Dear Sake Drinker,
Welcome to the August issue of America's sake-centric Newsletter. In
this issue, circle that special SakeDay October 1st, come celebrate
20% off in the store on our 7th Anniversary on August 7th, see why
sake is the "buzz", read Melinda Joe's take on Jozen, take sake to a
Peruvian Sake Challenge, check out the August tasting, find out what's
going on in Miwa's sake world, and learn which sake breweries have
sold the most at True Sake.
In this issue:
SAVE THE DATE - Friday October 1st - 5th Annual SakeDay Celebration
Get out ye'ol pencil and circle Friday Oct 1st Why? Because it's the
fifth annual SakeDay celebration. Yup! 5 years of the best - smartest
- most entertaining sake event outside of Japan. And since it's a
Friday we are fairly confident we will sell out again. So make plans
now - get a group together - call your parents - tell the mailman -
invite your entire social network!
Details to follow - or as they say in the movies "Details - Details?
We don't need no stinkin details!" Lock it in!
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True Sake Turns 7 - Happy Anniversary!
Time flies when you're slinging Junmais! I can't believe it but August
7th represents our 7th Anniversary. It seems like weeks ago when I
opened the store for business - selling 4 bottles my first day - all
to friends and family. And look today - you have all become friends
We have learned so much from you guys and we completely appreciate
your interest and attention. A very hearty THANK YOU from all of Team
True Sake to you. You are the best and we sincerely mean that!
As a token of our appreciation we wanted to extend some form of
payback to the best customers EVER! In this light, on Saturday, August
7th we will take 20% off of all your purchases (except sales items and
the secret word sake). Come let us thank you personally! We will open
an hour early, at 11am.
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Sake Grab Bag - A Couple Sake "Things"
This was forwarded to me by my sister - a pretty funny sake "Engrish"
preamble! For all of those who need five reasons to drink sake you may
want to take a peek.
This link to a wacky izakaya in Niigata was sent to me by a gal in the sake biz. She said she wants to go - but judging by the "white guy flat on his back" advertising program I may take pause.
And lastly - and yes the timing is a little off - I thought people
might be interested in taking note that our pals at SakeOne
(sakeone.com) continue to move the international sake bar up
and up. This is a press release from last month:
New Saké Alliance Brewing Between Oregon & Japan
Forest Grove, OR - SakéOne, the American run saké brewery
operating in Oregon since 1997, gains a fresh perspective this
month with a visit from Master Brewer, Kei Takahashi of
Yoshinogawa, the oldest saké brewery in the famed Niigata
Mr. Takahashi will work side-by-side with American saké brewer
Greg Lorenz of SakéOne for a week beginning July 18. The effort
will provide Mr. Lorenz with a fresh set of eyes and more than 450
years of brewing experience represented in the Yoshinogawa
"This is not only a rare opportunity to have a Master Toji in our
brewery to review our operations and advise on our efforts but
it's a huge honor," noted Mr. Lorenz. "It's an envious and almost
unlikely alliance that will add new energy to our brewing team and
ultimately our saké."
Yoshinogawa's assistant brewer, Masayoshi Nakagawa, will remain at
SakéOne until August 5 to assist in further evaluation and
implementation of new processes and formulas for future brewing.
"We've arrived at a whole new plateau of saké brewing, " noted
Steve Vuylsteke, SakéOne CEO. "Our relationship with Yoshinogawa
began as their importer for the U.S. and is evolving into their
brewing support from like-mindedness and goals for saké in
America. Our long timer partnership with Momokawa Brewing of Japan
continues to be a central support of our brewing. Mr. Takahashi
provides us with a fresh perspective and different approaches to
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Sake Buzz - That Mysterious Feeling
You hear a lot of comments about sake when you work the floor at True
Sake. A lot! But I hear one refrain more than most. "I like the buzz I
get with sake." Or "Sake gives me the most pleasant and gentle buzz."
Or my favorite "The buzz is the best." Okay as a professional I walk
right past those comments, but some thoughts are needed on this
Firstly why do people feel different "on sake"? I have several
theories on this subject. I will argue that your body is familiar or
used to the kick that wine/beer/spirits gives to each and every one of
us. Your body knows what it will get after a glass of wine. It is used
to it. But sake is different than those other libations and as such
your body reacts differently. You feel more buzzy! But perhaps the
elevated alcohol content has something to do with it as well. You bet.
Likewise sometimes when you drink sake it is in a different setting as
in sitting cross-legged on a tatami mat or at a sushi restaurant. And
maybe just maybe you drink it faster than other boozes on account of
the small "shot" glasses that restaurants feel compelled to serve sake
Also most folks first, second, and third sakes are heated brews. And
many feel that a heated alcohol enters your bloodstream faster and
creates a quicker stimulating feeling. Some would even say that this
"buzz" effect is even therapeutic in nature. Hot sake tends to heat us
up more quickly, there is no question about that. Is that the "buzz"
There is no question that sake is clean, especially for an alcoholic
beverage. This too leads to a lighter softer feeling. Remember (you
should see True Sake's window display about this) sake is 80% water.
It is pretty easy to wake up in the morning and not feel harsh alcohol
effects. But like all boozes - too much is too bad!
Again, as a professional I cannot say "Buy sake because of the great
buzz it will give you!" And I am reminded of this by a funny story one
of my fellow sake authorities told me about. He was being interviewed
by the NY Times and went on in great lengths to speak about all the
wonderful aspects of sake. The reporter wrote everything down
verbatim. Finally at the end of the interview my friend said in
passing that sake also has a great buzz. Done! Finished! Kaput! Fail!
The subsequent article featured this fact. "Sake has a great buzz." My
buddy to this day is mortified by that interview and is very careful
to let others speak about this exciting side effect.
I do know that there is a wonderful sense of euphoria when drinking
sake. My brother is convinced that sake is an aphrodisiac. I cannot
disprove this! Nor can I prove it. But I can prove that the euphoric
feeling from sake is more tempered and less "aggressive" than
beer/wine/booze buzzes. It is a cleaner burning fuel, as I like to
However you describe your "effect" - buzz / high / etc - remember that
sake does make us feel odd and wonderful and you should personally
heed this call when you decide to take your "buzz" behind the wheel of
an automobile. Because the police are running a new line of
advertising, which basically states "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving."
Enjoy the Buzz responsibly!
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Sake Spotlight - Melinda Joe Does Jozen!
"Sake Spotlight" is a unique section within the Newsletter that takes
a closer look at specific sakes that may be purchased at True Sake. I
approach different professionals within the industry to give their
perspectives and insights to the how, what and why's for very special
sakes. These insiders are importers, brewers, authors, sake
sommeliers, or just enthusiasts who will take your knowledge base a
little further. What I like about this segment is that often my review
is quite different than that of the guest professional's adding to the
point that there is no right or wrong when discussing your opinion
This month we are pretty lucky to have one of the top bloggers on sake
- Melinda Joe - join us for her take on one of the most brand
recognized brews in Japan and the world over. I asked Melinda to
introduce herself and her blog here:
I'm Melinda Joe, an American journalist in Tokyo specializing in
food, drinks, and travel. As the bar editor for the award-winning
restaurant and bar guide Bento.com and the sake correspondent for
the Japan Times, I have a lot of chances to eat, drink, and drink
some more. Everyone has a gift, and I've been cultivating that
particular talent since high school. I'm a WSET wine certificate
holder and graduate of John Gauntner's SPC I and SPC II sake
professional courses. Join me on my adventures in sake, wine, and
food at my blog,
Tokyo through the Drinking Glass:
"What are we having for dinner tonight?" my husband JP asked.
"I'm not exactly sure yet," I replied, frantically dropping
potatoes into a pot of boiling water and laying a row of steaming-
hot okra onto the cutting board.
I was in one of my experimental moods. I'd looked into our
refrigerator and decided I'd try to make up a meal using the
random ingredients we had -- a fillet of frozen tuna, a handful of
forgotten potatoes, a net of frankly pathetic okra and a half an
avocado. I had no idea of how the dishes would turn out, but I was
fairly confident in my choice of sake, a crisp bottle of Jozen
Mizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo.
This understated brew lacks the aromatic pyrotechnics and bold
impact of a lot of popular brands, but it's an absolutely
brilliant pairing partner. I've turned to this sake on many of
these "mystery dinner" nights, and so far it's never let me down.
Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junami Ginjo is like the friend you know you
can call up any time and always have fun with.
Although I've been asked several times to explain why I love sake,
I've never really been able to come up with a sufficiently
exciting answer. I could try to be clever and craft a cryptic,
koan-like response ("Sake is the moon we embrace.") or wax lyrical
on the various virtues of the drink ("A sip recalls the clear
sparkling water from pure springs fed by the majestic mountains of
X."), but both of these answers would be somewhat disingenuous.
The truth is much more mundane: I like to eat when I drink.
A lot of people might sip sake as a cocktail, but I almost always
have my nihonshu with meals. Sake like Jozen Mizunogotoshi brings
harmony to the table; a generous umami center and clean acidity
give it tremendous pairing potential, and that means a lot to an
avid home cook like me. It has a forgiving nature, and this
latitude translates into greater freedom in the kitchen, more room
to experiment with different ingredients and flavor combinations.
Its impact is feather-light and deceptively prim. While the Jozen
has the same crystalline quality of many Niigata brews, it relaxes
into a luxuriously soft texture in the midpalate before
disappearing completely. Hints of savory, herbaceous flavors like
bamboo and organic ricey notes come through as the sake warms in
your mouth but float away before you have the chance to write them
down. In the end, it doesn't really matter much, though -- this
sake is at its best with food.
My dinner the other night was a case in point. I'd taken those odd
ends and bits and produced mounds of spicy wasabi mashed potatoes
and red, rare slices of seared tuna, topped with okra and
scallions, drizzled with piquant yuzu-kosho dressing. I was even
able to rustle up a side of avocado and shirasu Ceasar-style
salad. The Jozen Mizunogotoshi handled it all beautifully, showing
sweetness to balance out the spice and acidity, richness to
underscore it all.
I had the pleasure of visiting the producers of Jozen
Mizunogotoshi at Shirataki Shuzo in Yuzawa last March (when the
snow was still about four feet high). The extremely affable
Hosaka-san led us through a tasting, and I was delighted to
discover a thread of continuity throughout the line. Anyone who
has a chance to go up there for a tour definitely should. Yuzawa
is a charming little town, great for skiing, with lovely onsens,
delicious food, and, of course, fabulous sake.
Ha! Great Point Melinda - sake and food - sometimes we forget and this
is a great reminder to us all to continue throwing all foods and
flavors at sake - because more often than not it will work! And your
choice of sakes was a solid one. I've been selling this sake in
various incarnations for 8 wonderful years - three different packaging
changes later it still is as solid and as you put it "dependable" as
ever. I too have had the honor to speak to the owner of the brewery
over dinner here in SF last month. I had one major question - why? Why
did they change their "formula" for this sake that has tons of brand
appeal in Japan? Why play with success? His answer was simple, "We
felt people would like this version even more." And from what I have
seen this past year that the new Jozen 2.0 has been released people do
enjoy it more.
Basically in a word they changed their "laying down" time period from
6 months to a year for Jozen. I will include two reviews herewith -
the former version and the new version. And I too have thoughts about
food pairings with Jozen. On account of the new "body" and the same
upper-acidity level this brew has a lot of staying power in the pallet
- meaning that it holds and works well with flavors in the mouth. Good
body - good feeling - good stuff!
Lastly, as a retailer I have always tipped my hat to the Shirataki
brewery as they do a great job with packaging. And the new version of
packaging is no slouch. Beveled bottles with attitude and style - in
three colors for Junmai (white) Ginjo (pink) and Daiginjo (blue). The
Daiginjo will soon be available - tasted it at a tasting last month
and really fell for the pop and push of flavor on a clean flow. The
Junmai will not be available soon!
If you haven't had Jozen for a while I think Melinda just gave you
plenty of ammo to get back into the Niigata swing of things.
Former Version 1.0:
Shirataki Jozen Mizunogotoshi "Pure Flavor"
From Niigata Prefecture.
SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.4
This Ginjo has a nose of soft metal or minerals mixed with
persimmons and pomegranates. It has a very nice white chocolate
clean beginning with vanilla middle and dried apple finish, all
the while twisting in a flavor of snow melt and pears. This Ginjo
falls into the very clean and pristine category of Niigata sakes,
and does not disappoint. The smoothness and thin viscosity melt
in the warmth of your mouth and the fresh balance of acidity and
crispness makes this Ginjo disappear with a lingering pear-like
WINE: Pinot Griggio/White Burgundy
FOODS: White fish with ponzu, scallops in wine, cold steamed chicken.
Shirataki Jukusei Jozen Mizunogotoshi "Pure Flavor"
From Niigata Prefecture.
SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.7
The "Upgrade" on one of the most drinkable sakes in Japan resulted
in a more full-bodied version of its former self. With a nose of
plums, strawberries, cherries, white raisins, straw and steamed
rice this brew, which used to be matured for 6 months now gets
aged for a full year to bring out more smoothness and body. Behold
a wider, fatter, and more dry sake than its previous incarnation.
Round and smooth dried fruit flavors are well balanced with an
elevated acidity level creating another great version of a Niigata
dry and clean sake that has both body and flavor in a pristine
WINE: Pinot Noir/White Burgundy
FOODS: Shellfish, sushi, sashimi, grilled fish and chicken.
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Sake Challenge - Sake vs. Peruvian Food
I am on a spiritual sake quest that will finally put a nail in the
coffin of "sake can only be consumed at a sushi restaurant" mantra.
Wake up people! Food and sake go together - always have and always
will. If it has a tail, roots, feathers, leaves, or a damn beak sake
will go with it - anytime and any place. And that is my quest - the
place or origin of the cuisine does not matter. It can be Spanish,
Italian, Brazilian or ughhhh British chow and sake will walk the walk.
Japan has chickens! Japan has salad! Japan has beef! Japan has spicy
and savory dishes! Japan has sweet and salty fare, so why not think
about having sake with these "tones" from other countries?
The Sake Challenge is my way for you great consumers to see outside of
the sushi paradigm, and to achieve this "new view on brew" I will
usually select two different sake styles and price-points and bring
them to a non-Japanese restaurant with a celebrity, sake-sleuth or
hell even a friend in tow.
Read about past challenges:
When reviewing restaurants and their specific cuisines paired with
sake I use the following criteria:
This criterion is more true to the mission of bringing a beverage to a
restaurant not knowing what you will pair with. The point is to make
the general pairings "work." Rare is the day that you bring a specific
wine or sake to pair with a specific dish - we look for generalities
and the entire eating/drinking experience. Think of fishing with a net
as opposed to a hook and line - a pairing is supposed to reach out and
catch more flavors as opposed to just hitting one match.
- Works World Class (WWC)
- Works Well (WW)
- Works (W)
- Does Not Work (DNW)
I have done several sake and Peruvian cuisine challenges before
because they work so well. Thus I felt it was time to do a repeat -
why not enjoy a good thing? A re-visit to Limon
(limon-sf.com) on Valencia Street was in order,
especially since they re-opened after a very unlucky kitchen fire.
Accompanying me on this Sake Challenge was Nagano Prefecture's very
own Naomi Fujimori who is not only a "super foodie" but also a
Professional Mixologist who specializes in "multi-cultural" cocktails
(Lychee Martini is a top contender). And speaking of "multicultural"
what better pairing than Japanese "rice wine" and Peruvian yummy
dishes from ceviche and huge corn to chicken skewers and octopus can
I selected two sakes of completely different styles - one rich and
round the other big and bombastic, both reasonably affordable.
And away we go!
1st Course: Limon ceviche - House specialty with calamari, shrimp, and snapper
2nd Course: "Daily Special - didn't get name" but was baby octopus on warm mashed potatoes.
- Kokuryu - Wow! What a great out of the gate first flavor
pairing. The "thickness" of the "Black Dragon" works very well to
cover and blanket the subtle acidity of the ceviche. The brew
actually drinks a little sweeter - so the acidity of the dish
actually turns the richness of the brew into a little sweeter
flow. All of the flavors work very well, especially the snapper.
Naomi said that the balance was nice.
BT - WW
NF - W
- Narutotai - Likewise the nama just popped with the dish. I was
afraid that there would be too much acidity but not so! The citrus
elements harmonized in a bright way with the Narutotai - I wrote
"Harmony of Sizzle" and this was a good thing. The sake drank a
tad bit cleaner also with the zing of the ceviche - which is odd
but really pretty cool. Naomi said that it tasted like a sunny
dish, a good outdoor bright pairing. I agree - fresh!
BT - WW
NF - W
3rd Course: Ceviche de Pascado in an Aji Amerillo Sauce - snapper in a yellow cream sauce.
- Kokuryu - What a great dish! Warm mashed potato dollops with a
little baby octopus nestled in each pile. Where we had a citrus
play with the ceviche in this dish we had a pure savory play. And
guess what? The savory Kokuryu just rocked! Warm feeling of
cuisine with round soft sake. The starch of the potatoes blended
so well with the richness of the sake, which also did a great job
of washing the elements away in a clean and comfortable flow.
Naomi just kept nodding her head - she said she like the "feeling"
of the pairing and the sake made her taste a little salt in the
BT - WW
NF - WW
- Narutotai - The nama also did well with the dish. I was a little
suspect of a nama with a potato, but the starch to yeasty starch
pairing did okay. The Narutotai did very well with the octopus
bringing out a nice briney flavor, but it did drink a little
"acidic" with the warm taters! Naomi said that she could taste a
sweetness in the sake when pairing just with the octopus, and
liked how the hot potatoes and cold sake worked together in her
BT - W
4th Course: Choros Limon - Mussels
- Kokuryu - Hmmmmm when I looked at the dish I said "ro-roh"
(Think Scooby Doo) because the yellow looking cream sauce appeared
to be "difficult." It wasn't! The Kokuryu acted like that smooth
blanket to coat the mouth while the creamy flavors washed down to
the back of the palate. I wrote that the sake "washed the fish"
and made for a good clean flavor, which is sort of funny for a
rich brew. But it was effective. Naomi said that she liked the
union of cream, sake and fish.
BT - W
NF - W
- Narutotai - It was a funny image - fish smothered in yellow
cream sauce and sake coming from a short squat can. The result was
pretty unique as the creaminess of the dish made the nama drink
sweeter. The acidity I thought for sure would conflict with the
cream, but it did not. The snapper by itself was really tasty with
the Narutotai (Red Snapper) - go figure! Naomi had far more
success with this pairing - she spoke how the sake cut the cream -
cut the flavor and made the fish come first.
BT - W
NF - WW
- Kokuryu - This dish I thought may be a bit difficult for the
rich Kokuryu, but to its benefit the sake has now come down to
room temperature and created a good creamy flavor with the creamy
mussels. I wrote "rich, round, and zesty" which sounds sort of
gross, but it worked okay. The mussels became less "fishy" with
the sweet richness of the sake. Naomi said that there was some
acidity confusion but the favors generally worked.
BT - W
NF - W
- Narutotai- Oddly enough and this is a great point - sake is like
a chameleon sometimes. With a rich and round sake the mussels went
creamy, but with a brash and acidic nama the mussels tasted far
sweeter! Wow, what a case in point. The nama went right at the
flavor of the mussel - it pushed away all the other elements and
just pulled out a sweetness that was lost on the Kokuryu. Cool and
clean! Naomi liked this pairing more because she said the sake was
separate from the dish - two different components that worked
BT - W
NF - W
Limon restaurant - back in the day - had a pretty good sake menu.
Then over the years they started pairing it down. Eventually they
only carried one or two cheap brews, and when we went there were
no sakes on the menu! Arrrrrggghhh! Why not? Jeesh the flavors and
feelings that we tasted were really great. All of the dishes had a
freshness to them and sake and fresh go together like George
Michaels and public restrooms. I liked how different sakes
"washed" in different capacities - one made a dish savory and the
other made a dish sweet. I thought the sakes did best with the top
of the menu in terms of appetizers. All in all I would take a
starch brew over a grape juice any day to a Peruvian restaurant.
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August 18th - Masumi Sake Tasting & Pairing at Nombe
On August 18th, Nombe Restaurant and Sake Sommelier Gil Payne invite
you to experience the amazing sakes of the Miyasaka Family of Suwa,
Nagano, makers of the Miyasaka and Masumi Brand sakes. This 10th
Generation sake clan has the distinction of having their own
proprietary yeast declared a landmark classic yeast (Number 7) by
the country's national brewer's association, and this yeast is
widely used by sake makers throughout Japan. The quality and
craftsmanship of Masumi's sakes is truly exceptional, and we are
proud to display them with the following special dishes prepared by
Masumi's Nanago, Yuedomo, and Yamahai Ginjo will be featured, in
addition to the Miyaska Yamahai 50 brand. We will also have a
secret welcome sake to greet diners coming for this special pairing.
The cost is $50 per person inclusive, and reservations can be made
via OpenTable. Visit
nombesf.com for further details.
- Grilled Ribeye with Sake-Kasu
- Heirloom Tomato Salad with Shiso
- Dried Grilled Squid
- Marinated Hearts of Palm
August 19th - Come join us for a "funky" sake tasting.
There will be
no limits to what we will pour - from super dry to super sweet - from
sparkling to cedar sakes - from - well you get the picture! This is a
great "exploration" tasting.
When: Thursday, August 19th
Time: 5:00-7:30 (Doors close at 7:30 sharp)
Where: True Sake
How much: $1
Bonus: 10% off for purchasing any of the sake tasted
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New Store Arrivals - Summer Namas are here!
Yes, more namazake (unpasteurized sake) to accompany your summer days.
Umenishiki "Gorgeous Plum"
From Ehime Prefecture.
Nama Junmai Daiginjo.
SMV: +4.5 Acidity: 1.3
This extremely elegant Nama Daiginjo (not many of those around)
has a lively nose with hints of apple, grape, white peach, and
mineral water tones. How about a gentle blend of rice and fruit
tones in a fluid that is clean, light and dry? Slightly richer in
character than years' past, but still very smooth in body and
and of course it has a quick clean finish. Remember this
brew is polished to 50%, which makes it unusual and "sensual" for
WINE: Dry reds and whites
BEER: Light ales
FOODS: Clean cuisine.
Ohyama "Big Mountain"
From Yamagata Prefecture.
Nama Tokubetsu Junmai.
SMV: +4 Acidity: 1.5
The nose on this sake that has not been pasteurized is a
collection of raw and bright apple, rice, and creamy elements. A
great example of a sake that has wonderful fruit tones on so many
levels, but generally drinks semi-dry. How do they do that? Who
cares, because it drinks fat and full with a plump mineral
component that works with the fruit. More juicy than years' past
and the touch of cream/vanilla hints makes for great exploration.
WINE: Fruity Pinot/ Chardonnay
FOODS: Will compliment salty savory fare and will pull sweetness out of ocean fare.
From Kyoto Prefecture.
Nama Junmai Ginjo.
SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.7
This raw sake will speak to those in the wine world who like
expressive flavors nudged on by a good acidity play. The aroma
profile is a superb collection of koji rice, ripe fruits,
blueberry and rice paddle elements. If velvet were to have a
flavor to match its plush, fat, and beguiling nature, Kohaku-ko
would be that taste. Fleshy and smooth - gooey and brash - look
for rich semi-sweet flavors such as powdered sugar and
blueberries. A larger glass balances out all of the dynamics.
BEER: Big Belgians
FOODS: Hit this brew with anything from the grill or oven. (American sushi works too!)
Yonetsuru "Rice Crane"
From Yamagata Prefecture.
SMV: +3 Acidity: 1.3
Every collection must have a smooth operator and this nama-zake is
that brew. With a bright floral nose this Junmai has one of those
escalator sipping profiles where it changes textures and flavors
as it passes through your palate. The first sip is gooey with
honey elements that change into a little more controlled ricey
flavor followed by a zesty mineral finish. Round and chewy this
brew shows some ripe fruit tones A mouth concert that is based on
the key of smoothness.
BEER: Seasonal Releases
FOODS: sushi, sashimi, grilled fare, summer salads, and gentle spicy fare.
You can review many of our sakes on our web site.
Our inventory list is here.
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Sake Dealio - Urakasumi "Three Ways" - The "Urak Tri-Pak"
Yes Siree! We are always on the look out for great sake deals! And if
we cannot find them we create some. When I looked around the store the
other day I started counting - on BOTH hands - the amount of offerings
that we carry or have carried from one of my favorite breweries -
Urakasumi from Miyagi Prefecture. Basically we are sitting on two
different "Exclusive" sakes from this stellar kura, and the other
brews are considered stalwarts in the industry. So to entice you to
try some new brews or to re-visit some old friends we have decided to
create the "Urak Tri-Pak!"
So what's in the "Urak Tri-Pak"? Three killer sakes, two of which you
may only obtain from True Sake.
That is $95 worth of Miyagi's best but for you great people we are
whacking off $15. So try three amazing sakes for $80 and remember we
only have a limited quantity.
- Urakasumi Junmai - Ye'ol standard of the Junmai world. $26/720ml
- Urakasumi Honjozo Genshu - The brew Beau begged for! $34/720ml
- Urakasumi Tokubetsu Junmai - The "Trial" brew not available in US $35/720ml
And for the super Urak-initiated you may add on the other two brews in
the store - the Spring released Nama "Shiboritate" $35/720ml and the
ultra popular Urakasumi "Zen" Junmai Ginjo $54/720ml - and if you are
absolutely crazed for "Urak" we could special order you their Junmai
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Sake & Miwa: One Sake. Nine different ways.
Occasionally at the store, customers will ask us which one glass is
best for sake. My short answer is usually the one you feel good
holding and sipping out of, but overall it's the one that makes the
sake taste best to you. This is a really good question, so I thought
it deserved a long answer.
Thanks to Beau, it was suggested to me to use different drinking
vessels when I started to take sake notes seriously. Using two or
three drinking vessels, even for a casual evening drink at home,
became the norm in my sake life. It is truly amazing how the sake
changes depending on glassware: variations in sweetness and dryness,
acidity, texture, and aromas. Different flavor elements can get
highlighted while others are more muted. For this reason, we try to
suggest to our customers to try their sake out of different glasses or
cups at home. Compare and contrast: one sake, a dozen ways to enjoy.
While many sake books talk about matching different styles of sake to
different shapes of vessels (i.e. slightly flared glasses for aromatic
sake to slender glasses for refreshing chilled sake, and so on), I
feel people can play around choosing glasses based on one's mood,
season, serving temperature or even an image of a brew.
Traditionally sake is served in tokkuri and poured into ochoko, a
small cup. This encourages drinkers to pour for each other. Well, at
my humble home, my husband and I usually pick our favorite glasses for
the evening and pour sake directly from the bottle. We will use a
tokkuri if we are warming the sake, and compare the warm with the
Sake drinking vessels come in many shapes and sizes, but they are also
made from a whole array of different materials. Some are made of wood,
such as cedar and bamboo. Natural stone cups are carved from marble
and agate. Metal cups come in silver, tin, and stainless steel just to
name a few. There are a number of cups made of porcelain, ceramics,
and glass, but did you know there are edible ones made of dried squid
and also kombu (seaweed)? One thing I have not tried yet is to drink
sake out of my cupped hand. I bet taking notes afterward will be messy
but fun. I will let you know how it goes when I try.
This month, I decided to taste sake out of 9 different vessels and
record an impression of each sip (or two.) I focused on changes in
these basic flavor elements for each vessel: "amami" (sweetness),
"sanmi" (acidity), "nigami" (bitterness), "shibumi" (astringency), and
"umami" (savory yummynesss-for a luck of translation) for comparison.
Drinking vessels I chose are:
The two sake I chose are: Ichinokura Junmai Nama (unpasteurized),
which is available year-around; and Shutendouji Miteiken Junmai Ginjo,
which arrived a few weeks ago, very fresh.
Well, here are my notes. "A" stands for aroma and "T" stands for taste.
- Very small porcelain ochoko-given to me by a brewery in Hyogo.
- Gold sakazuki-a wedding gift that we used for "san-san-kudo."
- Egg-shaped glass-we sell it at the store, but I had yet to ever try it.
- Square glass-hand-blown, modern looking Sugahara glass that we also carry at the store.
- Ceramic guinomi-bought in Japan.
- Central Brewer's Association glass-I also call it John Guantner's glass because he uses it in his class.
- Trumpet glass-a typical restaurant style, I shall say.
- Mom's glass- a conical shaped glass handed down from my husband's mother.
- Riedel glass-stemless daiginjo glass I call "wino".
Ichinokura Junmai Nama
From Miyagi prefecture. SMV: +3 Acidity:1.5
A: Rice and fruits.
T: Combination of sweetness and acidity. Coffee-like aftertaste with good "kire", dry and crisp finish.
A: Almost none.
T: Rice sweetness hits the palette first then the weight of sake. Intertwined sweetness and bitterness is nice, and the sake feels solid, like food. (The coolness of the vessel is quite prominent.)
3. Egg shaped
A: Faint rice tone.
T: Sweetness and acidity is well combined, and coffee-like aftertaste.
A: Slight mineral and a touch of vanilla.
T: Drinking from the flat side, the sake feels sweeter and acidity becomes flat. The texture also becomes thinner. Drinking from the corner, the sake feels richer with a hint of umami and cooked sugar, like flan caramel sauce.
A: Almost none.
T: Sake feels more viscous, mild and calmer. Bitter element is trapped in the sweetness of rice.
6. Brewer's Association
A: Koji rice and mineral.
T: Sake feels smooth, and the aroma and flavor flourish upon the first sip. There is a balanced of texture, acidity and sweetness.
A: Vanilla, mineral and touch of peach.
T: Sake flows smooth and highlights umami element. Acidity of sake becomes like shibumi, gently astringency.
A: Faint herbs, green leaves.
T: Koji rice and nama-feel are highlighted. Sweetness and acidity become well combined, and sake gains crispness. Good "kire", crisp finish.
A: Prominent acidity hits a nose like when you cut into a tart apple. A hint of rice and lactic tone plus a thin layer of ethanol are present.
T: Subtle sweetness is followed by subtle acidity and crispness. Fruity note is airy, and grain-like aftertaste has no bitterness. Sake feels very light in this glass.
I pick #8 for introducing the crispness to the sake. This version
of sake was slight richer than what I previously tasted, which has
more sweetness and lightness, so brining out the acidity and
holding it in place made sake more balanced.
Shutendouji Mitaiken Junmai Ginjo
From Kyoto Prefecture. SMV: +2 Acidity: 1.5
A: Acidity and rice powder
T: Bright acidy hits the pallet first and slight bitterness follows like grapefruit. The sake feels medium body. "Sanmi" lingers and a slight heat from alcohol is at the end.
A: Almost no aroma can be detected.
T: Calms down the acidity and introduces grain-like after taste.
3. Egg shaped
A: Rice powder, vanilla. Tapioca pudding.
T: The texture of sake feel lighter like water with thinner acidity. Umami stays as after taste and slight fizz and heat at the end. Citrus.
A: Nama nose. Aroma of koji rice.
T: Drinking from the flat side of the glass, gentle acidity followed by rice sweetness. Nice balance. Sake coats a palette evenly and spreads the flavors. In contrary, drinking from the corner highlighted the acidity and slight bitterness surface as after-taste.
A: Touch of rice.
T: Sake feels soft, gentle, thus balanced. The cup suppresses the acidity.
6. Brewer's Association
A: Citrus, vanilla and touch of cream. It is easier to pick up aroma from this glass.
T: Compact acidity and slight bitterness lingers. It gives "kire", dry-feeling ending.
A: Faint citrus, like summer air.
T: Sweetness hits the palette quick then the sanmi and nigami follow.
A: Delicate cream and rice tones. I feel like finding the unique aroma of Iwai rice again. (Iwai is a type of brewing rice grown in Kyoto. First time I opened the bottle of this sake, I found comfy and sweet mochi and bean paste like elements in the aroma. )
T: Makes sake flows smoothly and brings a touch of sanmi. The balanced sweetness and the acidity is like sipping citrus soda without bubbles. The finish is calm like how waves retreat themselves from the shore.
A: Super bright aroma of acidity as in lemon juice and unripe green pear
T: In contrary to the aroma, sake taste sweet with teasing acidity. Umami stay on the palette and touch of grain flavor as the finish.
I pick #5 for making sake feel smoother. I must say this version
of Sutendouji (with a very recently bottle date) had lots of
brightness compared to the one I tasted several months ago. I am
sure if I were to try this again in a few months, the outcome
would be different.
This time I poured sake into each vessel and wrote a quick note, then
moved onto next. Next time I want to try the sake all at room
temperature. That way I can pour the sake all at once and can "compare
and contrast." I guess what matters most is what you like. My hope is
that this will inspire all of you to experiment a little bit with sake
that you really like. Take out your cups and glasses--they don't have
to be Japanese. Let us know what your discovery is. Kanpai!
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"Ask Beau" - "What sake brewery have you sold the most sake for?"
Wow! Great question! This is a real head-scratcher because we never
did a database for that. (Yes mom and pop still live.) Taking into
consideration all 7 years of sales I can name a few breweries/brands
that we have sold a lot for. And of course it comes down to sake
offerings - the more labels the more sales. But that said - way back
in the day we sold a ton of sakes for a brewery (Rihaku) that only had
two brews available.
Well Jason C. in Ontario I will go out on a limb and name the top ten
breweries that have benefited the most by having a funky little sake
store in America selling their product!
This list is not in order but I will name the top three later:
Here are some honorable mention breweries/brands:
Here are some breweries that we used to sell a lot of several years
- Shirataki (Jozen etc)
- Kan Chiku
- Yuki no Bosha
Ironically a brew that is and has historically been in the top 15 -
Hatsuhana Utatane - just went belly-up! You may remember their twisted
light blue bottles with cork tops. The company filed for the
equivalent of Chapter 11, and to this day represents the most consumed
brew other than Bishonen that went "under." (Bishonen is back under
- Sato no Homare
So in the end - the top three breweries that we have had the pleasure
of selling the most of their sakes are probably Dewazakura, Wakatake,
and Masumi (but Urakasumi may be tied with Masumi.)
Please send your sake specific questions to
askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This
address is not for general questions and I only review the questions
once per month. All other correspondence should use
info @ truesake.com.)
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The SECRET WORD
Ah, at last we have reached the end of this Newsletter and that of
course means that we have come to the now-famous SECRET WORD. To those
who are new the SECRET WORD is a chance for you to try a sake of note
for half of that sake's original price. Just for reading this
Newsletter. It is our way of saying thank you for trying to understand
the wonders of sake.
Please remember the rules: only one bottle per reader, and don't tell
your buddy at the moment if he/she isn't a Newsletter subscriber,
always use a hushed or secret agent voice when saying the SECRET WORD,
and lastly for those who have their sakes shipped we can only include
the SECRET WORD sake in a four-pack purchase - meaning you must buy
three other sakes.
This month we'd like to feature Hiraizumi Yamahai Junmai. This sake is
from the oldest brewery in Akita prefecture. They focus exclusively on
Yamahai brewing method. Enjoy this brew at the different temperatures.
We usually sell Hiraizumi for $35 but for you sake jockeys we will
part with this 720ml for $19.
And the SECRET WORD is...check your email inbox -
We only give out the
SECRET WORD in the mailed Newsletter! So
sign up for the Newsletter!
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Thank you for reading!
The time of sake brewing water! Many breweries speak about how long
water takes to get from the closest mountains to travel down through
the earth and then come up in the well's pump! Some breweries state
that this process takes several hundred years to go from snow to river
to underground river to well. One brewery stated this process took 700
years and they could prove it. Another brewery sells "100 year-old
560 Hayes St., San Francisco, CA 94102
info @ truesake.com
Sake - A Modern Guide