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Country of Origin: Japan
Location: Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
People: Ross Koda, Owner
Viticulture: Certified Organic
|Uka (300 ml) Black Label Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
|Uka (300 ml) Dry Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
|Uka (300 ml) Sparkling Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
|Uka (720 ml) Black Label Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
|Uka (720 ml) Dry Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
|Uka (720 ml) Sparkling Organic Junmai Daiginjo||Login||—||In Stock|
We had the pleasure of being introduced to Uka sake by way of their local representative and Chicago resident Kimiyo Naka Michaeli and were awestruck by not only the quality of these sake but from the fascinating origin story. Owner Ross Koda’s grandfather Keisaburo Koda, originally from Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, owned and farmed rice fields in the San Mateo Valley of California in the 1930’s prior to being unconstitutionally incarcerated in a United States prison camp during World War II. Ross and his father Ed, labored over the years to reclaim and bring back these heirloom family rice fields and now produce sake from this certified organic rice at Ninki Shuzo Brewery in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Talk about closing the loop on rice growing and sake production while turning some difficult pages and rewriting your family history. Truly inspiring story and very delicious sake. We look forward to sharing more of these stories and tasting these with you.
CALIFORNIA ORGANIC RICE
The rice used to make Uka sake is grown at Koda Farms® in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In 1928, Keisaburo Koda, an immigrant from Ogawa, Fukushima, Japan, founded the farm. At this same location, Keisaburo’s third generation descendants endeavor to continue the 90+ year history of growing high quality rice. During the tenure of the second generation, Koda Farms®’ rice breeder created the uniquely shaped medium grain Japonica rice variety, KR55, packaged under the Koda Farms®’ brand, Kokuho Rose®, whose literal translation is “country’s treasure.” During its 60+ year life, Kokuho Rose® has garnered a reputation for excellence among rice connoisseurs for its pleasing appearance, tantalizing aroma, and slightly sweet floral flavor. In 2019, experiments began to craft Koda Farms®’ organic rice into sake. Unexpectedly, the results from brewing Kokuho Rose®, a non-traditional variety for brewing sake, yielded impressive outcomes, and culminated with the introduction of Uka Black Label, Uka Dry, and Uka Sparkling Sake.
UKA SAKE BRAND CONCEPT
Uka is the Japanese word for emergence, and it was chosen as the brand’s name for the symbolism it embodies on several levels. From humble beginnings as organic grain in a field, the rice is transformed through milling and brewing to emerge as a sake which is elegant and refined. The sake label itself is symbolized by the sumie style butterfly. The lower wings of Uka’s butterfly are stylized maps of California and Fukushima, signaling a new relationship established between the family of a California rice farm and a centuries-old brewer’s family in Japan. But most important, Uka sake is a renewal of continuing the Koda Farms’ founder’s passion for seeking ways to increase ties and foster relationships between the USA and Japan. Uka sake completes the circle of connection by using organic rice grown at the founder’s California farm and having it brewed into sake near the Koda family’s ancestral home in Fukushima, Japan.
NINKI SHUZO, BREWERY IN NIHONMATSU, JAPAN
Ninki Shuzo started anew when its old kura was damaged in the 2011 earthquake, and it was forced to move to all new facilities. Since then, it has begun brewing year-round to offer saké always at its peak of freshness and flavor.
Ninki brews to match modern tastes, with casual daiginjo, sparkling saké, and saké intended to be enjoyed in a wine glass. At the same time, they continue to use traditional wooden fermentation tanks for all their saké (apart from Uka and competition brews), and they stopped maturing saké in tanks in favor of bottle aging. All of this is done in pursuit of peak quality. They have maintained their ideals of brewing only ginjo saké, and only by hand, and want the world to know what exactly makes them so different.
Some believe that as saké production has advanced and plant efficiency has improved, saké has become an industrial product that has lost its true value. No one has been able to automate culture, though.
Ninki Shuzo does not make “futsushu” table saké, only premium ginjo saké, and all of it is made by hand, without shortcuts. The rice is milled to 60% or below and brewed slowly at low temperatures in the traditional ginjo style. Just as you can taste the difference between cuisine made with care from natural ingredients, and food made by machine with artificial flavorings, one drink will show the difference.
Light, temperature, and oxygen are the enemies of saké. Letting their saké age in bottles helps protect it from the air and prevents deterioration far better than tanks. The creation of great saké means cutting no corners, taking plenty of time, and not rushing to modernize the brewing process. They use wooden tools and traditional steamers and make their rice koji by hand. Because saké brewing is an ancient cultural art, it makes no sense to modernize the tools.
They employ their saké brewing techniques to making shochu? as well, distilling honkaku shochu as only Ninki Shuzo can.
They use ingredients nurtured by the local landscape, including sweet potatoes, barley, rice, and buckwheat, along with pure spring water flowing from Mt. Adatara, to make clean, refined shochu evocative of the splendid Tohoku region.