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09.17.2012

2012 Sake Day Celebration and Tasting: October 6, San Francisco

Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. Every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day. Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an appearance. In a similar fashion to grape wine, the knowledge that fermented rice eventually yields an alcoholic beverage was probably discovered in accidental and then later deliberate stages, as innovative and curious folks explored ways of... continue reading

09.06.2011

Sake Day Benefit Tasting: October 1, San Francisco

Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. Every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day. This October first is perhaps a more solemn occasion than previous celebrations, as it comes on the heels of the horrible tsunami and nuclear disaster that did incalculable damage to Japan's infrastructure, including several sake breweries. Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an... continue reading

03.17.2011

Drink Sake to Help Japan

We're all watching with deep sadness and empathy the unfolding of the post-earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan. For those of us who have a personal connection to Japan (I lived there for almost two years) the events of the past week have been heart-breaking. Much like the tsunami in Indonesia, we are still not fully understanding the full extent of the tragedy. It is much worse than is currently being reported, mostly because the damage and the true death toll has not yet been fully surveyed. I'm in contact with a number of friends, most of whom live in... continue reading

09.13.2010

The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2010

One of the public wine tastings I most look forward to every year doesn't serve a single drop of wine. There aren't many opportunities (OK, there are almost none) to taste a large number of high quality sakes anywhere outside of Japan, let alone here in San Francisco. Which is why I make an annual pilgrimage to a yearly event called the Joy of Sake, which is effectively the largest sake tasting outside of Japan. This event highlights the finalists and winners of something called the Annual U.S. Sake Appraisal, which is the largest (and only?) sake competition held outside... continue reading

08.24.2010

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

I 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... continue reading

08.02.2010

Tentaka "Silent Stream" Junmai Daiginjo, Tochigi Prefecture

I'll admit it. It's probably been at least six months since I've had sake in my mouth. In part, I think that's because even more than wine, I find sake a contemplative drink, and one that is best sipped serenely over a long evening. I haven't had that many evenings recently, and even though tonight wasn't particularly a special night, I opened a nice bottle to go with the steamed fish that we were eating. There are some clever, even inspiring winery names in the wine world, but for some reason I find the stories behind how sake breweries get... continue reading

09.12.2009

The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2009

One of the public wine tastings I most look forward to every year doesn't serve a single drop of wine. There aren't many opportunities (OK, there are almost none) to taste a large number of high quality sakes anywhere outside of Japan, let alone here in San Francisco. Which is why I make an annual pilgrimage to a yearly event called the Joy of Sake, which is effectively the largest sake tasting outside of Japan. This event highlights the finalists and winners of something called the Annual U.S. Sake Appraisal, which is the largest (and only?) sake competition held outside... continue reading

09.02.2009

Joy of Sake Tasting 2009: September 10 - SFO, September 24 - NYC

I 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 five 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... continue reading

06.24.2009

Denshu Hyakuyonju "140" Junmai Daiginjo, Aomori Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray One of the main characteristics of Japanese is its vagueness. Language is culture, and Japanese helps people get along in crowded, resource-poor cities by preventing hard feelings in conversation. Here's a good example of how this works: In a business meeting, everyone sits around the table vaguely feeling out each others' position until eventually everyone realizes what they're expected to say. Thus the first and only vote is almost always unanimous. Here's a more frustrating example: I think this sake is named "140" (hyakuyonju) because it's the 140th attempt at crossing Aomori's native Hanafubuki rice with... continue reading

04.23.2009

Chikurin Karoyaka "Lightness" Junmai Ginjo, Okayama Prefecture

In many ways, sake production and winemaking couldn't be more different -- from the chemistry to the differences in how their industries are structured. One of the most striking differences usually stems from the role and value placed on their raw ingredients. With winemaking, much emphasis is put on the grapes and where they are grown, and wineries take many pains (and investments) to cultivate their own vineyards at the highest levels of quality they can. This, of course, gives rise to a turn of phrase that is both true and also horribly cliched at this point: our wine... continue reading

01.05.2009

Kubota Manju (Junmai Daiginjo), Niigata Prefecture

When people often ask me how I "got into wine" I have a sense that they are expecting me to relate some story of a revelatory mouthful -- that one wine which struck me like a lightning bolt and sent me down the path to become the wine fanatic that I am today. Strangely, I possess no story like that about wine. I remember merely a pastiche of many special and prosaic moments with wine that have gradually led to me to the depths of my current passion. I do, however, have a story like that about how I fell... continue reading

11.02.2008

Sake: Drinking, Serving, Storing and Enjoying

As many of you know, I have a thing for sake, after being introduced to the high-end stuff when I was living and working in Japan. I try to review great sakes here on Vinography as often as I can, while at the same time trying to teach those who are unfamiliar with the stuff a bit more about it. Some readers, either through their questions, or their outright requests, have rightly pointed out that I have skipped over some of the basics when it comes to sake, and these basics aren't exactly as well known among my readers as,... continue reading

10.17.2008

The Joy of Sake 2008 Tasting: October 23, San Francisco

I 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 might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. In the five 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... continue reading

09.18.2008

Sake Day Tasting: October 1, San Francisco

Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. But every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day. Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an appearance. In a similar fashion to grape wine, the knowledge that fermented rice eventually yields an alcoholic beverage was probably discovered in accidental and then later deliberate stages, as innovative and curious folks explored ways... continue reading

09.16.2008

Notes from the Manresa Sake Dinner

Last week, I was joined by an adventurous group of diners and drinkers for a completely unique meal at Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos, California. The result of months of discussions and planning between myself, Chef David Kinch, and Wine Director Jeff Bareilles, The Sake Dinner was an extraordinary experience. To my knowledge, no non-Japanese, U.S. restaurant of the caliber of Manresa has ever done a tasting menu exclusively to be paired with world-class sake as we did last Wednesday night. Chef Kinch created a special eight-course meal that drew on his deep love of Japanese cuisine and its influence... continue reading

09.07.2008

Minogawa Shuzo "Koshino Omachi" Daiginjo, Niigata Prefecture

In the wine world, the grapes matter. Move past the varietal surface of wine consumption, and you'll quickly descend into a world where the qualities of a given wine (say, Russian River Pinot Noir) are discussed in terms of how Dijon clone 667 grapes do on Riparia Gloire rootstock. In the world of sake, a lot of things matter, from the water, to the yeast, to the Koji mold -- and of course, the rice. To say that rice is to sake as grapes are to wine is not entirely accurate. For instance, the primary differences in how two different... continue reading

08.21.2008

Kamoizumi "Summer Snow" Nigori Ginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture

Review By W. Blake Gray Stop the presses -- no, wait, this isn't printed. OK, stop the Internet -- I found an excellent nigori sake! Nigori is the White Zinfandel of sake. It's tremendously popular, particularly with people just discovering sake. It tends to be very sweet. And experts turn up their noses at it, usually with good reason. Nigori sakes are white and cloudy because they contain bits of rice that didn't complete fermentation. They have an interesting, chewy texture. What turns off sake aficionados, more than their sweetness, is their lack of complexity -- you don't get the... continue reading

07.08.2008

Akitabare "Shunsetsu" Nama Honjozo, Akita Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray "Spring Snow" is a pretty good nickname for a sake because it sounds not just delicate and natural, but outright freaky when you think about it. Snowing in springtime? You don't see that often. Same for its sake namesake -- although in this case, blame not Mother Nature, but the US government. Akitabare "Shunsetsu" ("spring snow") Nama Honjozo is highly unusual because it combines a class of sake we often see in the U.S. -- nama -- with one that we don't, honjozo. Honjozo sakes are basically the same quality as junmai sakes, because at least... continue reading

07.01.2008

Sake Rice Matters: the Experts are Wrong.

By W. Blake Gray How much does the type of rice matter in sake? "Not much," most experts say. But I disagree, and one of my favorite breweries, Dewazakura from Yamagata prefecture, has made it possible to taste for yourself. Wine lovers may take it as a given that rice "varietals" matter. We all believe we can tell a Pinot Noir from a Cabernet Sauvignon without difficulty. So why wouldn't we be able to taste the difference between Yamada Nishiki and Gohyakumangoku? With sake, though, the brewing process has always been considered more important than the type of rice. The... continue reading

06.29.2008

Ohyama Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori, Yamagata Prefecture

We all understand the power of brands. There was likely a time for most Americans alive to day when we used "Reynolds Wrap" when we meant aluminum foil. Some of us still say Kleenex instead of tissue and Xerox instead of photocopy. When one company pioneers a product that becomes so ubiquitous and common, it's likely that the name will stick, even when we're no longer using the original product. There was a time in Japan's history when sake was more easily referred to as Oyamazake, for exactly the same reasons. In 1882, the Shogun commanded that a sake... continue reading

06.23.2008

Kamotsuru "Sokaku" Daiginjo, Hiroshima Prefecture

One of the fascinating and attractive things about sake breweries are their (usually) much longer and storied histories than the wineries of the western world. While there are a few wineries that have been in existence for a few hundred years, there are many more sake breweries that have been doing their thing for many hundreds, some continuously operated by a single family. Kamotsuru Shuzo may not be one of the oldest breweries in Japan, as it can only trace its history back to 1623, and really only began production under the Kamotsuru name in 1873, but it is one... continue reading

06.11.2008

Takasago Ginga Shizuku "Divine Droplets" Junmai Daiginjo, Hokkaido Prefecture

It is deep winter. The snows lay heavy on the mountains of northern Japan. Cedar trees hang sparkling, dusted with ice, over frozen rivers and streams. The air is crisp, even crystalline in its stillness, and the white landscape yields only the slightest muffled sounds. In the heart of this winter landscape a strange sight emerges every winter. A huge igloo, constructed entirely of ice, filled with rotund canvas bags. From these somewhat alien shapes that hang suspended from the ceiling at minus 2 degrees Centigrade, drip solitary drops of a sake unlike any other in the world. This strange... continue reading

06.10.2008

Asahi Shuzo Dassai Niwari Sanbu "Otterfest 23" Junmai Daiginjo, Yamaguchi Prefecture

There is no real reason to attempt a comparison between sake and wine. Each are their own universe and deserve to be evaluated on their own terms. Leaving aside for a moment the radically different methods of their making, sake and wine are different enough that comparisons tend to introduce more confusion than clarity to any particular effort to make a point. Nonetheless, I continue to draw parallels between wine and sake if only to explain sake in terms that most wine lovers can understand. My latest angle at helping wine lovers make sense of sake comes in the form... continue reading

06.06.2008

Kamoizumi "Shusen - Three Dots" Junmai, Hiroshima Prefecture

In the world of sake, perhaps even more so than the world of wine, just when you think you've figured out that things work a certain way, you stumble across an exception that completely destroys whatever sense of predictability you might have been cultivating. It's fairly safe to say that most fine sakes should be served chilled, to preserve and highlight their subtleties and delicate qualities. However, there are a specific class of higher end sakes that not only can be served at room temperature, but actually benefit from a little warmth. These sakes bear no resemblance in style (or... continue reading

04.01.2008

Obata Shuzo Manotsuru "Yososaku" Junmai Daiginjo, Niigata Prefecture

Sake brewing has a long and storied history in Japan, and because of the island nation's relative isolation, many breweries can trace their origins back several centuries. Such timelines make it possible to suggest with only the smallest hint of jest, that having only been founded in 1885, Obata Shuzo is a relatively new kid on the sake brewing block. Yososaku Obata opened his brewery in 1885 on an island off the western coast of Japan's Niigata prefecture. A vintage photograph of the founder shows him dressed in a western suit, with a handlebar mustache that most Italian's would... continue reading

02.17.2008

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture

Many of us drink wine as a portal to a sense of place and time -- to be transported through flavor and aroma to a patch of land and the cumulative effects of a season under the sun in our glasses. No matter what your definition or personal religious stance on the concept of terroir, it cannot be denied that the best wines convey some sense of locality. Sake, on the other hand, tends to defy our traditional notions of terroir. Of course, there's certainly an analogue to wine's sense of place -- the specific spring water, the particular strain... continue reading

01.23.2008

Kikusui Funaguchi Ichiban Shibori Honzojo, Niigata Prefecture

I'll admit it right off the bat: I'm a serious sake snob. I don't mean that in the sense that I believe my taste in aake is superior to anyone else's, only that I'm extremely picky when it comes to sake. In particular, I tend to discriminate on the basis of the class of sake. I tend to prefer ginjo and daiginjo sakes, and most often the junmai versions of these. Ginjo and daiginjo are the two top classes of sake, as measured by the degree to which the rice kernels used to make them have been milled or polished... continue reading

12.29.2007

Tamanohikari Shuzo "Yuki Hiryo Shiyo Bizen Omachi 100%" Junmai Daiginjo, Kyoto Prefecture

I go to Japan to do three primary things. See beautiful crafts and architecture, eat amazing food, and drink sake. One of the tricky parts of the latter is that unlike anywhere else in the (Western Alphabet) world I can't read the sake list if there is one, which most of the time there isn't. Nor can I look at the label of the bottle that has been brought to me and understand what it is, who made it, or where it comes from. And because my spoken Japanese is somewhat limited, there's only so much I can pry out... continue reading

11.02.2007

Hananomai Junmai Ginjo, Shizuoka Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray Winemakers generally have more interesting stories to tell than sake master brewers ("toji"). Naturally, I'm here today to tell you about an exception. You get spoiled interviewing winemakers, some of whom discovered an innate ability after half a lifetime spent doing something else entirely, and many of whom have time left over for hobbies. So Sean Thackrey can talk about being an art dealer, or Robert Foley can talk about his guitar heroics. For the most part, sake toji choose that profession at an early age. They generally have boring personal lives (and they have difficulty... continue reading

10.08.2007

Kurosawa Kimoto Junmai, Nagano Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. "Keep refrigerated," the labels say in English. So why do I keep finding these bottles of sake on ordinary store shelves? Here's an open letter to everyone who works in a store that carries sake. Walk over to the unrefrigerated sakes. Check the labels. If you find a delicate daiginjo with a label that says "keep refrigerated," take a big black marker and write "cooking sake" on it and slash the price to $5. Or, alternately, sell that sake to some unwitting customer, just as you would a case of beer that had been left out... continue reading

09.28.2007

The World's Best Sake: Tasting the Joy of Sake 2007

I've currently got my man Blake Gray doing some writing here on sake, but that won't stop me from writing about it when I've got something to say or notes to share. Like Blake, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Joy of Sake, an event which is effectively the largest sake tasting outside of Japan, and which is a wonderful treat for those who enjoy this nectar. Much to my continued delight, America seems to be discovering fine sake at a fantastic rate. And I don't mean the hot stuff that every sushi restaurant has been serving since the... continue reading

09.25.2007

Okunomatsu Ginjo, Fukushima prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. I'm so frustrated, I've got drinkus interruptus. Or more accurately, blatherus interruptus. Here's what happened: I went to Japan, drank a bunch of sake and took notes. Then I went to the Joy of Sake event; ditto. The idea, beyond maintaining a rice buzz, was to find Vinography readers some cutting-edge sakes that you just can't read about anywhere else in English. Well, I succeeded. But then I started floundering around trying to find out where you can buy these great sakes, and discovered it would be easier to get a first-edition copy of my first... continue reading

09.16.2007

Dewazakura Dewasansan Nama Junmai Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray It's easy to taste the difference between wine grapes. But can you taste the difference between strains of rice used in sake? Often times, no: the unique flavors of different rice strains are purposely minimized in many, if not most, brands of sake. This week's sake is a rare exception: a sake that allows you to taste how, in this case, Dewasansan rice differs from its genetic parent Omachi, or the most popular premium sake rice, Yamada Nishiki. Dewazakura makes three junmai ginjos in similar styles, varying only the rice. Tasting them side-by-side is a revelation.... continue reading

09.09.2007

Shirataki Shuzo Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo, Niigata Prefecture

By W. Blake Gray. Shirataki brewery was founded by an innkeeper on a road through the snowy Mikuni mountains in 1855, a little more than a year after U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry and his black ships forced Japan to open to the rest of the world. The name of the brand, "Jozen mizunogotoshi," means roughly "the way of living is just like water" and comes from an interpretation of Chinese philosopher Laozi. Unusually for the chauvinistic sake industry, Shirataki maintains a research section staffed entirely by women. That's nice. But that's not why I picked it. I wanted to kick... continue reading

09.09.2007

W. Blake Gray on Sake

Irrashaimase! Welcome to Sakography. (Rice-ography?) We're in the golden age of sake on this planet: sake has never been better than this. Technology advances as simple as refrigeration and as complex as regional rice breeding programs have taken sake to a higher level than ever before. And thanks to increased use of refrigerated shipping to the U.S., we now taste many of these great sakes the way they should be. American drinkers are starting to realize this. But at the same time sake invades more and more wine lists at non-Asian restaurants here, the sake industry is facing a long-term... continue reading

09.04.2007

2007 Joy of Sake Tasting: September 13, San Francisco

It brings me great pleasure to not even really have to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco might be an enjoyable way of spending an evening. In the nearly four 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... continue reading

05.28.2007

Tsukasabotan Junmai Daiginjo Sake, Kochi Prefecture, Japan

At its best, like the finest wines of the world, sake provides a window into another world. While a great vintage of wine from a top producer may offer a glimpse through the lens of time into a particular patch of soil and a given harvest, a great sake offers a view of something more ethereal, more insubstantial. With sake there is no real expression of terra firma, instead there is an expression of what might best be described as atmosphere -- a quality of light, of air, of history. Sometimes when I'm drinking great sake, I imagine that in... continue reading

01.26.2007

Sato no Homare "Pride of The Village" Junmai Ginjo Sake, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan

Wine strikes me as the child of the sun -- an essence coaxed from an alchemy of solar energy and the lifeblood of the vines -- its flavors, an expression of the dance between upward straining tendrils and the sky. Sake, on the other hand, would be the child of the earth -- forged from water drawn from the depths, from rice whose modest growth hugs the wet soil that gives it life, and from the mysterious koji mold that prefers darkness to light. Sake and wine seem to embody two distinct essences of life, each with different relationships to... continue reading

11.26.2006

Tsuki no Katsura Junmai Daiginjo Nigori Sake, Kyoto

Little kids go through a phase where they need to put everything in their mouth. I wonder what it says about me that I'm pretty much stuck there? I really enjoy trying out new wines and sakes, especially those that are well off the beaten path. So when Beau Timkin, the owner of True Sake in San Francisco handed me this bottle and said "check this out" I couldn't resist. After all, it was the sake equivalent of....well.....(if you'll excuse what may be a somewhat obscure (to you) Japanese animation reference) Howl's Moving Castle. This sake is: 1. Nigori -... continue reading

11.07.2006

Daimon Brewery, Katano City, Japan: Current Releases

I'm a sucker for a good story when it comes to what I'm drinking. Of course, what I'm drinking has to be good, but it becomes so much better for the addition of a great story about where it came from and how it was made. Quite often, however, the story also comes from who made it. The people behind the wine we drink are literally the reason it tastes so good, but the stories of winemakers, vineyard workers, winemaking families, and vineyard owners can add a special dimension to the understanding and appreciation of what's in the glass. Especially... continue reading

10.01.2006

Happy Sake Day!

Today, October first, is Sake Day, or Nihonshu no Hi as designated by the Japanese sake brewing industry. Of course, this isn't a true national holiday (can someone start lobbying the incoming new government?), but one which is celebrated by sake lovers at home and abroad. There's little to no information in English available anywhere about this day, so I'm afraid I can't tantalize you with any of the exciting ways that folks in Japan celebrate the holiday, other than their likely consumption of the good stuff. Perhaps one of my Japanese readers can fill in some blanks. In any... continue reading

09.10.2006

The Best Sake In The World?: A Report from The Joy of Sake 2006

I fell in love with sake on my second day in Japan. I was taken to a private sushi club by the CEO of the partner company I was working with, and not being much of a beer drinker (but knowing that I was expected to drink) I suggested that I might prefer sake. Out from behind the tiny sushi bar came a big brown bottle with a beautiful paper label and a chilled glassful was poured in front of me. That first taste of wet earth after a rain, cedar forests, and ocean fog electrified me. Good sake, especially... continue reading

08.20.2006

Otokoyama Daiginjo Sake, Hokkaido, Japan

Sake is made in the depths of winter, when the frozen air is at its most pure, and the water is barely flowing. Many sake breweries are situated in locations expressly designed to capitalize on the pristine qualities that winter can bring to the sake brewing process. It's no wonder, then, that there is some darn fine sake being made on the island of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Here the snows blow in from the Sea of Japan, and fall heavy and deep after a short, brilliant Autumn. Temperatures regularly drop below zero, and like many places in the extreme... continue reading

05.28.2006

Space, The Final Frontier of Sake Tasting Notes

Did I mention how much I love the Internet? I suppose its fairly obvious as a blogger that I dig this whole medium, but honestly, it has made so many fantastic things possible in my life. Take, for example the following story. About two months ago, I wrote a post here about Tosa Space Sake. Thanks to the magic of news feeds I was able to find out that as a crazy marketing stunt of some sort, a group of Japanese sake manufacturers had figured out how to get some yeast on a rocket into space for some time. Once... continue reading

03.16.2006

Sake From Space

Lest you forget that I am a geek at heart, in addition to being a passionate wine lover, I must come clean. My ears did perk up when, thanks to a tip from the folks over at Pink Tentacle, I heard that it might actually be possible to buy Space Sake. Yes, despite an unfortunately chosen launch date of April 1st (which might mean that this IS all an elaborate hoax) it appears that a sake will soon be available that is made from yeast which spent 10 days growing and multiplying in sero gravity, courtesy of the Society of... continue reading

02.18.2006

Kizakura Tokuri-Ikkon Dai Ginjo Sake

Just to the south of downtown Kyoto, Japan, a 15 minute train ride from the main station brings the lucky visitor to Fushimi, a sleepy little section of the city that is tucked against the Eastern mountains. Here, after wandering up through quiet streets, you will find one of my favorite places to walk in all of Japan, a shrine named Fushimi Inari, where it is possible to walk literally for miles under a solid canopy of bright orange Tori gates, one after another, each inscribed and painted by a reverent donor. These surreal paths wind their way up the... continue reading

10.25.2005

The Grand Crus of Sake: Selections from Niigata Prefecture

While it's silly to try and draw parallels between sake and wine, which are so different in their creation and provenance, it's hard not to think about Niigata prefecture like Bordeaux. It is simply the most famous region of Japan (and therefore the world) for sake. Even before I knew the difference between a ginjo and daiginjo sake (daiginjo is made from rice grains that have been polished down about 20% more than those used to make ginjo sake) I had drunk enough sake with Japanese businessmen to get the picture that Niigata was where it was at when it... continue reading

10.14.2005

Dewazakura Shuzo "Oka" Namazake Junmai Ginjo, Yamagata Prefecture

If there was a single sake that might be responsible for the fact that you now see sake on all sorts of restaurant menus outside of Japan, this might very well be the one. Up until the latter part of the 20th century, there weren't high-end grades of sake. The Ginjo and Daiginjo designations which are now normally associated with ultra-premium sakes didn't exist. When they finally debuted in Japanese sake competitions, they quickly caught on, but even then, only within the competition circuit, as the Ginjo and Daiginjo sakes were just too expensive to produce for mass consumption. For... continue reading

09.18.2005

The Best Sake In The World?: A Report from The Joy Of Sake Tasting

Maybe they should call it the Jostle of Sake Tasting. If anyone needed an affirmation that sake is hot right now, they needn't have gone farther than the main ballroom of San Francisco's Hotel Nikko on Thursday night for the Joy of Sake tasting. Several thousand people packed into the ballroom, and the hallways, and the side rooms to taste nearly 200 different sakes and to sample foods from some of the Bay Area's top Japanese, Asian, and seafood restaurants. It was the largest tasting of sake held outside of Japan. It was also, in a word, packed, to the... continue reading

09.05.2005

Joy of Sake Tasting in Honolulu, San Francisco & New York, Sept 9, 15, 27, 2005

A haiku for sake: Ah. Sake. Drop of Rain touched by moonlit jasmine Always brings pleasure. OK. So I'm not the next Basho. But you gotta love sake, the perfect accompaniment to so many foods and flavors that we love (Thai, Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Japanese in general, sushi in particular, and more) that are really difficult to pair with wine. Sake is going to be the next big thing after Vodka. Mark my words. If you want to get a jump on this rising trend and you happen to live in New York or San Francisco, then there's no better... continue reading

08.25.2005

Uchigasaki Hoyo "Kura no Hana" Junmai Daiginjo Sake

Part of the joy traveling to another country for an extended period of time comes from the opportunity to not just sample tidbits of culture, art, food, and drink, but to stew yourself in them for periods of time and figure out what you really think. In my 18 months or so spent living in Japan, I didn't "figure out" a lot about Japanese culture, despite my enjoyment of every minute, but I did completely fall in love with sake. My first real experience of sake beyond the hot little carafes that provided endless sake bomb entertainment in college was... continue reading

02.02.2005

A Menu For Hope: Rihaku Shuzo "Dreamy Clouds" Sake

Communities all over the world have come together in support of tsunami victims, their families, and their countries. I am happy to be taking part in a special effort by food and wine bloggers to contribute to these relief efforts. Several of the most respected and prominent food bloggers on the Internet have assembled the following menu of recipes (or in my case wine pairings) which we are providing to our readership to stimulate charitable donations (and good eating). I encourage you to take and use these recipes, drink the suggested wines, and more importantly, donate to a worthy cause.... continue reading

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Most Recent Entries

2012 Sake Day Celebration and Tasting: October 6, San Francisco Sake Day Benefit Tasting: October 1, San Francisco Drink Sake to Help Japan The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2010 Joy of Sake Tasting 2010: San Francisco 9/9, and NYC 9/23 Tentaka "Silent Stream" Junmai Daiginjo, Tochigi Prefecture The World's Best Sake: Tasting at the Joy of Sake Soiree 2009 Joy of Sake Tasting 2009: September 10 - SFO, September 24 - NYC Denshu Hyakuyonju "140" Junmai Daiginjo, Aomori Prefecture Chikurin Karoyaka "Lightness" Junmai Ginjo, Okayama Prefecture

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

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.