Looking over his Abbotsford field mid-February, Masa Shiroki is undaunted. No, he didn’t get jizake (locally made sake wine) from his first attempt to produce a fully home-grown Canadian batch in 2011-2012. But he smiles broadly and says, “We’ve got enough seed for years.”
That is significant when bureaucrats grant “Made in Canada” dispensations for wine labels.
Using sake-grade rice imported from Japan and 100% local water, the artisan sake maker has been producing his Osake brand wines since 2007 from his Granville Island winery.
Naturally he is more than pleased that in the latest Vancouver Magazine Wine Awards his wines competed in the same category as grape wines in blind-tasting tests. Two placed in the top 100. He’s memorized and recites Chief Judge D. J. Kearny’s comments in the Wine Awards 2012 magazine available in B.C. liquor stores now: Its [sake’s] savoury complexity and vinous qualities can be deployed just like wine. That’s exactly what Shiroki has been saying all along.
Now as the growing season approaches, he’s optimistic that his dream to produce 100% Canadian jizake can come true on this field. Last year’s problems are not an issue. The field had to be levelled before seeding; however, due to extended rains, heavy equipment could not work the field until late May. Seeding occurred in early June, and the summer was abnormally cold. At harvest, too, the fields were too wet for the machinery and the threat of frost loomed.
For a marketing guy who knew little about farming, this field (and the test locations elsewhere) provided a speedy and tough education. However, Shiroki is a quick study. This morning a bucket excavator is taking pipes into the field to improve the drainage.
The skies are clouded but white with late winter sunlight. It seems he won’t need the rain jacket he’s worn. Maybe that’s an omen of things to come.