For those new to the blog, occasionally my husband Kevin chimes in with beer and spirits posts. Since I'm not a sake fan, he's covering that as well, including our recent trip to a sake maker in Vancouver.
On our recent vacation to the northwest, one of the places Michelle, Steven (my younger brother) and I went to was Osake Artisan Sake Maker on Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had not heard of Osake sake prior to arriving at the hotel and reading through Where magazine. Osake is reported to have been the first sake made in Canada. Armed with that knowledge and a rough idea of where we were going, we took left out of our hotel, walked down Jervis street to Sunset Beach where we picked up the Water Taxi to Granville Island.
On Granville Island, we explored the amazing Public Market before heading to the Artisan Sake shop. The sake tasting area is next to the tanks used to by the distillers which adds a nice level of ambiance to the tasting. Steven and Michelle were able to sit at the street-facing bar and people watch while I delved into the tasting. All sakes were served cold and there were 5 different types of sake available, the two premiums were $2 each and a flight of the 3 entry levels was $5. (All prices in Canadian dollars.)
I started with the Ginjo Genshu. The use of Ginjo means that 40% of the rice was ground away and only the remaining center was used in the distilling of the sake. Genshu means the sake was undiluted and can pack a slight punch.
The Genshu was a filtered sake resulting in a clear drink that had a lot of plum sauce characteristics. This was awarded a spot in the top 100 wines of 2008 by the Vancouver Magazine International Wine Competition. Overall I liked the well rounded flavor and sweetness. Michelle also tolerated this one (she's not a sake fan) and we paid it the highest compliment any traveler can give on a trip: we bought a bottle. At $25 for a 375 mL bottle, this was expensive but worth the price and hassle of bringing it home with us.
Second was the Ginjo Nigori. Nigori implies cloudy due to no filtration done once the sake is made. This has a chewier texture, as expected in a nigori sake, and a nice long bitter finish. In comparison to other nigori sake, my thought is that this one had a touch more ripe melon flavors and less creaminess. Once again, I enjoyed the overall experience, while Steven and Michelle were slightly less thrilled. Once again $25 a bottle is reasonable pricing for the small batch quailty sake. Both ginjos were aged for 1 year in bottle, while the junmai were aged 2 to 3 months.
I ended with a flight of the three entry level (junmai) sakes. For junmai, 30% of the rice is milled away and no alchohal is added in the process of creating the sake. The first I treid was Junmai Nama Genshu which was a nice entry level sake and at $35 for a 750 mL bottle is once again a very nice value. The main flavors were along the papaya and graininess expected. I thought the ginjo had a more vibrant plum flavor, but this would also have paired well with a lean steak or a rick meat like duck.
Second in the flight was Junmai Nama which seemed to have higher acid. The slight lime flavor and very little creaminess made me think grilled shrimp would be a very nice food pairing. In comparison to the others, this was probably my least favorite, but still ranks as a nice entry. At $27 for 750 mL, the quality/value ratio is there, but not at the same level as the other options.
Finally, I tried the Junmai Nama Nigori, which had a very nice melon flavor from start to finish. This one costs $29 for 750 mL and is again a nice value for sipping. This was the "ricey-est" of all the sakes due to the nigori style and was closest to what I have tried in the past.
For each of these three, my review is a .
Overall, the trip to Granville Island was worth it just for seeing a sake house. Luckily the small batch products that were created were enjoyable. Sadly, they did not have an open bottle of their sparkling sake, which I would have loved to try. $24 a bottle was a little high to buy without first trying it, but it is still on my list to try when I return to Granville Island, as we do hope to return to Vancouver.
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