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!

3 replies
  1. Kenji Ichishima
    Kenji Ichishima says:

    Hey Tim-san,

    It was great to see the fellow Niigata Kuramotos on UrbanSake. I am afraid I could not attend this time, but I will come back to NYC to bug you soon I hope. Take care and Kanpai!

    Kenji

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