Thursday, December 28, 2006

12/1/06: Late Night Saké Tasting at Saké Hana

Toshi at Saké Hana decided to host a first Late Night Saké Tasting that were to start at 11:00 pm. The event featured 6 sakés from Niigata, known for their outstanding rice. For this event, I met up with Tim Sullivan, Tomo-chan, and Ai-san.

The guest of honor was Mr. Takafumi Aoki of Aoki Shuzo, known for their Kakurei brand. Mr. Aoki was very enthusiastic about his sakés, and graciously answered all the questions Tim and I had over the course of the night.

First, a few words about Aoki Shuzo: Established in 1717 AD, Aoki Shuzo's ideal is to maintain the traditional style of saké. In the days preceding refrigeration technology, lot of the food were cured and richly flavored; thus, the sakés needed to be able to complement rich flavored foods. Aoki Shuzo follows in this tradition.

The first saké I tried was the Kakurei Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 48%, Yeast: Assoc #14). This was a really ricey style Daiginjo with nose of steamed rice and flavors of steamed rice, mild fruits, and umami. There is a mild gentleness to this saké, and abundance of rice element gives sense that it is indeed leaning towards the traditional method as opposed to the modern light and fruity style.

Kakurei Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.5; Rice: Miyamanishiki, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: Kakurei) was the next on the list, and it seemed even more traditional than the Daiginjo. The nose was much more subtle, with a hint of the rice. The flavor was lighter and round flavors of rice and grains, with a clean and dry finish. There was more pronounced flavor of umami towards the finish. In the end, this was my favorite saké of the night, as I kept coming back for more.

The Kakurei Trifecta was comlete with the introduction of Plum Saké, made by infusing Japanese plums into the Kakurei Junmai Ginjo. This was an intense version of a plum saké with a long finish and deep acidity, yet still showcased the light mouthfeel unlike the high viscosity common in plum wines.

The fourth selection was Kimi No I "Kurahiden" Yamahai Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 58%, Yeast: Assoc #10). While the nose was typical of Niigata saké with balance of steamed rice and fruits, the flavor was deep yet soft featuring earthier elements of nuts, grain, and chocolate.

We went back to drinking Daiginjo on the next selection in Ma No Tsuru Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.1, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: K1701). With Gohyakumangoku rice as a base, the aroma and flavor was only mildly fruity with an underlying earthy notes and creamy expression of rice. The body was delightfully light.

The last bottle was Karen "Coy" Junmai (SMV: -23, Acidity: 2.9, Rice: N/A, Seimaibuai: N/A, Yeast: N/A), which reaffirmed that I do prefer dry sakés.

Even though I was fighting a cold (perils of being in retail business during late fall/winter season), I had a great time. Toshi was very accomodating, the brewers were very enthusiastic and informative, I've made few more friends along the way, all the while Niigata sakés flowed deep into the evening...

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