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A Sake-Loving Champion

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Heated sake? “It tastes like jet fuel!”

Working out has all sorts of benefits. For one thing, I now know a lot more about Japanese sake.

Linda Tetrault Chalks Up for a Lift

I have met so many interesting people at Carl and Sandra’s Gym in Santa Fe, and the latest is Linda Tetrault. This Thursday she will be competing in Olympic style weight lifting at the National Masters in Morristown, New Jersey. She has won many times in her age and weight class and can lift 77 kg in the clean and jerk and about 60 kg in the snatch. She also lifts a tiny cup of sake with comparable expertise.

Raised on the East Coast, Linda graduated from St. John’s College in Santa Fe and earned an MBA from Dartmouth College. She has two children, ages nine and twelve; co-owns the Floating World shop at Ten Thousand Waves; is a certified sommelier in sake; and is a sake importer and distributor for all of New Mexico.

Her connection with sake began in about 1999 when she and her business partner, Deborah Fleig, decided to acquire the little shop in Ten Thousand Waves, the Japanese spa outside Santa Fe. They had to travel to Japan to supply the shop; and while sampling sake there, Linda discovered within herself an unusual ability to “connect the brain to the tongue.” As a result, she soon realized what inferior brands of sake were being served in Santa Fe.

Her business focus began to shift in about 2007. When the economy went into free fall, retail businesses were hit especially hard. It was at this point that Linda started to work on becoming a Sake I and then Sake II specialist and was licensed as an importer and distributor. Now she advises and supplies virtually all the restaurants in Santa Fe that serve Japanese cuisine.

So what is the special virtue of sake? Linda says that the light taste is very appealing to people who are not inclined to drink a lot. Sake is about one-third more alcoholic than wine, but it is healthier because it contains less sugar and no tannin or sulfites.

Sake is made from rice and water with yeast content, and mold and additional yeast are added in the brewing process. As the mixture ferments, the starch in the rice is converted to sugar and then alcohol. The quality of the resulting sake depends on meticulous attention to detail in production. The best sake then matures for nine to twelve months.

Before I met with Linda, I had dinner at Jinja’s and ordered my first “flight” of three little cups of sake. My impression was that the white wine I usually order would have had a rougher taste. The dinner conversation was so animated that I didn’t study and savor the detail of each different brand, but it seemed to go down like silk.

The Junmai sake in my “Big and Bold” flight was cool, maybe even chilled if I had been paying attention. So what about the hot sake I’ve heard criticized?

Suddenly Linda became very forceful. “That is the cheapest, high-margin sake there is,” she said. “It’s heated because you couldn’t drink it otherwise. It’s the worst of the worst.” And finally, “It tastes like jet fuel!”

So what’s the best of the best? There is one brand called Maboroshi that sells for about $350 a bottle. I don’t know that my taste buds will ever be worthy of the experience.

But to circle back to the subject of weight lifting, I asked Linda what had inspired her to start working out at the gym. She said that she had developed sciatica during pregnancy; and after getting chiropractic relief from a pinched nerve, she began to train to strengthen her back. She now feels great–when she’s not so sore she can hardly move. “But being sore is a fact of life,” she adds, whether it’s from exercise or sitting too long in a chair. “I’d rather be sore for good things,” she goes on, “not because I’m disintegrating.”

And when you look at Linda’s history over the last ten years, you begin to see a pattern that speaks to that kind of resolve. Some people are stymied by health problems or reversals in career or business. Linda, on the other hand, is one of those who adapt, innovate, overcome, and grow and prosper in the process. I guess that’s one of the reasons why she’s a champion.

5 Responses to “A Sake-Loving Champion”

  1. Paul Karlstrom

    Celery Ellen,
    What appeals to you most, the Gym time or the Sake? Or have you, and especially Linda, evolved to the point where these seemingly unrelated areas come together in a way of living fully?
    Also, I’m pleased that women can bench press many more lbs than most or many of us (men) can, but not all of us are intimidated. We all make our choices in life. My biceps aren’t what they used to be (in fact they’ve virtually forsaken me, and my six pack disappeared long ago, when I stopped surfing). Still, we soldier on and hope for the best. Have you written any good books lately? Oh, yes indeed you have.
    Paul

  2. Linda M

    Loved our time together and the Big and Bold Sake flight!

  3. Judy

    Finally, something not described as “tastes like chicken”!

    I have never tried sake, but now I’m tempted to try it.

    • celeryellen

      Dear Judy,

      I hope there’s a place in town that has a really good brand. As I said, I really enjoyed the experience, but I don’t have a very fancy palate. Good luck.

      Ellen

    • Judy

      Fred and I just returned from a few days in Austin and the Hill Country with family and friends. Fortunately, our family are friends. While we did not sample any sake, we did taste a few wines, and Fred enjoyed a beer or two. We are trying to decide where to live when Fred retires and I re-retire.

      Our time with the Marble Falls contingent of BHS ’63 was good. Everyone is pleased that you are considering attending the reunion. That news spurred a few folks to make the decision to attend as well.