Sake Swirling


It’s me.

It’s been a while.

I’ve missed you.


I could type up what I’ve been up to in the last 18 months but it’s not that interesting…at least for blogging purposes.  But, I am back from the grave, i.e. not departed:

Anyway, one of the things I need to get off my block and do is start prepping for my sake exam in May.   I am currently a WSET Sake Level 3 candidate  and the course & exam are about 2 months out.   Over the past year or so, I’ve been trying to do some more academic style studying in conjunction with the tastings:

If you’re remotely interested in learning more about sake, I recommend the book, Sake Confidential.  It’s written in such a way that even if you’ve never had sake before, you would know exactly what you’d like to purchase and why when you’re done.

When I tell people that I am studying sake, I often get the same answer, “Oh, I don’t think I like it.” or “I’ve never had one I liked.”.  I completely get it.  More often than not, people’s experience with sake tends to be a hot carafe served with tiny ochoko cups at a sushi restaurant.   While that type sake is not bad by any stretch, it’s not necessarily what I’d recommend to anybody.   Hot sake tends to be the same level as “house wine” or cheaper, mass produced bottles of beer.  Not terrible but not mind blowing either.

Should you be inclined to get to know sake a bit more, these are some key points that could help with your enjoyment:

1. Sake will not give you a hangover.

2. Sake will hold up to any meal whether it has intense heat or hard to pair ingredients like asparagus or artichokes. You will find something that will complement the whole meal.

3. Sake only lasts about a year, even in a sealed bottle.  It won’t be “bad” or “spoiled” but it won’t be as aromatic.

4. Most sake can be served chilled.

5. There are few key items on a sake label that will give you an indicator as to whether or not you’re drinking a craft sake or a mass market one:

  • Junmai – This means there were only 3 ingredients: rice, koji (mold for fermentation), and water. This level of sake also mills the rice to the smallest size, removing much of outer portion of rice grain before fermentation.  These account for a very small part of the market and would be akin to a craft beer or wine from a small vineyard.
  • Non-Junmai – This means there is a little of alcohol mixed with the rice, koji, & water.   Also, more of the rice grain is used in the fermentation process.  This would be the equivalent of maybe a Sam Adams level beer or $15-$20 bottle of wine.
  • Regular Sake – This level indicates that more alcohol is mixed into the finished product.  Most of the rice grain is used is used in fermentation vs. milling down to the best part.   This level of sake makes up about 65% of the consumer market.   It’s hallmarks are cost, consistency, & mass availability.  Not bad at all but not special.

6. And, like any beverage, you don’t need a special glass to enjoy sake.  In Japan, they tend to serve sake in the tiny cups as it’s customary to continue pouring for your guests.   The ochokos, while often works of art, aren’t necessarily optimal for enjoying the aromatics.  I, personally, prefer to use a wine glass…but, like everything, it’s truly a personal preference.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be buckling down with my tastings & studying so you should be hearing more from me.  If you’re also studying, are an aficionado, or if you want to know more, feel free to reach out to me.   I’ll need all the help I can get taking in knowledge or sharing the knowledge to reinforce what’s in my tiny brain.

On that note  – かんぱい!!!!





Qu’est-ce que c’est ce “pet-nat”?

My friend posted that question to the above photo on the socials. Pet-nat is the shortened version of petillant natural, i.e. the old school way of making fizzy wine…before champagne, before prosecco, before the sodastream (no joke – many cheaper fizzy wines are run through a sodastream to give them bubbles).  Basically, wine that hasn’t finished fully fermenting is bottled and sealed.  The carbon dioxide from the chemical reaction gets captured within the bottle, making the juice fizzy.  Often, the winemaker will use some kind of wild yeast, which can make for a really unique flavor profile that you won’t get with mass market wines.

As you know, I LOVE Australian wines & winemakers.  Most of the really innovative tastes are coming from there, imho.  I actually feel like that can be said about their art, music, fashion, food – anything really.  There’s something about Australia that’s so unique and it comes through in so many things.  Anyway, the last 4 or 5 pet-nats I’ve had have been from Australia.  In general, it seems like they’re not super easy to come by here or in Australia.  If you’re interested, I have seen some French ones at some boutique wine shops in Boston.

This particular one that we had yesterday, is from Jauma Vineyards in McClaren Vale, SA and it was SO good.  On its own, it reminded me those Swiss blackcurrant pastilles with alpine herbs and was very dry.  Oddly, the cheese we paired with it completely crushed it.  I was really surprised.  Although, the truffled gouda from Whole Foods had very pungent truffle shavings.   When P unwrapped it, you could probably smell the truffle down the hall & out the front steps.  It’s the only time I’ve ever had a truffle crush a wine.

Because it was so organic & local to its region, I assume it would go best with bread & cheese from SA.  I did rummage through my cabinet & found a bag of salted potato chips made in the Pacific Rim (potatoes grown in Japan), which were amazing  with it.

Verdict: delicious, light, dry & perfect on its own or a pairing with organic Australian food, if you can find it.


Japan Vacation Advice (Sort Of)

In general, I get asked a lot of travel questions – everything from my opinion on certain lodgings to troubleshooting itinerary snafus.  Before I answer anything, I always try to determine what the emotional needs or desires around the trip are.  What kind of trip are you doing? Is this a vacation or something else? Is seeing as many sights as possible more important than resting?  That kind of thing.

The one place I get asked about more than others is Japan.  While I have been there multiple times, I rarely give advice on it.   From a practicality standpoint, Tokyo itself encompasses 2500 square miles.  It’s huge.  From a cultural and amusement standpoint, there are so things that you could do that I wouldn’t even know in which direction to point you.

So, instead, I give 3 pieces of advice.  First, think about what you like and find things that match your interests.  There is always more going on than you could reasonably do.   Second, English is not a primary language, even in the big cities.  Depending upon your comfort level, it may be easier to stay at an international hotel and book some English speaking tours.  People do speak English but it’s best to assume that you may not readily find someone who can help you on the fly.  Third, read up on as much of the culture as you can.  The more you are cognizant you are of things like train manners or what to do with your chopsticks,  the better your experience will be.

Having said all that, there are some great sites that can help you plan a dream trip:

Airbnb Experiences – one on one cultural experiences at a fair price

Viator – Tours and excursions of all kinds

Trip Advisor – reviews & forums for anything travel related

JNTO – for tourist advice & discounts for visitors


Be sure to turn the lights off as you go…

I seriously thought I was going to die in this building.   Actually, something did happen last Spring where that was a distinct possibility…but I had that day off.  So, here I am.

After a super long run, I’ve decided to leave The River.  It wasn’t a quick decision or prompted by a singular event.  Over the past couple of years, the logistics of traveling close to 100 miles round trip by car or taking an expensive, unreliable, inconveniently scheduled train just started to chip away at my overall enjoyment.   After working a really long work week, facing another long day, made so because of transportation, became daunting.   In the Fall,  I just threw it out to the universe that I was open to something new.

From time to time, I get pinged by radio people in and out of the market, asking me if I am interested in any “potential opportunities”.  Despite having passing regrets about not taking that morning gig in Dubai in 2002 or that thing in California in 2005, I’ve been relatively satisfied with my choice to stay at The River.

The Fall passed in a blur, with me working, working, working at both jobs.  The week before Christmas, around 8p, my boss pulled me into her office and told me I had to take my vacation, starting now.  I had accrued 3+ weeks and taken one day (oops!).   All of the sudden, everything in my life just went quiet.   10 hours later, I had an “inquiry” in my email box from a station that I had been into for years.

After a few conversations and a meeting, I decided to take the new gig.   The acceptance timed out with a planned vacation; therefore, I was able to sneak away without being disruptive.  Plus, I hate goodbyes, so, it really worked out.  Initially, I just felt relief because I would never have to sit in a random yet regular Saturday morning traffic back up on 495 or pass time on a 2 hour train ride.  Although, the more it’s sinking in, the more excited I am about the idea of doing something new and making new friends.  I am all about the adventure and I know this new opportunity is going to be full of them.

Ultimately, I loved my time at The River.  I met so many great people – both coworkers & artists.   In the end, I simply had SO MUCH FUN.  SO MUCH FUN.  More fun than I ever imagined.  Even though the building sits on a giant sinkhole, it has a pretty cool vibe.   As I was leaving for the last time and turning off the lights, I meant to say thank you for all the amazing experiences.  Since I didn’t say it then, I’m saying it now.  <3

Hello world!

This blog post was already here when I when I imported my blogger blog today.

Since I say “Hello” to the world at least once a week via the broadcasts and the interwebs, I figured this is probably the best photo for this post:

Big props to my mother-in-law for finding this card at Trader Joe’s & surprising me with it in the mail.

New World vs. New World being Old World

Back in the Fall, I found myself with some free time to plow through my stacks of Netflix dvds & books.  Over the years, I’ve been given some crap that I still get the dvds, but they never stream indie or foreign films. So, je n’en ai rien a foutre.

One of the dvds was “Blood Into Wine”, the doco about Maynard James Keenan’s vineyards in Arizona.  Overall, the documentary was an interesting perspective on wine as it was half about the artistry of wine and half about responsible farming & environmental issues.  The real star was in Eric Glomski who was a river ecology major, which translated into restoring the land in Arizona.

After watching the movie, I purchased 4 wines from Caduceus – a red, a white, a rose, & an orange.  The first one we dipped into was the Primer Paso red blend, which was made in the style of Cote Rotie.  As a comparison, we cracked open a Field Theory Aglianico from Paso Robles.  The comparison I was after was not grape to grape but more new world trying to be innovative vs. new world trying to be classic. For a meal, we decided to do Pacific Rim style duck, i.e. roasted with soy sauce, molasses, and orange.

First, we tried both on their own:

The Field Theory (right) was much fruitier and simpler than the Cadeceus.  The Caduceus was complex but subtle, rich, and bit spicy with ripe purple/red fruit.  Both were really good but you could tell there was a lot more deliberate technique with the Caduceus.  BTW, the Caduceus was $50 and the Field Theory was $18.

Since the alcohol content of both were >13%, we decided to have some snacks while were cooking:

We chose truffle potato chips from MA France and white corn chips from Wegman’s.  Perhaps not surprising, aside from the salt, neither chip held up to the wines.

For the main course, we did the duck, fries with French aioli, and green salad:

Both wines complimented the duck well.  The Field Theory kept it’s fruit, whereas the Caduceus veered more dry & spicy.  Oddly, we felt that Caduceus made us feel like we were eating in Europe & the Field Theory like California.

Verdict: Either! Depends on budget and where you’d like to “go” for dinner 🙂