Oregon Craft Saké Company Brews Artisan Saké for the Melting Pot that is American Cuisine
13 June, 2011
Forest Grove, Oregon - After years of being misunderstood in the West, Japan’s proverbial celebratory drink is appearing more regularly on wine lists and food pairing menus in the restaurants of the world’s most renowned sommeliers and beverage enthusiasts. Slowly over the past decade, it has become increasingly customary to find chilled, high quality, artisan saké paired with traditional Japanese and Asian fusion cuisine- a fortunate movement from that ubiquitous, hour glass-shaped ceramic vessel filled to the brim with low quality, piping hot saké. Though the delicate flavor profiles of premium saké undoubtedly pairs well with Japan’s umami-rich cuisine, saké’s widely undiscovered frontier remains food pairings that highlight a more expansive array of universal flavors and cuisines. Saké’s ability to pair with a wide array of cuisines is hugely credited with the diverse styles of different saké. This includes the levels of acid, alcohol, body and flavor notes.
Though saké’s brewing process and flavor profiles may seem foreign, it is important to remember that wine knowledge can be used as a guide since many of the same principles apply. For example, a crisp, delicate saké like SakéOne’s Momokawa Diamond pairs exceptionally well with a refreshing and lightly creamy lobster salad infused with chervil aioli and English cucumber. On the other side of the spectrum, the sumptuous, medium-bodied Momokawa Ruby Junmai Ginjo’s understated nutty tones harmonize seamlessly with a rich dish of seared foie gras sprinkled with pickled kumquats and toasted sesame seeds. Saké also pairs well with spicier, ethnic dishes that traditionally pair well with beer- for example, the creamy Momokawa Organic Nigori rounds out a flavorful dish of spicy curried beef cheeks topped with thinly sliced roasted garlic chips. Similarily, SakéOne’s Moonstone Pear pairs excellently with Moroccan spiced lamb and quince tagine. The nuances of saké that are often undetectable in wine allow it to also pair exceptionally well with dishes such as roasted asparagus, an aged black truffle-flecked pecorino, or even standard dinner-table staples such lasagna or pizza.
Another component key to saké and food pairings is the acidity level. Saké with high acidity is able to pierce through oily foods with heavier flavors like a Brazillian-style, baked halibut with a touch of chili or classic buttermilk fried oysters. Lower acidity saké on the other hand, pairs beautifully with lighter fare and bright flavors such as a fresh sea bass crudo with Hawaiian rock salt on a bed of arugula.
For ultimate appreciation of aroma and taste, premium saké is best served chilled about 55 degrees, similar to white wine, to showcase its subtle, nuanced taste. Opening up the doors to an exciting new realm of pairings, saké’s delicately balanced layers of flavors and aromas allow it to support a wide array of dishes. However, the world of saké may be a bit disconcerting to the American wine lover. Like wine, saké too has nuances, nomenclature and etiquette that can seem daunting upon first sip, with even the Japanese characters on most labels that can be totally foreign to many. An excellent resource for those interested in saké is the Saké 101 on SakéOne’s web site: http://www.sakeone.com/Trade-Info . Other excellent resources include New York City’s Sakaya saké shop web site http://sakayanyc.com/ and San Francisco-based saké shop True Saké http://www.truesake.com/.
America’s premium Oregon craft saké company, Saké One, has been a pioneer in this movement since opening their doors in 1998. Sakémaster Greg Lorenz, who is gaining popularity in the premium beverage world as the only American sakémaster to date, has had plenty of guidance from SakéOne’s Japanese partners along the way. Everything at the Forest Grove, Oregon-based kura (Japanese for brewery) is handled with precision and care- from water management and rice milling, to how the rice is washed and soaked, how the koji (special mold spores that break down the rice starch into sugars) are managed, and the detailed brewing process, all the way to the five person-tasting panel that decides the final product. The location was carefully chosen primarily for the quality of the water in the coastal ranges just outside of Portland, OR. The team at SakéOne are constantly fine-tuning their process, customizing their Oregon water microfiltration system, or perfecting their rice milling and steaming techniques. The pride of the kura is its traditional cedar koji room, where Lorenz and his team rest steam Northern California-grown rice in small batches and hand-turn it for the best results, true to Japanese tradition.
With a set of four premium saké produced and bottled under its newly Jeffrey Caldewey-designed Momokawa label, the company was determined to develop new products that would help fill the growing demand for premium saké. Defining a niche for fruit-flavor-infused saké, SakéOne launched the Moonstone brand, becoming the first company to bottle a new category of natural flavored saké. Taking the evolution of saké a step further, SakéOne’s Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo is now the only saké in the country to be offered on tap at Pure Food and Wine, New York City’s premier raw vegan restaurant in Gramercy Park.
As the gourmet food and beverage movement continues to spread across the U.S., many companies are moving towards artisan crafted, premium products and SakéOne is no exception. Though they undoubtedly honor tradition, Oregon’s pioneering spirit infuses the air that the saké makers breathe and the pristine water with which they brew. With this spirit synonymous with the American dream, SakéOne has evolved in the last few years truly defining Oregon craft sake and revolutionizing the way saké is perceived
SakéOne is America's premium saké company and importer of some of Japan’s finest sake. Founded in 1992 as an importer, SakéOne has been crafting strictly junmai ginjo quality saké at its state-of-the-art kura (brewery) in Forest Grove, the heart of the Willamette Valley: Oregon’s craft beer-brewing and winemaking mecca, since the early 1990s. In 2010, SakéOne’s Momokawa “Ruby” Junmai Ginjo earned a silver medal at the prestigious all-Japanese U.S. National Saké Appraisal, no small feat for an American saké producer. Though SakéOne clearly honors tradition, their Oregonian pioneering spirit is constantly evolving and has truly come to define Oregon craft saké. For more information, please visit www.sakeone.com. For media inquiries, please contact email@example.com or 415|701-9463.
For media information and interviews with saké expert and SakéOne Vice President of Marketing Dewey Weddington, please contact Kristin Namimoto of Charles Communications Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415|701-9463.