Wednesday, October 14, 2009

9/24/09: Scenes from The Joy of Saké 2009

Like last year, the Joy of Saké was held at Webster Hall.

Although the turn out was smaller in the beginning, the crowds began to pick up about one hour into the event.

The first bottle I found was Shichi Hon Yari Junmai, one of my favorites.

"Matsu Kura" by Dewazakura, was one of the standouts early on for its outstanding texture and balanced flavor.

Modorikawa made this interesting bottle, aged in snow, although I am not sure how I feel about wine-inspired bottle...

Right by Niigata Saké Selection was Beau Timkin of True Saké, America's first saké store. He was kind enough to present me with an autographed book he authored, "Saké, Modern Guide."

On the second floor, where the lights got funkier, I bumped into Kuji-san from Nanbu Bijin. He is holding his Daiginjo that was on display.

Right next to Nanbu Bijin was Akitabaré "Sui Raku Ten" Daiginjo, which was the first saké that got me addicted to the "water from heavens."

Sakura Masamuné was not hard to spot, as the 1800 ml towered over other 720 ml bottles.

Next bottle on my radar was another Akita saké, Manabito Junmai Ginjo by Hinomaru Shuzo.

One saké really stood out from the evening, in the form of Yuki No Bosha "Hiden" Yamahai Junmai Ginjo, which was flawless. Only if this bottle was available in the US... (hint, hint, Henry!)

ASPEC wsa very active as usual, holding their booth and inviting some of their brewers. Here is Suzuki-san fron Suzuki Brewery, maker of "Hideyoshi" label.

Next to him was Ito-san from Akita Seishu, famous for their "Dewatsuru" label.

Moving right along, I came across Ohi-san from Tenju Brewery and his award winning Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo.

Another familiar face was next to Ohi-san, none other than Sato-san from aforementioned Hinomaru Jozo.

One of the good thing about events like this is the chance to try rareties like "Juhachidai Ihei" Junmai Ginjo Shizuku saké from accomplished producer Okunomatsu.

On the third floor, I came across Tenju Junmai made from Miyamanishiki rice.

Also in the area was Shichiken Brewery, which made my memory flood back to the good old days as well.

Lastly, I found Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai hiding on the third floor. According to Kuji-san, the batch I helped poison brew was a Tokubetsu Junmai. I certainly was glad to see it on display despite my involvement!

Monday, October 12, 2009

8/20/09: Hanging out in Astoria

On this balmy night, I went over to Ms. Aomori's place to hang out with our fellow baseball team members.

As Ms. Aomori recently got back from Japan with a few bottle of souvenirs, the theme was a simple Bring Your Own Bottle.

I figured that this was the perfect evening to contribute a bottle that's been sitting in my refrigerator since last fall, a gift from Kakizaki-san from my visit of Asamai Shuzo. This is their Daiginjo made with local Gin No Sei, polished to 45%.

To complement the sakés, our hosts graciously prepared wonderful Japanese dishes. (It really helps that her S.O. is an accomplished chef!)

The dishes include steamed lobster, grilled chicken, boiled octopus, and...

...essense of crab from Japan.

The first bottle from Japan was Sawa No Izumi Honjozo from Miyagi.

The second bottle was also from Miyagi, by Hidakami Junmai from Hirakou Brewery.

The third bottle was Maruden Tokubetu Junmai from Hokkaido. All three bottles had traditional feel, a taste of saké lover's saké.

I wasn't able to take much of tasting notes, as I was hanging out with Shiro, the pet cat of the hosts. For some reason, it decided that my right leg was the perfect place to spend the evening...

Shaking hand with the kitteh...

Eventually, it really got comfortable...

...before totally falling asleep on my lap. Hey, it's all good!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

5/19/09: Niigata Saké Selections Tasting

While sakés from Akita are getting lot of publicity in NYC, Niigata still carry a lot of clout in the world of saké.

On this date, I was able to sample quite a few sakés at the brewer tasting courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Kobayashi, who run Niigata Saké Selections.

Mr. Saito from Kirinzan Brewery holding Kirinzan Junmai (SMV: +4, Acidity: 1.4, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Yuki No Sei, Seimaibuai: 60%, Yeast: G9NF), one of my favorites from the tasting. While I am a big fan of their Junmai Daiginjo, the junmai more than held its own. Slightly more brawnier than the subtle and smooth junmai daiginjo, the junmai brings out the essence of the flavor of the rice.

Speaking of the junmai daiginjo, here is their highly distinctive bottle.

Here I am with Mr. Hirashima of Obata Shuzo, which is located on the Sado Island in Japan Sea. He was pouring their fruity daiginjo (SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.1, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 50%, Yeast: #1701), and deep and balanced junmai ginjo muroka genshu (SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.7, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 55%, Yeast: #1701), both from their Ma No Tsuru label.

The four diamond boxes on the family crest of the brewery represents rice, water, man, and "Sado Island terroir." Although tough to find in the NYC area, their sakés are worth seeking out.

It was great to see Mr. Aoki from Aoki Shuzo, who I first met 2.5 years ago. I noted with a tinge of fear in my voice that the Junmai Ginjo seems to be more fruitier compared to 2 years ago. Fear not, this was a result of changing rice from Miyamanishiki to the locally grown Koshi Tanrei, to keep with the brewery's philosophy of using local ingredients.

No, this man is NOT from Niigata (Sakurai-san from Dassai Brewery in Yamaguchi.)

We have couple of attendees representing Akita. Speaking with Mr. Kobayashi is Mr. Kakizaki from Asamai Shuzo, maker of Ama No To label, and saké sommelier Chizuko Niikawa.

Rick Smith of Sakaya, Tim Sullivan of Urbansaké, and Mrs. Kobayashi of Niigata Saké Selections.

Here I am with Mr. and Mrs. Kobayashi, who is holding a bottle of Yukikagé Tokubetsu Junmai (SMV: +4, Acidity 1.3, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 58%, Yeast: S3). For under $30 a bottle, Yukikagé is one of the best valued quintessential Niigata saké, showing gentle and subtle expressions of rice and grain.

For these sakés and ones I couldn't mention, visitNiigata Saké Selections for further details.

Friday, October 02, 2009

4/30/09: Sakagura

Tonight's visit to Sakagura was a momentous occasion, as it marks the last night for my long time friend Kadoi-san before moving onto Robata-ya in East Village.

For this occasion, he brought out Juyondai "Hiden Tamagaeshi" Tokubetsu Honjozo (SMV: +2, Acidity: 1.2, Rice: Gohyakumangoku, Seimaibuai: 60%) that has been resting in the Sakagura refregirator for 4 years. The aging brought out ripeness both in the nose and the palate, and while the flavor was initially sweet, the intenseness and dryness led to a long finish. I couldn't really decide whether I liked it or not, but it certainly was interesting.

The second saké was one of my comfor saké, the Shichi Hon Yari Junmai. This complex junmai never fails to meet my saké demands!

Third saké was Ama No To "Junkara" Junmai, as Akita is always on my mind (when it comes to saké).

Lastly, I had Kikuyoi Tokubetsu Junmai (SMV: +6, Acidity: 1.6, Rice: Nihonbaré, Seimaibuai: 60%, Yeast: Shizuoka) based on Kadoi-san's recommendation. Soft on approach and exzpressing true essence of saké, I very much enjoyed Kikuyoi.

I will miss his friendship as well as this type of personal attention. Best of luck!!!