June 2013

Sake Industry – Tasting An Entirely New Sake Portfolio From Sake Tengoku!

Posted by Beau Timken in 2013, June, Newsletter, Sake Industry

Sake Industry – Tasting An Entirely New Sake Portfolio From Sake Tengoku! 

True SakeOne of the fun aspects of hanging around the sake industry for over a decade is that you get to see some sake success stories along the way. It is so rewarding to watch certain individuals turn a sake concept into a reality. From opening sake stores to creating websites about the promotion and education of sake and from opening restaurants with lots of sake offerings to starting sake importing companies I have had a ball watching my friends take their passion for sake to new levels. 

One such story is currently being written by Stuart Morris , who has been the Sake Director for Hana Sushi Restaurant in Rohnert Park north of SF. Stuart (Sake Sommelier) has been pairing sakes at the restaurant for quite some time, and has an outstanding knowledge of all sakes available in California (and sakes not available in the US – shhhhh!) But as of two months ago Stuart changed his business card, which now reads Sake Importer. 

Stuart and two partners (Julie and Ken) started Sake Tengoku (Importer) with a mission to bring “food friendly sakes to the US.” Their portfolio is filled with what I would call masculine food forward brews that really speak to the Tohoku region of sake making. True Sake

How lucky was I when Stuart offered to let me taste his entire portfolio? So I did! But I must be honest. Sometimes it’s not fun sitting in front of a new importer tasting their sakes, especially if the sakes are lacking! That’s not fun at all and I am not the best at being sake polite, as I always say what I feel when speaking about sakes personally! So if the brews stink it’s hard to sit there and sugar coat some praise for sakes that are not deserving even right in front of the importer and friend! (But luckily I did not have that problem at all with Stuart’s sake – not in the least!) Sakes in an importer’s portfolio are like children – they love them all! But they realize that some of their kids have strengths and weaknesses too! 

In a word Stuart sakes are different than many of the offerings currently available in the US. They are not light and dry or big and fruity. They are not elegant in the glass. They actually are more along the lines of work-horse sakes that go incredibly well with all sorts of food pairings. When I tasted with Stuart he named five or six dishes or cuisines that went well with each sake. And that is it in a nutshell! That is how he has positioned his portfolio as “different” and as I said extremely food forward. And since there are so many sakes that drink like each other out on the market right now it is refreshing to taste “different.” 

Some of his brands are Gunma Izumi, Matsuno Kotobuki, Sakuragawa, Tsujizenbei, Konnichiha, Shizengou, and Aizu Chujou. His portfolio is skewed towards Junmai, Honjozo, and Futsushu categories with an emphasis on Yamahai sakes. He also has a high-end cooking sake from Konnichiha that is almost like liquid umami. This will be True Sake’s first cooking sake offering for sure! Some of the brews that I particulary liked were Aizu Chujou Junmai, Shizengou Junmai, Sakuragawa Futsushu, Matsuno Kotobuki Junmai Tochigi 14, and the entire Gunma Izumi line of Honjozo, Chotoku Junmai and the Yamahai Junmai. Tengoku Sake 

I wish Stuart, Julie and Ken much luck with their new endeavor and look for several of their brews at True Sake in the coming weeks including the Gunma Izumi Yamahai, which will be my Beau-Zone Sake for June! 

And please see the “Sake Tastings – Musashino Brewery and Tengoku Sake” section below and then come to the tasting on July 20th and taste Stuart’s sakes for yourself.


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