December 2008

Sake Spotlight - Janice Stein Looks at Two Kasumi Tsuru Sakes

Posted by admin in 2008, December, Newsletter, Sake Spotlight

sake spotlight dec 2008Now in "Holiday Season" number six for True Sake I am proud to say that our monthly "sake tastings - food pairings - sake parties" has produced a new generation of alert and informed sake consumers. We have gone that extra mile to produce events based in education but with an emphasis on sake exploration. And fortunately for us we have amassed a truly great following of sake enthusiast - some more enthusiastic than others. One such enthusiast came to us more than two years ago and has been a regular at every tasting - she now qualifies as an "ubber sake enthusiast" with a passion for sake that is very evident.

She is a "foodie" in every sense of the word and we are lucky that the sake bug has bitten her hard. Janice Stein is a professional chef and food expert. She was a graduate of the California Culinary Academy more than 20 years ago, and has been active in the bay area food and wine scene ever since. She tasted her first cold premium sake about 15 years ago. She has brought her considerable talents and excellent palate to the world of sake, becoming a Level I sake specialist this past August. By next year, she hopes to be fluent in Japanese.

When I approached Janet about "Spotlighting" she liked the idea of reviewing two brews from one sake maker. She also said that she would go food heavy with the comparison. Herewith is Janet's "Sake Spotlight" on two sakes from Hyogo Prefecture:

At your suggestion, I compared 2 sakes produced by the same kura. I did a blind tasting of these two sakes, as to not prejudice my initial opinion. Sake A turned out to be Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Junmai and sake B Kasumi Tsuru Yamahai Gingo.

My first impression of the Junmai was that it had more color, more aroma and a rounder fuller flavor. It had an earthy, woodsy, forest floor backdrop; a larger, richer, gamey, flavor with a maple back note, and a subtle smoky quality. The word would be "robust", the wine, a syrah. The Junmai was excellent by itself as a "quaffing sake", and probably my over all favorite. The Gingo was cleaner, softer and less fragrant with a slightly sweet, spicy, mellow, caramel, back note; a great "introductory" Yamahai. The word on this one would be "decisive"the drink, gin.

Still "blind ", I compared them with several basic Western foods. The Junmai was superb with mushrooms simply sautéed in butter. The earthiness really complimented this pairing. Both sakes were equally good with USDA "prime" New York steak. Both were excellent partners with the rich, fatty component, and would be an excellent choice with BBQ, and most meats. It was an interesting experiment in non-Asian food and sake pairing.

I also boiled up some prawns in beer with Zatarain's "crab boil". I chilled them and served them with a chipotle cocktail sauce, and found that the Gingo worked better, its cleaner, more sophisticated taste complimenting the spicy sauce very well. I then served a Kabocha squash and Gruyere casserole. The Junmai with its earthiness was a better compliment to this intense cheese, and really brought out the sweetness of the squash.

With smoked wild sockeye salmon, which was more delicate than salty, the Gingo worked very well, because it did not overpower the delicate flavor of the fish.

Generally, the spicier the food the better the Gingo worked. Where the flavors were more complex, the Junmai worked better. I really enjoyed this little exercise, and it has reinforced my desire to drink more sake with every day food. Yamahais and Kimotos would be an excellent choice for a anyone trying to accomplish this, and if you haven't tried them, what are you waiting for?

Thanks Beau, this was a kick!!!

This is Janice's first contribution to this newsletter. As she told me she is determined to become an expert at pairing sakes with Western foods. Her culinary training, skill and sophisticated palate bode well for her success. She can be reached at japricorn16 @ with any questions or comments.

Kasumi Tsuru is located in one of the best crabbing cities in Japan, and the brewery claims that their brews go very well with shellfish in general but exceptionally well with crab. I like the style of this kura as they produce almost entirely Kimoto and Yamahai sakes. Now that is love for making sake! These traditional methods are extremely difficult and time consuming, but the reward can be found in the brews themselves.

It is no secret, but I have been a fan of the Yamahai Ginjo from the moment it landed on these shores - and we have sold a lot of it! The Yamahai Junmai recently found its way into our Junmai row and has a large contingency of fans - for good reason. I prefer the Ginjo and the Junmai both to be served at room temperature - all the complexities dance far better at this temperature point.

The Yamahai Ginjo is made with Yamadanishiki milled to 55%. The SMV: +3 The Acidity: 1.4 $37/720ml

The Yamahai Junmai is made with Kitanishiki milled to 65%. The SMV: +4 The Acidity: 1.6 $28/720ml

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