California Rice Featured in Premium Japanese Sake

    Saké maker Jeff James. Photo: USA Rice

    Rice harvested at Koda Farms, a Japanese-founded farm in Merced County, California, is being used to make saké at a brewery in the Japan Fukushima Prefecture city of Nihonmatsu.  Koda Farms entered into an arrangement with the brewery, Ninki Shuzo, to provide ingredients for two new, premium rice wines, dubbed “Uka.”

    Ross Koda, a third-generation farmer who currently manages Koda Farms, had the original idea to produce saké using his operation’s organic rice, and sought the advice and assistance of Yujin Yusa, president of Ninki Shuzo.

    The rice varieties Koda selected for the saké-brewing project are two organic varieties, “Kokuho Rose” and “Calhikari.”  The Kokuho Rose heirloom variety is not considered suitable for saké brewing, however, the brewery spent a long time polishing the rice, removing 60 percent of the grain’s outer layers, to make a premium saké with a sophisticated, well-balanced flavor. The saké made from Calhikari tastes refreshing and crisp, according to the brewery.

    “I was passionate about creating good quality saké using our rice and I think we accomplished that,” said Koda.  “My late grandfather, Keisaburo Koda, was dedicated to promoting relations between the U.S. and Japan, and I am seeking to do the same with this saké.”

    Uka is tentatively planned to be launched in the U.S. in October 2020.

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