Love, Love Me Do – Sake Week Day 6

Japan Society bannerOk, we’re now entering the home stretch of NYC Sake Week ’06. Day 6 was centered around a wonderful event at the Japan Society called “For the Love of Sake”.

The evening started with a lecture by the restaurateur and star chef David Bouley. Mr. Bouley described in detail how he learned about Japanese cooking over the years and developed relationships with Japanese chefs and even attended the most famous japanese cooking school. He also talked about how japanese sake started his experimental uses of koji in his cooking.

John Gaunter introduces the sake export association membersNext, John Gaunter introduced the visiting members of the Sake Export Association. These were the Toji and Brewery reps on hand to introduce their Kura and their sake.

The Sake Export Association is a none-profit group of close to 24 breweries in Japan that have formed an organization to support the export of sake to countries outside of Japan.

Then came (well, for me at least) the main event: the Sake Tasting!

Each Brewer present had a table and poured their sake into little sample cups. These little cups totally remided me of those NyQuil cups. Sake is the best medicine I know of, so make mine a double!

Midori_nakazawa.jpgThe first table I stopped at was amazing Tentaka Brewery from Tochigi Prefecture. The Brewery was only founded in 1914, making them the relative ‘new kid on the block’. I met the very friendly brewery sales rep Midori Nakazawa who introduced me to this sake. The first thing that caught my attention was fact that Tentaka is producing organic sake. The three sakes the were serving are delicious.

tentaka_silent_stream.jpgThe first was Tentaka Kuni (“Hawk in the Heavens” Tokubetsu Junmai, ALC 15.6%, SMV +3, Acidity 2.1, Seimaibuai: 55%). This sake was dry with a strong kick of high acidity.

The second Tentaka brew was Tentaka Organic Junmai Ginjo (ALC 15.3%, SMV ±0, Acidity 1.7, Seimaibuai 50%) This sake was crisp wit a solid backbone. On the dry side but not overly so. Made with 100% certified organic rice.

The last one, and my personal favorite, was Tentaka Ginsho (“Silent Stream”, Junmai Daiginjo, ALC 16.3%, SMV +3, Acidity 1.4, Seimaibuai 35%) This sake is expensive and I understand why. It’s brewed with water from an underground stream that originates in the Yamizo adn Nasu Mountains. The palate is ultra smooth and enjoyable. I could drink this sake day and night.

brewmaster philip harperThe next big thrill of the evening was meeting Philip Harper. Philip is the Brewmaster (Toji) at Daimon Brewery in Osaka Prefecture. He’s world famous for being the first non-japanese person to achive this honor.

I was delighted to see Mr. Harper serving his wonderful Tozai Honjozo (“Well of Wisdom”, ALC 14.9%, SMV +5.5, Acidity 1.5) sake which I bought on my sake trip to Boston. Tozai is really one of my favorite Honjozo sakes available in the states. It’s got a full body and just enough fruity goodness to raise my interest.

Daimon was also was presenting Mukune Junmai Ginjo (“Root of Innocence”, ALC 16%, SMV +2, Acidity 1.8, Seimaibuai 55%) and Mukune Nigori (“Shadows of Katano” ALC 15.9%, SMV +5, Acidity 1.5, Seimaibuai 55%) Nell and Timothy enjoy DassaiBoth of these are just amazing. RUN don’t walk to your local sake retailer if you haven’t tried them yet. Philip Harper is doing great things at Daimon. Can’t wait to see what comes next.

Next, I met up with my new sake Friend Nell and we enjoyed a little Dassai. Asahi Brewery rep Sakurai-san was serving up all the Dassai “greatest hits” including the World famous Dassai 23 and the ever popular Dassai 50 and the yummy Dassai Nigori. I’ve posted on these sakes before and they are good! See my Dassai Post from NYC Sake Week Day 2 for more details on this great brand.

Moving on, I was happy to see a whole bunch of Brewery representatives I’d met before at various places and tasting this past year. This included:

miho imada* Miho Imada, the Toji at Imada Sake Brewing Co. in Hiroshima. Imada-san is always so gracious at explaining her sakes and they have such unique flavor – very worth exploring, especially her Junmai Daiginjo “Myokafuu“!

* Mr Yuichiro Tanaka representing Rihakau Brewery in Shimane Prefecture. Rihaku is near and dear to my heart. I really dig their stuff. If you get a chance, try the Rihaku Nigori “Dreamy Clouds“. pardon the pun, but, dear God, this stuff is Heavenly!

* Friendly Mr. Tomorori Yoshia of Yashida Brewery in Shimane Prefecture. Yoshida-san is of course presenting the Gassan brand. Gassan is a reliable, well known brand. You can’t go wrong here. I especially enjoyed the “Gassan Junmai Ginjo“.

* Kensuke Shichida of Tenzan Sake Brewery in Saga Prefecture. Shichida-san was presenting that well known “Jizake-Tenzan” with it’s distinctive packaging and strong alcohol content, it’s a favorite with many people I meet.

OK! well, at this point, the lights started to flicker on and off. I first thought I may have one too many NyQuils, but then I soon realized it was the polite Japan Society way of saying “time to go home”. Sad the evening was coming to a close, but I was feeling something special. Could it be? Dare I say? I do believe it was Love (of sake) at first sight.