June 2006

Sake Spotlight – Rumiko Obata Speaks To Manotsuru

Posted by admin in 2006, June, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight

"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 about sake.

This month's Spotlight is an affirmation of the uniqueness of the "Newsletter." Our guest, whom I have never met in person, came to us via readership of this here rag! In one of my earlier Newsletters, I wrote about females in the sake brewing industry, the myths versus the realities of women in a historically male sport! Lo and behold, I received and email from an owner of a brewery who just so happened to be female, and since then we have had an on-going dialogue about sake and it's place in history. I actually used her in a follow-up Newsletter about being a female owner of a brewery and the trials and tribulations that go along with this distinction. (see June 2005 Newsletter)

Our guest "Sake Spotlight" reviewer is Rumiko Obata, from Obata Shuzu on Sado Island off the coast of Niigata. Rumiko can boast that one of her Dai Ginjo's just won a 6th consecutive Gold Medal in the National Competition; the longest streak in the Niigata Prefecture. But this is to be expected from a lady who was once a little girl growing up playing hide and seek around the aging sake vats in her father's brewery. This is what Rumiko wrote to me when she found out that she won the Gold again:

I was really surprised when we knew we got the medal again. 6 years in a row is the longest record in Niigata pref. By the way, there are 96 breweries in Niigata, and 6 are on this island. You must know HOKUSETSU, which NOBU carries, HOKUSETSU is also on this island. We are about half size of HOKUSETSU.I am proud that SADO has such great breweries. Our KURA is not new, modern nor huge, but hand-made brewing. That's why I am very proud of our young brew master, Kenya Kudo(34) and 7 young brewers. Also I am proud of my old KURA (brewery) which I have been familiar from my childhood. I was often playing there alone. I have been feeling something was there, like Koji or Shubo, which were called KURATSUKI (living in KURA). I am sure KURA is also happy to know we got the medal.

I may never have been introduced to Rumiko's Dai Ginjo called Manotsuru if she didn't read the Newsletter, but she does and the result is that this special brew (not the same sake as the winner of 6 GM's) graces our shelves at True Sake. So herewith is Rumiko Obata, who has been operating Obata Shuzo for the past 10 years reviewing her very own Manotsuru:

Manotsuru DaiginjoNihonshu-do (SMV):+5, San-do (Acidity):1.2 Rice: GohyakumangokuThe design of the label is TOKI (Japanese Ibis) with image of one taking wing. TOKI is species that are disappearing from habitat, and Sado Island is known as the last home for TOKI. Our brewers are 8 including brew master. The average age is 37. I think the number of kurabito is more than average as this scale of brewery, but we need this number because we use traditional hand-made method.

Manotsuru Daiginjo is very flowery, with a fruit-like fragrance including a mild sweetness such as melon and apple. Well-balanced light and smooth taste with a clean tail stands out when served just a bit cooler. It goes well with appetizers and seafood like elegant white wine. Even if you are sake beginner, I am sure you will like this sake. Manotsuru Daiginjo(180ml) is served for the first & business class passengers on the Air France as the in- flight sake since 2003' spring.

We use the yeast (kobo) NO. 17 and feel that it's best to drink this floral sake chilled and out of a white wine glass. Manotsuru means the name of our town (Mano) and the word Tsuru which means crane. Tsuru is a popular name for sake brands because Tsuru is considered something lucky.

Rumiko didn't feel extremely confident with her English skills, so I didn't press her about more technical aspects of her sake like how she achieves the very nice "weight" of her brew, how her water dictates the structure of her sake, how the water on a smaller Island like Sado may very from Niigata water and similarly how her rice may vary from mainland rice, and perhaps what other yeasts she tried before settling on No. 17. (I am certain that she will get back to us on this and when she does I will relate this to you.)

I did ask Rumiko a question that I rarely do, and was very surprised to hear her answer. I asked her what other sakes "out there" (not in Niigata) impressed her. Most brewers avoid a question like this like the plague. They do not want to go on record stating they like a sake other than what they make. It's like Henry Ford driving a Saab. But she did say:

Tanizakura (Valley cherry blossoms) in Yamanashi pref. I liked their Junmai Daiginjo. But I haven't drunk Tanizakura in more than 5 years, so I am not sure how they are for the moment.

Thank you so very much for being a part of the "True Sake Experience" Rumiko, I am certain that the readers will greatly enjoy your sake. Currently we only carry this brew in a cute (think airplane sized) 180ml bottle, but this will soon change to a 300ml at the end of the summer. Herewith is my brief review of this sake, which always impresses me each time I try it!

Manotsuru "Nature Island"
Niigata Prefecture.
Dai Ginjo.
SMV: +5
Acidity: 1.1
This incredibly smooth Dai Ginjo has a ripe nose filled with grape, sweet rice, blackberry, and wheat toast aromas. Talk about silky soft! Behold a sake that just feels amazing in the mouth. With hints of dried fruit tones, marshmallow and a vein of vanilla, the drinkability of "Nature Island" makes you appreciate complexity in a flow rather than in layers! Velvety sake at its best.
WORD: Silk
WINE: Pinot Noir/Chewy Soft Whites
BEER: Creamy ales
FOODS: Mild appetizers, sashimi, poached salmon.

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