Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo

Tatenokawa Sake Brewery is one of those rare outfits that focuses exclusively on producing super-premium grade sake. That’s right, nothing but Junmai Daiginjo will do for the folks at this brewery. If you’re a fan of Junmai Daiginjo like I am, get to know the name Tatenokawa. Two of their sakes selected for import to the U.S. were recently approved for sale and the Brewery had a launch party of sorts with a tasting event at Kirayuya Sake Bar.

The two new sakes in question are Tatenokawa 33 Junmai Daiginjo and Tatenokawa 50 Junmai Daiginjo. The number in the name refers to the seimaibuai or rice milling percentage.

Mr. Kurosu with Tatenokawa 50

These are two wonderful sakes to taste together for the fun of a ‘contrast and compare’ milling rate experiment. Both sakes have a lot in common… same brewery, both Junmai Daiginjo, same Dewasansan sake rice, same water, same alcohol content and only extremely minor variations in SMV and acidity. The biggest difference is rice milling alone – 33% remaining vs. 50% remaining. The fun comes in when you realize how unique and different these sakes are from each other. Milling alone makes a big difference! I found the Tatenokawa 33% to be cleaner, quieter and super, duper stealthy smooth with enjoyable light juicy fruit flavors on the palate. The Tatenokawa 50% in comparison came across more full-bodied, rounder and heavier on the palate. Because of this, it also stood up better to the yummy grilled and fried izakaya food I was eating at the time. Both of these sakes shared the same Tatenokawa DNA, but each had a unique body. Now this is a scientific method I can really get behind.

Mr. Kurosu was the Tatenokawa representative who was on hand at Kirakuya and introducing these sakes to everyone. Those who bought a bottle received a Tatenokawa wooden masu as a gift – a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of a new V.I.S. (Very Important Sake) to the American market. Can’t wait for the other Tatenokawa brews to debut!

news_iconIn Japan, sake has long been known as “The Drink of the Gods”…but coming soon, sake will also be designated as the “National Alcoholic Beverage” by the Japanese Government. My initial reaction to this news was, HUH? Sake isn’t already officially the “National Alcoholic Beverage”? But the more I thought about it, I realized that whatever the timing, any effort the Japanese Government makes to promote sake is a great thing for the industry, so let’s celebrate! Grab your Japanese ‘National Alcoholic Beverage’ of choice and Kanpai with me! Below is a link to the full article:

Govt to Designate Sake, Shochu as ‘National Alcoholic Beverages’
by The Yomiuri Shimbun
April 16th, 2012

With a view to boosting the overseas market for Japanese traditional sake and shochu, the government will soon designate them as “national alcoholic beverages,” according to Motohisa Furukawa, state minister for national policy.

The planned designation is aimed at encouraging the revitalization of local economies concerned and expanding demand for rice, Furukawa said Saturday.

Rice is the raw material used for making sake, a fermented beverage, as well as shochu, a distilled spirit. Shochu also can be produced using other crops, such as sweet potatoes and barley.

Read the Full Article >

I was recently honored to help support an event called “Kibō: A Taste of the Tohoku” here in New York featuring well known Japanese cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh. Living full time in Japan since 1967, Andoh-sensei is famed for teaching the complexities of Japanese cooking to an English speaking audience through in person classes and award winning (and beautiful) cookbooks such as Kansha and Washoku.

The Kibō e-cookbook is Andoh’s precious way of both helping Tohoku with proceeds from the cookbook sales as well as preserving Tohoku specific dishes and cuisine culture. Andoh-sensei prepared a bento for each guest at the event featuring highlighted dishes from the cookbook, whose she also explained in detail using a slideshow and an engaging presentation.

I was asked to introduce the sake. The Tohoku sakes featured on this evening were Miyagi’s Urakasumi Zen Junmai Ginjo, Iwate’s Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai and Fukushima’s Daishichi Kimoto Junmai. I gave the guests a quick sake 101 along with a brief profile of each brewery and the steps they’ve taken to recover from the March 11th disaster. Many Students came up to me afterwards and commented on the pleasures of pairing real Tohoku sake with Tohoku Dishes made by an expert. I couldn’t agree more!

On the food front, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed the delicious dishes and Downloaded the Ebook myself as soon as I got home. “Kibō” itself means “brimming with hope” and after eating these dishes, I’m brimming with hope myself that I will cook them at home and can’t wait to have my own Tohoku sake and food pairing.

I’ve got a lot of admiration for Andoh-sensei using what she knew best to reach out and help the people of the Tohoku in their recovery and, to help the rest of us learn about this fascinating regional cuisine. Here’s a big Kanpai for the recovery and rebirth of Japan’s Tohoku! Here’s the link of you want to get the Kibō e-cookbook yourself:

I recently discovered a new sake bar gem on the lower east side called Yopparai. In English, “yopparai” means ‘drunkard’, or ‘I’m drunk’. This hidden away sake sanctuary has a large selection of premium sakes by the carafe and an even larger selection of wonderful sakes by the bottle.

When I spoke with owner Gaku Shibata, he told me his intention was to transport an honest-to-goodness Tokyo sake bar to Manhattan – and I can tell you this has been achieved. No detail was too small from the bag locker under the seat, to the shaved ice chilling every carafe as well as the custom made ochoko cups. Every aspect of this place is right in line with what you would expect in Japan. How awesome is that?!

The food selection is also really, really good. I enjoyed some superior sashimi (with super cute custom cut daikon and carrot butterflies – never seen that before!), some wonderful grilled asparagus and a delicious salted salmon. Everything was top notch and just the sort of food you want to drink with premium sake!

Speaking of sake, over the course of the evening, I ordered three “Go” of sake. A “go” is a single 6 oz serving that is served in a small carafe. you can order 1 or 2 “go” at a time. On this trip, I enjoyed clean and sexy Kudoki Jozu Junmai Ginjo from Yamagata, then rich and umamai-ful Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo from Fukui and finally the smooth and ricey Denshu Tokubetsu Junmai from Aomori.

No joke, the selection is top notch – you can’t ask for much more if you’re looking to explore the world of premium sake. There is no better way to get yopparai then at Yopparai! See you there!

April 4th was a special night at Sakagura Restaurant celebrating the annual Springtime U.S. launch of Masumi Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu sake from Miyasaka Shuzo.

The tasting set on this night consisted of Miyasaka Yawaraka Junmai, Masumi Arabashiri Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu and Masumi Yumedono Daiginjo Genshu. Keith Norum and Katsu Miyasaka were on hand from Masumi Brewery to introduce these delicious sakes to everyone at Sakagura.

The star of the night was of course, the Masumi Arabashiri. It tasted as fresh and bold as ever – a wonderful full bodied Genshu nama with lots of fruit and fullness on the palate.

I hope you get a chance to taste these wonderful sakes, too. After my tasting set, I enjoyed some sashimi and some more Miyasaka Yawaraka Junmai. Delicious together! As usual, the staff at Sakagura was amazing and I felt so welcomed.

Keep an eye out for Arabashiri in your neck of the woods – it’s always a wonderful harbinger of spring… after one sip you can say without a doubt “Spring has Sprung”!

Masumi Arabashiri

There are a few signs of Spring that are unmistakeable… That first warm day when you step outside and smell that fresh clean air, the blossoming of the nearby trees and of course, the arrival of Masumi Arabashiri!

Miyasaka Brewery just arrived in town and have kicked off a week of events all around New York to herald the arrival of this luscious, full throttle nama. The seasonal Arabashiri arrives this year with a taste we sake lovers covet and with a limited availability we also lament. Tying in nicely with the Japanese notion of seasonality, it’s only available in the Spring… so let’s drink up.

I’ve already got a head start on most as I attended an Arabashiri kick off event at Kibo restaurant this past Monday. Keith and Miyasaka-san Jr. were in town and poured several of their sakes for many eager guests. It was a wonderful night and a great way to start the unofficial “masumi week” in New York.

If drinking some Arabashiri with the brewers sounds good to you – it’s not too late! You can still catch up with them at several events this week! Check out my Sake Events Calendar for dates and locations and join me to welcome spring in my favorite way!