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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 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 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.

Sadly, for reasons I cannot explain, it seems that the event organizers have decided to downsize the event in San Francisco. While the New York event seems to offer the usual selection of hundreds of sakes, the San Francisco event is no longer called The Joy of Sake event. Instead it is being billed as the Sake Soiree, and its venue has changed to Yoshi’s nightclub and restaurant. While the event web site suggests that there will still be more than 100 sakes to choose from, the lower admission price and the change of name seems to signify that the event will be less than full blown.

Not like you (or I) were going to taste all 200 of the sakes anyway, right?


September 10, San Francisco
7:00 – 10:30 PM
Yoshi’s Restaurant
1330 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115-4113
(415) 655-5600

September 24th, New York City
6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Webster Hall
125 E 11th St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 353-1600

Tickets are $50 per person for San Francisco and $80 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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