Why a sake club? What's the point?
As some of you know, I didn’t want to start this club without putting my whole heart into it. My own experience with wine clubs has been pretty disappointing, and during my time working as a wine rep my disappointment only grew. For so many shops, clubs are a source of frustration rather than inspiration; the stress of coming up with yet another theme, securing sufficient inventory in time for shipment, working within strict price confines (usually $15-20 bottles) and dealing with dozens of reps fighting for your business...well, it’s a slog. And as a result reps like myself often handled the club for them: putting together writeups, making pretty info sheets, securing inventory. It's not every club, but it is a lot of them. And I didn’t want to follow this formula at Sunflower.
My goal with these clubs is two-fold: first, to use it as a fun, bite-size way to teach you about sake, by providing information not only on the bottles you received but also on broader concepts, such as the history of a specific brewing technique. The illustrations I'll be providing with the club will also help me progress on the Illustrated Guide to Sake, which is a WIP. My second goal is to leverage your commitment to bring in really special stuff in from Japan, elevating the sake scene in Portland for everyone. Right now, Oregon only has ready access to only ~500 different bottles (SKU’s) of sake total– this is nothing compared to the 20,000+ SKU’s of wine floating around and significantly less than California or even Washington. There are entire categories of sake we just don’t see, because it takes a committed effort to get them here. For instance, until 2 years ago, seasonal fall Hiyaoroshi was essentially unknown in Portland... and were it not for Paul Willenberg, a local namazake fan, I'm not sure that would have changed! Developing the industry takes champions and it takes lots of planning. I'm here for both and I hope you are, too.
I began placing orders for the club in October so that I could start it now, in February. I’ve also been in conversation with handcrafted domestic sake brewers like Tahoma Fuji (Seattle) and Nova Brewing (LA) for some time now, with the hope that club commitments will help bring their brews to Portland. This club will be a focal part of Sunflower, not an afterthought: delivering authentic educational value, discovery, and delicious yummy enjoyment, at least as long as I'm around 😘