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In December, we drink Champagne at closing at K&L- and we prefer to drink it out of magnum when possible. The highlight this year was the Ariston Aspasie Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne (1.5L) magnum ($74.99) that we had on Christmas eve. This single vineyard beauty comes from the Gouttes d’Or, a very steep east facing parcel in the little village of Brouillet. It was creamy, delicate and perfectly refreshing! We all say to cheers to you, and hope your holiday is filled with fun and friends!

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Nama Sake in Fall

Before coming to K&L I was relatively new to Nama sakes, but once i discovered them, they became all that I could think about. If you're new to, or not familiar with Nama sake, it is an unpasteurized sake that is generally released once a year in the spring. So why am I writing about it now?

The Naba Shoten Minato "Harbor" Yamahai Futsuu-shu ($34.99), a Yamahai Nama Genshu, won an award for its packaging that changes the window for buying/enjoying Nama sake. It comes in a funky can that has been proven to keep the sake fresh and stable for longer than any other Nama on the market. But let's rewind. What does Yamahai Nama Genshu mean?
Yamahai is a method of preparing the yeast starter that involves natural lactic bacteria, but eschews mixing the starter with poles. Generally this results in a gamey, wilder sake. Not so in the Harbor sake, it does however result in a richer, more food-friendly sake that can stand up to some serious dishes. There is a great article on Yamahai sakes written by my good friend and sake expert W. Blake Gray here
Nama, like we mentioned earlier, means unpasteurized. So let's talk about pasteurization and sake. Generally sake is pasteurized twice, once just after brewing and once again after a maturation period or before shipping. This is done by either running the sake through a pipe that is submerged in 150-degree water, or submerging already bottled sake in a water bath at the same temperature. Pasteurization is done to deactivate heat-sensitive enzymes and microorganisms left over from the koji and yeast cells, thus ensuring they will not begin a secondary fermentation and/or send the sake flavors out of wack. Much in the same way, and for the same reason, that sulfur is added to wine.
This means that typically Nama sake has a much fresher and livelier flavor, with more active aromatic qualities. This also means that refrigeration is needed to keep it fresh and from going off. So while all sakes are meant to be consumed within the year of release, Nama sake is meant to be drunk upon release, with the one exception being the Harbor Nama sake, because of its unique packaging.
Finally, we have the term Genshu. Simply, this means that the sake has not been diluted with water, as all other sakes are (like most spirits). This however does not come through on the palate. You are not blown away by the 20% alcohol (most sakes are in around the 16% range), nor does it taste "hot." It is just rich and mouthcoating, making it a perfect sake for matching with foods, and this time I'm thinking about roasted pumpkin or acorn squash, turkey or duck, really the opportunities are numerous with this one.
Until we run out (and I secretly hope that we don't) you can look forward to having this Nama sake available until the spring, when the newest batches of Namas are released, and I get to taste through them all again. It's a tough job, and I'm glad to be the one to do it.  
If you are interested in learning about sake, consider joining the sake enthusiast list by emailing me at or subscribing to the personal sommelier service.
Melissa Smith

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