Bottle and glass of Sho Chiku Bai Sake from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s has Good Sake for Goodness’ Sake

Fast facts:

  • Sho Chiku Bai Sake, Berkeley, Californa ($3.99 @ Trader Joe’s, California)


How good is the QPR on this (rice) wine?

Well, a local high-end supermarket (which shall remain nameless) sells it for twice the price.  It’s less than a mile away from our local Trader Joe’s, so yeah, it is worth the drive from Gelson’s Supermarket (oh, no – we said the quiet part out loud…) even with gas at over $6 a gallon here is California.

And speaking of California. That is where this sake is brewed (yes, the process is indeed known as brewing) by Takara Sake USA.

Based just north of Oakland in Berkeley, California, Takara has developed a reputation for creating high-quality rice wine that follows many of the traditional Japanese brewing methods. The water comes from the Sierra Nevada snowmelt and the rice comes from the Sacramento Valley further north.

Part of a long Japanese tradition Sake has been around longer than we have been a country here in the USA. The Imperial Court served sake more than 1,000 years ago during big events such as rituals and special celebrations. Later, the Japanese citizenry began drinking sake during everyday occurrences. The popularity of the drink spread around the world. Today, sake has become a staple across the West and enjoys growing popularity in America as an alternative to traditional wine and beer.


Front label of Sho Chiku Bai Sake from Trader Joe's
Front label of Sho Chiku Bai Sake from Trader Joe’s


When you serve it warm, at room temperature, or chilled (our favorite) the flavor changes. The classic pairing is with sushi of course, but this Junmai Sake would also pair really well with grilled fish, chicken or red meat or any number of Asian dishes. It also make for great sipping while you prepare said dishes.

Tasting notes:

Unlike most of our featured wines, the tasting notes for this rice wine, vary based upon the temperature(s) you choose to serve it at.

Served chilled this Classic Junmai Sake offers a very fine texture with harmonious aromas and flavors of macadamia nuts, Chai spice (cardamom, nutmeg), vanilla, heavy cream, and freshly sliced bread.

Served at room temperature, notes of mineral, creme fraiche, sourdough bread, custard, umami, and apples emerge.

When warmed to around 100º F., the texture and flavor build, bringing out more intense umami while still retaining softness of texture. Savory elements of salted custard, cocoa nib, banana bread, toasted nuts, and mineral are evident.

Bottle and glass of Sho Chiku Bai Sake from Trader Joe's
Bottle and glass of Sho Chiku Bai Sake from Trader Joe’s – with chopsticks at the ready


Here are a couple of factoids that you might find useful:

  1. The ABV, at 15%, is right in the same range as table wine made from grapes
  2. The bottle size – at 750ml – is the same as a standard wine bottle. (Although Takara’s website offers a 3L bottle, if you like it as much as we do!)


More Wine Picks from Trader Joe’s – or Costco?

If your search for this wine lands you in Trader Joe’s, take along our handy Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine here.

And if your wine shopping excursions land you in Costco, prepare by grazing our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list.

Happy hunting.






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