Upcoming: Vancouver’s Largest Sake Tasting Event – October 10th!

Sake Night Thumb 3

Happy Belated Sake Day!  October 1st is Nihonshu no Hi — the official start to the sake brewing season in Japan. There are many events going on this month and we are fortunate to have Western Canada’s largest sake tasting event to coincide with October’s global sake celebrations.

Tonari Gumi’s 14th Sake Tasting Event will be held on October 10th, 2015 from 7:00-9:30pm at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel. More info can be found on the event’s Facebook page. This fundraising event to help support Tonari Gumi’s social programs for seniors and new immigrants is vital to the organization.

Tickets are $75 per person, in advance until October 9th, and there’s also VIP tickets you can purchase which are $95. VIP’s get a special seminar and exclusive tasting prior to the event start. Go to their FB page for more details.

Along with a huge selection of sakes — 13 importers from the SABC, the Sake Association of BC, will be on-hand to pour and share great stories about their sakes — there will be a ton of nibbles to accompany the array of nihonshu you’ll be able to taste. Well-known local restaurants such as Forage, Octopus’ Garden, Minami and Hapa Izakaya will be preparing delicious appetizers for the event. A silent auction with lots of goodies will be available as well.

Sounds like a fun night and all the money goes to helping a worthy cause. Hope to see you there!

To find more about Tonari Gumi and their programs, please check out their website. They have many events going on year-round, including special food and sake events. I did a great seminar at their new facility back in March and it was a lot of fun. So please go check out their website for other upcoming events.



Ming Pao Feature on Sake


I was fortunate to be featured in last Sunday’s Ming Pao Newspaper in Vancouver. The Ming Pao is one of the largest Chinese daily newspaper chains based in Hong Kong, with overseas outposts at several major Canadian cities.

I recently received my Level 3 Award in Sake by the WSET, one of the world’s largest wine/spirits educators based in London, England, with schools that offer certifications across the globe. Being the first female in Canada to pass the examinations, the newspaper wanted to ask me some key questions about sake. I will be teaching the course as well, and hope to set something up in Vancouver.

I was happy they focused on how sake can be paired with food outside the realm of Japanese. Chinese food, in particular, goes wonderfully with sake. Because sake has so much umami–the 5th flavour/sense–and Chinese food has great amounts of umami–natural or sometimes added (msg)–the two elements match exquisitely.

Ah, Dim sum with a nice junmai ginjo or a sturdy junmai!

Steamed Chicken’s feet, a dim sum standard which I love, pairs nicely with Shichihonyari Gin Fubuki Junmai, a new offering in the BC market. Instead of warm tea, try a warm version of Fuji Takasago Yamahai Junmai Ginjo with dumplings like har gow or sui mai and don’t forget the cheung fun–a steamed rice noodle wrapped in shrimp, beef, or mushroom variations, topped with a light kiss of oil and soy sauce.

The article also talks about how sake goes well with pizza–yes that’s right, pizza!

Sake is extremely versatile and with less than a third of the acidity of wine (some experts say lesser), the ability to match all manner of international foods with sake is endless.

All this talk of sake and food is making me hungry!



October 1st is Nihonshu no Hi – World Sake Day!


Hello Fellow Sake Fans,
Just a brief note about October 1st, which is World Sake Day. It marks the start of the brewing season and is a great reason to get together with friends to share in a boisterous KANPAI!!

Please get out there and enjoy some sake on October 1st! If you are indeed free, there is a tasting in Richmond tomorrow with Masumi Sake. Miyasaka Shuzo is an amazing brewery from Suwa, Nagano and their well-known brand is called Masumi, which is now available in BC.

Keith Norum, the Overseas Operations Director at Miyasaka Shuzo will be on-hand to pour samples of Masumi Junmai Ginjo “Karakuchi Kiippon” and chat about sake. He is a Canadian who has lived in Japan  for over 20 years and has some great stories to tell. Special food offers will be available with purchase of Masumi sake at the event.
The event will be at Toku Restaurant inside the Lansdowne Mall in Richmond. It is located on the Alderbridge Way side of the mall near the Toys R Us.

If you can’t make it, try to have some sake tomorrow! Also, this week in sake, you can check out the Tonari Gumi Sake Tasting Event. Tonari Gumi is the Japanese volunteer association in Vancouver, which assists Japanese seniors and new immigrants with their outreach programs. Their fundraising event boasts the largest sake tasting in Western Canada and it’s happening this Saturday, October 4th! Hope to see you with sake in hand this week!

Happy Nihonshu no Hi! Happy Sake Day!


Tonari Gumi Sake Tasting Event – October 4th, 2014

TG Sake Night 2014 Poster_Rev 3

As the sake brewing season begins, we, as consumers, can celebrate the new sake year by imbibing in our favourite drink, for a very good cause.

Tonari Gumi is a Vancouver volunteer-run non-profit that assists Japanese immigrants and their families, Japanese-Canadian seniors and others, in a variety of ways to provide mobility and support for community services in Japanese and English. Tonari Gumi’s sake tasting fundraising event is in its 13th year–it was the first large-scale sake event of its kind in Canada, and continues to be the largest sake event in Western Canada.

This year’s tasting, sponsored in conjunction with the Sake Association of BC, will be on Saturday, October 4th, will be its biggest yet–you will not want to miss this! There will be a depth of not only sake, but food as well, with popular Japanese restaurants: Miku, Minami, Shuraku, Guu and Hapa Izakaya – just some of the stellar participants providing small bites to enjoy with the plethora of sake available to taste.

Held at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, the event will have an auction component as well with tons of great items to bid on. The tasting will run from 7pm – 9:30pm.

There’s still time to pick up an early bird ticket at $75. After Sept. 19th, the tickets will be $80. You must purchase a ticket prior to the event as there will not be tickets available at the door. VIP tickets are $115 and include a special sake tasting seminar prior to the big event.

Contact Tonari Gumi to purchase tickets.

Hope to see you there!


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