Ode To “Joy” – Sake Week Day 4

joy_logo.pngI’ve been looking forward to the 2006 Joy of Saké event for a whole year! In a nutshell: I wasn’t disappointed. It was an awesome evening of great food, wonderful people and above all – a chance to taste scores of delicious and unique sakes!

The sheer number of sakes being offered (299) was a little overwhelming, but I decided to focus on what grabbed my attention.

I bumped into KC early on and we headed upstairs to the sakes that are not available in the US. Once, inside the door my first stop was at a table where we met Mr. Maegaki, President of Kamoizumi Shuzo. mr_maegaki.jpgI tasted their Nigori which was really quite good and their Daiginjo, too. All the folks from Kamoizumi were so nice, it was a pleasure to meet them.

Next I headed into the main room with table after table of beautiful sake bottles i’d never seen before.

This was very much a kid in a candy store feeling, but I proceeded at a steady pace and I found a few that drew my attention. First a word about how the tasting was presented. sake dropperEvery sake bottle was out on the table and the sake itself was poured into a small tasting cup with the traditional cobalt bullseye at the bottom. The tasting cup had a dropper that you could use to transfer the sake to your own cup for tasting. I wasn’t sure how this would work, but in the end I felt this worked very well indeed. You could taste a little or a lot.


Of all the sakes I tasted that are not available in the US, there were 3 that I felt deserved a mention.

Hinoshitamusou_tobindori.jpg1) Hinoshitamusou “Junmai Daiginjo Tobindori” (Yamaguchi Prefecture, Murashige brewery). This sake is unique – something you don’t see every day – a sparkling nigori daiginjo! The appearance of the sake itself was lightly cloudy, but the taste I found to be clean with a light effervescence. My notes on this sake say “Delightful!” Well, there you go. This is going on my list of ”someday” sakes – when I make that long awaited trip to japan.

watarai_daiginjo.jpg2) Watari “Daiginjo” (ALC 15.5%, SMV +4, Acidity 1.4, Seimaibuai 55%, Yamagata Prefecture, Watarai Honten) I wanted to mention this sake simply because the taste caught my fancy. It was one of the smoothest I remember tasting during the whole evening. The overall palate was soft and pillowy with a tremendous balance. The finish lingered slightly and left me wanting more. This is another Yamagata brew – after my evening at EN this week – it got me thinking – there must be something in the water in Yamagata that they make such soft and luscious sakes.

Shungaku.jpg3) “Shungaku” Ginjo (Fukui Prefecture, Asahi Shuzo) Ok, this sake I mention not for it’s elegance but for it’s funkiness. Sometimes it helps to stretch our palate, and this was a palate stretcher if I’ve ever had one. Just so unusual, I thought it deserved a note. Shungaku is dusky and earthy. The nose immediately called to mind wet leaves in the Fall. The overall impression of this sake was “dank”. It’s not my style, but I know there’s an earthy sake lover out there somewhere.

After I had my share of the sakes upstairs, I headed down to the main floor for a look at the Sakes for sale here in the US and also to meet and mingle with the sake crowd.

yuno.jpgAt the Joto Sake table I saw Yuno-san as well as Henry-san. Those Joto sakes are as good as ever. I tasted the Kasumi Tsuru and the Shichi Hon Yari. I could tell the crowd liked these sakes as the table was constantly mobbed.

Then I wandered over to the “Sake Sensei” table and finally got to meet Paul Tanguay of Sushi Samba and “Of Rice and Zen” fame. The sake sensei table was a brilliant idea Paul set up to give people a place to come with to get some answers to their sake related questions as well as basic background information. I saw Paul had a real gift for making the production process understandable to everyone. It was really great to meet Mr Tanguay and he really was the man of the hour just having won the New York Regional Kikisaké-shi (saké sommelier) Competition AND being one of the judges for the US sake appraisal. Congratulations again and good luck in Japan!

lined_up.jpg As I was making my way thru the ground floor section, I turned the corner and saw Mr. John Gaunter! So, I went up and introduced myself and he was just a really nice guy. We spoke for a bit about the emergence of sake blogs on the scene and I told him how much I enjoy his newsletter that I read every month. It was really fun to meet John – this guy literally wrote the book!
Then as I made my way over to the Kimoto sakes I finally met my new Sake friend Nell! We chatted for quite a bit and talked about the sake scene in NYC and how amazing the evening was.

stowaway.jpgSoon enough, they started to clear the tables, and the evening was winding down. What a most amazing night. I said my goodbyes and was off into the night feeling great.

When I got home, in my bag I found the little plastic sake cup i’d been carrying around, sipping from – and guarding like a hawk – for the entire evening. All night I was thinking – “I better not loose my cup!” and, well, here it was. I’ve placed it on my monitor to remind me of just how fun the evening was… and to always, always remember – you’re up a creek without your cup. Here’s to Joy of Sake 2007!