sakaya.gifWorld Sake Tasting
Seitoku Junmai Ginjo (Gunma) & Dewazakura Dewa33 Junmai Ginjo (Yamagata)

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

TastersGuildNy Discovering 10 Handcrafted Artisanal Sake
Organizers Description:
Sake is one of the fastest growing segments in the wine market, fueled by the increase in popularity of Asian, and particularly Japanese cuisine. NY’s better wine shops now carry a plethora of small production Sakes, while top Asian restaurants, like Nobu, Megu and Maturi carry a complete line of Sakes. What is less expected is that some of NY’s best non-Japanese restaurants are jumping on the Sake bandwagon. Chanterelle offers a wide variety of Sake and matches Sake to at least one course on their famed tasting menu. Dating from the dawn of history, the art of brewing Sake has been a Japanese tradition. Americans are beginning to realize what the Japanese have known all these years, that Sake is a wonderful beverage, either by itself or with food.
Join us with Monica Samuels a well known Sake Ambassador, who will explain the origins of Sake and how Sake was brewed from rice and water, like beer. For each Sake, 10 of them, of varying styles, she will discuss the classification, region, tasting notes, and suggested food pairings.

Location:
ESTONIAN House
243 east 34st (2nd/3rd)
NYC, NY 10016
ph. 212-501-7823

COST: $65 Buy Tickets

WEBSITE: www.TastersGuildNY.com

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: Aug 24, 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
RESERVE YOUR TICKETS NOW!

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: July 20, 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
RESERVE YOUR TICKETS NOW!

Event Details

NYC: Sake & Cheese at NY Vintners

EVENT DETAILS:
We will taste five sakes paired with five cheeses from “East Village Cheese.” The sake will include a cloudy sake in addition to a sweeter sake.

WEBSITE: http://newyorkvintners.com/p-4013-sake-and-cheese.aspx
July 1, 2009 (Wed)
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Location:
New York Vintners
21 Warren Street
New York, New York 10007
ph. 212.812.3999

COST: 25

meetupThe San Francisco Sake Club Happy Hour

Event Organizer’s Description:
The San Francisco Sake Club
Yes, 5PM and only $10! Patio seating and cheap appetizers.
See you then.

San Francisco, CA 94108 – USA
Fee: Donation: USD 10.00 per person

Details & Location: http://www.meetup.com/sf-sakeclub/calendar/10738085/

Sake Night at Kabuki Japanese Restaurant

From the Event Organizer:
Meet a Master Sake Sommelier, Yuji Matsumoto.
Chance to win prizes. Reserve your seat today.
http://www.kabukirestaurants.com/home.asp

Sake & Food Pairings:
1 Person: $25 Couple: $40 3 or more: $20/person
*Contact Kabuki Hughes Center to reserve your seat at (310) 641-5524
Session 1: 6:30pm-7:30pm Session 2: 8:30pm-9:30pm

Location:
Kabuki Restaurant, Howard Hughes Center
6081 Center Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90045
ph. (310) 641-5524

Kanpai-NY.com

Kanpai-NY.com

From the Event Sponsor:
Hi Everyone,

I’m excited to announce that we’ll be pouring sake (in association with Chizuko Niikawa-Helton) at our friend Yumiko Kayukawa’s opening reception at the Joshua Liner Gallery on July 11th.

Yumiko Kayukawa is an important emerging artist from Hokkaido whose unique depictions of young women and animals are both beautiful and thought provoking. Her work creates a vivid and unforgettable commentary on the importance and fragility of nature. We are honored to be able to take part in Yumiko’s first gallery show here in NY.

Chizuko Niikawa-Helton from Sake Discoveries is providing sake on behalf of her clients Nanbu Bijin and Tengumai. We’ll be serving Nanbu Bijin tokubetsu junmai and Tengumai junmai ginjo.

Please join us for this special night of art and sake!
Joshua Liner Gallery
548 W. 28 St. 3rd Floor
New York NY 10001
212-244-7415

Visit this Meetup group for more information:
Kanpai-NY

RSVP Deadline
Your organizer has set an RSVP deadline for this event. You have until July 11, 2009 5:00 PM to RSVP.

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Join me online from July 13-19 as we celebrate “One Cup Sake” in the USA.
I’ll be posting daily “One Cup Sake” reviews, videos, articles, interviews & more!

It’s gonna be big…

cup_main

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Ataru Kobayashi

Ataru Kobayashi

Mr. Ataru Kobayashi was found at Sakaya last week pouring samples of two of the fantastic Niigata sakes he imports through his company SENA Niigata Sake Selections.

Kobayashi-san is an eloquent advocate for sake from his home prefecture of Niigata. You can really feel his passion for sake and that passion comes through in the sakes he selects to import.

Kirinzan Junmai
First, I tried the Kirinzan Junami. In other posts I have already reviewed the beautiful Kirinzan Junmai Daiginjo that really is to “dai” for! I first had it at Sakagura and it was love at first sip.

Kirinzan

Kirinzan

This junmai grade sake from the same brewery is also a dream, but with a touch more rice in the nose and more broad flavors on the palate. It retains however, it’s gentle and soothing niigata je ne sais quoi.

I also can’t mention Kirinzan without mentioning the thoughtful packaging. The bottle for the Junmai is total eye candy and a wonderfully thoughtful touch!

Manotsuru Daiginjo

Manotsuru

Manotsuru

Next Kobayashi-san poured the delicious Manotsuru “Four Daimonds” Daiginjo.

This sake is made by Obata Sake Brewery’s President Mr. Hirashima. He’s a soft spoken man that makes a wonderfully smooth and serene beauty of a sake. Clean, yet with a light sweetness and mild melon and apple on the palate, I found myself wanting even more of this delicious brew than would fit in my tasting cup!

If you can’t tell by now, Niigata and it’s elegant sake has surely cast a spell upon me. The Niigata style of sake is lighter, easy to drink and very easy to enjoy. Pick up one of these sakes for yourself and you can see what a little Niigata can do for you. Kanpai!

Check out more of our man Beau Timken of San Francisco’s TrueSake.com schooling WineLibrary.tv’s Gary Vay-ner-chuk about all things sake. Great Job Beau!!

Check out Part 1 if you missed it!

a-may-zing!! let’s hear it for Sake!

Fellow Sake Samurai and all-around sake superstar Beau Timken of San Francisco’s TrueSake.com helps WineLibrary.tv’s Gary Vay-ner-chuk to learn more about sake.

Not to be missed – part one of two!

Check back soon for part two!

meetupThe San Francisco Sake Club Happy Hour

Event Organizer’s Description:
The San Francisco Sake Club
Yes, 5PM and only $10! Patio seating and cheap appetizers.
See you then.

San Francisco, CA 94108 – USA

Thursday, June 25 at 5:00 PM
Fee: Donation: USD 10.00 per person

Details & Location: http://www.meetup.com/sf-sakeclub/calendar/10466303/

meetupThe Twin Cities Sake Meetup Group
Ever since I read about a San Francisco sake group meeting at a Mexican restaurant, I’ve been thinking about stretching our sake boundaries. So, Bali it is! I am friends with the owners but I don’t think I’m biased in thinking Bali is great… it’s gotten great reviews and was voted one of the top 10 new restaurants of 2008 by Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. They are willing to let us bring our own sake, so I will be bringing a few sakes (quantity to be determined by the number of participants), including some from Japan. Please be willing to split the corkage fee (I think $10) with me if you want to share the sake.

The food is great and pretty inexpensive. Check it out here:

Please join us for this unique event!

Minneapolis, MN 55403 – USA

Sunday, July 12 at 7:00 PM

Details: http://sake.meetup.com/10/calendar/10571261/

meetupEvent Organizer Description:
Sake Dinner at Bar Hayama
To kick off summer, we have arranged a special sake tasting dinner at Bar Hayama, which includes a flight of three sake and kozara (Japanese tapas) selected by owner and sake sommelier, Toshi Sugiura. In addition, our friends at Sake Social will be providing a selection of premium sake for tasting as well, to celebrate the launch of their site, www.SakeSocial.com. We’ll try at least 6 different sake in all. We’ve negotiated a discounted price of $40 (which includes tax and tip) for our group of “sake enthusiasts” and “asian foodies.” Food alone at Bar Hayama typically runs around $50 per person, so this is a great deal! We will be dining under the stars by the outside fire pit, which is my favorite place to relax and spend a summer evening. Whether you are a novice and want to learn more about sake and try something new, or a seasoned sake drinker that can’t get enough, it will be a great night for sure!

Details:
Payment: Please bring $40 cash.
Time: 8:30pm (for those that want to come early, we’ll be having drinks at the bar).

About Bar Hayama & Toshi Sugiura:
From Los Angeles Magazine: One of the best 75 restaurants in Los Angeles (#41 to be exact) – Toshi Sugiura has created a space both quaint and sophisticated, with two intimate bars, an extensive selection of sakes (with a handy guide to their flavor profiles), and a menu highlighting kozara, or small plates. In good weather the fire pit in the garden, surrounded by communal tables, is mesmerizing.
Toshi is a Certified Sake Sommelier and founder of the California Sushi Academy. http://www.bar-hayama…

Location:
Bar Hayama
1803 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310.235.2000

More Details:
http://www.meetup.com/LosAngelesSake/calendar/10595016/

sakenomi.gifSaké Nomi Golf Invitational
The 2-year anniversary fun continues on Sunday, June 28 @ 9 a.m., as we gather at Tukwila’s Foster Golf Links for the 3rd edition of our haphazardly named Saké Nomi golf outing.

The format this year will be 2-person alternate shot, and we pity the fool who gets teamed with Johnnie-san.

Saké Nomi will be providing lunch and saké refreshments for all participants, as well as hosting the 19th (or 20th??) hole trophy presentation and prize giveaway bonanza. Rest assured that, regardless of scores, no one will go home empty-handed.

We’ve reserved tee times for up to 16 golfers, and we’ve still got a few open spots, so if you’re interested in joining us, please drop us a line ([email protected]) or give us a call (206-467-SAKE) so that we can save your spot.

76 South Washington Street,
Seattle, Washington 98104
Tel: 206-467-SAKE
http://www.sakenomi.us/

sakenomi.gifSaké Nomi 2nd Anniversary Party
Please make plans to join us on Saturday, June 27, as we celebrate the 2nd anniversary of our opening.

We plan on cracking the taru (cask) shortly after we open, at 2 p.m., and we’ll be serving from that throughout the day.

In addition to our weekly menu (featuring some of our favorite saké), some snacks will be available, as will some complimentary do-dads from the breweries.

Our customary $5 tasting fee will, of course, be waived with any purchase from the shop, and there will be a bunch of “anniversary sales” items, including a free fill-up of taruzake with the purchase of a Saké Nomi masu (those square cedar cups).

It’s hard to believe 2 years have already passed since we first opened the doors. We hope you’ll be able to join us Saturday, June 27 to celebrate the past two years and allow us to express our appreciation for your kind support.

76 South Washington Street,
Seattle, Washington 98104
Tel: 206-467-SAKE
http://www.sakenomi.us/

Hibino-san

Hibino-san

The first time I met Brewmaster Mr. Hibino, I found myself a little lost in translation and deep in the heart of Shizuoka Prefecture visiting Oomura Sake Brewery, home of the famous Wakatake Onikoroshi brand.

This time, however, we were on my turf. I was very happy to hear that Hibino-san was coming to Astor Wines to promote a long standing favorite of NYC sake drinkers, Wakataki Onikoroshi Junmai Daiginjo. I was happy to see Mr. Hibino remembered me as well, but shocked to hear that he has just arrived from Japan that morning and was already pouring sake! If he was tired he didn’t show it. Onward with the tasting! it was time to sip some Wakatake for myself. I had recently served it in an Elements of Sake Class and it was every bit as good as I remembered. SMV ±0 and super clean, this sake is very easy to love. Welcome to New York City Hibino-san! Please come back again soon!

Maruyama-san

Maruyama-san

Hibino-san was kind enough to introduce me to. Mr. Kazuo Maruyama, representing the Shirataki Sake Brewery in Niigata prefecture. Maruyama-san was pouring one of their most well known sakes: Shirataki Sara Wind Junmai. I recently had this sake at Buddakan Restaurant and really enjoyed it. One delightful feature of buying Shirataki Sara Wind Junmai is that the bottle comes with a cute cloth bag and a small glass “ochoko” sake cup. Who wouldn’t love that? The label is beautiful as well. It was drawn by a french artist visiting the region and it represents the local rice fields. The taste is clean and light and unobtrusive. It is beautiful in it’s Niigata-ness.

Shiratake also produces the much loved Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo. This is a sake I did one of my very first (and embarrassing) videos on!

I was happy to visit these brewers serving their best sakes at Astor. I have always told people that attending events with the brewers visiting from Japan is one of the best ways to learn about sake. You can get the info on the sakes right from the source. And if your interested in learning about sake, and meeting some really wonderful people, there is nothing better than that. Kanpai!

Sake Play Day at Little Buddha Las Vegas

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sakayaOur friends Rick and Hiroko, owners of NYC’s only all-sake store Sakaya, were recently interviewed by Eat Out NY’s exuberant host Kelly Choi. Rick and Hiroko are media pros at this point having scored spots on Tokyo TV, NY1, and now this!

I happened to be in the shop myself when Kelly Choi wandered into Sakaya about a year ago saying she should come back to do an interview. And now all these months later – it’s in the can! Check it out!

I recently saw a 1967 Japanese-themed James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” for the first time. This film takes place mostly in Japan and involves a complicated plot about an evil mastermind trying to provoke nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. Viewed 40+ years after it’s initial release, this film comes across as ripe with cultural insensitivity, political incorrectness and male chauvinism. But in the go-go swinging 1960’s Bond-san’s Japanese shenanigans got good reviews and the film was a financial success…Oh, behave!

In the end, I think this film serves as an lens into how the outside world viewed Japanese culture at time it was made. Most interesting to me were the two brief scenes in “You Only Live Twice” that feature SAKE. There is actually a lot to learn here! Let’s break it down…

Sake Scene 1
98.4ËšFTiger Tanaka: “Do you like Japanese sake, Mr. Bond? Or would you prefer a vodka martini?”
James Bond: “No, no. I like sake. [sip] Especially when it’s served at the correct temperature, 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, like this is.”
Tiger Tanaka: “For a European, you are exceptionally cultivated.”

In this scene, Bond passes on this his signature martini and admits he likes sake. The interesting point to note here, is that the writers are attempting to make Bond sound worldly and sophisticated by having him know the proper heating temperature for hot sake.

But wait – “Isn’t hot sake considered bad, cheap, yucky sake?”, you ask.

Well, viewed historically, at the time this film was made (1967) all sake breweries were still fortifying their sake with distilled alcohol as a legacy of wartime rice shortages. As a result, serving sake hot to help ward off any sharp or unbalanced flavors made sense and was very common. Chilled premium sake as we know and love it today wasn’t really around.

It wasn’t until a year later, in 1968, that the first breweries started to again experiment with making Junmai “pure rice” sake (no distilled alcohol added). This was one very significant factor that ushered in the area, sometimes called the “Jizake Boom”, of smaller breweries crafting increasingly pure, elegant and refined sakes that are best served slightly chilled.

I’m sure James Bond today drinks his sake chilled to a perfect 58.2ºF! And in Bond-san’s defense, if you ARE choosing to warm premium sake, 98.4ºF is indeed a fantastic serving temperature. Warm sake can be delightful if done properly.

Sake Scene 2
sip_sipIn this scene, James is supposedly “disguised” as a Japanese native by wearing a kimono and a wig. um… Please see my note above regarding cultural insensitivity.

He is pretending to marry a Japanese girl to help himself blend in as he attempts to infiltrate the evil Mastermind’s lair. And yes, he does try to get busy with his fake bride before actually infiltrating the evil Mastermind’s lair. um… Please see my note above regarding male chauvinism.

This scene simply represents a Japanese wedding ceremony with the bride and groom sharing sake as a sign of joining their lives. This part of the Shinto wedding ceremony that involves sake is called “San-san-kudo”, which literally means “three, three, nine times”.

The groom and bride each take three sips from three sake cups. The Japanese Spy/Bride in this scene is shown correctly taking three sips from the sake cup. The Shinto Miko maidens who pour the sake in this film also fill the cup with three small pours. What’s up with all the “Threes”? Three is an advantageous number in Japan and is not divisible thereby symbolizing unity for the couple.

And why is sake used to seal the deal on a wedding? It is a hold-over from ancient times when consuming sake was seen as a link between the gods and the people. When performed for real and not by spies, it is a really beautiful and touching ceremony with deep roots in Japanese culture.

The name is Sake, Urban Sake.
If you haven’t seen it, renting “You Only Live Twice” may be worth a look and good for a few laughs. You can indulge in a little political incorrectness, examine perceived Japanese social mores of the 1960s, and learn a bit about sake along the way. Yeah, baby!

sake-hana.jpgSakéOne Outdoor Summer Concert Series featuring Stephanie Schneiderman & Keith Schreiner

Stephanie Schneiderman delivers a gorgeous recording that transcends genre and defies convention. “Dangerous Fruit” reveals 11 songs that artfully combine pop, trip hop, soul, electronica and folk, as well as the talent and vision of two established, yet very different NW artists. 20% of gate fees from the SakéOne Summer Concert Series benefit Mercy Corp. General Admission: $8 Students, and Club Members: $6

Tickets are available at www.sakeone.com

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

sake-hana.jpgSakéOne Outdoor Summer Concert Series featuring The Slants

The Slants blend new-wave, synth-pop and dance-oriented rock with an Asian flare. The Slants are bold, majestic and filled with unlimited potential to light the dark ignorance of society…all while melting people’s faces off with “Chinatown Dance Rock!” 20% of gate fees from the SakéOne Summer Concert Series benefit Mercy Corp. General Admission: $8 Students, and Club Members: $6

Tickets are available at www.sakeone.com

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

sake-hana.jpgSakétini Saturday

SakéOne celebrates the very best summer cocktails this month at Sakétini Saturday The $5.00 tasting fee includes a flight of four sakés, three sakétinis and a tour. The tasting room is open from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Brewery tours will be at 1, 2 and 3PM.

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

sake-hana.jpgSakéOne Outdoor Summer Concert Series featuring The Dimes

Portland, Oregon based band which combines experimental British sound and American rock and roll. “Quirky, harmony-driven, indie-pop five-piece with influences and sounds-like comparisons ranging from The Decemberists to Iron and Wine, Spoon, Tom Petty, and even The Beatles.” 20% of gate fees from the SakéOne Summer Concert Series benefit Mercy Corp. General Admission: $8 Students, and Club Members: $6
Tickets are available at www.sakeone.com

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

sakaya.gifWinebow Sake Tasting
Ichishima Futsu-shu (Niigata) & Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai (Akita)

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

We Drank This!

Behold the Bounty! We Drank This!

It goes without saying that I really enjoy teaching sake classes at Astor Center! June started off with our super fun ‘Sake and Food Pairing’ class. This class takes a walk on the wild side of sake and really goes in search of some of the more unique flavors in the sake world.

The Pairings
Sparkling: Harushika Tokimeki Junmai (pairing: apple wedge)
Kimoto: Sawanoi Iroha Kimono Junmai (pairing: Grilled shitake w/bonito)
Yamahai: Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai (pairing: tsukune chicken meatball)
Genshu: Umenishiki Junmai Ginjo Genshu (pairing: Edamame.)
Nigori:Ichinokura Junmai Nama Genshu Nigori (pairing: blue cheese)
Koshu: Hanahato Kijoshu (pairing: vanilla ice cream)

Which sake food pairing do you think was voted as the class favorite?
Drumroll please……
Ichinokura Nama Nigori with the Blue Cheese! Wha? I know! But it really worked. The texture of the sake and cheese were both super creamy, but the blue cheese had a little bit of saltiness that was just fantastic with the nama.

Special Guest

Sake Glass

Sake Glass

Riedel O Daiginjo Sake Tasting Glass

It was not only blue cheese and nama that made this class special! We had a very special guest, Mr. Maximilian Riedel. He spoke for a few minutes and introduced his Riedel “O” Daiginjo sake tasting glass.

We enjoyed the very special Wakatake Junmai Daiginjo with Mr. Riedel’s glass. He showed us the finer points of tasting sake using his stemless tasting glass. We also each got to take home our glass! Yeah!

Here is a video of Maximilian Riedel introducing is “O” line of glasses:

sake-hana.jpgSakéOne Outdoor Summer Concert Series featuring The Minus Five

Originally begun as an outlet for “Scott McCaughey songs the Young Fresh Fellows would likely never get around to recording, The Minus 5 has long been rooted in the talents of Scott and compatriot Peter Buck of REM. But over the years the M5 has included Ken Stringfellow and John Auer, Jeff, John, Glenn and Leroy of Wilco (see Down with Wilco), as well as various sundry musical rounders.”

General Admission: $10 Students and Club Members: $8
Tickets are available at www.sakeone.com

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

sake-hana.jpgSakéOne Outdoor Summer Concert Series featuring Point Juncture, WA

“Local dream-pop quartet Point Juncture, WA just went rogue with the vinyl release of its incredible 2008 effort “Heart to Elk”. “ Rain or Shine
20% of gate fees from the SakéOne Summer Concert Series benefit Mercy Corp.
General Admission: $8 Students, and Club Members: $6
Tickets are available at www.sakeone.com

Location: SakéOne, 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116
Phone: 503.357.7056 x. 235
Web: www.sakeone.com
Email: [email protected]

2007 and 2008, I was eagerly awaiting this year's tasting. '>

John Gauntner introduces Sake Brewers at the Japan Society

John Gauntner introduces Sake Brewers at the Japan Society

It’s becoming an delicious yearly ritual in my sake tasting routine: The annual Japan Society Sake Tasting and Lecture. Just as in 2007 and 2008, I was eagerly awaiting this year’s tasting.

Koji, Koji Koji
John Gaunter was again the special guest speaker and his lecture was entitled: “Without Koji, There is No Sake”. Koji is the true mystery ingredient in sake. Often called the “mold that makes the magic”, the title of the lecture couldn’t be more true. John focused on many of the interesting aspects of how koji works, how brewers work with it and also, descriptions of the unique rooms used at breweries to propagate koji mold.

This year, we had the following Breweries represented:

  • Tenzan Sake Brewing Co. (Saga)
  • Asahi Sake Brewing Co. (Yamaguchi)
  • Rihaku Sake Brewing Co. (Shimane)
  • Imada Sake Brewing Co. (Hiroshima)
  • Marumoto Sake Brewing Co. (Okayama)
  • Sudo-Honke Inc. (Ibaraki)
  • Tentaka Sake Brewing Co. (Tochigi)
  • Okunomatsu Sake Brewing Co. (Fukushima)
  • Kaetsu Sake Brewing Ltd. (Niigata)
  • Tenju Sake Brewing Co., LTD (Akita)
  • Akita Seishu Sake Brewing Co., LTD. (Akita)
  • Nanbubijin, Inc. (Iwate)
  • Takasago Sake Brewing Co. (Hokkaido)

Miho Imada

Miho Imada

Meet The Brewers
The sakes from all the above Breweries were amazing! The news for me was some wonderful unique treats that I got to try.

One special treat was the delicious Fukucho Junmai Daiginjo “Hattansou” Muroka Genshu made by Miho Imada at the Imada Sake Brewery in Hiroshima Prefecture. This sake was unique in several ways. It was made using a lesser known sake rice “Hattansou” which I learned is a parent rice to the more well known Hattan-Nishiki rice. This leaves this sake with a wonderfully concentrated sense of flavor and aroma. I have high hopes to see this sake for sale in the US this year!

Also from Imada-san, don’t miss:
* Fukucho Junmai Ginjo “Moon on the Water”
* Fukucho Junmai Ginjo “Biho”

Dassai 23

Dassai 23

Mr. Sakurai was also on had from Yamaguchi Prefecture’s Dassai Brewery. He brought with him three of his wonderfully loved sakes for sale in the US:

* Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo
* Dassai 39 Junmai Daiginjo
* Dassai 50 Junmai Ginjo

However, A rare treat for me on this night was the chance to taste Sakurai-san’s Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 39 Sparkling Nigori! This is a beautiful light bubbly brew worth savoring. Not for sale in the US, but we can hope for the future!

So many sakes were tasted and enjoyed! This was another enjoyable year at the Japan Society. This year we learned that “without Koji, there is no Sake”. Can’t wait to see where in the sake world they take us next year!

sakaya.gifEvent Description: Kakurei Junmai & Manotsuru

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

sakaya.gifEvent Description: Ume no Yado Junmai Ginjo & Ume no Yado Yuzushu

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

Well, it’s been the 21st Century for a few years now and while we don’t yet have flying cars in every garage, there has been some pretty cool stuff happening! We’ve elected the first African American President, driven remote controlled rovers on the surface of Mars, and even invented Twitter!

As for me, my thoughts of the future never stray too far from sake, so you can imagine my interest was piqued when I heard about a new futuristic web 2.0 sake site hitting the internet called SakeSocial.com that was aiming to bring sake selling, sake education and sake community 100% online and into the 21st Century. I recently caught up with the web entrepreneur and SakeSocial.com founder Marc Smookler to find out how he discovered sake, what inspired his website and, what has sake breweries knocking down his door to join in.

Q: Tell me how you got interested in sake? Did you have a sake “a-ha moment”? What on earth inspired you to start SakeSocial.com?

Marc Smookler and his wife Marisela

Marc Smookler and his wife Marisela

Marc Smooker: First, let me say that I am not, nor have I ever been, a big drinker. People should not assume that just because I launched a sake community that I am a booze hound. In fact, sake is one of the harder ways to get “tipsy”. If one was looking to zero in on drunkenness, he/she should simply pick up a bottle of vodka or whiskey.

I became interested in sake through a gradual process—I call it my maturation through aperitifs. I started like most mid‐westerners: Milwaukee’s Best while huddled in my parent’s basement at age 16; then my roughshod college years of fraternity life of Jager and the occasional chaser of Coors Light; after college I graduated to the more refined hard alcohols and the various splashes of color; then the tired years of long days and the Red Bull infused Vodka drinks that took me through my 20’s; then the inevitable ulcer that put an end to my hard alcohol days—ugggh…back to beer…

Then it happened. I moved to Los Angeles, found some good sushi restaurants, and was turned onto sake. Never a fan of wine, I quickly became a fan of sake due to its clean taste, subtle dryness, and complementary nature. I was driven to sushi restaurants by my sake cravings. Eventually I found a sake that I preferred but unfortunately the only restaurant that served it was sub‐par. So I ventured online one night and tried to find a site that sold this particular brand. Couldn’t find it anywhere. In fact, I couldn’t find a single site that sold sake. That night SakeSocial was born.

Shortly after I bought the domain name I called one of my best friends, Jason Laskowski, who just happens to love his beer and cozy, and I convinced him to go out and buy a bottle or 2 of good sake. After he downed the bottles, he called me back and was on board. Also along the way, I have added a few key players to the team, including Beau Timken. On a side note, still to this day I have to convince my wife that just because I started SakeSocial, I do *not* want to become a booze shiller. I am here to provide a service—and a badly needed service at that.

Q: What is unique about your website?

Marc Smooker: We are simply the only ecommerce sake site that provides: a place to learn, purchase, find *your* perfect bottle, and interact with your like‐minded community. Our site:

  • Educates;
  • Helps consumers find what sake brew(s) best suit their palate;
  • Provides a community where others can share their thoughts;
  • Offer a Sake of the Month Club where an expert takes consumers on a tasting adventures; and,
  • Presents an easy‐to‐use ecommerce experience with peer reviews and suggestions.

And lastly, we have gone to great lengths to make sure we are doing things legally. Many of our smaller competitors are just simply taking orders and shipping to whomever, wherever. Not only does this create a liability for the company, but for the customers and importers too. Yes this has increased *our* (not your) costs a bit, but, we are looking to both protect ourselves and our customers. Come July 1st, we will still only be able to ship to only 25 states.

Q: Have you had any reaction from Japanese Brewers or Japanese sake peeps to SakeSocial.com? What do they think of your efforts to sell sake online in the USA?

sake_social_websiteMark Smooker: The breweries actually sell a fair amount of sake on‐line in Japan – so naturally the brewers have been curious why Americans don’t sell sake online. We have to explain the insane legal issues of interstate alcohol sales and they can’t believe that the laws are so difficult – so arduous. As we bring on breweries/importers, and we explain the process we had to go through, they start to see why very few companies have braved the waters. I guess I am just a glutton for punishment…

Also, to add to this point, I am proud of the team at SS (SakeSocial) for representing us, and sake for that matter, in a professional manner. This has gone a long way to assure the breweries that we are the horse to bet on. Lastly, I would like to say that now that we have traversed the shark infested waters of prohibition era liquor laws, and we are making sales/waves, the breweries are literally knocking down our door to get on board.

Q: Tell us about the sakes you’ve selected… Any of your personal favorite brews among your sake selection?

Marc Smooker: Beau actually has a really good blog post on this subject that we haven’t posted yet, but, it really comes down to timing and effort. As you can imagine, with our SakeSelector Tool, all our ecommerce widgets, and all the regulation; adding a simple bottle of sake takes a herculean effort. You can’t just upload one in our database and start shipping. It literally takes 2 months to add a brew to our whole ecomm and warehousing system, and, of course getting all the documentation together for the Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco agency…both state and federal 🙁 Did I forget to mention that we have to do lab testing and then submit the finding to the FDA? Goes on and on….I am sweating again just thinking about it.

So, how do we choose which ones to start off the process? In the beginning it was simple, who was willing to work with us 🙂 Now it’s different….we are fighting them back and are able to pick and choose.
And, regarding your last question…well…my latest Sake Selector Tool walk through put me in the following bottle:

OTOKOYAMA “MAN’S MOUNTAIN”

However, now that I look at my Selector Tool answers, I was pairing with BBQ….let’s just say my diet is making my body crave BBQ… What sake does our Selector Tool choose for you?”

Q: Selling/shipping sake to various States sounds to me like a nightmare‐ish tangled web of bureaucracy. What have been the biggest challenges to selling sake online so far?

Sake 2.0Mark Smooker: I touched on this a bit already, but, yes, a nightmare that still gives me fits. After everything that we have done over the past year, after hiring multiple law firms, I can still only ship to 25 states. The local liquor and grocery stores have a much bigger lobbyist war chest than I do 😉 However, what is strange to me is that limiting interstate commerce is illegal according to Federal mandates… but…again, who is going to fight that battle? Other than the above challenge, just starting a company in general is no easy feat….and after 4 startups, it still scares the heck out of me. Ecommerce adds another cog that you have to work through. But, the biggest challenge of all has been to both educate and convince the American consumer that sake simply rocks!!!

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of sake in the USA?

Marc Smooker: I hope its bright 🙂 Japanese culture is becoming more pervasive in America and sake is riding that wave. It will take some time, but, sake *will* become common place—even if I have to brave this fight alone!

In closing Tim, I would like to say that starting SakeSocial has been an absolute blast. Websites like ours are literally creating a market from the ground up, and being there at the beginning, while having its risks, is what makes it so fun. I have met a lot of great people, a lot of great companies, and a lot of really cool brewery owners in Japan that are salivating to enter the US marketplace.

I just hope we can provide them all a home that consumers continually come to to buy some wickedly good brews!

*********

rover_sakeThanks Marc! It’s hard to believe all the hoops the government makes the industry jump through just to get some premium nihonshu to the people!

Well, keep up the good fight and I’m happy to pass on my flying car for now if you promise to someday deliver your sake-of-the-month club to my friends on Mars… once the FDA signs off, of course.

Best of luck and Kanpai!

EVENT DETAILS: Ever wanted to learn about Sake, but were afraid to ask? If the answer is yes, then this is the Sake Seminar for you. The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont is proud to welcome expert Michael Simkin as he pours through a selection of Ichishima Sakes from the Niigata region of Japan.

Michael will guide you through the process of how Sake is made, the rice selections and brewing processes involved, the different styles of Sakes, as you sample 5 different sakes one by one. Michael will even cook for you. That’s right!!! Michael is bring a bunch of raw ingredients to our kitchen and preparing a bit of Japanese comfort food to match with these classic Sakes.

We’ll be sampling:
Junmai Genshu Sake
Junmai Koshu Sake
Junmai Ginjo Sake
Honjozo Sake
Deluxe Silk Sweet Sake

There are only 15 seats available at $30 each. Please email us or call the store to reserve your place.

Location:
The Spirited Gourmet
448 Common St
Belmont, MA 02478
ph. 617 489 9463

Kanpai-NY.com

Kanpai-NY.com

From the Event Sponsor:
Hi Everyone, Please join us for our next meetup event… We’ll be meeting at Aburiya Kinnosuke (which is reviewed on our restaurants page) for a sake tasting and appetizers. We’ll be trying 3 of our favorite sakes (Sougen junmai, Nanbu Bijin tokubetsu junmai, and Wakatake Onikoroshi junmai daiginjo). 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

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a litte thing for sake from Niigata prefecture. That first brew that enchanted me years ago, Hakkaisan, hails from Niigata and I’ve kinda been smitten by this region ever since. You can imagine my thrill when I got an invite to attend a recent sake industry tasting hosted by the Niigata Sake Selections importers! I met up with several brewers and here’s a brief overview of what we sampled. [spoiler alert: it was gooood!]

Shigeno-san

Shigeno-san

Yukikage Snow Shadow

First, I met Ms. Shigeno representing Kinshihai Shuzo. She was pouring her signature sake Yukikage “Snow Shadow” Tokubetsu Junmai.

This is an award winning sake that has a nice light body yet a full and clear finish. Niigata makes some beautiful sake and this is a prime example!

“Snow Shadow” is a name that makes me think of Nigori, but this is a delicious clear junmai.

Hirashima-san

Hirashima-san

Manotsuru “Four Diamonds”

Hirashima-san is the president of Obata Shuzo and makes the stunningly beautiful “Manotsuru” brand sake.

I first tried the delicious Manotsuru Junmai Ginjo and really enjoyed the smooth flavor. Four diamonds? I give it five or more! After the Junmai Ginjo, I enjoyed their delicious Manotsuru Daiginjo. Mildly sweet and very well balanced, this alcohol added Daiginjo is a fantastic treat with just the right amount of melon. Delicious!

Saito-san

Saito-san

Kirin-zan
I first tried Kirin-zan Junmai Daiginjo at Sakagura on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. I was impressed with the incredible clarity of this sake. Super-Niigata type sake!

Bracingly clean and laced with mild nuance of citrus goodness. A classic niigata sake made with the signature soft Niigata water. A beautiful bottle for a very beautiful product. Saito-san explained to me there is a different color bottle for each of his sake lines… Blue is for the delicious clean, clear taste of the Junmai Daiginjo. I couldn’t agree more.

Furusawa-san

Furusawa-san

Matsunoi Wishing Well
Furusawa-san was really nice and introduced me to two of his great sakes. They were more earthy, but earthy in a strictly Niigata way. I first tried the Matsunoi “Wishing Well” Tokubetsu Junami. This sake is dry with a great tone and balance.

I also enjoyed Furusawa-san’s Matsunoi “Wishing Well” Tokubetsu Honjozo. This sake was nutty and lightly rich. yummy in the classic niigata style. I loved tasting the Junmai and Honjozo side by side. I’ve seen the Honjozo around town before and I know I always enjoy it. You can always find room for a special honjozo to go with delicious Japanese cuisine.

Aoki-san

Aoki-san

Kakurei

I first met Mr. Aoki-san at a Sake Hana event in December 2006. Aoki-san was kind enough to remember me and was as nice as ever!

A delicious Kakurei Junami Ginjo started me off and running! light floral notes and a clean finish personify this sake. Just fantastic. I also was happy to revisit their Kakurei Junmai Daiginjo. A perfect little gem of Niigata sake, this is an elegant daiginjo with mild fruits on the palate and light floral aromas in the nose. Smooth and clean – so drinkable.

All in all, this tasting left me loving Niigata more and more! If you enjoy the classic light and airy feel of Niigata Nihonshu, I implore you try the sakes from this region. World famous for sake, Niigata won’t disappoint you. Please try it and and enjoy – and tell them Urban Sake sent you! Kanpai!

Sake is always the number one story with me, but other media outlets have been featuring a lot of news on Nihon-shu, too. Here is a quick roundup of some interesting sake stories making the news recently:

news_iconMiho Fujita, president of the Mioya Brewery Co. in Ishikawa, Japan was recently interviewed by the Village Voice. And in their words she is “freaking adorable” I couldn’t agree more! Read on:

For Heaven’s Sake–Japanese Rice Wine Is No Longer Just A Boys’ Game
By Chantal Martineau / The Village Voice
Wednesday, May. 20 2009

Apparently, New York Sake Week starts June 1. What great timing because we’ve just met one of the sake world’s most talked-about personalities: Miho Fujita, president of the Mioya Brewery Co. in Ishikawa, Japan.

She may be in charge, but Miho gets her hands dirty in the brewery everyday, working closely with her brewmaster, and even tending to the rice. As one of only a handful of women in the industry, she has become something of a media darling in her native Japan. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s freaking adorable.) …

Read the Full Article >

news_iconThere has been a lot of talk about recent sake ingredients scandals in Japan. This AP article focuses on the recent hubbub at Bishonen Brewery.

ANALYSIS: Japan in need of sake brewery law that tells it like it is
by The Associated Press
May 29, 2009

MIYAZAKI, Japan, May 29 (Kyodo) — The image of Japan’s iconic drink has taken a knock following revelations of a scam operated by one of the country’s major sake breweries.

Brewery Bishonen Shuzoh Co. of Jonan, Kumamoto Prefecture, is said to have sent out high-grade rice for polishing and received back lower-grade rice that it used to make sake. It is further alleged that it received cash to make up the difference in rice quality. Bishonen President Naoaki Ogata said he could not resist the temptation to make off-the-books money because his company was in dire straits. He added that the practice existed even before he joined Bishonen in 1982. …

Read the Full Article >

news_iconOne of my favorite brews is getting some airtime over at Time Out New York! Our friend Tejal Rao profiles Kikusui Funaguchi honjozo nama in a can. One of the most popular sakes in the new “one cup” sake movement. Thanks Tejal!

Canned sake: This unfiltered treat is anything but lowbrow.
By Tejal Rao / Time Out New York
Issue 713 : May 28–Jun 3, 2009

Yes, we can! The Japanese famously stock their goody dispensers with cheap thrills: instant noodles, beer, lightly worn underwear… It’s not hard to see why sake in a can, also sold on street corners and in train stations, is generally considered a sake of ill repute. But high-end Funaguchi Kikusui Ichiban Shibori is no ordinary quaff. The unpasteurized gem is fresh, sophisticated and full of body and lingering floral notes. The chilled sake started out as a special treat reserved for visitors to the Niigata prefecture brewery, but once the trend of namazake (unpasteurized sakes) took off, the company figured out how to properly store and transport the precious liquid. …

Read the Full Article >