Sake Seminar and Tasting at Sakura Days Japan Fair


cherry blossoms at the van dusen botanical gardens


Happy Spring Sake Friends!
The nearly month-long Cherry Blossom Festival is about to kick off this week in Vancouver and one of the premier events is the Sakura Days Japan Fair at the beautiful Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. This year, there will be 4 sake seminars (2 each on Saturday and Sunday) sponsored by the newly formed, Sake Association of BC.

Dates and Times:
Saturday, April 5: 2pm & 3:30pm (seminar/tasting is an hour)
Sunday, April 6: 2pm & 3:30pm (seminar/tasting is an hour)
Price: $10  (this is on top of the Japan Fair entrance fee)

Learn about sake from 3 certified Advanced Sake Professionals (ASP) and taste 5 unique varieties. Your sake guides will be myself, Miki Ellis from Miku/Minami Restaurants, and Iori Kataoka from Shuraku/Zest Japanese Restaurants. There will be much fun and discussion! Tickets for the tasting are a mere $10 on top of entrance fee to the Fair. You need to pre-register for the event on the same day you are attending. Come by to the entrance area of Visitor Centre Classroom where the seminar will take place, and book a spot. Registration opens at 10am, both days. Only 20 attendees per class, please bring a government-issued photo id. You must be 19 yrs of age or older to attend. Here’s a link for more info.

Hope to see you there!

Sake Column in Eat North

Please check out my sake stories in new Canadian food-centric website, Eat North. The intention of the site is to focus and celebrate food and drink with a Canadian twist. My hope is to highlight what’s going on in the Canadian sake scene as much as possible.

If you have a story idea or have an upcoming sake related event in Canada, I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I’ve written a three-part series on the burgeoning sake brewing scene in Canada. I speak with ArtisanSakeMaker in Granville Island, Vancouver; Ontario Spring Water Sake Company in Toronto and YK3 Sake Producer in Richmond, BC. Let me know what you think. I’d appreciate the feedback and any suggestions you might have!





Sake for the Holidays


I was asked to submit a few sake ideas for the upcoming Christmas Guide for The Bulletin, and decided to choose a few unique sakes this time around. Here’s a preview for you to enjoy. Kanpai!

Hakkaisan Junmai Sparkling Nigori

The snow-capped mountains of Mount Hakkai provide not only a lovely backdrop to Hakkaisan Brewery in Niigata Prefecture, its pristine spring water is used to make the brewery’s famed delicately light and crisp sake. Hakkaisan Sparkling Nigori is highly textured and perfect for entertaining. Nigori is sake that’s been roughly-pressed so some of the rice sediment remains in the bottle. This nigori, however, also has bubbles, enhancing the mouthfeel further. Lively and fun, this sake is mildly sweet with a dry, clean finish and the delicate fragrance of ripe persimmon and Anjou pear.

Pair with a nice medium fat brie or Manchego cheese. Serve lightly chilled.

Available at select BCLDB stores – $24.99 for 360 ml

Kozaemon Junmai Umeshu

This small brewery from Gifu Prefecture approaches their craft with deep respect for sake brewing tradition and a healthy dose of youthful innovation. The three-person production team–all in their 30’s–have incorporated sustainable and forward-thinking approaches to making sake, which bodes well for this 300 year-old brewery’s continued success. Kozaemon’s umeshu is unlike most in the market, which are typically blended with distilled alcohol like shochu and are cloyingly sweet. Kozaemon has created a junmai sake specifically for theirs, adding a depth and gentleness distilled-alcohol umeshu cannot emulate. Softly sweet, balanced with the rounded tartness of the plums, this is a delightful aperitif or digestif that’s perfect for the holidays. It also comes in a handsome elegant bottle that would make for unique and memorable gifting.

Pairs well with a fruit sorbet, but simply perfect on its own. Try it neat at room temperature or add a couple of ice cubes in a rocks glass and enjoy like a whiskey or scotch.

Available at Viti Wine and Lager, Kitsilano Wine Cellar, 16th Street Liquor Store (W Van), Liberty-Park Royal, Liberty-Granville Island – price will vary, approx. $75 for 500 ml

Kamotsuru Tokusei Gold Daiginjo

A more traditional sake than the above choices, this super premium sake, which hails from Hiroshima’s esteemed Kamotsuru Brewery (est.1623), comes with a twist. A technological sake pioneer, Kamotsuru was one of the first to utilize modern rice-milling machines, consequently producing some of the earliest ginjo and daiginjo grade sakes in Japan. The pinnacle of Kamotsuru’s sake is their Tokusei Gold Daiginjo—a lovely soft-on-the-palate sake. Lightly sweet, it’s clean and smooth with touches of anise and cantaloupe. The gorgeous teardrop-shaped bottle (shown above) is a conversation piece in itself, but if you look closely you will see sakura-shaped gold flakes (kinpura) dancing inside.

Pair this with sashimi or light fresh cheeses like burrata and ricotta. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Available at Legacy Liquor Store – $85.25 for 720 ml

Yoshi no Gawa Sake Dinner at Minami


There’s lots happening sake-wise at the end of this month, so please get out there and taste some of the great sakes that are available in town!

One event of note is a sake dinner at Yaletown’s Minami Restaurant which features the President of Yoshi no Gawa Sake Brewery, Koji Kawakami. He along with Minami’s sake specialist, Miki Ellis, will guide you through some sake basics, whilst tasting a variety of this Niigata brewery’s elegant lineup of sake. With your sakes, Minami is planning fabulous and delicious food pairings, specially designed for this tasting–yet another highlight to the already delicious evening.

Founded in 1548, Yoshi no Gawa is the oldest brewery in Niigata prefecture and Kawakami-san is the 19th generation president. With such a long and storied history, I’m certain you’ll be able to taste the precision and pageantry of Yoshi no Gawa’s sake brewing with each sip.

Sounds like fun! If you’re interested, please make sure you call Minami at 604.685.8080 to reserve a spot. The cost is $125 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Hope to see you there!



Tonari Gumi Sake Tasting Fundraiser

daiginjo sakes by tangerinee
daiginjo sakes, a photo by tangerinee on Flickr.

The 12th edition of Tonari Gumi’s annual sake tasting event will take place on Saturday, October 12th at The Coast Coal Harbour Hotel. It’s the largest sake tasting held in BC and not to be missed if you are interested in the good stuff.

All the local importers will be in attendance, so it’s a great opportunity to see what is available in BC and get a taste of some harder to find sakes–those which are not available at our local LDB government stores (and believe me, there are many as we sake lovers can attest and lament).

Tickets are still available. Please come and support a great cause. All proceeds go directly to funding the volunteer association’s many invaluable seniors programs.

I hope to see you there!

Seafood & Sake Pairing at Kingyo Izakaya on Monday, July 29th

glass o-chokko by tangerinee
glass o-chokko, a photo by tangerinee on Flickr.

I wanted to pass along a quick email to inform you of a great event coming up early next week.

Unfortunately, I can’t make it, but I’m hoping some of you can.
Kingyo is featuring some new cool sakes with some seafood pairing fun!
Join, Mariko Tajiri, Sake Specialist for That’s Life Gourmet, purveyors of fine wine and sake, at Kingyo for an educational and tasty evening.

Here’s a list of what’s in store:
Hakkaisan Sake (Niigata Prefecture) / 3 kinds of Carpaccio
Kuheji Sake (Aichi Prefecture) / Deep fried squid
Snow crab sushi
Beisuika Sake (Gunma Prefecture)/ Negitoro sushi

Price is $50 (not including tax and gratuities)
There will be lots of sake to taste!

Kingyo Izakaya
871 Denman Street, Vancouver
Call to reserve a spot: 604.608.1677
There’s a maximum of 8 for this event, so call ASAP for a seat.


Sake Pairing Dinner with Yamatogawa Shuzo

ImageHello Sake Friends!

Let’s start the summer right with a sake dinner at Shuraku Sake Bar & Bistro, the city’s preeminent sake destination.

The focus will be from Northern Japan where Yamatogawa Sake Brewery produces their excellent, well-structured sakes, known for their brands: Rashiku and Yaemon.

Yamatogawa Shuzo is from Kitakata City in Fukushima. The town is famous for their high quality sake and exceptional ramen shops. Established in 1790 during the Edo Period, Yamatogawa Shuzo continues it’s dedication to using only the best organic rice to make their sakes.

Shuraku is offering what is sure to be a delectable 5-course dinner paired with Yamatogawa Shuzo’s awesome sakes to match. The event is priced well at $55 for all food, sake, taxes and gratuity included and will sell out quickly. Here’s a chance to check out a great brewery–with representatives from Yamatogawa in attendance who will share their vast knowledge of sake with you.

Please make sure you call Shuraku directly to book a seat for the dinner at 604.687.6622.

Wishing you all a happy summer and I hope to see you there!



Sake Social 2013

A long standing summer event in Vancouver is the Powell Street Festival–a Japanese Canadian cultural celebration. This popular event, in its 37th incarnation, will take place August 3rd & 4th at Oppenheimer Park, which was once the hub of Vancouver’s Japantown.

To raise funds for the festival, a special sake tasting will be held at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden on Saturday, June 1st, 2013 from 7-10pm. More info can be found here.

If you purchase tickets before May 11th, you’ll be given an early bird discount–$35 for 4 sakes and nibbles. A small fee will be charged for additional tastes beyond the initial 4 sakes. After the 11th, the price goes up to $45.

Sounds like a pretty skookum deal and all the large sake distributors in town will be present, promoting their wares. Not a bad opportunity to check out what’s new and exciting in the local sake market, and heck, for a great cause too!

Hope to see you there!


Tengumai Now Available in Canada

Sought-after among sake geeks, Tengumai, the revered brand by Shata Shuzo from Ishikawa prefecture, is finally available in Canada.

Tengumai is famous because the majority of this line’s sake utilizes the Yamahai method of yeast starter (or moto/shubo, as it’s called in Japan).

The Yamahai method (discovered in 1909) is based on the original principles of creating a moto–yeasts and lactic acid are formed naturally in a starter batch. The modern day, Sokujo method, does away with the guesswork of rogue yeasts. Nowadays these are added along with a small amount of lactic acid to allow said yeasts to happily do their work without other microbes getting in the way.

The Tengumai line follows tradition, which produces a full bodied, nicely rounded sake with umami umph! Yamahai sake generally has an interesting depth, good acidity and pairs nicely with heavier foods such as meats and even cheese.

To commemorate the launch of Tengumai in Vancouver, there will be a dinner with 6 courses each paired with Tengumai sakes at Zest Restaurant on April 24th. Kazunari Shata, Director of Operations at Shata Shuzo, will be in attendance.

Exciting times here in Canada as we’re seeing more interesting sake come into our market.


Sake Vaccine? Never Say Never.

 sake rice from tsuki no katsura brewery

Note: I’ve been transferring some stories from my old Blogger site. This is something from a few years ago.


Recent articles in health sciences revealing the multi-faceted usage of rice as a drug have piqued my sake interest. The origins of rice date back well over 5000 years in Asia and today is considered a staple for nearly half of the world’s population.


Rice with its high starch, but low protein content has already been viewed with massive potential as a construction material in parts of Asia, in its powder form as a polishing agent, its general lack of allergenic properties for baby food and skin creams, and it’s various food permutations as a gluten-free alternative. With such diversity of usage, rice can be considered a superfood—adaptable, easily digested, and healthy.


Scientists in Japan have taken rice to a new sphere of superdom in utilizing it for medicinal purposes. According to a recent article in the Financial Times, MucoRice, is being developed as an edible vaccine more efficient than immunization. When the vaccine rice is consumed, the body produces antibodies, which will combat the viral properties of the pathogen.


The University of Tokyo study, led by researcher, Hiroshi Kiyono, attempts to inoculate small amounts of a cholera toxin (which in such minute form is non-toxic for humans) on an intracellular level into the rice. The ability for the rice drug to digest and spread its antibodies beyond what a regular shot could defend against is proving to be far superior in cell uptake.


Tests on mice revealed the rice drug inoculated the rodents for over six months and an additional four with a single dose booster. Furthermore, the rice vaccine does not have to be refrigerated with a longer shelf life compared to a regular vaccine. The efficacy of such an oral vaccine would benefit developing countries where refrigeration is difficult to maintain and viral outbreak is high. It also does away with requiring needles or syringes.


Altering rice to build allergy tolerance is also being studied. Kameda Seika, one of Japan’s largest rice snack manufacturers, is researching the concept of germinating rice with lactic acid to produce better intestinal health and anti-allergenic properties upon consumption.


This lactic acid rice had me thinking about sake and how this new science may affect how sake will be made in the near future. If a rice laced with lactic acid can be produced, how about a rice with aspergillus oryzae already embedded within?  Perhaps once day omitting the need for the painstaking 48-hour koji process? This could be an extremely huge breakthrough in sake-making. Or maybe a sake that had greater measurable health benefits beyond its pleasant buzz. Of course there are many factors requiring ample questioning and reflection before we go too crazy with such assumptions, but the possibility is there with this new research. 


As sake lovers, we know the benefits of the drink as it stands, but with the advent of such medical rices, sake’s future could diverge into the realm of a new biotechnological niche.