Saké Nomi logo Nomidachi News • Vol. 9 • February 8, 2008
Saké Happenings:

>Saké Nomi Cinema, Sun., Feb. 10: The Taste of Tea
>Wine of Japan New Saké Tasting: Sat., Feb. 16, 2- 5 p.m.

>Meet the "Saké Lady": Vertical Tasting of Chikurin Brand: Sat., Feb. 23 @ 2- 4 p.m.
>Review of "Same Saké, Different Vessels" Seminar

Dear Nomidachi:

February is shaping up to be New Saké Month, since in the coming weeks we are due to have approximately 30 saké, brand spanking new to Washington, hit our shelves (and palates!).

We're really excited to finally be getting our hands on these beauties and introducing them to you. We'll be holding special tasting events to feature these new offerings throughout the month, so stay tuned.

Of particular note will be the saké from Tsuki No Wa ("Moon Ring") Brewery in Iwate prefecture. Why? Because the brewery is located in Shiwa-cho, the town where Johnnie spent his first three years in Japan. Not only is their saké being brewed by one of the few women brewmasters in the industry, but she also happens to be one of Johnnie's former English students! How cool is that??!!

In this edition of the newsletter, we mention the next edition of Saké Nomi Cinema (Feb. 10), and two tasting events on consecutive Saturdays: Feb. 16 & Feb. 23.

As a quick "Saké Nomi in the News" aside, we're pleased to see a very favorable review in the Feb. issue of Seattle Magazine (p. 105).

We're also featured on a new Japan-related website called JapanInfusion ( The rather imposing looking gentleman next to us with the saké cup in hand is Johnnie's "Saké Daddy," John Gauntner. John's considered the preeminent English language authority on saké, and he'll be visiting Saké Nomi for some kind of event (and, of course, voluminous drinking, er, "tasting") around April 12-13.

A participant of one of our recent seminars, Jonathan Hanneman, sent us a really nice re-cap of his experience during the "Same Saké, Different Vessels" exploration we did last month. We include it here, to give you an idea of what we do at our seminars, and we hope you'll have the chance to join us at one in the near future. Next up: "Saké Japanese," or "How to Survive in Japan Without Pouring Your Own Drink." (tentatively scheduled for Feb. 29 or March 1)

We hope to see you soon!


Johnnie & Taiko


Saké Nomi Cinema: Sun., Feb. 10 @ 5 p.m.
"The Taste of Tea" (2004, dir. Katsuhiro Ishii)

Please join us this Sunday, Feb. 10 @ 5 p.m., as we screen one of our recently discovered favorite Japanese films, "The Taste of Tea."

It's described as "a unique and gentle family portrait," but that hardly does this hilariously eccentric film justice. In a real general way, it's about the relationships within a family living in rural Tochigi prefecture. But, you really need to see it to believe it.

The night we first watched it, we laughed so hard we couldn't breathe, and had to replay several segments where our laughter drowned out the soundtrack. It's the kind of movie where just when you think you have the tone figured out and where things might be heading -- BAM -- something completely bizarre comes flying in from left field.

"The Taste of Tea" is in Japanese, but don't be afraid: the subtitles are great, and a lot of the comedy is "physical."

BYOP (Bring Your Own Popcorn -- or any other favorite snacks) and please join us Sunday evening.

(Special thanks to nomidachi Maria & Bruce for introducing us to this gem!).


"New" Saké Event: Sat., Feb. 16: 2 - 5 p.m.
Featuring saké from Wine of Japan Available in Washington for the very first time!

Please join us on Saturday, Feb. 16, as we taste a wide variety of saké selections (all new to Washington!) from saké importer, Wine of Japan.

In addition to our regular weekly menu, we'll also feature samples and glass pours of several brands making their debut in Washington at Saké Nomi. Some of the exciting new selections we'll be pouring include:

Tenryo Koshu- an aged Junmai Daiginjo (Gifu prefecture)

Tenryo Hidahomare- Junmai Ginjo (Gifu)

Kaiun- Junmai Ginjo (Shizuoka)

Kitaya Ai No Hime "Princess of Love"- Sparkling Junmai (Fukuoka)

Sawanoi "Extra Dry"- Junmai (Tokyo)

Shirakawago Sasanigori- Nigori Junmai Ginjo (Gifu)

Kan Nihonkai "Sea of Japan Rim"- Tokubetsu Junmai (Shimane)

We hope you can join us, and we look forward to filling your glass on February 16!


Meet "The Saké Lady," Hideyo Seek
A "Vertical Tasting" of the tasty Chikurin brand
Sat., Feb. 23 @ 2 - 4 p.m

Please join us on Sat., Feb. 23 as we welcome "The Saké Lady," Hideyo Seek (of Young's Columbia Wine Co.), back from Japan with a special "vertical tasting" of selections from Marumoto Brewing Co. (est. 1867, Okayama prefecture).

It'll be a very casual, "open house" style affair at which we'll be pouring samples of the junmai, junmai ginjo, and junmai daiginjo versions of Chikurin brand saké, as well as some of the fun sparking saké that Marumoto produces under the Hou Hou Shu label. All the selections will also be available for purchase by the glass or bottle.

Hideyo-san, like Taiko, is another charming beauty from Ibaraki prefecture, and she is currently in Japan touring the breweries in Young's Columbia's portfolio. We hope that she will have "dried out" enough by the 23rd to be coherent, but we'll be on hand to assist her if she isn't.


Same Saké, Different Vessels:
Review by "saké newbie" Jonathan Hanneman

To explore the concept of how your drinkware affects your saké drinking experience, Saké Nomi hosted a "Same Saké, Different Vessels" seminar on Friday, Jan. 25.

For those of you who haven't had a chance to attend one of our classes or special themed tastings, they're usual very casual, friendly affairs. Aside from seeing some saké-fuelled lightbulbs alighting as the participants grasp a fundamental saké concept, our greatest pleasure is seeing the interaction between the participants and watching our nomidachi ("drinking companion") community concept come to fruition.

A diverse and jovial group gathered to help us in our research on Jan. 25, and we encouraged everyone to take some brief notes to help them notice how their drinking experience differed from vessel to vessel and sake to sake.

To give you an idea of how things went, we'd like to share this review, submitted by nomidachi Jonathan Hanneman:

"Saké Newbie"
by Jonathan Hanneman

Friday evening, January 25. I found myself wandering Pioneer Square wondering what I had gotten into. "Same Saké, Different Vessels" was starting in a few minutes. I had spent how much on an evening with a bunch of people I didn't know? And they were probably all experts who spoke fluent Japanese and actually knew the difference between milling levels and other mysteries of rice. My stomach turned. Overcoming the urge to hop an 18 and just head home before I humiliated myself, I turned down Washington Street and entered Saké Nomi.

Though I've been intrigued since my first sip, I'm no saké expert. I've tasted good saké, and I've had my fair share of bad. My experience extends mostly to microwaved bottles at my local sushi joint and my grocery store's limited selection. So I can't claim to know much. But I do know what I like, and brief experience said Saké Nomi seemed to have a lot of it.

Upon settling at the bar, Taiko offered samples of the week's three sakés. I don't know if it was the drink or just seeing the other patrons up close, but I began to relax a little. Our hosts set out the evening's vessels: a kikijoko (the official white and blue tasting cup), a Riedel O glass (a thin-walled, stemless wine glass), and a masu (the small cedar saké box). Finally, each of us selected a handmade ceramic cup by a West Seattle artist. Johnnie explained some history of each of the glasses, made sure we all had introductions to our saké selections, and encouraged us to take notes as we tasted. The evening began in earnest.

We started with a bottle of Dassai Junmai Ginjo "50" from Asahi. Johnnie and Taiko filled our kikijokos first. The saké rolled through my mouth like a gentle wave, its crest breaking at the back of my palate. I couldn't tell any difference in flavor between the kikijoko, the Riedel, and the handmade cup. Disappointment began to set in. Maybe this evening really was going to be beyond me. But the masu was an eye opener. What had been smooth and a little sweet suddenly grew sharp. My interest piqued.

Our second saké was Yuki No Bosha "Cabin in the Snow." While this bottle was rated as slightly sweeter than the first, I found the flavor much zippier. The Riedel brought out extra burning along the edges of my tongue, a different sensation than the kikijoko. The masu surprised me again. In contrast with the sudden bite of the Dassai, this saké took on a smoother, softer taste from the cedar box.

I was starting to get into this. I was also starting to get a little tipsy. I took some more food and, not realizing I had already drunk over 8 oz. of saké, lamented being such a lightweight.

Our final official bottle for the evening was Shichi Hon Yari "Seven Spearmen" from the nearly 500 year old Tomita brewery. This saké was round, like a ball or cushioned disc in my mouth, and was my favorite flavor of the evening. The Riedel again revealed an extra sharpness, though not like the burn of the Yuki No Bosha. The handmade cup lessened the sharpness but definitely kept more bite than the kikijoko. This time the masu brought a sweetness to the saké.

I was feeling dizzy from all the alcohol, but this flavor really intrigued me. I asked for more in the kikijoko in order to compare it directly with the masu. It was bitter! What had been wonderfully round and smooth now tasted completely different. I tested the masu. I tested the kikijoko. I tested the masu again. After a brief period of this wonderful but intense back and forth, I came to a conclusion. The cedar aroma of the masu overpowered this saké's scent, making the flavor a surprise when it hit the tongue. The kikijoko undoubtedly gave a truer, cleaner taste but, not having a different aroma, lacked the element of surprise that brought out the extra sweetness.

The evening wasn't all just saké (or just saké from the evening's menu). Conversation ranged from our taste observations and kanji to Carl Sandburg and South Park. Despite my initial fears and reservations, I had one of the most enjoyable evenings I can remember. Sitting at the counter, I decided that when I get married, my bachelor party's going to be at Saké Nomi.

Several hours after I arrived, I finally left to catch my bus. Happily inebriated, I thanked God for introducing me to such a great drink and for bringing Saké Nomi to Seattle.

I still won't claim any kind of expertise when it comes to saké, though I now know the difference between a kikijoko and a masu. I can't wear the proud title of "regular" (yet), and I may still have an occasional fling with the scorched saké at my local sushi bar. But I do know what I like, and "Same Saké, Different Vessel" gave me more confidence in my taste. I know what the good stuff is. And I know where to find it. Saké Nomi has what I like, and they have a whole lot of it

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TEL: 206-467-SAKE (7253)