I had my very first trip to Ambassador Wines on the Upper east side recently. This is one of the most well known sake stores in the city. Now, normally I don’t run to the liquor store on my lunch hour to stock up on sake, but… this was an exception. I was up in midtown on the WEST side of 54th street for a business conference, and i knew that Ambassador was on the EAST side of 54th street. I had always wanted to go there and check out the sake selection… and I think this was as close as I was going to get – I was on the same street – so I went for it. This involved race-walking across 54th st from 6th ave to 2nd ave in sub-zero temperatures. I had an hour to get there, buy the goods and walk back. When I finally found the place, I walked in and was immediately surprised to see how cramped it was. wine was everywhere. The sales person asked me what I was looking for and I said “sake…”
In no time, I was whisked to the entrance of their “sake cellar”. This is a refrigerated sake room about the size of a small Manhattan walk-in closet. well, it’s bigger than my closet! Then I was handed off to the in-house expert sake-salesman. He asked what kind of sake I wanted – I said I’d like a “moderately priced DaiGinjo” (who wouldn’t?!)
He offered me Wakatake… Been there! He offered me Mu… Done that! I was shown a few other DaiGinjos that were really expensive. hmmmm. We moved on to Ginjos. I must say, the Sake salesman at Ambassador was an expert. He knew his stuff! Normally, I would talk to him for hours, but I was on the clock and I had a 25 min. walk ahead of me and a conference to get back to.
He showed me Chiyonosono Junmai Ginjo… “Sacred Power” from Kumamoto Prefecture (Seimaibuai: 55%, Rice: Shinriki, Yeast: Kumamoto, Nihonshu-do: +2.5, Alcohol: 15.9%, Acidity: 1.5). This sake had a striking label with red letters and a beautiful frayed paper edge – it was even protected with bubble wrap! His description of the taste was of orange notes. Now, this really caught my attention and in the end I ran out of time, so I went with the Chiyonosono. I had never heard of a sake that tasted of orange!
Only problem, this one didn’t. When I got it home, the sake was full and delicious, but tasted to me more of a crisp pear than anything else. I wasn’t upset in the least – it’s all good – life’s just one big tasting in my book. And given Ambassador’s selection and service, I think they deserve diplomatic immunity from grumpy sake snobs.
I’d rate this sake 3 out of 5 sake bottles.