Kayoko and me with Jiro, holding a Sake Gumi Tote!
April sakes ship today for Sake Gumi, our monthly sake subscription club. If you like what's on deck here, you should join!
Spring is upon us and as I write this letter, perhaps the last of the April showers for the year are coming down. We had a great winter in Northern California in terms of rain (no more drought – yay!) and I can’t wait for the landscape to change as we experience longer, sunnier days. I am a hiking enthusiast and spring is when I look forward to discover knolls covered in wildflowers and bumblebees.
To mark the occasion of the great show that spring provides, the theme for this month is “Spring Bling.” So for this month’s Sake Gumi, I have chosen sakes that are fresh, breezy, and fruity. Each of these sakes embody elements I love about spring, whether they're inherent in their flavor profile or their pairing capabilities.
Kayoko and I went to Japan last month and had the pleasure of catching the tail end of spring in the southernmost island of Kyushu and in Tokyo. Although we missed one of the most spectacular phenomena in Japan, cherry blossom season, we were lucky enough to be in the presence of a Japanese phenom: Jiro Ono. Watching Jiro make nigiri right in front of my eyes was like having an out-of-body experience. Every movement was graceful and deliberate. It is said that Jiro watches each diner to see how they are progressing through the meal and adjusts the speed and amount of rice accordingly. I believe it, as he noticed that I was left-handed early in the meal and adjusted the angle as to which he presented each piece of sushi. If you find yourself in Tokyo, I urge you to visit the legend himself at Sukibayashi Jiro.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at the 2nd Annual Sake Dinner at Camino, one of Oakland’s finest restaurants. We hope to make this dinner a Sake Gumi tradition. Stay tuned for more Sake Gumi events this spring and beyond.
LEVEL 1: Introductory Membership (Two 300ml bottles)
Shinsei Junmai Daiginjo
Yamamoto Honke Co., Ltd. (Fushimi, Japan)
This sake embodies what I love about spring – easy, breezy, and beautiful (like a cover girl). It’s easy to pair with foods that don’t usually pair well with sake, like citrus and vinegar. It's breezy when it hits your palate, giving off a slight ricey aroma accented by marshmallows, and then goes down smooth (not too dry, not too sweet). And it’s beautiful, as many daiginjos are in aroma, with wafts of fruity peach and apple blossom. Enjoy chilled.
Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmai
Nanbu-Bijin Co., Ltd. (Iwate, Japan)
This sake reminds me of bed sheets drying in the spring sun. It's crisp and full of warmth. It finishes clean but still captures the plump sweetness of rice, which is quintessential to this brewery. The dry finish coupled with a lower acidity makes for a smooth, balanced sake that's as pleasant as a sunny day in April. Allowing the flavor of the rice to come through makes this sake an ideal brew to enjoy alongside ultra-savory foods like miso, sweet potatoes simmered in dashi, and raw tomatoes. Drink at room temperature or chilled.
LEVEL 2: Premium Membership (Two 720ml bottles)
Ginban Banshu 50 Junmai Daiginjo
Ginban Shuzo Co., Ltd. (Toyama, Japan)
Ginban Banshu 50 is like a clear, sunny morning in early April. It's got some notes of raspberries, but has the slight earthiness of fiddlehead ferns. But the finish is quick and clean, like a fox running through a grassy field. This brisk, slightly fruity sake is great with a stinky cheese like Marin French Schloss. It's the perfect sake to represent this month's theme: Spring Bling (notice the gold foil on the label!). Enjoy this sake chilled.
Kirinzan Junmai Ginjo
Kinrinzan Shuzo (Niigata, Japan)
I am thrilled to be able to offer this special bottle to Level 2 members, as it is highly coveted (inventory is always limited). This creamy, viscous sake is bursting with pineapple, cherries, and lemon. For a ginjo, the nose is generously floral. Like cherry blossom season in Japan, this sake is showy and greatly pleases all the senses. Try this sake at room temperature or slightly warm with seasonal sweet, green vegetables, like asparagus and peas.