Here is my local wine experience to take a part of Wine Blogging Wednesday #12, with the theme “Drink Local, Real Local” hosted by Lenn Thompson.
The wine that you see has been made only 2 miles away from where I live. Local enough, no? ;)
Living in Northern California gives you many choices in finding local wineries. We do not live so close to Napa Valley; it is about 1.5 hrs drive away. And we somehow prefer the wineries of the Sierra Foothills in El Dorado County then the crowded Napa Valley ones. They are about 40miles or so away from where we live; Folsom. I thought one of those wineries would be the closest, but I was wrong. Running a search on the internet got me a winery that I have never heard of within 7 miles! I was going to check them out and write about them here. But one day, as I was driving to work I finally realized that Gekkeikan’s Sake Plant is just there; only 1 mile way from where I work and about 2 miles from home. Than I started to think if sake is a wine or not. Also posed the question on Lenn’s website and got encouraging answers. So, I decided to go there in a rush today at my lunch break. You know, living here for 5 years, I have never been to their tasting room or the plant even once. ;( I guess it is normal as the tasting room is open from 10:00am to 4:30pm and only in weekdays.
Turns out Gekkeikan was established in 1637 (no typo here!) in Fushimi, Japan. It is considered to be one of the world’s oldest companies. They established the plant in Folsom in 1989. And I wondered why they have chosen Folsom. The answer is in their website:
Just as Fushimi was “discovered” centuries ago, Folsom was found to offer just the right conditions: high quality water and an abundance of rice- the perfect setting for a skilled brewmaster backed by over three and a half centuries of experience.
Before setting off there I wanted to read more about sake to really determine if it is beer or wine. As it is written in Gekkeikan’s website, it is a fermented drink; just like beer and wine. It is made mainly from rice and water.
My experience with sake has not been so wide; we have a nice salmon recipe that calls for sake and every once in a while we have sake in the sushi dinners. And in my short research I also came across John Gauntner’s Sake World. There he states
Sake is a beverage fermented from rice, which is a grain. This would make it more of a beer than a wine. Yet, sake is not carbonated, and flavor-wise is closer to wine than beer, although it is indeed uniquely different from wine. Sake is not a distilled beverage, and is not even remotely related to gin, vodka or other spirits.
Even after this I went to Gekkeikan. Turns out it was worth doing so; they do make plum wines there.
The lady in the tasting room didn’t like the idea of me taking a picture ;( When I asked her if sake is beer or wine, I was hoping she would say one way or another. But, no, there was no definite answer there, either. She said city considers them as a brewery but the state sees them as winery (or vice versa.) When they make their plum wine, they do shut down their brewery, she added. Some kind of strange regulation I suppose.
I got to taste 3 different sakes. They all tasted the same to me, which proves that I am not a connoisseur. There were two plum wines; Kobai Plum, made right here in Folsom, and Plum Gekkeikan imported from Japan. I didn’t taste them there as my lunch break was about to be over and I was getting hungry. As I am writing this, we are tasting the one made in Folsom. It definitely is a sweet wine! This one has plum essence as opposed to the Plum Gekkeikan which is made using real plums. I really am interested in buyingh the imported one as well. I was told I can get both of them in Trader Joe’s, but I could only find the Kobai there. Now I only wish I had a plum to drop into the wine glass, as I once saw in a restaurant!