Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Shimizu-no-mai Saké

Terlato Wines International recently entered into an agreement with Akita Shurui Seizoh Co., Ltd., a company based in Akita, Japan, to market three premium Sakés under the Shimizu-no-mai brand. This is the first time these are being imported into the U.S.

William Terlato, President and CEO stated: “Our commitment to excellence mirrors that of Akita Shurui Seizoh Company. The shimizu-no-mai products uphold ancient tradition while producing sakes that can be enjoyed by expert and aficionado alike. Premium sake is a growing category in the U.S., and we are known for marketing our portfolio of high quality wines. As consumer interest in Japanese cuisine increases we believe they will look to extend their experience and enjoy authentic, boutique sake.

The Akita Shurui Seizoh Company was established in 1944 when twelve small breweries, some dating back as far as 1656, united to deal with the shortage of materials caused by the war. These united breweries chose to take on the name Takashimizu, which was the name of the hill on which Akita castle had once stood. The brewery is located at Kawamoto, where three rivers meet, a place known for its crystal, clear water.

The current Toji, master Saké brewer, is Norboru Minagawa and he gives homage to Mother Nature, saying prayers three times a day. Once at dawn (when the work day begins), once at dusk (when the work day ends) and once at night (to give thanks for the day that has passed and looking forward to the day to come). The Shimizu-no-mai Sakés reflect this homage as they are named Pure Dawn, Pure Dusk and Pure Night. I received samples of the first two.

Pure Dawn ($34/720ml, $14/300ml) is a Junmai Ginjo made from local artisanal rice that has been milled to 55%, more than is required to make a Ginjo, though not quite enough for it to qualify as a Daiginjo. It has an SMV of +3, making it slightly dry. I found it to have a nice fruity smell, some melon and orange peel. On the palate, there were nice fruit flavors, including pear, green apple and melon, and hints of steamed rice. It was full bodied, smooth and had a decently long finish. A very enjoyable Saké, with or without food. It should also appeal to newcomers to Saké.

The Pure Dusk ($40/720ml, $16/300ml) is a Junmai Daiginjo made from local artisanal rice that has been milled to 45%, more than is required to make a Daiginjo. It has an SMV of +3, making it slightly dry. This had a restrained fruity nose with some floral notes. The taste is complex with flavors of pear, melon, steamed rice, and a little bitterness on the finish. It is a lighter bodied Saké, a bit more elegant than the Pure Dawn. I would prefer this Saké with food and think it is more for those who already enjoy Saké, and not newcomers.

I note that the Pure Night ($100/720ml) is a Junmai Daiginjo where the rice has been milled to 35%.

These Sakés will be available in Illinois, Massachusetts, California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada.

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