Friday, October 05, 2007

9/25/07: Sakagura Tasting featuring 6 Brewers

As Saké Week gains momentum, Sakagura makes a big splash by inviting 6 of the very best brewers supported by Japan Prestige Saké Association (listed in order they were arranged): Taiheizan, Shirataki, Urakasumi, Otokoyama, Narutotai, and Kaika. Each brewer presented limited and high-quality selections, so this was indeed a very rare treat.

I kicked off the evening by previewing the Fall- release namazaké selections. While complex Wakatake “Aki No Ki-ippon” (SMV: 0, Acidity: 1.4) and fruity Urakasumi “Hiyaoroshi” (SMV: +1.5, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Sasanishiki, Seimaibuai: 60%, Yeast: Urakasumi) are standards that stayed true to their form, we were also able to try new selections in the forms of Aramasa Junmai Ginjo Nama (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.6) from Akita and Tsuki No Katsura Junmai Nama (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.6) from Kyoto. Aramasa showed slightly nutty undertones, vibrant fruit, with faint hints of chocolate towards the finish. By comparison, Tsuki No Katsura had creamier nose and fruitier body, though not as expressive as Urakasumi.

First up on the breweries was Taiheizan, a kura that focuses their production using Kimoto method that yields intense style of saké. I started with recently released (in the US)“Tenkō” Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 40%, Yeast: Assoc. #9), which is something I have not come across since the dinner at Matsuri. Tenkō has mild fruit and gentle steamed rice on the nose, followed by full and deep flavors of rice leading to umami-laden finish. The next selection was the new selection, “Tsuzuki” Tobin Chu-dori Junmai Ginjo Kimoto Muroka (SMV: +1, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: Assoc. #9). Because this did not go through charcoal filtration, the flavor was intense but more along the lines of minerals and umami, and less so on the fruit.

Next to Taiheizan was Shirataki Brewery from Niigata. I am a big fan of Jōzen Mizu No Gotoshi" Junmai Ginjo, so it was good to reacquaint my palate. The new saké was "Minatoya Tosuke" Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 50%), which exhibited Niigata-ness through its full, soft body, gentle flavor of nuts and cereal, with balanced fruits and umami, whcih I find very enjoyable.

Third on the line was Urakasumi from Miyagi. Because I am very familiar with their fantastic Junmai and their lighter Zen Junmai Ginjo, I skipped them and went straight to their Yamadanishiki Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +1.5, Acidity: 1.5, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 45%, Yeast: Urakasumi), which had tremendous depth that highlighted fruity qualities of Yamadanishiki very well.

Moving on to Otokoyama, I focused mainly on their Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Yamadanishiki, Seimaibuai: 38%) which I haven't had since this event. Having this right after Urakasumi, I sensed more fullness and richness on the body, with nice dry finish. The next two were tasting comparison of the Tokubetsu Junmai in the forms of Momenya (SMV: +5) and Utamaro (SMV: +2, Seimaibuai: 55%). In short, Momenya showed more earthy, nutty characters with dry finish, while Utamaro was milder in flavors, balanced, and not as dry.

Rolling right along, I came across Narutotai. I have always enjoyed their Junmai Ginjo Genshu, and today, I had a chance to try their Ginjo Nama Genshu (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.7 see the first pic), Junmai Daiginjo (SMV: +4, Aidity: 1.5) and very rare 1988 Vintage Junmai Ginjo Dry Koshu (SMV: +13, Acidity: 2.4). While I find their Junmai Ginjo to be balanced in every respect, the Nama version was vibrant with deep umami, Junmai Daiginjo was much deeper and intense with dominant fruit flavors, and Koshu was earthy with elements of nuts and dark chocolate. Incidentally, this was the driest Koshu I have tried to date.

Lastly, I came across Kaika from Tochigi Prefecture, which featured three sakés: Junmai, "Kazé No Ichirin" Junmai Ginjo, and the competition style "Tobindori" Shizuku Daiginjo Genshu. Since I am familiar with "Kazé No Ichirin" and "Tobindori", my focus was on their Junmai(SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.3, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 65%, Yeast: Tochigi). Not surprisingly, the Junmai was soft in style displaying the balanced approach of Gohyakumangoku rice. The brewer's approach was to make saké that are "oishii, tanoshimu" (delicious, enjoyable), which effectively sums up the evening.

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