Friday, February 20, 2009

Stateside Sake Sampling

My petite tasting cup lookin' pretty

Who: VN Editorial Assistant Melissa Feineman
What: Sophisticated boozing, aka sake tasting
When: Saturday, February 14, 2009
Where: Takara Sake Tasting Room and Museum in Berkeley
Why: Because there just aren't enough opportunities to say "sake to me" in daily life

The Scoop: For those of you who don't know, I've been suffering from an acute case of JWS (Japan Withdrawal Syndrome). Symptoms include constantly talking about Japan, traveling all over the Bay Area to procure rare Japanese products (separate post to follow), and generally trying to adjust to life on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. In an effort to rouse my spirit (and make me feel more "at home"), a friend invited me to a sake sampling at Takara Sake Tasting Room and Museum, producers of the Sho Chiku Bai line of sake.

After watching an informative video about the sake-making process and touring the Sake Museum (aka getting the cultural bits out of the way so we could guzzle our fill guilt-free), we sidled up to the Tasting Room and made our selection. Takara offers seven different courses to suit your fancy, including a course "for those who prefer white wine" and one "for sake connoisseurs." Being the certified sweet-tooth that I am, I opted for the "Sweet Variety Course," which included two types of nigori unfiltered sake, one lychee-flavored sake, two types of plum wine, and one plum sake.

After the first few sips of sake, I almost forgot I wasn't in Japan!

Since I can sometimes find the flavor of sake to be overpowering, I was very happy with my selection, appreciating the nigori sake for its lighter and sweeter qualities. I was surprised by the hints of coconut and honeydew in the Nigori Silky Mild and Nigori Crème de Sake, respectively. Who would have thought that rice+enzymes=tropical cocktail?

In Japan (here we go again!), one of favorite drinks was umeshu, a sweet wine-like alcohol made from a Japanese plum, so I was very happy to see that there were three such drinks on my tasting menu. They were all superb, but for me, the standout was the Koshu Plum with its alluring fragrance and cherry-almond taste.

Some of our fellow patrons were complaining about the $5 tasting fee and the long line (to be fair, we did have to wait for about 15 minutes before we were served), but it was just the shot in the arm–or, come to think of it, just the shot–I needed. I left feeling refreshed and with a slightly rosier outlook on life in general.

Since we happened to be a mere 10 blocks away from Fellini, we stopped by afterwards for some vegan pizza and other goodies. It was Valentine's Day, and in addition to super-attentive service, we also received single red roses, a small–but significant–detail we enjoyed. All in all, our trans-bay trip was a success, and instead of feeling homesick, it left me feeling excited about all the adventures I have ahead of me in my new hometown.

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