Southern Wines & Spirits

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April 20, 2010 4 comments Articles & Reviews, By Jonathan Cristaldi

The Noble Rot (event): Saké

UPDATE: Keith Wagstaff of the Village Voice wrote up one fancy, noble, delectable article on said Sake event. Read it here.

Brian Quinn & Jonny Cigar drink their way through Sake. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Hello Good n’ Faithful Winos:

This Saturday of last The Noble Rot hosted an affair focused on the truly dynamic drink known in the modern and ancient world as Sake (酒) and known in Japan as Nihonshu (日本酒). Well, then, here’s the goods:

Our aim: dispel the myths of sake and explore sake as an approachable and understandable beverage as opposed to an innacroachable one (Gertrude Stein’s word, not mine) and to discover the many varieties and grades of sake while pairing them with mouth-watering delicious food that befits deep friers and more tuna than is likely necessary.

The sakes presented ran the gambit of an array of flavor profiles, colors (an aged sake called Miyagi was deep amber in color), one was reminiscent of Amaretto without the harshness, one golden like a wine from Sauternes and one like an old mule, tired after years of plowing potato fields in upstate New York.

Who was involved? Only the most renowned sake expert this side of the Shinano River, Monica Samuels, Sake Ambassador to the world! (of Southern Wines & Spirits). Also in house was Mike Lee of Studiofeast butchering up an incredible menu, which is listed below the photos. And to add injury to insult we had a surprise musical guest, the remarkably talented Michael Daves, who performed two sets of bluegrassy spectacularness.

Before you are indulged, good Winetology reader, with photographs of the event, please enjoy a bit of sake education:

Look for the word “Ginjo” on the bottle, whether it is alone or bunched together as in “Daiginjo” or “Junmai Ginjo” or “Junmai Daiginjo” because “Ginjo” refers to super premium sake (as in the top 7 percent of all sake produced). And:

  • Sake is best served chilled.
  • Drink sake out of a wine glass lest you care not for the aromas, the color, the clarity, the cloudiness, the full experience that sake has to offer. Drinking in the Masu boxes is not ideal if you are hoping to truly taste and experience the sake. Drinking in tiny glasses most-often served in Japanese restaurants will do nothing other than encourage shooting your sake or pouring for your friends every 30 seconds.
  • If you’d really like to know more about the acidity, the sweetness, the impact, the color, the many grades of sake, the rice sake is made from, different yeast strains affecting taste and flavor, please visit and read what John Gauntner has to say (Monica studied under him and he’s essentially the most revered sake expert on both sides of the Mississippi).

Below are tasty photos from the event.

Jonny Cigar’s bow-tie. Photo by Steph Goralnick

Danny Zlobinsky, Brian Quinn, Mike Lee, Jonny Cigar, Derrick Yuen. Photo by Steph Goralnick

Monica Samuels talks Sake, Jonny listens, Joseph (white glasses) admires the scene of his apartment. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Some new Noble guests take in the food, the sake, the delectable evening. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Michael Daves destroyed the scene with his sound. ( We were thrilled to have him. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Make em laugh…. make em laugh… Look at how the famed Nick Bennett, bartender extraordinaire du Whisk&Ladle raises an eyebrow while his award-winning mustache remains in its award-winning pose. Photo by Laura Huben.

For the cocktails we mixed a sake called TY KU that came in a rather Vegas-inspired-bottle. Check ’em out:

TY KU – used for our Noble Rot cocktail hour. We used their blue bottle “Soju” which is made from 100% premium barley and pure spring water. And their Sake in the black bottle, a refined, smooth sake with peach on the nose and spice in the pan. (The green bottle lights up!)

The Menu by Mike Lee, paired by Monica and us Noble Rottens for your salivating pleasure:

Assorted Japanese Pickles


Tuna, Avocado, Onion Salad
Raw, soy marinated tuna, lightly vinagared onion


paired with
Toyo Bijin Ohkarakuchi Junmai Ginjo, Yamaguchi
‘ohkarakuchi’ is a category of sakes that are extremely dry.  Sakes in this style often tend to be a little one dimensional; Toyo Bijin, on the other hand, has an extremely complex aroma laced with ripe fruit yet has a

Daikon, Pork, Miso
Dashi braised daikon, minced pork, miso, scallion, ginger

paired with
Isojiman Junmai Daiginjo, Shizuoka
Isojiman has definitely achieved cult status in Japan, well known for their unique style of fermentation to achieve aromas of juicy tropical fruit, still maintaining great balance and versatility.  Long finish, very lively mouthfeel.

Soy Sauce Chicken Chicken, braised in Soy, Brown sugar, cinnamon, star anise, scallions


paired with
Hojyun Biden Yamahai Junmai, Fukuoka
Very smoky, earthy style of sake with aromas of cocoa and mushroom.  This sake is excellent chilled or at room temperature, which enhances the savory sweet qualities of the sake.  Yamahai refers to a yeast starter that has no lactic acid added, instead relying on changing the temperature of the water to create natural lactic acid.

Corn Kakiage, Hot Pepper
Deep fried corn fritter, Fried serrano pepper


paired with
Murai Family Nigori Genshu, Aomori
Highly concentrated, intense cloudy sake.  Vanilla and confectionary aromas give way to a rich, slightly earthy finish.  This sake is undiluted and approaches 21% alcohol, creating structure and cutting through the initial sweetness.  Great with spicy foods, cheese, and chocolate.

Beef Tendon, Yuba, Turnip
Beef tendon stew, yuba (tofu skin), turnips, rice


paired with
Katsuyama Genroku Aged Junmai, Miyagi
Deliberately aged to achieve a rich brown color and a flavor reminiscent of cognac.  Higher concentration of sake rice and koji to enable faster aging.  Aromas of coffee and roasted nuts, sweet and salty butterscotch finish.

Mochi Ice Cream

paired with
Kakurei Junmai Ginjo Ume-Shu, Niigata
Junmai Ginjo sake that has been soaked with locally grown plums for three months.  Aromas of apricot and almond, slightly sweet with mouthwatering acidity on the finish.

Menu written by Mike Lee of Studiofeast (

Sake paring by Monica Samuels (Southern Wine & Spirits)

Auction? Who knows. Photo by Steph Goralnick.



TY KU Sake Black

Rye Whiskey
Orange Curacao



TY KU Soju
Applejack Brandy