Sad news from Vine Connections today...
"Seijiro Tanaka, Rihaku Brewery’s venerated President, passed away over the weekend after a multi-year battle with lung cancer. Tanaka-san, or “Mr. T” as he was adoringly referred to here at Vine Connections, had been at the helm of the brewery since 1987 and was a close friend and supporter of Vine Connections since the day we started pondering selling Japanese sake," Ed Lehrman.
Mr. T referred to me each time I saw him over the years as his "Texas Girlfriend" spoken in his heavy Japanese accent, it was quite cute! I had the pleasure of hosting Mr. T in Austin over 4 years ago and showing off this great city that has made his Dreamy Clouds and Wandering Poet the very top selling Sake in the state of Texas. We ate at Chinatown for lunch, and walked through Central Market and Whole Foods to show off his beautiful bottles of premium Sake. Mr. T was an extremely humble man, a kind man who belly-laughed each time I told him he was so sweet and how much I appreciated his support of the Texas market. "Ali, you a supermodel for Japanese Sake in Texas", I'll take it, thanks Mr. T!
One of my fondest memories of Mr. T was the day he lead the group of Japanese business-men at Maiko Sushi on W. 6th, he commanded the utmost attention and filled the restaurant with enthusiasm about his his Japanese brewery. His physical stature was small, but his vision and heart was enormous. A few months later, I visited Mr. T while in Tokyo along with a group traveling with Vine Connections, this picture is of us after a very long day of travel to meet, he was so honored to have me visit his country and introduce me to his family.
Where the brewery is located in the Shimane prefecture - it is considered a "sister-city" to Austin. In 2008 he sent his son to visit Texas on behalf of the Rihaku brewery, we traveled to my hometown, Fort Worth to spread the good-will (and sell a lot of sake!) of what his father had created.
Mr. T will be missed, Kampai! to the legacy he has left behind. I will forever be grateful and honored to represent Rihaku Sake in the USA. - Ali