Holiday Gift Guide

Sake Gumi is our monthly sake subscription service with 250 members throughout the country. Join today!

On August 3, 2012, Kayoko and I opened the doors to Umami Mart in Oakland. By that time, we had been operating Umami Mart as a food blog for five years, and as an online store for two years. I'd consider the five years we spent online as our In Utero phase. Opening our brick and mortar store felt like the REAL beginning of Umami Mart. It was when we could see the sunlight reflecting off of our barware, invite guests in to converse about their lives, and dream about our next events in 3-D.

For the past 10 years, we've been through a lot. Starting our business in the midst of a recession primed us to weather the many storms along the way. We owe much of this to our community whose vibrant energy wraps us in a cozy blanket every day. From our customers to our close collaborators, we hope that Umami Mart is always a place that attracts positivity.

So for this month's Sake Gumi, I'm featuring sakes that embody the spirit of celebration and collaboration. You'll see a daiginjo in each level (Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold for Level 1 and the Hakurakusei Junmai Daiginjo for Level 2) – ooh la la! And for Level 2 members, we are launching an extra special collaboration with Den Sake Brewery, Extreme Junmai 90. “10% milled matches the 10 year anniversary for Umami Mart!” say Yoshi Sako of Den.

And what would Umami Mart be without our annual Matsuri? This year, we are roaring back for matsuri on Aug 6, after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Come one, come all, to our outdoor festival which will feature our long time friends Aburaya, Pacific Cocktail Haven, and Kuramoto Ice. For entertainment, we'll have our local favorites Emeryville Taiko and DJ Jody Stillwater, plus one of our best friends DJ Wooly Mar, all the way from Massachusetts!

We'll be pouring Extreme Junmai 90 and Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold at the event too, so get ready to party!

Yoko, Co-Founder of Umami Mart and Kikizakeshi

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Jingoro Honjozo Limited Edition
Funasaka Brewery (Gifu, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 65% Hida Homare, SMV: +3, Acidity: 1.5

"A refreshing and delicious summer bottle!" is how Hiroki Arisu, president of Funasawa Brewery describes Jingoro Honjozo. Situated in the city of Hida, which is famous for beef, this sake is perfect accompaniment to an outdoor grill party. We also took his advice and enjoyed this crisp sake chilled with sunomono (vinegared cucumber and seaweed salad). Nothing screams a summer celebration more than that pairing! We are all for Hida City's motto, "A gastronomic town, where you can enjoy sake and food."
Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo
Kamotsuru Shuzo (Hiroshima, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 50% Hattan, SMV: +1.5, Acidity: 1.2
President Obama and the late PM Abe celebrated with this bottle of sake alongside their 12-course omakase meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro in 2014 – so you know this bottle is made for a special occasion! Featuring two gold leaves, Toji Ide-san recommends having this in a wine glass or ochoko very well chilled. Truly ahead of its time, this daiginjo was released in 1958, before the ginjo boom. Unlike other floral daiginjos, this sake is bold and full of umami – making it an ideal sake for pairing with food. In addition to sushi, Ide-san recommends this sake with salted fava beans and vinegared oysters.

 

Hakurakusei “The Connoisseur” Junmai Daiginjo
Hakurakusei “The Connoisseur” Junmai Daiginjo
Niizawa Jozoten (Miyagi, Japan)
Seimaibuai: 40% Omachi, SMV: +5, Acidity: 1.5

"Whether it's a restaurant, home or the outdoors, we hope you'll enjoy a special summer occasion with this sake!" says Sugihara-san of Niizawa Brewery. Enjoy the aroma of melons and bananas, with hints of muscat and mango. The refreshing acidity is a perfect complement to a plate of oysters or green beans and gomadare. Put this sake in the coldest corner of your fridge and pour in a white wine glass!

Extreme Junmai 90
Den Sake Brewery (Oakland, CA)
Seimaibuai: 90% Calhikari, SMV: +1.6 Acidity: 2.1

Brewed with non-GMO, bird-friendly rice from Sacramento, we wanted to collaborate on a sake with Den that would highlight the terrior of California, while considering sustainability in our current climate. “I had been wanting to use low-polished rice to bring out the characteristic of the rice and soil,” says Toji Yoshi Sako. From start to finish, this sake is made in N. California. Brewed with Molelumne River water, Kayoko and Yoko helped with pressing, bottling, and labeling (the labels were printed by Evergreen Printing in Oakland on recycled paper). Enjoy the lemon hue and banana and coconut aroma in a wine glass at room temperature. Our favorite pairing was the Porcini Cured Salami from Marin Sun Farms, with grilled mushrooms as a close second.
Column: Sake Gumi News
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