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 with one another. And that of course, is where the Joy of Sake comes in. Of course this tasting even is much more than just an opportunity to compare a few sakes. Rather it is the largest and most diverse tasting of sake in the western hemisphere. 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 scores 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.
In addition to the San Francisco tasting, there will also be a tasting in New York City on September 27th. See the event web site for details.
Joy of Sake 2007
San Francisco Hilton
333 O’Farrell Street (at Van Ness)
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tickets are $70 per person and can be purchased in advance online.
Sake tasting is even harder work than wine tasting, as sake is higher in alcohol, sometimes higher in acidity, and much more subtle in flavor. I recommend snacking your way through the tasting to keep your palate fresh. Also be advised that some vendors regularly run out of food, so eating early and often is also advised to get your money’s worth.