Monday, October 18, 2010

Niigata Sake: It's the water, baby!

Sake made in the prefecture of Niigata, Japan
Fall means visits from Japanese premium sake makers: several family-owned breweries from Niigata showcased their fine sake at Gonapachi Beverly Hills recently including Aoki, Kinshihai, Kirinzan, Matsunoi, Musashino and Obata. There are 96 sake producers in Niigata; I find I prefer Niigata-made sake--and now I know why. It's the pristine water source, predominantly from snow melt that feeds local rivers and wells.

Matsunoi Shuzojo brewery was found in 1895

A tokubetsu junmai (rice milled to 55%) from Matsunoi (labeled "Wishing Well") was outstanding: fine, delicate and hint of toasted rice but with a mouth feel of fresh spring water.  Their toji has been making sake for more than 50 years using a local rice (Takane Nishiki).  Another standout was the Yukikage "Snow Shadow," another tokubetsu junmai, made from an on-site spring at the Kinshihai Shuzo brewery.

Gonpachi restaurant's Japanese sake list is one of LA's best.

The LA tasting was sponsored by the Sushi & Sake newsletter; the group moved on to San Francisco after stops in Dallas, TX and New York City.