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Sake Day 2010 - You Missed It Dude!

Sake Day 2010 Wow! Starting to feel a little nostalgic here. Why? Because there was a day back in the True Sake Newsletter days when I used to write a summary review for every tasting event that we ever did, albeit a koshu tasting for ten selected people or a nigori tasting for 100 tasters. I liked the summaries, because it helped me remember the details of what we accomplished each tasting - the brews that drank well, the surprises, the favorites, and the not so favorites. It was a way to communicate to and include those who cannot make it to our tastings.

Well in this vein I wanted to communicate to you and include those who could not attend Sake Day 2010. But first I want to admonish those dorks that could have attended! What were you thinking? In a word Sake Day 2010 was SUPERB. We have crafted such a unique and sake-centric event that I am more sad than peeved for those who did not attend. You missed a chance to really see a different side of the sake world.

Herewith is a brief "summary" of a very special Fifth Anniversary that was filled with great sake and great smiles:
  • It was the largest Sake Day yet with over 200 guests and 25 volunteers.
  • We had 13 vendors pouring over 80 different sakes.
  • We had five brewery owners or representatives pouring their wares.
  • We had one brewery owner whose sake is not available in the US fly over to see how his sakes would be received.
  • We had one super sake enthusiast who is a label printer in Niigata show his vast collection of killer sake label artwork.
  • We had a dedicated Sake Tour station where people could sign up for sake brewery tours in Japan.
  • The event space - the gymnasium at the JCCCNC - was so damn comfy and old-school that it really made the tasting feel more like a sake community than some slick high end function space.
  • Sake Day 2010 We had a tremendous "Welcome Sake" in the form of the Shirataki Jozen Mizunogotoshi Junmai Daiginjo, which was the first time that this sake was available to the "masses" in the US. (It was also by far one of the most popular sakes of the evening.) (Oh and whoever "borrowed" one of the ladles - we would really like that back!)
  • Nombe restaurant featuring stellar chef Nick Balla threw down some amazing pairings and had some fun "bulk" food stations - think drinking filler!
  • And for the fifth year we had the Berkeley Sushi Band playing some terrific Okinawa music that rocked the house again.
  • Yes there were raffles per usual and all sorts of shwag was won, including a very hard to get bottle of Daiginjo, which is of course unavailable in the US.
  • We had some very smart Sake Challenge Stations this year. I will list in detail as per our program:

Sake Day 2010 Sake Day Tasting Stations
  • Station 1 | Bang For The Buck The value of sake is determined by the producers taking into account all of the costs associated with the raw materials, the brewing, the storage and the shipping of their efforts. But the true value of a sake is determined by the consumers, who are willing to pay that price or not! Imported sake is generally 20%-40% more expensive in the US than in Japan. So the "value" of sake takes on new meaning in an export/import environment. THE CHALLENGE: Taste 4 different sakes in the same category that are positioned at four different price points. Then pick the price range for each brew using the $10's - $20's - $30's - $40's cards to determine your "Value" for each sake. (Hint: Balance is a great price determinant)
  • Station 2 | In The Raw Nama or "unpasteurized" sakes have become extremely popular to the Western sake palate. These brews that have not taken the typical two "heatings" and the usual half-year maturation process tend to act differently in the glass. In most cases they are very pungent and the flavors have been called bright, brash and three-dimensional, which is appealing to those who like bigger and more expressive flavors that can only be found in the raw! THE CHALLENGE: Taste 4 different sakes and find the one "true" Nama sake. (Hint: Use your nose and don't forget that there is also a category of single pasteurized sakes as well.)
  • Sake Day 2010 Station 3 | Sweet 'n Low - High and Dry The SMV, or Nihonshu-do, is a very scientific way to measure the residual sugars found in fermented sake. This gauge is so "accepted" that most brewers will put the SMV on the bottles themselves to show drinkers how sweet or dry that sake drinks. But is it totally accurate? Is science accurate? Or is there room for self-determination? Some sakes drink sweeter than their SMV and some drink drier! Keeping in mind that a starch sweetness is far more muted than a juice sweetness, many drinkers feel that you can achieve more body with a semi-sweet sake. THE CHALLENGE: Taste 7 sakes from all corners of Japan. Figure out which two sakes are the same, then which brew is the sweetest and which is the driest. (Hint: Fruitiness is not always an indicator that a sake is sweet.)
  • Sake Day 2010 Station 4 | Are You a Hottie? In the rush to drink premium sakes, many people believe that only "good" sakes are served chilled and only "bad" sakes are served hot. This is simply untrue. Every sake has a "sweet" spot in the temperature zone where it drinks best with the most flavor and feeling. Indeed there are some premium sakes that you wouldn't want to heat, but on the whole most sakes may taste more appealing to you in a different temperature zone. THE CHALLENGE: Taste the exact same sake at three different temperature points - chilled, room temperature and warmed - to discover your favorite "hot spot." (Hint: Make certain to take the same sip size at each temperature point for a more accurate comparison.)
I realize that timing may be an issue for most people, but you now have a year to circle October 1st 2011 and make it happen.

Herewith is a link to some photos that Keiko took of the celebration.
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