Hey gang, Valkor here. In our extending coverage into the world of beer, wines, and spirits, we hit the streets of NYC to dabble into a little sake tasting. The last sake event TOV attended was the “Sake in the City II” event, which was a broader affair. However, the “Discover Gifu Sake” event, which was held at Astor Place, in the East Village NYC, kept it small, but still provided a lot about Sake from the region as well as bringing along some tasty steaks.
Taken from the Gifu Prefecture Wikipedia page (where you can learn more about the region by clicking the link) - Located in the center of Japan, it has long played an important part as the crossroads of Japan, connecting the east to the west through such routes as the Nakasendo. During the Sengoku period, many people referred to Gifu by saying, "control Gifu and you control Japan.
The next piece comes from the "Discover Gifu Sake" catalog. And you can pay a visit to the website by clicking on the link or the logo to the right:
Secrets of Gifu Sake
Hidahomare Rice - Hidahomare rice is a brand of rice from Gifu Prefecture especially suited for sake production. Hidahomare rice, grown in the rice fields enriched with melted snow from the Northern Alps, is full of nature's blessings. Its large grain contains less protein yet a larger amount of starch, naking this the most suitable rice for producing premium sake. Sake brewed with Hidahomare rice is known to be well balanced in the five flavors of sweetness, dryness, acidity, tartness and bitterness. Currently, approximately 14,000 bales of Hidahomare rice are grown annually and shipped to over 40 local sake brewers in Gifu Prefecture, which transform into excellent "Local Sake of Gifu" by the time cherry trees bloom each year.
Clear Waters of Gifu - Gifu Prefecture is surrounded by mountains of the Northern Alps, Haku, Ibuki and Ena, and melted snow from these mountains form bountiful rivers including the rivers of Nagara, Hidam Kiso and Ibi. Riverbed water from these pristine rivers eventually turns into the well waters of each local sake brewery best suited for making flavorful Gifu Sake.
G-Yeast Strains - The G-Yeast strains, developed by the Gifu Sake Brewers Association, local sake breweries and the Industrial Technology Center, Gifu Prefecture Government, have been distributed since 1997. The G-Yeast derived from the No. 9 strains, known for its elegant fruity aroma and highly fermentative nature, has been used by local sake breweries primarily for making Ginjo and Junmai sake.
For this round of tasting, given the limited number of vendors, I’ll just go through some of my favorites. And if you want to know more about the company, I’ve included links attached to the names (it'll take you to the company direct or their distributors).
Tenryou Sake Brewing Co., LTD - This was the first company I approached, which was offering two sakes - Tenryo Hidahomare Junmai Ginjo and the Junmai Daiginjo Tenryo Koshu. Both feature a dry, yet sweet and inviting taste, but I enjoyed the Daiginjo more as it has a much bolder taste to it.
Iwamura Brewery Inc. - While the company had a few sakes on hand, my favorite of the bunch would have to be the La Châtelaine Yuzu; it's kind of like a limoncello, but made from "locally grown yuzu citrus". And if it's anything sweet, then this one is a no-brainer. It's the perfect dessert wine or great with a sorbet.
Nihon-Izumi Brewery Co., Ltd - It's not only sweets that I'm drawn to. But anything having a unique look, then I'm suckered in. And Nihon-Izumi drew me right in with their "Nobunaga" sake bottle (pic below related). It not only featured a strong look but a bold taste as well. I also thought the Ryu-no-Hitomi (Dragon Eye), also show promised; not as bold as the Nobunaga, but still holds a place of its own, with a not too dry, elegant taste.
Miwa Shuzo Co., Ltd - Makers of the "unfiltered sake", I went in just a little hesitant, as I wasn't exactly sure of what the taste experience would be. And it's actually quite delightful! The Shirakawago Sasa-Nigori was smooth, very tasty, a little dry, but not bad. Plus I'm told it goes with just about any dish. Now the Shirakago Awa-Nigori or the Sparkling Nigori adds some fizz to it, giving it something of a champagne taste. Definitely crisp and so delicious.
Watanabe Sake Brewery Co.,Ltd - Anything with the name "ninja" in it deserves my attention, and the Hourai Sake Ninja junmai-shu is low-key sweet (meaning not overly sweet), not too bitter, but it tastes just right. Next up is Cody's Sake, made by Brewmaster Darryl Cody, this one not only taste great but is touted as going with any meal. And given it's bold yet delightful taste, I can see why.
To finish out the event, we were given the chance to sample some Hida beef, not only in its direct form but also in a delicious steak sandwich, which I will admit... I polished off three of those bad boys. It was a little fatty, but it almost melts in your mouth and so full of flavor. It was definitely a great way to close out the event. And I look forward to revisiting the companies as well as others in future sake tasting events.