The thing about Portland, Oregon, is that most thirsty pilgrims heading there are after one thing: beer—myself included, admittedly. But you’d be seriously short-changing yourself if you didn’t take a ride about 25 minutes outside the city to Forest Grove and visit one of only a handful of saké breweries on U.S. soil (I think, there might be seven or eight at last count—a far cry from the 2,300-plus beer breweries in the U.S. and 7,000 or so wineries).
SakéOne started out as an importer in 1992—a JV with Japan’s Momokawa Brewing—but became a producer 15 years ago. It’s best known for its Momokawa line, an homage to the partner that helped it get started.
If you’ve been on a lot of beer brewery tours, you get to a point where they all start to sound the same and you just want to get to the tasting portion of the afternoon. It’s not their fault. They have to tailor the tour to those who have little or no knowledge of brewing.
But unless you’ve traveled extensively in Japan, it’s not likely you’ve toured too many saké breweries. Sure, much of the equipment looks like a lot of the same stuff you’d find in a beer brewery, but I guarantee you haven’t seen a rice mill that polishes the grains down to the requisite percentages for junmai, junmai ginjo and junmai daiginjo.
Okay, you can admit it. It’s really all about the tasting room. Lucky for you, SakéOne’s got one of those (with plenty of saké sets and related gifts for sale. Visitors get to choose from among three reasonably priced flights. The Kura Flight, which costs $3 per person and features samples of four sakés. The Toji Flight, at $5 per person, includes everything in the Kura sampling, plus two additional reserves (including imports). Finally there’s Saké Shock, which pairs five sakes with small bites of food for $10.
When the weather’s good—which is not too often the case in Oregon—sit at a table on the outdoor patio and enjoy a bottle or three you just bought in the gift shop. We were lucky enough to be there in July when it’s generally pretty pleasant. Can’t vouch for the rest of the year though.