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Joy of Sake Tasting 2010: San Francisco 9/9, and NYC 9/23

joy_of_Sake_noyear.jpgI absolutely love the fact that we've reached a point in this country where I don't need to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco or New York might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. In the six and a half years since I've been writing this blog, sake has gone from obscure to obvious, hardly known to hip. The availability and visibility of sake in the US has blossomed, driving by fine dining establishments and the increasing popularity of all things Japanese.

Despite this, however, the average wine lovers' knowledge of sake is extremely limited, mostly by virtue of not having tasted very much sake side-by-side in comparison with one another. And that of course, is where the Joy of Sake comes in. This tasting event, the largest public sake tasting outside of Japan, is much more than just an opportunity to compare a few sakes. Nowhere outside of Japan do consumers have the opportunity to sample so many different, and so many high quality sakes as they do at this event. For anyone truly interested in sake, this tasting cannot be missed.

Hundreds of different sakes are on offer, including the dozens of gold and silver medal winners from the annual U.S. National Sake Appraisal, a competition held each year in Hawaii. Dozens of local restaurants serve up sake friendly food to accompany the brews, which are sampled by attendees using the traditional eyedroppers to fill their glasses.

The one difference between the Joy of Sake tasting and a normal wine tasting event has to do with the information that is available to the curious taster. While there are volunteers whose job it is primarily to make sure that the reservoir cups of sake don't run dry, these folks have an extremely inconsistent knowledge of what they're actually pouring. Unlike a large public wine tasting where the folks behind the table are informed about their particular wine, there is little or no information available about these sakes, should you fall in love with any of them, or have questions about what you are tasting.

Despite this lack of information, the event can be an incredible education to the attentive palate, and is always a great reminder to me of just how much great sake there is out there to be experienced.

For the second year, San Francisco has gotten the short end of the stick for this sake tasting. While the New York event seems to offer the usual selection of hundreds of sakes, the San Francisco event is billed as the Sake Soiree, and it is being held again at Yoshi's nightclub and restaurant, which is cramped and hot and noisy. To add insult to injury they've changed it from 3.5 hours to just three hours, and have raised the price $15 to $65 a person.

This is still an event worth going to for San Franciscans, especially those who are fans of sake or want to learn about it, but I recommend going early especially if you want to get some food.


September 9, San Francisco
6:00 - 9:00 PM
Yoshi's Restaurant
1330 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115-4113

September 23rd, New York City
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
82 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10003

Tickets are $65 per person for San Francisco and $90 for New York and can be purchased in advance online. The price goes up at the door.

Sake tasting is even harder work than wine tasting, as sake is higher in alcohol and much more subtle in flavor. I recommend snacking your way through the tasting to keep your palate fresh. Maddeningly, in the past years they have not provided spit buckets with any regularity, so I recommend bringing your own spit cup or bottle if you are a serious taster. And if you truly consider yourself the latter, I also recommend bringing a small white wine glass, the better to appreciate the aromas.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.