Sake tasting expeditions – Saké One

Turns out Oregon wine country has much more to offer than just wine. Beer tasting, salami tasting, jam tasting and even Saké tasting are only a few items on the growing list of things to do and see in the Willamette Valley. I highly recommend going Saké tasting; it’s a rare opportunity and a great treat.

Saké One is this amazing tasting room and sake brewery (“kura”) in a small town called Forest Grove, OR. They chose a small college town to create their masterpieces due to the water that is low in metallic minerals such as iron and magnesium, which will give your Saké a metal taste to it unless served piping hot or freezing cold. They still purify their water, but the water used is one of the most important things when making Saké.

When we went, we decided to do the Toji flight and add some “saketinis.” I am a huge fan of the Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo for it’s extremely clean finish. It melts off at the end and disappears on your palate, leaving only a cool sensation. Another stand-out was the Momokawa Pearl – Nigori Genshu, a milky Saké with plenty of tropical notes that coat your tongue.

We all walked away with bottles from Saké One’s Moonstone label of Oregon craft Saké. I got the plum, which is amazing when infused with strawberries and basil, another friend got the asian pear, which apparently makes a great vinaigrette and is crisp and clear. Another friend bought the raspberry Saké, which is well-used as a raspberry liqueur and can be heated up and mixed with cocoa powder to make raspberry hot chocolate with a kick.

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We were also lucky enough to arrive at the tasting room in time for a tour of their kura! The most interesting (and gross) thing I learned was that women used to chew handfuls of rice and spit it out in order to create Saké. They now use mold in what they call their sauna.

Some other things I learned on the tour: In Japan, you don’t put your name on the label, as it’s considered narcissistic. They now use stainless steel (below) instead of cedar wood to ferment their Saké. The mural below depicts the old way of making Saké, including the cedar barrels.

They now polish the rice (imported from California) they use to make Saké to get rid of the fatty acids and proteins and use a rice polisher from Japan (below). Also, they use the same bottling line that wineries do!

Finally, this is what Saké looks like as it’s fermenting. The photo sequence starts off with an empty stainless steel tank, starts to bubble and get a sort of thin porridge consistency, then gets thicker and ready to be strained.

Saké One is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please visit them at 820 Elm St. Forest Grove, Oregon. You won’t regret it!

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