Let’s be clear about this right away: Saké, the national alcoholic beverage of Japan, is often called rice wine, but this is a misnomer. While it is a beverage made by fermentation, the production process more closely resembles that of beer, and it is made from grain (rice, of course), not fruit. To make saké, the starch of freshly steamed glutinous rice is converted to sugar and then fermented to alcohol. Once fermented, the liquid is filtered and usually pasteurized. Sakés can range from dry to sweet, but even the driest retain a hint of sweetness.
This saké is a domestic product from SakéOne saké brewery in Forest Grove, Oregon. The company began as a saké importer in 1992, and in 1997 they expanded the operation and began brewing saké.
In premium saké, water composition matters a great deal. SakéOne’s founder chose Oregon because he believed that the best-quality water for saké brewing is in the Northwest.
The other crucial component is rice, and SakéOne sources its Calrose rice from the Sacramento Valley. Calrose is derived from Japanese saké rice and has several qualities that produce saké with more body, higher viscosity, and a long finish.
SakéOne’s modest tasting room.
Momokawa Ruby Fields Saké
Ruby Fields is a rich, full-bodied Junmail* Ginjo** saké that opens with aromas of Granny Smith apples and bananas. Those flavors continue on the palate, with the addition of a hint of cantaloupe. It is moderately dry, with a fairly long finish.It is marketed as an upgrade to Momokawa’s Ruby The ABV is 16%, and the SMV*** is -1.5. The rice has a polish of 58%, so 42% of the rice has been removed. Serve chilled.
*Junmai is pure rice wine, with no added alcohol). Until recently, at least 30% of the rice used for Junmai sake had to be milled away, but Junmai no longer requires a specified milling rate.
**Ginjo designates that at least 40% of the rice has been polished away. If a bottle is labeled just Ginjo, distilled alcohol was added; if it is labeled Junmai Ginjo, no alcohol was added.
****An important gauge of saké is the SMV (Saké Meter Value). This measures the density of saké relative to water, and is the method for determining the dryness or sweetness of saké. The higher the SMV, the drier the saké. The range is -15 to +15.
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