When I visit Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture, in March, a thick layer of snow blankets the rooftops, but the sunny and warm afternoon signals the start of spring and the coming of a unique, seasonal delight: the first sip of freshly pressed sake.

At Yumegokoro Shuzo, Nobuo Shoji walks me through his brewing facility to a room occupied by an automatic filter press that resembles a massive accordion. He lifts the lid on a tank of just-pressed Naraman Junmai sake, and the fragrance of melon fills the air. The brew has traces of carbonation for a slight fizz and a faint yellow-green hue, which will fade as the sake matures. Notes of ripe melon and candied green apple unfurl across the palate, followed by a jolt of acidity and astringency before the dry finish.

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