Ever Been to a Sakery?

I suppose before you answer the question in the title the question should be do you know what a sakery is? If you know Japanese food you can probably figure out that a sakery is a place where they make sake - like a winery.

Last week we found out there is a sakery not that far from us in Forest Grove called SakeOne. I'll insist again we aren't heavy drinkers, but the readers of this blog may soon come to doubt that. That's okay...just know you will drink well at our house - well stocked!

Sakeries are not common at all in the United States. From what I read somewhere - or Wifey probably told me, more likely - is that there are five in the U.S. total, and only one outside of California. Furthermore, all four of those in Cali are owned by Japanese people, and SakeOne is the only one owned by Americans. So yeah, basically it's pretty rare.

For those that don't know, sake is made from rice in a way similar to the way wine is made from grapes. That's why there are four sakeries in Cali, where they grow a ton of rice. SakeOne actually gets their rice from Cali as well. They also learned the craft from the Momokawa Brewing Company in Japan, so they learned it right from the source before bringing the knowledge back to the States. I believe you can get their sakes at Japanese specialty stores all over the States, so anything intriguing you see here you can pick up by you. Maybe. If not, I'm sure they ship, if you care.

So we went to SakeOne hoping to get a sakery tour, but as our luck would have it two people had called in sick that day, so there was only one person to run the tasting room. No tour, so we'll have to go back.

However, we did get plenty of tastings ($3 each on this day, but there are different plans - check the website).

If you are wondering, tasting at a sakery is just like tasting at a winery (or so I hear actually, we haven't actually done that yet - which is mildly funny considering where we live and the fact we did this first). You get a glass, you get a small amount - ounce or two - and you swirl, smell, and taste. Then you can dump out the rest if you like.

We started off with the Momokawa Silver. I really liked this one despite the fact it came out advertised as dry. It had a nice fruity flavor and to me didn't necessarily taste dry at all. I would buy this one, but didn't on this day.

After that we tried the Momokawa Ruby. This was way too fruity for our tastes, but it wasn't horrible.

After that we tried another version of Ruby, not on their website, and I believe the difference was one was this one was "nama" - which basically translates as raw, but in this case means unpasteurized. Given the fact it had similar flavor notes as the regular Ruby I wasn't thrilled, but I did think the nama version was better.

We then tried the Momokawa Pearl. I'm not a fan of anise at all and Wifey is not a fan of banana - I think for us that's all we could taste. The fact that this one is roughly filtered really didn't seem a detriment, just doesn't match our tastes.

Next up on the list G Joy. The fruitiness in the G was very smooth and well-rounded. This is definitely a sake I would buy, but again, didn't on this day. An interesting note on the G: it was formulated specially for the American palate to match with stronger flavors of foods, like the ones in American cuisines.

We then tried a couple from the Murai family, the brand name of the partnership in Japan. Ironically, we were at Uwajimaya a couple weeks ago and picked out a sake for a marinade we were making and just happened to pick the Murai Sugidama. We really liked it, both to drink and in the marinade for thin sliced beef kabobs. The sake made the meat so amazingly tender, it was like butter. You know, in a good way. Definitely recommend using sake in beef marinades - it's a must.

We tried this one again at SakeOne, and it is one we ended up buying. We bought a huge bottle because it was coming to the end of it's lifespan (sake has a lifespan). We got a ridiculously giant bottle for $5 instead of $59, but it should be used by fall 2009.

The second Murai sake we tried was the Tokubetsu Honjozo. This was also good, though not as good as the Sugidama. We did buy a bottle that was on sale for $3 down from $29 because it was due to expire at the end of July. However, that date on the bottle is the recommended drinking date - it can be used for cooking longer than that. Also, they recommend that once you open a bottle you finish it off in 7-10 days. We also bought a smaller bottle that was also on sale for $5 instead of $12 (I think) that we have another couple months to drink.

After this we tried a couple special offerings. The first was the Tsubaki Grand Shrine Junmai Ginjo. I wasn't feeling this one at all, thought it wasn't my least favorite (that goes to Pearl and Ruby). I missed the flavor of caramel they say it has. However, our host did pair this with some quince and manchego cheese and I will admit they did go well together.

The second special offering isn't listed on their website and I can't recall the name, but it wasn't anything to write home about in my mind.

Our final tasting was the Moonstone Raspberry, a sake infused with raspberry. This one we both liked. The raspberry taste was faint and came through mostly in the aftertaste, but it would go well with a dessert. We ended up buying a large bottle ($11) of this and smaller bottles ($6 each) of the Asian Pear and Plum infused sakes.

Add all of that up and because of the sales we left with six bottles plus the cost of two tastings for about $45 - not bad at all. I don't know that you normally get 10 tastings for $3 - I doubt it - but it was a good time. We'll definitely be going back to take in the sakery tour and take some pictures.

And, maybe now the idea of a tasting at a winery won't seem quite so overwhelming to our nascent (at least with regards to various wines and spirits) taste buds. After all, with roughly 500 wineries (I could be exaggerating) in the area, we should check them out.

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