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Shall We Wine September Sake, She Cans, Events

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Hi Wine Lover,

The Shall We Wine team is excited to share our monthly newsletter. Our goal is to introduce you to our favorite wines, winemakers, varietals, wine regions and places to buy and drink wine.


The Shall We Wine Team


Sake is one of the most misunderstood, disrespected adult beverages on the market. How many of you swore off sake after your first experience? Years later, do you still think of it as a warm and tasteless “rice wine” to be served only with sushi?
I was first introduced to sake in 1997 when I worked as a salesperson for a wine distributor. Sake was not a focus for our company. I presented our offerings to the few sake restaurants in my territory. One of the bonuses of this job was keeping remaining wine samples from customer meetings and trade shows. I believed then that discarding premium alcohol was foolishness; having good sense, I intermittently consumed a glass or three of sake, depending on how much was leftover.
Back then, I drank sake by default; today it’s at the top of my list of beverages to enjoy. The change came when I had a one on one sake class with Tona Palomino, Sake Specialist for Tenzing Wine and Spirits. To truly appreciate sake, you must educate yourself and be open to tasting. Read below to begin your sake education, and look at the end of this article for an invitation to an intimate sake tasting with me on October 10, 2019.

Rice, Water, Koji Kin (mold culture) and Yeast

There are four key ingredients to making sake.

RICE: There are over 100 different strains of sake rice. The best rice for producing sake is Yamata Niche Ki from Kansai. Sake rice is different from the table rice you have at home. Sake rice kernels are 20-30% larger than those of table rice. Both sake and table rice are composed of fat, protein and starch. In table rice, fat, protein and starch are integrated. In sake rice, the starch is concentrated in the center. The Japanese term for this is "Shintaku" which translates into "white heart." This composition is critical to understanding sake production and what makes a premium sake. We will get to that later.
Fun Fact: Premium Sake is graded by the size of the rice kernel. The smaller the kernel, the higher the grade.

Water: “There is no great sake without great WATER.” This is logical given that 85% of the beverage is water. If you’re doing the math, this makes the average sake about 15% alcohol, which debunks the myth that sake is hard alcohol.
There are over 3,500 sake breweries in Japan, and all are positioned around a water source. While most of the water in Japan is soft in comparison to the rest of the world, a producer may choose to use hard or soft water to create their sake. Palomino invited me to think of water as a blank canvas for making sake. Sake brewers seek to create a creamy texture with a salty tang to give their sake some backbone. Those who use hard water as their canvas tend to have a more significant production since hard water speeds up fermentation. Furthermore, using hard water produces a “masculine” style of sake with fewer aromatics. Using soft water provides the opposite result, a sake with more aromatics. The reason for the increase in aromatics with soft water is that the yeast must work harder and release esters that cause the aromas. We will talk more about yeast later.

Fun Facts: Minerals feed yeast during fermentation. Water high in sodium and calcium is excellent for sake while water high in iron and magnesium spoils sake.

Koji Kin Mold:
Yeast plus sugar equals alcohol. Remember, rice is made up of protein, starch, and fats. So how is sake fermented? Koji Kin is a mold discovered in China that can convert starch into sugar. It is used to make soy sauce, miso paste, and other fermented products. Koji Kin is sprinkled on sake rice after the rice is steamed. Only about 25% of the rice mash needs to be sprinkled to convert starch to sugar.
You may have heard sake referred to as “rice wine.” Now you know this is WRONG. Sake is not considered a wine because ”there isn’t the same process of yeast converting sugar to alcohol—instead, starch is what must be converted via fermentation. Sake is really it’s own category, and if anything, it’s closer to beer,” says Andrew Richardson of World Sake Imports.” VinePair

Fun fact: There are 3 types of mold: Black (the original), White (this is a mutation -- less funky, softer, and cleaner) Yellow (used for sake. It has less acidity).
Koji kin = the name of the mold
Koji = the name of the moldy rice

Yeast has two main tasks in sake production. First, for fermentation occur and to provide an aromatic quality to sake. Secondly, a brewery will use various yeast strains to create a certain flavor.


Milling and Premium Sake:
Sake begins with milling away or polishing of the rice kernels. As the polish ratio decreases, the quality increases. To be considered premium, sake rice must be milled to at least 70%. Most of the sake in the US are premium sake. There are three categories of sake -- Junmai/ Honjozo 30% milled away, Junmai Ginjo/ Ginjo 40% milled away and Junmai Daignjo/ Daiginjo 50%.

2 Families of Sake
There are two families of sake, Junmai and Aru-Ten. Aru-Ten is sake with alcohol added during fermentation. The goal of adding alcohol is not to increase the alcohol level, but instead to introduce more aromatics. If a label reads Junmai, you know that alcohol has NOT been added.

Sake Styles: Pairing Sake With Sushi and Other Dishes

Junmai- Currently, there is no polish ratio minimum; it used to be 70%, and this is still the standard. Flavor profile: brown rice, brand-cereal, cream, unsweetened rice pudding, earthy. Pairs with pork belly, ramen, heavy sauces and broths.

Honjozo- is the alcohol added category of Junmai. Polished at 70% with alcohol added. These sake are cleaner, dry, and crisp. Try them with fried shrimp (and other fried foods) and maki.

Junmai Ginjo/ Ginjo- 60% polish ratio (takes two weeks to achieve) These sake will be fruity and aromatic. The polishing away of fats and protein cause this style to have less of a grainy rice flavor. Look for stoned fruits, melon and pear. These also have a rich texture. Pair with rich sauces and foods with a little spice.

Junmai Daiginjo/ Daiginjo- 50% minimum polish ratio. Fruity aromatics and silky mouthfeel. Suggest pairing these with lighter dishes or as an aperitif.

Nama Sake: These sake are pasteurized twice. Bold flavor, deeper and sweeter, pairs with meats, heavy sauces and heartier foods. Try coconut crusted shrimp, fish in a hearty sauce, Indian curry dishes.

Nigori: Cloudy sake. Sake that has not been strained as finely as the others and bottled with some rice solids. This style is the number one selling sake style in the US. These are sweeter, with tropical aromas of coconut and banana. Pair with slightly sweet desserts.

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Let's Tasted These Together on 10/10/19 Invitation Below

Sasaichi Junmai- “A crisp and dry sake brewed with the natural water of Mt. Fuji. It is refreshing with a subtle mineral undertone.“

Yuki Otoko Yeti Honjozo- Fresh clean, bold and rich with flavors

Jokigen Rice Label Junmai Ginjo -“ remarkable amount of flavor and aroma in a medium-full body. Classic Yamagata style with its subtle layers of fruit and light sweetness. Stewed black cherries, orange zest, and a savory finish make a great sake to enjoy on its own or with dishes like grilled duck breast or miso-marinated black cod.

Dassai Goju 50 Junmai Daiginjo- “Dassai 50 has a collection of sweet aromas including grape juice, cotton candy, and a hint of lemonade. Talk about a sake with body! This uber daiginjo has a full-figured flavor that rushes chewy fruit tones to all corners of your mouth. It is wide and heavy with lots of expansive elements that talk to those who like a mouthful. Pay attention for a hint of anise and sneaky mild veggie aftertaste. The subtle sweetness of grape and berries becomes more pronounced when the fluid warms in the mouth. WORD: Chunky WINE: Pinot Noir / Chewy Whites BEER: Ales FOODS: Mushroom risotto, tempura, fried chicken, caviar, smoked salmon pate.”

Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu "Drunken Snapper" rich, complex styles, maki rolls with heavy sauce, simmered and grilled seafood.

Miyashita Sacred Mist Nigori- rich, creamy with pleasant sweetness.

join us

OPPORTUNITY TO TASTE: Join me for a private tasting of 5 sakes on Thursday, October 10, 6:00-8:00 PM. We will have a sake 101 class, sample 5 sakes and have light bites. There is space available for 10. Please RSVP by email RSVPs accepted on a first-come basis.



Be not afraid, gone are the days of the super sweet malted canned cocktails and poorly made canned wines. Today’s ready-to-drink cocktail (RTD) and canned wines offer some exciting, balanced, and delicious options. These alternative packaged adult beverages are in high demand; they can be effortlessly consumed anywhere, sold in grocery stores, and come in small packages. Beyonce has hot sauce in her bag, we libation lovers have rose wine. Now that’s swag.
Here are three canned wine and cocktails to try. These are delicious options that just happen to be brands owned by women.

Mc Bride Sisters She Can. From their website: Cheers to women’s empowerment! We’re excited to welcome our newest Sisters, SHE CAN Wines, into the McBride Sisters Collection with a Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé! SHE CAN is our new wine in a can...made for women, by women. The best part? You can enjoy these wines where bottles can’t go–at the pool, at a sports game, on a hike, or at home as a convenient way to wind down after a long day. The SHE CAN line of wines reminds you that SHE CAN do anything.

We focus on being environmentally conscious, and because aluminum cans are a lightweight material compared to glass, the carbon footprint to transport SHE CAN is substantially smaller.

RAMONA Spirits. From their website: RAMONA is on a mission to free wine drinkers from rules, dinner tables & bottle openers. Founder Jordan Salcito, one of the country’s premier sommeliers, created RAMONA as an alter ego to her fine wine and high-end restaurant career. Obsessed with sprits and inspired by wine coolers f the 1980s, Salcito noticed distinct void in the market for high quality, high quality portable wine -based beverage that consumers could drink in traditional ‘beer moments.’ RAMONA offers a rose wine, and three sprits flavors.

Chicago Distilling Company. From their website: Chicago Distilling Company was founded in 2010 and is family owned and operated by the DiPrizio family. But the story really begins in the Wisconsin North Woods, nearly a century ago. We’re not looking to recreate what our forefathers were cooking under the moonlit sky on those frigid nights, we’re simply honoring our past and building something for the next generation. And unlike our forefathers, we don't mind at all if people see us work. That’s why we distill, craft, bottle and package everything by hand in our unique Logan Square facility in the full view of our visitors. They offer three canned cocktails: gin and tonic, Chicago mule and highball.



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When I share my BIG DREAMS, some ignore me, some laugh and others say, “Darling, how can we help?” I am excited to announce that I am a recipient of the Dream Big Darling Scholarship for their Leadership Conference in September 2019. Thank you Dream Big Darling and my amazing community for seeding into my big dreams!

Dream Big Darling’s mission: “To foster the success of women in the wine and spirits industry through mentorship, education, life enhancement and professional retreats.”



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Stuck in a wine rut? Drinking the same wines every week? Are you confused about which wines to try when at the wine shop? Shall We Wine to the rescue! Every Wednesday we post a wine of the week on Instagram, Facebook and Shall We Wine Blog.

1. IGTV - Want a quick recommendation telling you A) what to drink, B) why we like it and C) when to serve it? Watch a short 30-second video on IGTV or YouTube (@ShallWeWine)
2. READ - Want to go deeper and learn some fact about the wine of the week? Check out the Shall We Wine Blog for our Wine of The Week Wine Notes![]


BOOK SALE!!! BUY NOW AT $3 OFF! $12.99

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Join Us for Our Next Cooking Party and Wine Tasting
I can't get enough of Italy, so I convinced my Cecelia to teach us how to make some of my favorite Italian dishes. I will be pairing these with some Italian deliciousness.

Italian Themed Menu


Charcuterie tray or Prosciutto flatbread Served with the Bella (Prosecco based cocktail)


Served with a White, Rose, and Red (we will learn about food and wine pairings and discuss which wines work best with each dish).


Arugula and endive salad with roasted pear and toasted pine nuts, herb sherry vinaigrette


Roasted butternut squash sage risotto, Pan-seared scallops, Sautéed spinach

Dessert: Served with dessert wine

Dark chocolate cake OR Non-dairy gelato


1. Chef Cecelia and Regine will start your evening off with prepared appetizers and a cocktail.
2. You will cook in teams, so bring your spouse, co-work or favorite cooking buddy
3. Learn to plate your creation
4. Enjoy a sit-down dinner in a lovely open dining area with a beautiful table setting
5. Learn which wines work best (and not so well) with dishes in an interactive environment
6. End the night with a touch of sweetness: dessert and dessert wine
1. Chef Cecelia and Regine will start your evening off with prepared appetizers and a cocktail.
2. You will cook in teams, so bring your spouse, co-work or favorite cooking buddy
3. Learn to plate your creation
4. Enjoy a sit-down dinner in a lovely open dining area with a beautiful table setting
5. Learn which wines work best (and not so well) with dishes in an interactive environment
6. End the night with a touch of sweetness: dessert and dessert wine

Here's an example of the cooking vibe we had during a previous Heartfelt Catering event!

Note: Each event is specially curated. Offerings will be new and differ from one another.

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At Shall We Wine make learning about wines fun! Tired of hosting the same kind of events and looking for something to make them different?

Shall We Wine also plans experiences for corporate events! We work with our corporate clients to create wine, beer and spirit-focused experiences. These experiences include: wine dinners, wine tastings, team building "cocktail" exercises and more!

Just some examples of the upcoming themes we’re hosting:

Wines for Under $15

Mixology Class

Bourbon Basics

Blind Tasting Steal or Splurge


To remain in the loop with upcoming happenings and cool info, make sure to follow us on social media!

Did Shall We Wine PUT YOU ON something new?

Use the hashtag #shallwewineputmeon on your posts and share!





So you know us for our pop up events, but did you know that our consultants host mini pop-ups every weekend at your local wine shop and/or grocery stores? Next time you're tasting wine at Binny's, Whole Foods, Mariano's or your local wine shop, ask the consultant if they are with Shall We Wine!

Sounds like a fun gig? We are hiring wine and spirit enthusiasts! Send your resume to and follow the link below to apply.

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Learn, Drink, Repeat!
The Shall We Wine Team

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