The Tedorigawa Brewery was founded in 1870, at the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912), in the Yamashima Mura area of the Tedorigawa (Tedori River) catchment basin. The area has long been famous for sake production, due to its superior water quality, an abundance of high quality rice, clean air, and an agricultural work force with plenty of time to devote to sake production during the winter. From the Meiji Period to the end of the Taisho Period (1912-1926), the number of sake makers in the region grew to ten, and the regional sake known as “Yamashima Sake” and “Tedori Sake” became famous far beyond the local area.
However, the Great Depression of the 1930’s hit the region hard, and by 1935 the Tedorigawa Brewery was the only sake maker that remained. Since then, sake production in Japan has become increasingly mechanized and automated, but the brewers of Tedorigawa have insisted on maintaining a hand-crafted sake tradition as much as possible. Currently, the company carries on this tradition at its two breweries, the Yamamoto Brewery, and the Yoshida Brewery, which are named for the master brewers of each facility.
From its source on sacred Mount Hakusan, the Tedori River tumbles swiftly down in a torrent of whitewater that has earned it the nickname “raging river.” But it is also known as a river of plenty, bringing nutrient-laden sediments to its alluvial fan, and a rich harvest every autumn.
For more than a century during the Warring States Period (1467-1603), the area was dotted with the castles of the Ikkoshu Monto rulers that protected the region’s fierce independence from feudal domination. Now, only stone monuments remain as testimony to the region’s former power.
The Tedorigawa breweries are located in a quiet land of rice paddies and farms located at the heart of the Tedori River plain. It is an environment blessed by the waters of sacred Mount Hakusan, clean air, and excellent rice. Ground water from the Tedori River is used for brewing, which is naturally free of iron and rich in minerals, with a hardness level of 4 to 5 on the old German scale. In recent years the breweries have been blending this ground water with pure distilled water in various combinations for each product and each season to maintain even greater quality and consistency. Note that water experts estimate that the water now being used at Tedorigawa has been in the ground for between 70 and 100 years.
We aim to make very high quality sake by hand. In 1985, far ahead of most breweries, we committed ourselves to making only specially designated “premium” grade sake from honjozo quality and higher. Now, over 60% of our production is in the daiginjo and junmai daiginjo super-premium quality range. Also, from 2007 we switched to using specialty sake rice for all of our products. Further, we strive to remain local and to stay faithful to our terroir* by contracting directly with local rice farmers as much as possible.
Our commitment to quality has stood the test of competition. Since 1973, we have won 18 gold medals at the Annual Japan Sake Awards, and our junmai yamahai product won the junmai category trophy at the 2009 International Wine Challenge in London.
*Terroir is derived from terre, the French word for “earth.” Originally, the term described the special character imparted to wine, coffee, tea, and so on by the particularities of the local soil, landscape, and climate. When agricultural practices spring from the unique features of an area’s soil, terrain, and climate, then its produce will take on a clear regional character. We aim to make sake that expresses its terroir by applying local brewing techniques to local water and local rice.
Tedorigawa’s master brewer once asked the president of Doi Brewing, makers of the famous “Kaiun” brand sake from Shizuoka, about his approach to making sake. President Doi replied “when I put everything I have into making each bottle just the way I envisioned it, it refreshes my taste for living. I get such enjoyment out of simply trying to make each year’s sake even closer to my ideal.” Tedorigawa’s master brewer was so impressed with this reply that ever since he has also dedicated himself to making every bottle as close to his dream as possible.
① Sake that delights grown-ups who know the difference
Sake that has exceptional quality at a reasonable price, that brings happiness to “adults” who through all of life’s experiences have come to appreciate the joys of good food and drink shared among good friends. To that end, we aim for A. high quality brewing above all, B. safety in all aspects of production and the product, C. a touch of rarity in every product, and D. great cost-performance.
② Sake that is delicious with food
We aim for sake that, while not actually a dish in the meal itself, still has a role to play in the overall enjoyment of the meal. Warm sake with the savory aromas of rice, and cool daiginjo sake with elegant aromas hinting of fresh apples.