Joto Sake Brewers at Lan

Joto Sake importers recently held a sake tasting at LAN restaurant in the East Village. Best part was, the Brewers themselves were there to introduce their sakes. When people ask me what they can do to learn more about sake, I always encourage them to attend events just like this one. Talking directly to the people who make the sake is one of the best ways to learn. Let’s check out the Joto sake!

Yuho “Happy Rice”

Miho Fujita

Miho Fujita

This sake is from outer space? That’s what Miho Fujita told me when I first sampled her brews. Seems their brand name “Yuho” sounds an awful lot like the way “U.F.O.” is pronounced in Japanese. Well, I will say it is “out-of-this-world” delicious.

It’s a new offering from Joto sake importers and quite a find. Yuho has been creating buzz in Japan and rightfully so. I tried Fujita-san’s Yuho Junmai first. A thoroughly modern Junmai, it’s well balanced and slightly rich. I also sampled the Yuho Junmai Ginjo. Bright and vibrant, this is a very versatile sake. I tasted light hints of citrus with a wonderfully crystal clear finish.

Yuki no Bosha “Cabin in the Snow”

Kotaro Saito

Kotaro Saito

Snowy and remote Akita Prefecture is well known for sake making, and the magnificent sakes from Yuki no Bosha keep that reputation alive and well. I was happy to meet a sake rock star, Mr. Kataro Saito, the Fifth Generation maker of these sakes.

I started exploring these sakes with one of my all time favorites, Saito-san’s famous Yuki no Bosha Nigori. It’s light and breezy with all the very best parts of Nigori texture and limited release Junmai Ginjo in one. If you want to explore Nigori – I recommend you start here. I also enjoyed the delicious “Akita Komachi Daiginjo“. This delicious sake was rich, super smooth and just exuded elegance. A real gem among fortified daiginjos.


Takaaki Yamauchi

Takaaki Yamauchi

Yamauchi-san (please call him “Taka”), the man behind Wataribune, is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm for sake. I had the pleasure of visiting Huchu Homare Brewery, home of Wataribune, and getting the grand tour from Yamauchi-san himself! Please read about my visit HERE.

Tasting his brews again brought be back to that wonderful trip. I enjoyed getting reaquainted with the Wataribune Junmai Daiginjo. A rich and fruity daiginjo, look for peach and honeydew on the palate and also a nice long finish that stays with you sip for sip. Delicious!

Chikurin “Bamboo Forest”

With Niichiro Marumoto

With Niichiro Marumoto

Marumoto-san is the wonderful maker of “Chikurin” brand sakes. He looked great in his kimono and I just had to get a pic with him. I enjoyed Marumoto-san’s wonderful hospitality last October on my trip to Japan. Read my full account of Marumoto Brewery HERE. Fantastic!

Today I got to try Chikurin Karoyaka “Lightness”. It’s light with mild fruits and enough body to hold it perfectly together. I also enjoyed Chikurin Fukamari “Depth”. This sake is good and There is a touch of richness that comes from the fact this sake is blended with a small amount of aged sake. Great to enjoy these Chikurin sakes again!

When you get a chance to try these Joto sakes don’t miss it! They offer a wonderful taste of the artisanal brewery movement in Japan: Delicious, hand-crafted, amazing. Kanpai!

NYC: Morimoto Sushi & Sake Sunset Sail

Morimoto Sushi & Sake Sunset Sail of the NY Harbor June 15th
This limited series of sails features NYC’s most renowned sushi purveyor, Iron Chef Morimoto, and cool refreshing assorted sake, served on the decks of New York’s most elegant schooner for a sunset sail.

The menu includes a wide variety of the very best of Morimoto’s sushi and rolls – all served in an elegant, passed fashion while we set sail for the New York Harbor. Classic Harbor Line and Morimoto have taken special steps to ensure that the sushi is served in the freshest means possible for this event: It is prepared just minutes before boarding, stored in special coolers and served within the first hour of your sail.

Some illuminated views along the way will include:

* The New York City Skyline
* Battery Park, a 20 acre park at the southern tip of Manhattan, where artillery has been stationed over the centuries
* Ellis Island, the immigrant doorway to America from 1892 to 1954
* The Statue of Liberty, a French gift that arrived in New York harbor in 1885 and has come to represent our nation’s freedom and ideals

Assorted cold sakes (including an organic Junmai Ginjo and a sparkling sake), champagne, wine, beer and soda will be provided. (One quick note: we will serve a few rounds, but it is not an unlimited booze-cruise. We aim to create an elegant, relaxing, peaceful, and safe experience for all of our guests.)

Date: Jun 15, 2009 (Mon)
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Cost: 105.00
Place: Classic Harbor Line – Chelsea Piers – Pier 62
Across from West 23th Street and the Hudson River (Pier 62)
New York City, NY 10011
Phone: 646-336-5270

Event Details

NYC: Kanpai NY Sake Nite at Soba Totto

Organizer’s Description:
Hi Everyone, I’m excited to announce that we’re starting a new bar night–the second week of every month–at our favorite restaurant and bar: Soba Totto! The first one is on June 10th from 8 to 10 pm.

As you probably know, Soba Totto is a beautiful space with great food, great drinks, and amazing atmosphere. And the loungy bar area is perfect for hanging out and drinking sake with friends.

We’ve arranged a special price ($2 off) on glasses of Masumi Okuden ($7) and Nanbu Bijin ($6) and Gen’s sake and shochu cocktails ($9). Gen has also promised to make a special “Kanpai Cocktail” just for us! Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that! Just make sure you say “Kanpai” to Gen to get the special pricing.

If you haven’t been able to join us for one of our sake tastings at the end of every month, this is a great opportunity to meet us and experience Kanpai NY!

Please join us on June 10th, and help us kickoff a great new sake night at Soba Totto.

CLICK HERE to register

Soba Totto
211 E. 43 St.
New York, NY 10017

NYC: Amanoto Sake Night at Sakagura



“Amanoto Night” On Monday, May 18th, SAKAGURA will play proud host to one of the most distinguished breweries, Asamai Shuzo Co., Ltd. from Akita, Japan. We cordially welcome and invite you to “Amanoto -Heaven’s Door- night” with an amazing tasting set.

Four kinds of Amanoto Sakes ( “Junkara” – Junmai, “Hyosho” – Junmai Ginjo, “Time of Reflection” – Junmai Daiginjo, and “unknown sake” yet to be introduced to the U.S. Market) served with “Tsuru Tsuru Men” – Organic Rice bran Noodle and Akita’s vegetable pickles will be sold for only $24 !!!!! In addition, we have a special gift “Kuramoto Goods” for customers who ordered Amanoto tasting set.

Amanoto’s Sake Master, Mr. Hidemori Kakizaki and our lovely ex-staff, Sake Sommelier, Chizuko will guide you to a wonderful Amanoto world.
We hope you will join us in tasting great sake and enjoying coming beautiful season, Early Summer!

*Please note that tasting set are limited. We would recommend you to come / make the RSVP in early hours
(preferably between 6 to 7:00 PM).

RSVP HOTLINE 212-953-SAKE (7253)

We are waiting for your visit!
211 East 43rd Street B1F
New York, NY 10017
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30-14:20
Dinner: Mon-Thu 18:00-23:45
Fri-Sat 18:00-24:45
Sun 18:00-22:45

NYC: Felissimo Evening of Sushi and Sake

An Evening of Sushi and Sake
Join us for a fun night of sushi, sake and a knife skills demonstration here at the Felissimo Design House.

Felissimo Design House
10 W. 56th Street
New York, NY 10019

Thursday, May 21, 2009 from 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (ET)

Ticket Information
Ticket Price: $20.00
CLICK HERE to buy Tickets!

Please note: Due to the cost of materials we can not grant refunds for cancellations.

NYC: Megu Sake Supper

Megu Sake Supper Let Delta take you on a sake tour at Japanese hot spot Megu. Join sake expert Chris Johnson on a virtual trip to Japan via a five-course menu at this theatrical TriBeCan gem where the fish is flown in daily and the atmosphere is as authentic as the dishes it serves. Johnson will explain the art of sake pairings for each course, with dishes ranging from sushi to Kobe beef – you’ll be sure to go home with the knowledge to impress at your next Japanese dinner. And if you want to go visit the original Megu in Tokyo, Delta has a new flight launching to Narita on June 4.

Event Details: $100 for five courses with sake, tax and tip not included.

To Reserve: Call Asleigh Eaves at 917-306-2934 and mention “Zagat Presents.”

June 3, 2009, 6:30 PM
62 Thomas St. (bet. Church St. & W. B’way)

A (Sake) Night to Remember!



Most of the time, I’m years behind the curve when it comes to knowing the newest, coolest and most secret places to eat and drink in New York. This week however, the gods of New, Cool and Secret were smiling upon me as I was lucky enough to snag entrée to Sake Sommelier Chizuko Niikawa-Helton’s latest invitation-only sake tasting event called “A Night to Remember” and held at New York’s newest hidden sake hideaway, the soon-to-open private club Bohemian.

Rare Sakes
Chizuko-san recently traveled to Japan and came back with a bevy of rare and hard to find sake that she wanted to share with us at this tasting. Most of the sake we tasted is not for sale in the U.S. and a few special bottles were directly from the Brewer and not for sale even in Japan!

Kimono Sleeves are Better than Pockets

Kimono Sleeves are Better than Pockets

I decided to try my hand at wearing Kimono for this event. Honestly, it was a little nerve wracking. I did my best to tie my obi correctly and headed out the door onto the NYC streets in my shiny green haori! When I arrived, I was greeted warmly and all the Japanese folks at the event seemed happy to see me in Kimono. It ended up being a lot of fun! You can hide a lot in those sleeves!

A Sparkling Warmup
We were greeted at the door with a flute of Dassai 39 Sparkling Junmai Daiginjo Nigori. Delicious, elegant and a perfectly fizzy way to start the evening off right.

After the Dassai 39 Nigori, the sakes came fast and furious. Chizuko-san poured each with a grace and hospitality that can only come from years of Sommelier experience. In a field of already extra delicious brews, two sakes from Iwate Prefecture’s Nanbu Bijin Brewery stood out as extra, extra delicious.

Nanbu Bijin Shines
First was the Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo First Run 2009 “Hatsu Bashiri”. This sake was alive with luscious fruits on the palate and a refreshing juicy mouthfeel, all the while feeling smooth, elegant and expressive. A really wonderful Daiginjo!

Nanbu Bijin Hatsu Bashiri

Nanbu Bijin Hatsu Bashiri

The second sake of note was the Nanbu Bijin 12 year aged Daiginjo “9BY”. This sake is special as it was brewed by the late Master Brewer of Nanbu Bijin, the Honored Mr. Hajime Yamaguchi.

This sake was aged for 12 years at very cold temperatures which gave it a very rare deep level of complexity on the palate. Rich, full and ravishing, this sake was a true masterpiece. Although I had never met him, I couldn’t help feeling the spirit of Yamaguchi-san was there with us through his magnificent sake.

Food, Glorious Food
I’d really me remiss if I just reported on the sake. Bohemian Executive Chef Kiyotaka Shinoki paraded several courses of really delicious and inventive food to pair with the sakes. From fresh tuna and kanpachi sashimi to fresh oysters with a spritz of key lime to a delicious fresh ikura caviar rice bowl, all the food was amazing. We sampled 11 unique dishes and each had an elegant touch and refined simplicity. Just beautiful Japanese food.

Ice Bucket/Ice Sculpture

Ice Bucket/Ice Sculpture

Beautiful Space
Bohemian itself was beautiful. Think ginormous skylight, live moss garden, sake ice bucket free form ice sculptures, backlit bar and modern Asian art light sculptures. yeah, I know. The whole 9 yards. Beautiful space, beautiful food, beautiful sake and beautiful company all came together to make a pretty darned beautiful evening. My special thanks go out to Chizuko-san for spearheading this special event with Bohemian. It really was “A Night to Remember!”

NYC: Kanpai-NY Tasting at Shinbashi

From the Event Sponsor:
“Hi Everyone, Please join us for our next meetup event… We’ll be meeting at Shinbashi (which is reviewed on our restaurants page) for a sake tasting and appetizers. We’ll be trying 3 of our favorite sakes (Chiyomusubi tokubetsu junmai, Otokoyama tokubetsu junmai, and Umenishiki junmai ginjo). You can learn more about these sakes on our sake page. We’re looking forward to seeing you!”

Visit the Kanpai-NY meetup site to sign up! Price: $50.00 per person

Kimono Clad and in Time Out New York

Tim Sullivan and Michael RomanoImagine my surprise when Food and Drink writer Michael Anstendig alerted me to the fact that my kimono-clad picture was featured on the Time Out NY website!

I recently attended a fantastic sake event and I will post a full report soon. Until then, check out this Blog Post in the Time Out NY Food Blog.

This event was an absolute blast and I had a lot of fun dressing in Kimono and drinking some of the most rare sakes I might ever enjoy. Not a bad way to spend and evening in the Big Apple.

Joy of Sake Aftertaste 2: Balance & Harmony

en_signThe folks at Joy of Sake don’t just stick to their one mega sake tasting event each year. Lucky for us, they also have smaller get togethers they call “Aftertaste” events, each usually focused on a new sake-related theme. Last June, I attended a Joy of Sake Aftertaste event devoted to “Umami”.

However, last week, I was lucky enough to attend the latest Aftertaste event being held at En Japanese Brasserie. This event focused on the concept of “Balance and Harmony” in sake. This is the event description from the invite:

One characteristic all prize-winning sakes possesses is “balance.” For most sake judges, balance is more important than either taste or aroma. But what exactly is it that is in balance? And how can we tell if a sake is balanced or unbalanced? This month’s tasting explores one of the more elusive concepts in sake appreciation.

sake_bowlBalance in Sake
It’s true! Balance is something that’s very prized in the world of sake. I look at balance as finding the most pleasant equilibrium between sweetness and acidity as well as richness and lightness.

So what sakes were on tap to explain “Balance and Harmony”? Let’s take a look at some highlights! Check out these sakes if you want to find some Balance and Harmony of your own!

tentaka_silent_streamTentaka “Silent Stream” Junmai Daiginjo: From Tochigi Prefecture. This sake won a silver award in the 8th US National Sake Appraisal.

shichihonyariShichihonyari Junmai: From Shiga Prefecture. This sake won a silver award in the 8th US National Sake Appraisal.

Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo: From Yamaguchi Prefecture. This sake won a gold award in the 8th US National Sake Appraisal.

taiheikai_junmaiTaiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai: From Ibaraki Prefecture. This sake won a gold award in the 8th US National Sake Appraisal.

Here’s to lots of “balance and harmony” in your sake drinking experiences!

Upcoming Sake Event with John Gauntner

There is a great event coming up that you don’t want to miss! It’s the annual Japan Society Sake tasting and Lecture on Tuesday, May 19, 6:30 PM . This year, the “sake guy” himself, Mr John Gaunter is coming to the US to lecture on that mystical and moldy aspect of sake: KOJI!

The event is entitled: Without Koji, There is No Sake

Sprinkling koji mold spores on steamed rice.  Photo: © Tentaka Shuzo.

Sprinkling koji mold spores on steamed rice. Photo: © Tentaka Shuzo.

Event Description:
Koji-making is the heart of the sake brewing process. Koji is steamed rice onto which a special mold has been grown with great precision and skill that converts starches to sugars, which in turn are fermented to yield alcohol. Making good koji requires precise regulation of temperature and moisture, and nothing has a greater impact on the final flavors and aromas of sake. Like much of sake brewing, koji-making is more art than science. Sake expert John Gauntner discusses the art and science of making koji, what it is, the myriad ways it can be accomplished, and how tiny changes to koji can result in major differences in sake flavor.

Followed by a sake tasting. Co-sponsored by the Sake Export Association.
Tuesday, May 19, 6:30 PM
Tickets: $35/$30 Japan Society members & seniors
Limit 2 tickets per order.

Must be 21 years of age.

Buy tickets online or call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. – Fri. 11 am – 6 pm, Weekends 11 am – 5 pm.

April ’09 Elements of Sake Class

I recently enjoyed teaching my Sake 101 class at Astor Center! The class is referred to as “elements of Sake” and that is really true! We break down what the basic classifications are, what to look for when tasting sake and we review the sake production process.

Let’s take a look at the SEVEN sakes we tasted during this fun sake 101 lecture. Can you guess which one was the class favorite??

otokoyama_junmaiOtokoyama Junmai You can really taste that this is a strong, very DRY Junmai with a hint of fruity-something melon-something. It stands up for itself. I think if the Man Show picked a sake, this would be it. I enjoyed it. It is a good sake to have around for those informal times when something good and strong fits the bill.

kubota_senjuKubota Honjozo Fuller in flavor and bolder, this honjozo is a touch on the dry side with a real food friendly vibe. This brewery is top notch and very highly regarded in Japan. This was our only “alcohol added” sake of the evening. Robust, full and very high quality.

senchu-hassakuTsukasabotan Tokubetsu Junmai This sake is dry, but has a well-rounded depth of flavor. It’s impressive and understandably a favorite! I enjoyed every sip. For lovers of dry sake, this is a “must try”. just beyond being dry, this delicious brew also offers depth of flavor.

dassai_50v2Dassai Junmai Ginjo Light, balanced, clean and easy drinking, this sake is a star. It’s wonderful for beginners to get into sake and fantastic for others to simply enjoy. There are wonderful fruits on the palate without coming off too sweet. Just fantastic.

dassai_nigoriDassai Junmai Ginjo Nigori A Nigori version of the famous Dassai 50 junmai Ginjo. The story here is all about texture and the light sweetness conveyed by the rice solids left in this nigori. The nose on this sake makes you say “wha?” , but the palate is all “ahhhh, delicious”. a beautiful choice if you’re hankering for some nigori action.

masumi-arabashiriMasumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu This delight just screams springtime nama. It’s fresh, fresh flavor is alive with a fruitiness that may come across a touch sweeter than it actually is. This sake tastes alive and makes me happy to be alive. This is so yummy you can easily drink more than you perhaps should.

kurosawa_daiginjoKurosawa Junmai Daiginjo Truly one of my very favorite Junmai Daiginjos… This one is masterful. Wonderful light apple and soft pear on the palate. lightly luscious with a resounding smoothness you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

So, what do you think won out as class favorite? If you guessed Masumi Arabashiri, you’re right! The super bold, fruity and spring time zing-fest that is Masumi Arabashiri won out as the favorite of all the picks. Have you tried it? If not, get thee to a liquor store and order some as soon as possible! it’s only available in the springtime and supplies are limited!

Please join me for my next Sake classes at Astor Center!! We have a Sake and Food pairing course on June 3rd as well as another Sake 101 class on June 24th. Don’t miss them!

San Diego: Japan Society Sake Festival

san diegoThe Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana (JSSDT) will host its 7th Annual Beer & Sake Festival on Thursday, June 25, 2009 at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. The Beer & Sake Festival is a charity tasting event that brings experts from the Japanese culinary and sake traditions together to showcase their knowledge and talents to the San Diego community. All proceeds support the JSSDT’s educational programs that build bridges between the people of Japan and the San Diego/Tijuana region, including language competitions, internships, educational exchanges, and sports exchanges.
The 2009 Beer & Sake Festival has also been designated the official host of the SushiMasters California Regional Competition presented by the California Rice Commission. This nationally acclaimed event features California’s top sushi chefs in a live competition that challenges their mastery of sushi art and style.

Organizer: Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana
Date: Thursday, June 25, 2009
Time: 6 pm to 10 pm
Place: San Diego Marriott del Mar/ 11966 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130

Tickets: $60 per person/ $40 for JSSDT Members

Reservation Contact:
Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana
4883 Ronson Court, Suite K, San Diego, CA 92111, USA
Phone #: (858) 467-1727
Fax: (858) 467-1729
e-mail:[email protected]

NYC: Joto Sake Brewers at LAN

Joto Sake Tasting at LAN Japanese Restaurant
Joto Sake

Come meet the brewers!

  • Miho Fujita (Mioya Brewery)
  • Niichiro Marumoto (Marumoto Brewery)
  • Takaaki Yamauchi (Fuchu Homare Brewery)
  • Katoaro Saito (Saiya Brewery)

Please call LAN for Reservations:

56 third Ave (between 10th and 11th)

May 18th, 2009

$25 Per Person

NYC: Tentaka at Sakaya

sakaya.gifTentaka and Kanbara Sake Tasting at Sakaya

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