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For the sake of Sake

written by Chef Ed Metcalfe


We live and work in the wine country. We, being my staff of three, specialize in the culinary world with talents for catering, private dinners, culinary classes, and education located in the town of Sonoma. which is located in Sonoma county; infamously known for its wines. not to be confused with Napa...thats the other wine country...oh, and that’s on the other side.... Which is in Napa county.... So now that your officially confused let’s proceed.

So, naturally, wine is a big part of what we do. Pairing wines with our sushi classes and food tastings- we see a LOT of wine. Wineries, wine tastings, wine flights, wine dinners, wine release parties, wine galas, wine and food pairings, wine cellar barrel tastings, new wineries… and so I’m just starting to whine about it! ENOUGH ALREADY!

Let’s talk about something other than wine? Shall we??


Ah, yes- rice wine. Sake, for most people, is an anomaly. Which is why we are here to talk about it.

I first started drinking sake at age 29 (atleast for the SAKE of this blog). It was my first sushi bar experience in Venice beach, California. Of course it was hot sake. Not the best sake choice for a first timer- but perfect for the non-educated, sake drinker. Served hot - to mask the horrid flavor - and with what felt like only intentions to give one a promising head-splitting hangover.

Or was that the sake bombs ? Even worse.

Take a half a beer ( usually a Japanese beer). Sapporo, Kirin and a shot of hot sake. Place two chopsticks across your beer and place the shot of hot sake on top on the chopsticks sitting on top of the beer. Bang under the table or counter ( if you’re at the bar). Watch the sake drop into your beer. Then shotgun (slang for chug) the whole drink as fast as you can.

Yes as if you're in your freshman year of college. For real? No only here in the US. They actually don’t do this in Japan. Just another adolescent American game we came up with.

I’m here to give you the basics of sake. And obviously set the record straight for what most of us think of as "Sake".

First and foremost- sake is more like a beer in how it is brewed. Why you ask? Because rice is considered a grain and not a fruit (grapes) = wine. Grain = beer in the fermentation process.

Sake is generally rated by four key elements:

  1. The sake master,

  2. the Koji ( the mold or yeast) ,

  3. the water source, i.e. a natural spring.

  4. And the polishing of the rice grain.

By polishing the rice grain it gets rid of impurities and gets to the nucleus of the core of the rice. Which in essence give the sake it’s style and classification. In the chart below is an explanation of how we classify them into their own categories, based on the percentage of polishing of the rice grain

As you can see it’s broken down into alcohol added and pure rice style. Which has been an on going debate for centuries. You can be your own judge as to which you prefer. After all, it is your palette.

I suggest go to BevMo or locally ( bottle barn) and experience several types. They range from dry to slightly dry, sweet to floral and many styles.


the alternative is to take one of our sake classes paired with our sushi making class= super fun, educational, and you get your buzz on .


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