Joto Sake at Sakagura

Sake Sommelier Cheez with Akita Komachi DaiginjoJoto Sake is a Sake importer run by Henry Sidel. Henry is a great guy who tirelessly promotes the gospel of sake. All his efforts and hard work have brought us here in New York the chance to sample some very unique sake, hand picked from smaller breweries we might never have heard about otherwise.

Henry was hosting a series of events last week in NYC to bring the Toji he represents directly to the U.S. to meet customers and present their sake. Last Wednesday I made it to an awesome tasting event at Sakagura dedicated to the brewers repesented by Joto. First and foremost, I need to comment on the great enthusiasm the Brewery Representatives and Toji showed for their products.

Dispite their tough schedule and tons of travel, you could tell they were excited to be here. And that excitement was infectious! They were out from behind the bar, showing pictures from their brewery, and explaining one-on-one, some of the finer point of their sakes. Also some really unique details that distinguish them from other breweries.

First, a list of the 5 Brewerys represented and their respective sakes. Then I’ll touch upon a few of my favorites.

Mr. Yamauchi Brewmaster Huchu Homare Shuzou

Brand: Watari Bune and Taiheikai, “Pacific Ocean
Brewery: Huchu Homare Brewery
1. Watari Bune Junmai Ginjo “55”
2. Watari Bune Junmai Daiginjo
3. Taiheikai Tokubetsu Junmai

Brand: Chikurin, “Bamboo Forest
Brewery: Marumoto Brewery
4. Taoyaka “Elegance” Junmai Daiginjo
5. Kaoyaka “Lightness” Junmai Ginjo
6. Fukamari “Depth” Junmai
7. Hou Hou Shu sparkling sake

Brand: Yuki No Bosha, “Cabin in the Snow
Brewery: Saiya Shuzouten
8. Akita Komachi Daiginjo
9. Daiginjo
10. Junmai Daiginjo
11. Limited Release Junmai Ginjo
12. Junmai Ginjo Nigori

Brand: Shichi Hon Yari, “The Seven Spearsmen
Brewery: Tomita Shuzou
13. Junmai
14. Junmai Ginjo

Brand: Kasumi Tsuru, “The Crane of Kasumi
Brewery: Kasumi Tsuru Ltd
15. Shiboritate Namazake Genshu
16. Kimoto Junmai Ginjo
17. Kimoto Extra Dry
18. Yamahai Ginjo
19. Yamahai Junmai

Yasunobu Tomita, Executive Director Tomita Shuzo, Inc - Shichi Hon YariMy first stand out pick is Shichi Hon Yari. It was fun talking to Tomita-san about his sake. He came back to the the family owned kura after a stint as a corporate employee. His english was great for having only been to the states a few times. He credited listening to english tapes in his car during his commute.

I also learned that his family Kura was founded by Samurai and Tomita-san tapped his samarai spirit to keep the brewery running smoothly and the sake flowing.

Shichi Hon Yari only was showing 2 sakes, one ginjo and one junmai, but they were both gems. The junmai was offered both warmed and chilled and was clearly on of the best Junmais I’ve ever had. It had a beautiful round flavor that struck just the right chord on my palate. The heated Shichi Hon Yari jumai had a honey like quality that was just delicious. smooth and easy. This experience with the Shichi Hon Yari has really made me ‘warm up’ to the idea of drinking heated sake.

Kotaro Saito, President Saiya Sake CompanyIt’s worth noting that all the sakes that were served warm were gently warmed in a water bath, not at all served piping hot. The Ginjo was great and added a step up of flavor complexity from the Junmai.

Next, I really liked the Yuki No Bosha Akita Komachi Daiginjo from Saiya Brewery. This sake was the first one of the evening that I tried. It was smooth with a very silky mouthfeel. This sake is like “cool jazz 101FM” – chill and relaxed without being overtly fruity or floral. A very nice elegant Daiginjo.

My final pick for the evening was Kasumi Tsuru Shiboritate Namazake Genshu. This sake I have actually tasted before. It won an UrbanSake.com “Golden Masu” award Last Month. It has a strong presence and is perfect when you need something bold and flavorful. This is the sake Chuck Norris would bring with him when he stopped by for dinner. But beware of that karate chop kick! The 20% ALC content on this baby could have you down for the count if you don’t keep your guard up.

Winner takes it all...As these sakes make their way onto the american marketplace, ask for them by name. These are artisenal sakes in the truest sense of the word. The fact that we have access to them here in the states is really a dream.

At the end of the evening, they held a raffle. I never usually win at that kind of thing, so I gave my ticket to Scott. He came back smiling with a bottle of sake in hand. I’d won! And, I’d won my very own bottle of the Golden Masu award winning Kasumi Tsuru Shiboritate Namazake Genshu! The perfect way to end such a fun evening. I was so excited, I was ready to do my very best Chuck Norris karate Chop Kick. Haaai-ya!