Monday, April 09, 2007

4/7/07: Sakagura Visit

Nihonshudō has been very quiet for about a month, leading up to the previous post, and for a good reason: I changed my non-saké related job (the one that pays my rent). With the toll from transition to a new job and getting used to a work that demands more out of me, it has been tough to keep up on this side of my career.

With things settling down more or less back to normal, I decided to celebrate this occasion by making a random visit to Sakagura, with the goal of trying one particular saké in mind.

The very first order was for Miyasaka Junmai Ginjo Yamahai (SMV: N/A, Acidity: N/A, Rice: Miyamanishiki, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: Assoc #7). If the combination of the name "Miyasaka" with the profile of Miyamanishiki and Assoc #7 (Nanago) rings a bell to you as the brewer of the famed "Masumi" label, do pass "Go" and collect $200 for your efforts (but not from my wallet.) This second label offering featured nose of rice, and mild minerally palate that slowly intensified in flavor to show pineapples melon, with a slightly off-dry finish that seems about -1 on the SMV. A very good choice to start my night.

After having the obligatory glass of Sato No Homaré while enjoyig order of Gyu Misonikomi (beef cartlidge braised in miso sauce) and Gindara Shio Yaki (Grilled Cod), it was time to order the special glass. How special was this saké? It is only made in the finest years (yes, a vintage release saké), made in a junmai daiginjo nama shizuku style, and 1.7 oz tasting glass sets you back $43: The Daishichi Myouka Rangyoku (SMV: N/A, Acidity: N/A, Rice: Yamadanishiki Plus*, Seimaibuai: 50% Flat Polishing, Yeast: N/A.)

The full name suggests that there are many ways of sayng it's special (junmai daiginjo "super premium", nama "unpasteurized", shizuku "free-run" style). But perhaps what's most astonishing about the production of this saké is not evident from reading the bottle: they hand selected each one of the several million kernels of Yamadanishiki rice used for this saké (which I called Yamadanishiki Plus for lack of a better term.)

From my experience, sakés costing over $80 tend to have intense flavor as a common element, as many tend to be "competition saké" that are created to be memorable. Many of these are made super premium, undiluted, fortified, free-run style, or combination of several of those styles. In this case, however, Myouka Rangyoku did a great job of balancing complexity and delicateness without being overbearing. Initially, the aroma was combination of ripe Japanese pear, lychee, and traces of sugar. The entry was soft from shizuku production, and the palate was lively, intense, and focused Japanese pears and melon leading to bitter, minerally finish.

My last selection of the evening proved to be the winner, and is quickly ascending the ranks as one of my favorites. When I had the sip of Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Gohyakumagoku, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: N/A) from Fukui Prefecture, I was blown away by its killer finish. In short, this saké is as if Dassai Junmai Ginjo and Sato No Homaré had an offspring. Fruity on the nose and initial impact that eventually yields to a very long, firm, and umami-laden finish. Like Dorito's, you can't just have one (sip). Unfortunately, the word is that Kokuryu brand is not available for sale in the stores. This could get dangerous and expensive...

With extensive list featuring about 200 bottles, visiting Sakagura is always full of options and never dull, and tonight, I was lucky to unearth a winner.


Melinda said...

Hey Hey KC,

Have a question for you. Is namazake pretty widely available in the US these days?

If yes, which are the most popular there?


KCinNYC said...

Hey Melinda,

We do have pretty good selection of namas. When I wrote them down off the top of my head (so I may be missing a few), I was bit surprised by the number of option that are available for us here in NYC:

Ichinokura Hyakkoi
Sudo Honke Kakunko
Daishichi Myouka Rangyoku (limited vintage release)

Koshi No Homare
Toukagen Kamikokoro



The two popular spring releases are Otokoyama and Masumi, and all of the Summer and Fall releases sell very briskly. Personally, I like the fall style the best.

One thing I am now confused is Sudo Honke Sato No Homare (black label). At one point, I thought it was a nama, but now I am not sure if that's the case...