students_in_class.jpgSake education is hard to come by in the US. I’ve been anxious to learn as much as I could about sake, but beyond reading books and going to tastings, there have been few opportunities to learn in a classroom setting – until now! On August 27, 28 and 29, 2007, Mr. John Gaunter – the world famous “sake guy”, brought the sake seminar he usually teaches in Japan each year to New York! The first Stateside Sake Professional Course was an event I couldn’t miss!

John_Gaunter_teaching.jpgJohn is indeed the leading non Japanese sake expert in the world. This guy literally “wrote the book” on sake! I was excited to take a few days away from my work-a-day life and immerse myself in the sake world. And that was just what John’s course promised to do… three days of instruction and tasting that would leave no sake stone will be left unturned.

The class was larger than I expected with about 60 eager participants. This signaled to me that interest in all things sake is ever growing in the States. Our group was made up of industry and non-industry folks alike. I was happy to see some friendly faces in the crowd too… Amanda my friend from sake meetups, Nell my buddy from Aburiya Kinnosuke, and MJ Simkin, sake lecturer extraordinaire.

joto_tasting.jpgAs the course got underway, I realized this would be an intense review of all things sake spread over 3 days. The first day covered “the basics”… sake grades, brewing process and ingredients. Things soon got interesting when we looped in Yamahai and Kimoto sake into the conversation. Along the way for all three days we took breaks from the lecture for tastings! Unusual sakes were also discussed such as Nigori, sparkling and low alcohol brews.

The major difference between John’s sake course in Japan and New York, is the ability to visit breweries. There were a few events in the evenings that make up for this a bit. The opening night of the class we had the opportunity to go to a delicious Joto tasting at Sakagura.

amanda_closing_dinner.jpgOne of the most interesting topics for me over the 3 days was “sake chemistry”! This got into some of the nitty gritty of what drives the brewing process. This was very interesting and an area i’d love to study more.

On the closing night, there was a dinner at LAN Japanese Restaurant. This was a fun close to an exciting three days of sake learning.

At the end of it all, I was left with a lot to “digest”. Sake tastings, history, production, competitions – and on and on. I hope I will have absorbed it all by the time an advanced class rolls around… I’m sure by then, I’ll be ready to go Back To School – again.

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