Sunday, May 04, 2008

5/2/08: Fifth Akita Saké Connoisseur's Club Tasting

One of the fastest growing saké event in NYC is the Akita Saké Connoisseur's Club tasting event, already on its fifth event since its inception on 11/10/06. By fifth incarnation, Yamamoto-san and his colleagues managed to gather 27 selection (on paper... I believe the actual numer poured was 28) from 15 breweries, including several bottles that are even rare to find in Japan. Of course, there were some familiar faces attending, including Timothy, my partner in crime Janie and her friend Val, Japanese ceramic enthusiast Steve, Lefty, as well as Chizuko-san, Keiko-san, and Midori-san on the other side of the table. In addition, there was a shocking scene (scroll down below for photo evidence.)

Of those 28 selections, 8 were from Kimura Brewery, covering wide spectrum of styles from Junmai Nigori to Daiginjo Genshu. It was fun to try the earthier and chocolate-like "Munenouchi" Tokubetsu Junmai, followed by fragrant and fruitier style represented by "Kimura" Junmai Daiginjo. "Bisuikan" was the earlier reported Daiginjo Genshu (no wonder Jack Bauer got drunk), wih a full and soft approach with essence of rice and grain on the palate.

The first selections quickly pointed out the diversity of Akita style. Throughout the evening, I could categorize saké into three main categories: ripe & fruity, subtle and long (koji and umami), and hearty Junmai.

Some of the standouts included Saiya Shuzo's Kacho Gesseki Daiginjo Genshu and Tenju Shuzo's Chokaisan Junmai Ginjo (scroll down for details) in the ripe & fruity style that tasted far more like a Daiginjo class saké than Ginjo. The bottle of Chokaisan is pictured to the left, held by... Mr. Sakurai?! I believe this would require case study on saké polygamy, and pending the outcome, an exercise in blackmail.

The true standout came from the hearty Junmai style. Because many modern breing styles tend to be fruity in style, it is reassuring at times to have sakés that are brawny, earthy, and taste old-school. Hokushika's Secchu Chozo Junmai was one such saké, with incomparable flavors of cheese and cheese, with rich and long umami on the finish. (It tastes far better than it sounds, trust me!).

The tasting was accompanied by vrtuoso violin performance from Machiko Ozawa, who I might add, is from my hometown of Kamakura. Classically trained through Julliard School, her style is very diverse. For those that were fortunate to pay attention, you might have seen a budding starlet in action.

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