by Fred McMillin
for December 29, 1997

Fit for an Emperor

Prologue: It has to be the most unusual wine made in the Napa Valley. It is Kohnan's highly popular rice wine, Hakusan Plum Dessert Sake (sah-key).

The Rest of the Story: Quick! Name the Japanese who created that nation's national drink, sake. You can't, because the inventor was Chinese. Brewmaster Susukori came to Japan around 250 A.D. And brewed the country's first rice wine for Emperor Ojin. Today we know he was first converting rice starch to sugar and then the sugar to ethyl alcohol. Eighteen centuries later, in 1987, the Kohnan company brought that process to the Napa Valley with an investment of $21 million...buying 630 acres north of Sacramento for rice production and 22 acres south of Napa City for processing that rice. of their half dozen products, the Hakusan Plum is my tasters' favorite, consistently winning Best Buy kudos.

The Wine: (technically, a fermented starch beverage)
Hakusan Plum, non-vintage
Owner—U.S-based Kohnan Inc., which controls the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Of Japan
Alcohol Content—a low 8%
Service—Cool in frig for an hour before serving with low-sugar, fruit dessert; pour over fruit sorbet.
Price—Only $7.25 for the standard 750 ml. bottle.

Postscript: Another Hakusan biggie is their Premium Sake, which pulled down a Double Gold at the California State Fair (there were only nine Double Golds that year). Emperor Ojin would have loved it!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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