as a Beverly Hills makeover, and the largely untranslatable Japan-ese terminology that describes the process is best left to double PhDs in linguistics and biochemistry. Suffice it to say that you don't have to understand the process in order to appreciate sake. One of the more enjoyable new American sakes is NapaSaki.

It's the creation of Avery Goldberg, who also developed Mezzaluna Vodka. The clever packaging, with a bottle reminiscent of a Japanese peasant wearing a conical hat, makes this one a standout on the shelf. When displayed on its side, the bottle resembles a pointy-nosed fish.
Envision what you want on the outside, inside the bottle is a sake that's soft and sedate, with subtle flavors and a subdued finish. This one works well with East-West fusion cuisines, but with its whimsical packaging, it would also make an excellent choice for sushi parties. Hats off; bottoms up.


The Hakusan Sake Gardens in Napa, California, is one of the pioneers of sake in the United States. The facility is set on 22 acres, surrounded by lovely Japanese-style landscaping. If contemplating the precisely raked gravel in the rock garden doesn't clear your head, then step into the tasting room for another shot of sake.

Hakusan's parent company, Kohnan, chose Napa Valley for the project because of the area's tradition of technological experimentation with alcoholic beverages. It might take a few years, but Hakusan's clearly hoping to be the Robert Mondavi of American sake.

Hakusan produces several styles of sake in Napa. These include a delicate plum-flavored version and the full-flavored, sweetish cooking sake known as mirin, which makes a great addition to sauces. My favorite is the Hakusan Premium, which offers fruity aromas, citrusy tones, and an off-dry finish. Serve it with a plate of cracked crab for a Zenlike experience.