Yamagata Extravaganza – Sake Week Day 3

welcome_to_en.pngNYC Sake Week ’06 continues… for day 3 we’re off to Yamagata. Stunning En Japanese Brasserie hosted a beautifully curated tasting of 60 sakes all from the well known production region of Yamagata prefecture.

The lounge of EN was set up with tables lining the walls and about 60 sakes out on display for the tasting. The format was, grab a glass and dig in. sanga.jpgThe first sake I tasted was #1 on the list and it was very special. It was called Yamagata Sanga (ALC 16.9% Seimaibuai 37.5%) as was quite delicious. The Story of Sanga is interesting. It is a sake brand that was set up in 1985 by the governor of Yamagata to represent their Prefecture to the world and Yamagata brewers submit their sakes for consideration each year to produce under this label. Sounds like a fascinating concept. I circled back later in the evening to try some more and it was all gone. It’s not available in the States, but I’ll mark it down for my next trip to Yamagata.

mr_Aisawa.jpgAfter Sanga, I moved on to the next table. Almost all of these sakes used the world famous Dewasansan (dewa33) rice. The Dewasansan rice was developed in the recent past and it’s been a big hit. it’s one of the top sake rices now produced in Japan. Then I met the very like-able Mr. Masao Aisawa from Takenotsuyu Brewery (of course in Yamagata). Mr. Aisawa was very enthusiastic about all the sakes he was presenting and they were delicious. He was an excellent ambassador for Yamagata. What intrigued me the most was his offer for us to try a sip of the pure Yamagata mountain spring water he brought with him. It was crisp, clean and better than any evian i’ve ever had. What an amazing experience to taste the Mountain water side by side with the sake made with it. Amazing! Thank you Aisawa-san!

Mr_Kato.jpg At the next able I met Mr. Ariyoshi Kato from Fuji Sake Brewing Company His brand is called Glorious Mount Fuji. Kato-san’s pick was his Junmai Ginjo “Sinobukawa” (ALC 15.9%, Seimaibuai 50%, SMV +1, Acidity 1.4). This sake was smooth and clean and ohhhh so drinkable. Above all it had that balance of flavor and dryness that I just love. bravo! Mr. Kato was also very enthusiastic about the Yamagata sakes. I learned that Yamagata is known for it’s cold climate which delivers a lot of mountain snow which in turn creates wonderful mountain spring water for make making. They have a devoted group of brewers in that prefecture.

Yuki_mukae.jpgAs I was moving along down the line, the next sake I zeroed in on was a Junmai Ginjo called “Yuki Mukae Yiyaoroshi” (ALC 15.5%, Seimaibuai 50%, SMV +6.0, acidity 1.4). I got a loose translation of the name of this sake and it means something like Cold snow coming down from the Mountains” Again with those mountains. here I learned that Yamagata has 33 Mountains over 1400 meters high. that’s another reason The rice is called Dewa33. This sake in particular was very, very dry. This was the driest I had all night. For all you Dry sake fans near Yamagata, this sake has your name on it! The consistency was very full and the sake had good “legs” when swirled in my wine glass.

Toshi.jpgOne of the last sakes I had was one of the very best! That sake was a ginjo from Kamenoi Brewery called “Kudoki Jozu” (ALC 16.8%, Seimaibuai 50%, SMV 0, acidity 1.2). This sake was also a silver medal winner at the 2006 US National Sake Appraisal. Toshi-san was the representative we spoke to about this sake the most. The meaning of Kudoki Jozu in English was a subject of discussion for quite a while. I think if I give you the translations suggested, you’ll get an idea: “Good at Getting Someone’s Heart” or “Loverboy” or “Good with Courting and Compliments” or “Gigolo” or “The Flirt”. ok, I think you get the general drift? Regardless of the name this sake was awesome. It’s not yet available in the US, but hopefully at some point in the future. This sake is soft and lovely and really caresses the palate. This is a Flirty sake!. It’s tremendously balanced with tiny hints of apple-blossom sweetness. yamagata_sakes.jpgI think above all the softness come through. Kamenoi Brewery is also very dedicated to stay in touch with the natural surroundings in Yamagata. It’s a great example of terroir for sake. I can’t wait for Kudoki Jozu to be available in the states. It is one of my new favorites!

This was such an enjoyable event. En owner Reika Yo is to be commended for getting this event up and running, providing such wonderful food and for ensuring there was such good documentation of each sake. Such attention to detail really enhances the experience! If you can’t get to Yamagata any time soon to try some of these great sakes, check out En for the next best thing.