Landmark Wine and Sake send around an email advertising a sake seminar for Sat April 29nd. Count me in! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was really great. The seminar was held in the sun drenched upstairs space above the landmark wine shop. When I arrived I found several tables were set up around a large white room with skylights and hard wood floors. Attached to the larger space was a kitchen where the presenters were quite busy prepping for their presentations. I took a quick peek inside and saw some familiar faces! It was most of the Brewery Reps from the great evening at Sake Hanna we had last Wednesday.
I was happy, because I knew that in this more intimate setting I could taste the sakes again for a fresh perspective. The sakes were also being specifically paired with foods! This was great to help learn what sake tastes pair up with which food tastes… and maybe absorb a little alcohol along the way. We also got a large packet of information upon arriving with all kinds of printouts and charts. The tables were set up for what looked like a dinner with 2 wine glasses at each place setting.
Soon after we sat down, edemame came out and the first Sake was poured. Mika from Mutual Trading Sake Importing Company introduced herself and the representatives from Dassai, Gassan and Tenzan. Mika gave a presentation that covered the basics in sake production and also touched on food pairings. Then we got to taste the first sake!
For me, this first one was one of the best of the evening. The Tenzan Junmai Daiginjo, which I was told is called “Hitenzan”. The Tenzan rep introduced the sake and we were off…Yummy. this sake warmed a bit closer to room temperature as it sat in the glass during Mika’s presentation, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment one bit. I’ve found it’s fun to experiment with letting sakes “open up” and seeing how the taste changes. The pairing with edamame was, of course delicious, but I would eat edamame with any sake. Could be the thinking was that the Tenzan Daiginjo was such a classic and balanced to perfection, that such a classic sake snack was the perfect pairing. it worked!
The second sake was the Gassan Daiginjo polished to 35%. This was paired with fish cakes. I had never had fish cakes before and it was an odd rubbery taste on my westernized palate. The shape and bright color reminded me of those fanny farmer jelly fruit wedges. The Sake was delightful. This highly polished Daiginjos are so clean and balanced. perfect for sipping and really savoring – which, of course, I did!
Now we were rolling. The third sake poured for us was the famous Dassai 23% Junmai Daiginjo! Still smooth and delightful. Just by merit of the production process alone, this is a really unique sake. Really give this one a try if you get the chance.
To round out the Daiginjos, number 4 was the Hatarugawa Junmai Daiginjo. The english name is “Firefly River” after the well known fireflies in the town of Ogi. This sake has won a gold metal 2 years in a row at the national USA sake competition in Hawaii. This sake was smooth smooth smooth and tasted a little on the fruity side to my palate.
At about this point in the evening, my note taking got a little loose and sloppy. From this point on I don’t remember exactly which foods paired with which sakes, but we had two types of brie cheese and bread, as well as smoked fish eggs (not my favorite). What I lost in note taking was made up by fun conversation with those at the table with me. such nice folks!
Onward and upward. On to sake Number 5 – Dassai Junmai Ginjo. This is a unique Ginjo that is actually ground to 50% which qualifies as a super premium sake. It tasted a touch on the dry side and was quite enjoyable. Dassai seems to go above and beyond wherever they can to give their sake a little something extra. looks l I will have to investigate this brewery more.
Number 6 was the Dassai Nigori – now, I DO remember, this unfiltered sake was paired with french fries. Yes, French Fries! AHHH sweet, sweet validation!! I have been telling people for the longest time that my favorite meal with most any sake is a turkey burger and fries. I mean, how can you go wrong with fries? And here was my Validation! For my taste, I found this nigori to be a cut above other nigori out there. it was fresh! and had just a touch of a sparkling-citrusy-thing going on. My first steps into Nigori were a little challenging, but this Nigori was great. Not too “fermenty” not too “ricey”.
The 7th Sake we tasted was Jizake Tenzan. This is a well known Genshu with the bottle wrapped (each one by hand) with a real bamboo leaf. This Sake was strong as ever! As a Genshu, this sake is not diluted with water to lower the alcohol content after brewing. This Tenzan is left with a whopping 18.5% ALC. It was strong Their literature suggests serving on the rocks… maybe not a bad idea! Works for me when my iced coffee is too strong.
At the end, Kane brought out some bottles with Sake remaining and we could help ourselves to a second taste of whatever caught our fancy. Thanks Kane! After goodbyes to the nice folks at my table, I headed home into the cool Chelsea evening feeling just great! The “Magic” of sake is that it really has the power to bring people together, and make you feel good. The tasting was such a success and you could tell a lot of hard work was needed to make it happen. Thanks to Kane at Landmark and everyone involved. I’ll try to focus on better note taking next time. Now please pass me the french fries…