Founded in January, 2005, Joto Sake LLC is one of the leading artisanal sake importing companies in the U.S. The company was started by its President, Henry Sidel, whose career in the food and beverage industry and his passion for Japan led him to launch Joto Sake.
These two paths that led him to start Joto Sake started in 1986 when he had his first job in the food and beverage industry. That Summer, he worked as a prep cook and bus boy at the Liberty Cafe. In the Fall, when he entered Carleton College, he started studying Japanese. For years, both during and after college, Henry kept studying Japanese and working in restaurants.
After graduating Carleton in 1990, Henry worked in journalism before joining the Ciao Bella Gelato Company. At that time, Ciao Bella was a small manufacturer and distributor of premium gelato and sorbet. Henry was instrumental in growing Ciao Bella's New York business and was asked by the owners to start the West Coast branch of the company in San Francisco. Henry built Ciao Bella West from 1995 to 1998.
When he moved back to New York, in 1999, he joined the distribution business, the Craft Brewers Guild, of the Brooklyn Brewery as a Sales Manager. He was soon promoted to General Manager of the Brewery division. In 2002, he was hired as Director of International Marketing for Belvedere and Chopin Vodkas, which he and another colleague launched throughout the world, through the Moet Hennessy network.
Henry fell in love with sake after visiting Sakagura restaurant in New York City in 2001. From that point on, he visited Sakagura, bought sake at retail, started taking tasting notes and began developing the business plan for Joto Sake.
In late 2004, Henry left his job as International Marketing Director for Belvedere and Chopin Vodkas and incorporated Joto Sake in early 2005. By August, 2005, Joto received its first container and started selling in the U.S.
In 2006, Henry expanded Joto's national distribution. In 2007, Midori Nakazawa joined Joto Sake and in 2009, Stefanie Sowers came on board. The company now sells in over 30 states, through top distributors in each market. Joto imports from 8 small, artisanal sake breweries, or "sakagura" all in different regions of Japan.