Convicted: Unrestricted. And a Sake Review! 08/30/12

You’ve probably noticed the hideous lapse in my update schedule this summer, every bit as much the result of my own indulgence in indolence as the fact that I haven’t been drinking as much wine lately. Don’t worry; I’ve still been drinking. But the weather simply doesn’t allow me to keep as many wines on hand as I would like to, save what I can fit into my humble wine fridge (which is mostly occupied by wines I’m aging), or what I’m willing to relegate to my somewhat less humble regular fridge (which is far from ideal as a storage solution for all but the crappiest wines). And even though there’s a wine store but a scant jaunt away from mine abode, I’ve been loath to patronize it lately – at least to buy wine. Why? It’s hot in there. Usually humid too. And most of the wines are stored upright.


Which is downright wrong, guys.

I just can’t trust the place when it comes to wine – especially the older and more obscure bottles, which have likely been sitting there forever, because you can bet no one else is cool enough to buy them.

Believe it or not though, this post isn’t an excoriation of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, nor of substandard wine storage practices in general. This post is a reminder that wine, majestic and mysterious though it may be, is not the only beverage of note. In the past I’ve already reviewed sake and mead, having allowed myself to do so on the basis that they’re variously referred to as “rice wine” and “honey wine”; but now I feel it’s time to transcend even this (flimsily contrived) barrier. Convicted for Grape is expanding…a little.

Does this mean you can expect this blog to devolve into a haven for drunken beer and whiskey ramblings? No. My blog will remain first and foremost a haven for drunken wine ramblings. Expansion does, however, mean you can expect an occasional writeup of beer or whiskey, if I come across something interesting. Or rum, or tequila. Or coffee, or tea. Yes, complexity can be found in many potables – even those that don’t necessarily get you drunk.

Anyway, here’s a sake review – which I suppose renders everything I’ve just said completely irrelevant. Kanpai!

Recently, a new wave of sake arrived at my local state store after a long, stagnant slump during which the already meager offerings on the shelves continued to dwindle until the entire section was nearly depleted. Needless to say, I was overjoyed.

The first bottle to catch my eye (technically a half-bottle [and technically less even than that, since a standard half-bottle of sake contains less than half the amount of a standard one (300ml vs 720ml, if you’re curious)]) was the Ichishima Junmai Ginjo from Ichishima Sake Brewery in Niigata, Japan. The location would probably indicate something about the sake to experts like Richard Auffrey, but at this juncture in my junmai journey, I confess that the only geographical distinction I’m able to look for is “USA vs Japan.” And surprisingly enough, in terms of availability, the US offerings generally outweigh the Japanese ones, at least in my inexplicable neck of the woods.


It is shocking, isn’t it?

At $15, this bottle was rather pricey for a mere 300 milliliters, but I had no choice: it was from Japan, yes, but more importantly, I hadn’t tried it before. Thankfully, I did not regret my purchase. Pouring almost entirely clear in the glass, the sake gave off familiar notes of melon (probably honeydew), along with cream and a slight hint of anise.

Ultimately, though, the most memorable feature of this sake was its ethereality (which, if you recall, is like Wind…in beverage form). It was as though I weren’t drinking the sake at all, but rather allowing it to glide across my palate, as if the bottle had been haunted by some delicious ghost who thought to thank me on his way to the afterlife by making his presence known, however ephemerally.

I paired the Ichishima with challah bread and wasn’t disappointed (sake and challah tend to go well together from my experience – I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps the answer is somewhere in here?), though I would like to try it again with seafood, as the label (and common sense) recommend.

The Ichishima Junmai Ginjo Sake earns a solid thumbs up – and this despite being a liquid, reminiscent of a gas.


Cool label too.

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