December 2010

Sake & Miwa - In the Sprit of Reflection

Posted by Beau Timken in 2010, December, Newsletter, Sake & Miwa
Miwa As the year-end approaches I find myself reflecting on the many things that have happened to me in this last year, both wonderful and bittersweet. In the spring, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Kanazawa to visit a farm where they grew rice for sake. This was great fun. My wedding in the early summer to a very loving man was joyful. Making the Sake Day a successful event in the fall was fulfilling.

In the spirit of reflection I thought I would look back at my sake notes and saved labels and share some of this years memorable sake moments.

Harushika "Shiboribana" Junmai Ginjo Nama (seasonal)
Every year I look forward to this refreshing, vibrant nama from Nara. A sip of this sake makes me yearn for a sunny spring day. In two months when it is released, I will taste the sake again; a nice way to start a new year.

Hakushika Junmai Ginjo Nama Genshu (210-day matured)
Yes, this is the same sake Beau wrote in the Sake Spotlight section of this newsletter. The first time I tasted this sake was at Joy of Sake in 2008, when it was not yet imported. I kept remembering a great balance of flavor, acidity and sweetness. I was very glad to taste it again and to have it available at the store.

Aramasa Akita Rokugo "#6" Tokubetsu Junmai
This sake was one of several samples sent by the importer. We thought there was only one case available, but then we learned that there were a few more! Next thing I know, this sake became my go-to Junmai. The fruity aroma of this brew reminds me of a Ginjo, yet the subtle rice tones in makes it an elegant Junmai.

Tenju Junmai Ginjo Nama (seasonal, not available in the U.S.)
When I am in Tokyo I often stop at one of the stores inside Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan (Tokyo Transportation Building) in Yuraku-cho. There, I always pick up something new. Of course I knew of the Tenju brand- their "Chokaisan" brand Junmai Daigio is imported. However, I had never tried their nama-zake before. Among several sakes I brought back, this was the first one to be opened. My husband-to-be and I watched and listened to the shimmering liquid as it poured out of the bottle and into our glasses: beautiful sound, delicious aroma. We both had a WOW! moment when we took our first sip. We were speechless yet full of smiles. The sake was simply beautiful.

Juyondai Daikoshu Junmai Daiginjo
When I went to Japan in the spring, a friend of my mothers told me that she had been given a few bottles of sake as a thank-you gift at the end of her writing project-I think she was writing about sake breweries. Since she did not really drink, she insisted on giving me the sake. A few days before my departure, she dropped off two bottles. When I saw them, I went "wow." One of them was hard-to-get Juyondai, and the bottle said "daikoshu," literary meaning "big aged sake." After a few months of waiting, I opened the bottle at a gathering among sake enthusiasts. Being daikoshu I was expecting this brew to have typical aged sake characteristics, such as amber color, sweetness, caramel tone, etc. In contrary the sake was clear, bearing floral scent and offering an elegant texture. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about how much each sip would cost. Needless to say, I enjoyed this unexpected treat very much.

Chokaisan Junmai Ginjo Muroka Nama Genshu
My deepest thanks to Mr. Ohi from Tenju Brewery and Linda Noel Kawabata from Akita Sake Promotion and Export Council for this sake, which they so graciously brought with them to be our special wedding sake. Our celebration was held on one of the hottest days this year. On the side of Bernal Height hill, we had "san-san-kudo, a traditional Japanese wedding ritual where three-times, three exchanges of sake in a nuptial cup between the bride and groom takes place.

The sake was poured into a gold-plated cup, which felt so nice and cool on the lips. Traditionally a man would take the first turn, but my soon-to-be husband insisted that I go first. The sake was perfect. Cool and delicious. As it turned out it was so tasty that for a moment, we both forgot that we were there to get married and started to take mental notes on flavors, texture, etc. On my second turn, I took a big sip as in an everyday drinking way; the sake was too good. Very little was left in the cup for my sake loving husband-to-be. On my third turn, in my heart, I thanked everyone who helped me to have this special day.

Urakasumi Shiboritate Tokubetsu Junmai Nama (seasonal)
Several months had passed since this sake had been released. This sake was velvety, complex, rich, yet balanced. "Wow" was first word out of my mouth. Although I always said I was nama-shy, looking at this list I no longer can claim that title.

Matsunoi Junmai Daiginjo
I tasted this brew for the first time at the industry-only event I helped organized. What I remember the most is how soft it drank, like a feeling of silk. I was simply amazed how subtle and flavorful characters can co-exist in a liquid made from rice and water. This sake is planned to be available in the U.S. next year. Can't wait!

Hakurosuishu Dewasansan "33" Junmai Daiginjo
At the Sake Day 2010 event, Aisawa-san from Takenotsuyu Brewery hand carried this sake and poured it both chilled and warm, but I missed it! I was too busy helping different stations. A few days after the event I received a call that someone had left a jacket, which was made in Japan. I was not able to pick up the jacket for a month, but when I finally did I saw the name stitched on the inside pocket. It read "Aisawa." I took the jacket with me when I went to Japan at the end of October. I called the brewery to make sure it was his since the character on the jacket was different from the one on his business card, yet both pronounced the same. A few days after the jacket was sent back, a package arrived. It was heavy. It was from the brewery. Would it be sake? Upon opening the package, I smiled. Here was a bottle of "33" along with two others. I was so thankful and felt lucky even though this trip was to be with my family and say my final good-byes to my father who recently passed away.

It just arrived. I am still working on it! I will let you know next year. Have a peaceful and happy holiday season! Let me know you favorites. Email me at miwa @

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