Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo Sake

17 Apr

When many Americans hear the word sake they usually hear another word in quick succession, followed by a loud banging on tables, a volley of splashes, and quick chugging.  Sake bombing is not only a big source of income for lower-end Japanese restaurant/karaoke bars but also an introduction to this drink–perhaps, then, it is sort of like white zinfandel, serving as a gateway to the world of alcoholic pleasures waiting just beyond.

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of most sake.  Most sakes one can find in stores or restaurants is terrible–very overtly alcoholic, or jus out of whack.  There are many different styles of sake as well, and I’m sure I’ve not had very many of the better ones.

hakutsuruLuckily, I have had one of the better ones: the Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo sake.  (Hakutsuru means “white crane,” by the way.)  I was introduced to this at an omekase dinner with my brother and some of his friends at a Westside sushi restaurant and absolutely LOVED it–loved it so much, in fact, that I was sure to record its name in my phone.

Thus, when I saw a bottle of this sake for around $20 at The Wine Specialist I grabbed it up.

I opened it at a small get-together yesterday, having first chilled it for half an hour.  The nose is incredible: perfumed with melon, flowers, and, according to my friend Ian, aloe.  It is filtered and very clean on the palate.  In the mouth, just an overwhelming sensation of melon and perhaps even some rosewater and–according to Alex–chalk.  Completely and utterly smooth, gossamer light, with no alcoholic bite or bitter/plasticine aftertaste.  Just a wonderfully crafted, dry and floral/fruity sake that would go well either as an aperitif or the finest sushi.  Highly, highly recommended.


10 Responses to “Hakutsuru Superior Junmai Ginjo Sake”

  1. Steve April 17, 2009 at 1:20 am #

    technically you are not supposed to drink saki with sushi as they both contain rice and are said not to complement each other
    /end snobbery

  2. Steve April 17, 2009 at 1:20 am #

    did i say saki? i meant sake

  3. vinicultured April 17, 2009 at 1:35 am #

    Interesting point. However, one COULD then drink sake with sashimi and avoid that problem!

  4. Shea April 19, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    That’s true about sake and sushi – sashimi works well. But, don’t be limited to think that Sake only goes with Japanese food – it pairs with a wide variety of food, including cheese, depending on the style.

    As a note, the labels Ginjo or Daiginjo indicate the refinement level of the rice, both of which are better than the basic level (Dai being the best). I should write up a few notes on sake too.

  5. vinicultured April 19, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    I should have suspected you were a sake drinking–very refined, sir!

    Have you heard of the Berkeley sake factory tour? There are free tastings there and it’s somewhat of a “thing to do” while in Berkeley–though I never got around to doing so myself:


  6. Shea April 19, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    Nope I haven’t heard of that. I should try to make time. There is an amazing Sake store in SF called True Sake, though – several hundred sakes in stock. Lots of amazing imports. Worth checking out if you are ever in the Bay Area.

  7. jj August 2, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    Sake and Sushi not compliment each other, that’s madness!! I recently returned from a trip to Tokyo where I found this little liqueur store that specialized in wine and sake. I asked the owner for Junmai Ginjo sake, he breaks out 5 bottles and a sake glass, lets me taste each bottle, and I bought the one of my choice…can’t read any of the kanji on the bottle, however, I’ve been drinking sake for 20+ years and by far, this was the best!!! Junmai Ginjo, cold and dry is the only way to go…with sushi, I might add!!!

    • vinicultured August 4, 2009 at 12:48 am #

      Ah, how apropos. I actually picked up a small bottle of this sake yesterday at a Japanese market and had it after dinner. It was wonderful, as I remembered it.

  8. Michael June 19, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    We shared a small bottle last night and it was one of the best that we had ever tasted. Not sure about the chalk comment though?????? But it was so good I had to research it.

    Pam and Michael

    • vinicultured June 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Pam and Michael! It’s very reasonably priced and absolutely delicious. I’ve given it to people who swear they don’t like sake and they all love it. I hope you’re able to enjoy more bottles in the near future (same goes for me… it’s been a little while)!

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