyo, Club Okanaga.

They arranged for Melinda and I to meet with Prestige Sake Sensei Mr. Mori and also Mr. Takatsu who helped me out with Japanese translation. I was thoroughly expecting a secret knock or special handshake to get entrance to the club, but Melinda and I were greeted at the door and brought to our table. After meeting our hosts we sat down for what would be, little did I know, a very significant sake tasting.

When all was said and done we tasted over 14 sakes on their own and with food pairings. It was quite a ride on the leading edge of sake with the emphasis on Kimoto, yamahai, Koshu and sparkling.

Just take a look at this list!

morisan.jpgOur first duty was to taste these sakes on their own. We all soon had a gaggle of sake filled wine glasses in front of us. I worked hard to keep all of the glasses straight, but was rewarded with a unique and wonderful experience… the ability to taste so many sakes side by side. It was a joy to learn from Mr. Mori and discuss sake and get his personal take on some of our selections.

Some of the sakes really stood out in my mind.

Hanahato.png1) Harushika Tokimeiki Sparking: Sparkling sake with full sweetness and high acidity. This will tickle your nose! A wonderful aperitif for your evening meal. This sake is also refreshingly low in alcohol.

2) Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai: This sake has light grapefruit on the nose and full complexity on the palate. Lactic acid come thru strong on this one. excellent with food and excellent for warming.

3) Hanahato Kijoshu: Smokey, rich and sherry-like, this aged sake is special. I serve this as a topping over vanilla ice cream or with chocolate. The brewing method of Kijoshu is very unique because pure rice sake is added at the final stage instead of water and aged in wood for eight years.

The Sakes were all interesting and unique and totally fun to taste. I have never had so much yamahai, kimoto or koshu in one sitting. My sincere thanks to everyone at Prestige for such a fun and educational evening. So, I guess I enjoyed being a member and belonging to the club… even if it was only for one night.

Japan 2008: One Cup Wonder – Sake Bar Buri

one_cup.jpgI was a man on a mission. This was only my second trip to Japan, and I had my priorities clearly defined. What was my number one top priority upon arriving in Japan? Catch up with friends? Eat Sushi at Tsukiji Market? Commune with nature at an ancient shrine? ….um, none of the above… My primary concern was finding One Cup sake!

One cup sake is sake packaged in a single serving 180ml cup that is often attractively decorated. This cup sake movement has been something that fascinates me, but it is pretty hard to come by in the States, so I had to find it in Tokyo! Well then… who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! You’re Sake Wonder Twin of course! My Sake Sibling Melinda was given marching orders to find me cup sake by the time I touched down at Narita.

wonder_twin.jpgLucky for me, Mel is totally down with the Tokyo cup sake underground and hooked me up with the fantastic Sake Bar Buri!

Buri was the site of some Tokyo sake meetups and I was anxious to give it a try. Mel warned me that the place was a “standing bar”… something that may not be best directly after a 13 hour flight from New York, but I summoned my Sake Samurai spirit and off we headed to Buri. The place seemed small, even for a cramped New Yorker like me. Everything was centered around a large circular bar with a kitchen in the back.

buri.jpgMel took the lead and ordered some of her favorite cups. Details are fuzzy, due to Jet Lag, of course, not inebriation. All I do remember is that it was fantastic to see Melinda and catch up with her and that everything was delicious including the skewers and yummy tidbits we got to eat.

Would I go back to Buri? In a heartbeat. Hey, it’s only 13 hours away. It was fun, relaxed and right up my alley. oh, and of course getting to keep your little cup as a souvenir doesn’t hurt either.

Japan 2008: Let the Journey Begin!

Watch this space for soon to be published Reports from my Recent trip to Japan! I visited many Breweries and rode the shinkansen from one end of Japan to the other (almost). There were a ton of new experiences for me… I harvested sake rice, helped stir moto, was served sake by maiko, toured 10 breweries, took a real Japanese bath, ate purple soba, and (finally) saw Mount Fuji! Stay Tuned!