At first glance, the 120-year old Wakayabashi brewery based in Nagano fits the mold of a traditional sake brewery. Nestled at the basin of a large mountain range, Wakayabashi brewery attributes their sake's sweeter and aromatic flavor to the surrounding nature that feeds the fermentation process. Made only in small batches with Nagano rice and nearby mountain water, their sake is fermented for a month at the coldest temperatures, then pressed with traditional labor-intensive methods to achieve the sake's balanced and versatile finish (think 'dry' wether served chilled or warm). The result of all this effort by Wakaybashi is a highly localized, artisanal sake that their neighbors have proudly claimed as their own, almost exclusively, for over a century.
Yet an even greater source of pride for this family-operated business may be one that separates their brewery from the rest–and that is their toji
, the Japanese term for 'master sake brewer'. At the helm of Wakayabashi brewery is Mami Wakayabashi
, one of the few female tojis
currently leading and operating a licensed sake brewery in Japan and the very first in her family to push Wakayabashi's sake to a larger worldwide audience.
The name Moon Bloom is inspired by
Kaguya-hime, a story from Japanese folklore about a princess born of the moon and discovered living inside a bamboo stalk by a childless couple. They go on to raise this baby as their pride and joy. Mami Wakayabashi's path to becoming a toji was discovered and illuminated by her parents when they broke the news they'd be closing down without a successor in place. "I heard they were quitting a 120 year old business, and thought, maybe I'll come home and take over." Mami was studying in the United States at the time, and quickly returned to begin an intense apprenticeship with award-winning toji Masaru Nishizawa at the Shinshumeijo brewery and rescue her family's business. That was in 2013. Today, Moon Bloom has successfully released four bottles since its launch in 2020, including the milky and slightly acidic Yamahai and their newest bottle, Junmai Daiginjo, which Mami considers the highest quality sake Wakayabashi has ever exported. Both are currently being carried at Tortoise.
We welcome you to come celebrate women brewers like Mami Wakayabashi by picking up a bottle of one of Nagano's finest, Moon Bloom, and have a sip under the stars. Moon Bloom Yamahai ($40):
Yamahai sake tends to be rich and wild. This label has a balanced sourness influenced by lactic acid, one of the signature notes of a Yamahai. Floral and red apple notes leap from the glass. Mild clean finish, and unique yogurt-like acidic taste. Kunoichi pairs well with rich and flavorful dishes. MILLING:
Chilled, Room Temperature, or Gently Warmed.
Moon Bloom Junmai Daiginjo ($98):
Made with locally grown Miyamanishiki rice polished down to 49%–Moon Bloom’s Junmai Daiginjo has a sweet melon and powdery nose. Think boxed cake mix alongside rice powder, with hints of juicy fruit and pea shoot stems. It has a robust palate–it will sit on the tongue and lips and lovingly linger. The flavor profile of this sake is that of Horchata (rice milk + cinnamon) and soft-ball sugar (light stage of cooking caramel). This sake is clean, dry and uncomplicated. You'll notice a faint sweetness, that is best when served cold.
RICE: 100% Miyamanishiki