Sake One in Portland

A treat that is uniquely Oregon.

By Nino Marchetti
For Oregon.com

SakéOne

SakéOne
820 Elm Street
Forest Grove, OR 97116
503-357-7056

About SakéOne: Pure water: it's one of the most crucial components of saké; premium saké cannot be brewed without quality water. After our founders realized that the country's best water supply for saké was the Pacific Northwest, they located their new saké brewery in Forest Grove, Oregon, on the east slope of the Coast Range, in 1997. SakéOne, the country's foremost sakéry, was built at the edge of a lush rainforest aquifer.

Hours: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m daily.

Getting there: SakéOne is located just off of the Tualatin Valley Highway (OR-47). Watch for the signs.

For more information about
SakéOne, visit their web site at www.sakeone.com or contact them at 503-357-7056.
What do you know of saké? The Japanese drink you're probably used to consuming at your local sushi bar often burns the back of your throat. The aptly named "fire water" goes cold though at SakéOne, a sakéry in Forest Grove at the far western reaches of the Portland Metro area. It's here, brewed with water from an Oregon rainforest aquifer, that some of America's only home grown rice wine is produced in the cold saké style.

Driving through pleasant farms into Forest Grove and following the signs to SakéOne leads to a turn off from the Tualatin Valley Highway (OR-47). You head into a slightly industrial area - not the place you'd expect to find a place making a premium wine product. The sakéry sits in what looks like a warehouse, with a smaller building out front holding the tasting room and offices. Don't drive away though thinking its somewhere else - you'll miss a treat that is uniquely Oregon.

Tasting room? That's right - your first chance to get to know SakéOne's 10 sakés comes via interaction with manager Jennifer Brownstein and her knowledgeable crew of saké pourers. You'll perhaps learn, as you taste, about how only select rice is used in the making of this drink and that the extent to which the rice is polished (removing undesirable fat and protein from the exterior of the grain) determines the quality level and grade of what you are drinking.

Settling into the SakéOne tasting room, surrounded by saké bottles and associated gear, you'll come to be surprised at how different this saké tastes from what you are used to. The style of cold saké brings out a different character essence in these drinks, invoking tastes more akin to what you might get if you were to taste at one of the nearby wineries.

And this cold saké style - what is it? It involves both the quality production which goes into the creation of the end product and how it is served when being enjoyed. You can learn more about these both in the tasting room and also a twenty minute tour of the sakéry offered several times daily during the afternoon. During the tour in particular you'll learn about rice milling techniques and brewing while glimpsing a cedar-lined room which houses the koji (mold) used as an important ingredient in the saké making process.

SakéOne
Photos courtesy of Nino Marchetti
Standing out among the SakéOne line is G. This cask strength saké is geared the most towards wine drinking Americans and is a premium treat in sharp packaging. Tasting this smooth alcohol revealed sensations of melon and honeydew delivered in a full body experience inside the mouth.

Those who like even more interesting fruit tastes might consider a bottle of infused Moonstone saké, perhaps best enjoyed in the sakéry's tranquil outdoor stone garden. The Moonstone line includes four choices of natural fruit flavors paired with rice wine. These include Asian pear, coconut lemongrass, plum and raspberry. Tasting these found the pear to be silky on the palate and the coconut lemongrass, milky in color, the sweetest of the lot. And yes, there were definitely hints of coconut as well.

Joining the Moonstone and G lines is also the more traditional Momokawa line. Named to honor those from Japan who helped to get SakéOne off the ground, the four sakés of this family range in style from very dry to sweet and fruity. The sweetest of these is the Pearl, which stood out with bright notes of anise and banana before mellowing to a more moderate finish.

Those seeking to enjoy SakéOne for more than just saké tasting will be happy to make the trip out there for several reasons. Sakétini Saturdays on the third Saturday of each month typically bring crowds to enjoy sake-infused cocktails. There's also a new grassy area with picnic tables and a stage where summertime concerts occur. The SakéOne folks also plan to expand the tasting room into a more upscale affair complete with a full kitchen. With this they'll be able to hold pairings of food and saké as well as offering a sushi rolling class.

So put down that glass of "fire water", gather some of your saké loving friends and head out to SakéOne to taste saké in a new way. You'll quickly come to understand why this sakéry has come to be such an award-winning establishment.