Holiday Baking

IMG_20181107_184537I always enjoy baking much more than cooking. I’ve never been the best with improvising in the kitchen. Having an exact recipe is what I prefer. However, there are some recipes that work well with a little improvisation. Jaron found a bourbon pumpkin pie recipe on Epicurious. His eyes lit up and suggested we replace the bourbon with sherry. We thought of Oloroso, but went with Los Arcos Amontillado from Lustau since it was what was on hand.

I had very little part in the shopping or preparation. He pretty much took over the kitchen and made the house smell heavenly! The final product was perfect! The textures and flavors paired with a glass of Amontillado were exactly what I needed for the change of seasons. I just had to share the recipe for the coming holidays!

Pie Crust:

  • 3/4 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons ice water
  1. Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes
  2. Blend by hand flour, butter, shortening and salt in a bowl until mixture resembles coarse meal with pea-size lumps.
  3. Drizzle 2 Tablespoons ice water evenly and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
  4. Squeeze a small handful without crumbling. If it crumbles add 1 Tablespoon of ice water at a time until it no longer crumbles, but not overworked.
  5. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface  with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. Fold overhang under and lightly press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively.  Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork.
  6. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze for 10 minutes).


Pie Filling:

  • 1 can (15oz) pure organic pumpkin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons of sherry
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Accompaniment: lightly sweetened sherry hand-whipped cream (add 1 teaspoon sherry per 1/2 cup of cream)
  1. Preheat oven to 375ÂşF with rack in middle.
  2. Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake until side is set and edge is golden, about 20 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until golden all over, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Cool completely.
  5. Whisk together all ingredients and pour into cooled shell.
  6. Bake until edge of filling is set but center trembles slightly, about 45 minutes.
  7. Cool completely (filling will continue to set as it cools).

This pie and whipped cream does take a lot of time, so it’s always best to make the day before and chill it in the fridge. The pie can be brought to room temperature before serving.


Sherry Bar + Flamenco Friday

36283356_1757635691023401_2615486400086147072_nI’ve had the pleasure of attending Flamenco Fridays in August at Bar Vivant since its beginning. I’ve even been pulled up on stage by Espacio Flamenco to offer what Sevillanas or Bulerias I may have hidden in my pocket.

Every week you can count on a fresh line up of sherry by select producers. This year, I have the pleasure to pour some of my favorite go-to bottles that aren’t too hard to find in bottle shops around Portland, Oregon.

On Friday, August 17th, I will showcase four lovely bottles and producers. To start, the classic TĂ­o Pepe Fino by Bodegas González Byass. As a fellow TĂ­o Pepe Sherrymaster, I cannot wait to tell stories of their history in Jerez de la Frontera. Next I plan to pour Los Arcos Amontillado by Bodegas Lustau. This specific bottle is great to convert those new to sherry! Thirdly, I will pour Oloroso FaraĂłn from Bodegas Hidalgo la Gitana. I love it for it’s combination of dried fruit and walnut notes. Finally, I’ll finish off with the sweet Moscatel Especial from none other than CĂ©sar Florido.

I do hope you can make it! Doors open at 6pm and free show starts at 7pm. Be sure to grab a seat and a glass of sherry!

PicMonkey Collage

I’m Published!


The last year has truly turned me off to social media streams. I’ve gone a bit silent actually. However, I have learned that it continues to link me to others and opportunities I would have never dreamed of!

In September 2017, I received a direct message via Instagram from Michael Schachner @wineschach, of Wine Enthusiast Magazine. He asked if I’d be interested on writing a travel piece on the Sherry Triangle. We quickly confirmed details over the phone, and the adventure began! (Let’s just say I haven’t screamed while jumping up and down with such enthusiasm in years.)

Editors quickly looped me into their vision via email, attaching specific subjects and word counts, previous examples and timelines. My only previous experience working in journalism was on my high school yearbook my freshman year! For this February issue, I only had a month to get a thousand words of copy in by the October deadline.

Nothing gave me more excitement and pride than to reach out to contacts in Spain, and pour my heart out about this magical corner of the globe. I felt like an ambassador shining light on a small handful of people and places who have made an impact on my own sherry journey. From bodegas large and small, to travel experts, to even local photographers, I was determined to give them all the credit they deserve!


My biggest challenge was editing down each paragraph into the specified word limit. (If I used Twitter more often, I’m sure it would have been a piece of cake.) I am, however, an overachiever when it comes to meeting deadlines. My copy was turned in with a week to spare!

On December 1, I received an email with the final proof. I loved seeing how my words were polished into a voice resembling that of Wine Enthusiast Magazine without losing any content or intention. I loved seeing the familiar images all cropped around my text. Most of all, I was speechless seeing my name as the author!

I’m published! My article is live online and in print! When I first received the news, I couldn’t stop fist pumping the air or ease the tightness in my chest. I am published for writing about my passion, not only for sherry wines but also for the people who produce it from grape to glass. What a journey and experience this has been to partner with Wine Enthusiast Magazine. I can’t wait to do it again!


Hope for good things to come in 2018

I’ve been a little quiet… As for most, 2017 was a challenging year. In many ways, though I’ve had amazing moments that should have been written down immediately, I just haven’t had space to be creative and dedicate time to writing. The most I could do was stay on Instagram. Here are a few teasers coming for the fresh new year:

  • Update this website – no more old-fashioned blog style forcing readers to scroll for ages to find content!
  • Share what I’ve learned by not passing my WSET Level 3 exam.
  • Brag about my experience becoming a Certified Sherry Educator and why I’ve been very shy to do so until now.
  • Recommend the wonderful Sherry Specialist course offered by Lustau here in the U.S.
  • Celebrate my first ever Sherry Fest NYC experience.
  • Tell my vulnerable personal journey of conscientiously and lovingly uncoupling from my husband of 13 years, and still having him as my #1 Sherry Sips supporter.

AND….drumroll please…

  • Scream from the rooftops that I’ll be published in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s February issue on the Sherry Triangle!!

I am also planning to attend Vinoble in Jerez for the first time in June. So, I think 2018 is shaping up to be a very exciting year!

To you and yours – Happy Holidays! May the New Year be full of HOPE for good things to come! ~ Seana Yee


Alexander Jules

alexander jules

I’ve known of Alexander Jules for quite awhile. I’ve actually referred to Alex Russan as the JesĂşs BarquĂ­n of the United States. I just never had the chance to taste his sherry. In recent months, some exciting things have been happening to promote sherry in the Pacific Northwest. Walden Selections is going to be my new best friend! Based in Washington State, they not only represent local northwest wines, some of which are made by Portland friends, but they also represent Spanish wines and sherry, including Alexander Jules. YES PLEASE!

I discovered Alex Russan was actually going to be in Seattle and Portland within the first week Walden Selections started business in Portland. Not only did I want to meet him, but I wanted to hear his story, taste his wines and connect him with all my favorite chefs, bartenders and wine shops who have helped make Sherry Sips stay a vital part of my life.

I arranged to meet with Carrie from Walden Selections and Alex for coffee. It’s funny when you meet someone in person you’ve known via social media. Do you hug? Do you shake hands? Not only did I recognize him, but also realized Carrie and I were classmates in WSET Level 2 last spring.

Carrie and I had to explain to Alex that in Oregon, the rules are much stricter when it comes to serving alcohol, especially if a place is not licensed. So we wouldn’t be able to bring them inside the coffee shop. Funny enough, I felt more worried about getting caught bringing his sherry inside, yet sampling them from the back of his car didn’t phase me. Sadly, I didn’t think to take a picture of this classy moment.


I’ll admit, there are other wine writers far better at wine descriptions than I am. But let me tell you my experience was transformative! These sherry selections took me to another place! The first was his Manzanilla. It was so floral and a yellow apple note that shines through stronger than any flor influence. It reminded me of mosto, when palomino still wine hasn’t been fortified. It was so elegant and feminine, with a pop of bright acidity balanced by salinity. Yet, this was not at all astringent. It could really pair well with more than just seafood.

The Fino was a punch in the face. Alex said the solera is housed near Fernando de Castilla and I was instantly transported. There’s no question this bottle encapsulated the Jerezano style of Fino. It was so pungent by comparison to the Manzanilla. Really bold but not super yeasty or reminiscent of wet dough. It had a lovely burst of acidity, some green olive notes, yet light on the palate.

The Amontillado was my favorite and left me craving more. This was an extension of the Manzanilla aged and bottled just at the tipping point where it becomes Amontillado. The color was much lighter amber. The nose still held onto the previous yellow apple fruit with only slight hazelnut and toffee to add a layer of complexity. On the palate it was so delicate and not concentrated in comparison to other Amontillado styles. This wine excites me! The range of pairings could be limitless because of its lighter body and balance of flavors.

Alex Russan

When we sat down to get to know each other, I asked Alex my standard question for everyone – how did you get into sherry? He actually discovered wine about three weeks before he turned 21 and got into sherry rather quickly. He wanted to try the most complex styles on a college budget. In Rancho Cucamonga, there were still a few making California Sherry, nothing like proper sherry, but nevertheless great wine. Little by little, he started exploring authentic sherry. There’s nothing like them and they’ve always called to Alex and held a special place in his heart.

Always an entrepreneur, he imported coffee for nine years, primarily with Columbian coffee. He would taste hundreds of coffees a year from neighboring fields with really small lots; each subtly similar. He liked coffee, but he LOVED wine. In 2012, he started seeing articles that sherry was gaining popularity. Taking what he knew from his coffee venture, he wanted to taste through barrels of sherry. Similar to rare single barrels of scotch, Alex could only imagine how each old barrel would influence sherry with its unique personality.

He started with contacting each bodega listed on the Consejo Regulador’s website, with the intention to spend two weeks visiting each one. Through this journey, he narrowed down whom he wanted to work with. He flew out and started making barrel selections. At the time he wasn’t even aware of Jesús Barquín and his very similar Equipos Navazos project. Alex wanted to do Single Barrel Sherry, but due to the nature of the solera, it became multiple barrels.

Alexander Jules represents exceptional soleras of unique sherry Alex feels to be the most complex and elegant from within that solera. All bottlings are en rama, being only gently filtered or entirely unfiltered, with no other treatments or additions. He doesn’t want to have consistent releases, so he’s not having any blending happening for these specific barrels.

This excites a consumer like myself – that each bottle will have something new inside! All the labels note the number of barrels selected. For example, the label at the top of this post represents a selection from 22 barrels in an 85 barrel solera from Bodegas Sánchez Romate Hermanos in Jerez de la Frontera. Alex tries to list as much information he can on the label and on his website.

Being based in the USA, sherry is first for importing, but to maintain his business, he started importing still wine and cider from small producers around Spain, focusing on rare grapes, and less common regions like the Canary Islands. He also used to make wine at home, which spurred on his project called Metrick Wines. His desire is to hybridize grapes for California, and would like to have a small vineyard in the next five or so years to plant those, along with less common varieties that will do well in California.

It’s fellow west coast sherry lovers like Alex that make me not feel so far away when I’m missing Jerez the most. I am excited for more things to come from Alexander Jules!

The Urium Meeting Place

Some of the most supportive people I’ve encountered in my sherry journey have been through social media connections. These days, it’s so easy to feel connected in friendship across the miles without ever having met in person. Imagine my excitement when I realized I would be in Jerez for harvest at the same time as these fellow sherry lovers! The one bodega we all share a common love for is Bodegas Urium. How fitting that this became our meeting place! Despite the jet lag and the summer heat, we all greeted each other with open arms and cheek-kisses as if this was not our first official meeting. Allow me to introduce you to my friends.

urium-familyThe Urium Meeting Place – Rocío, her husband Mario, and her charming father Alonso take hospitality to the next level! I joke that Rocio and I are like two teenage schoolgirls since we met in 2015. We text each other, giggling about life, and also share our hardships when we need support. She takes her family’s business very seriously and amazes me with how much she manages! She does it all – back office invoicing and orders, hospitality to guests visiting the winery, PR management, etc. She is the most capable woman I’ve ever met!

Heaven help me if I can understand anything Mario says, but he is so jovial! I think he laughs at the end of every sentence that comes out of his mouth. He may seem quiet in a crowd, but one-on-one, he is very passionate about his life in Cuba. In Urium, he jumps right into the family business of running the soleras and doesn’t hesitate to make sure you’re comfortable in their home. I truly believe he is the best selfie-taker!

Who doesn’t love Alonso? He looks like Santa, is so passionate about his wines, and makes a mean stew! I love listening to his childhood stories. He tells many jokes that get lost in translation, offers sound advice and encouragement, and will even sing a few lines of a Sevillanas. Just beware; he will charm you into singing or dancing for him as well!

urium-fun4Criadera – I have followed Helen Highley on Twitter since I first started my sherry journey. She and her husband Stuart live near Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve learned so much about sherry reading her blog. She’s the one who put me in touch with smaller, boutique sherry houses like Urium and Faustino González. Upon finally meeting her in Jerez, her enthusiasm is infectious. It’s no wonder she’s made such amazing partners for her own Sherry Boutique.

urium-funMontilla-Moriles UK – Erik and Laura Burgess are another dear couple from Scotland, in Blantyre east of Glasgow. Well, everyone will learn quickly that Erik is originally from New Zealand. They bring a stuffed animal Kev the Kiwi on their travels for some fun photo moments. Erik is my #1 fan on Twitter! I can always rely on him to like and retweet my posts! One will also learn a lot about whisky from these two, as they compare and contrast their passion for both scotch and sherry. They uniquely focus their passion for sherry in the Montilla-Moriles region where most PX grapes are grown. Although sherry styles from this region aren’t aged within the sherry triangle, I’ve learned from Erik and Laura not to disregard these wines entirely. What I discovered, upon meeting in person, are their giving hearts! They are the most generous people! I’m really hoping our paths cross again on their home turf!

Shawn Hennessey – Don’t be fooled by other guided tapas tours reciting a script – Shawn is the real deal! She is the eyes and ears of Sevilla, Malaga and beyond! Originally from Canada, she has lived several years in Sevilla. Her tours include hole-in-the-wall places where she has built friendships with owners and waiters. Her love for sherry is top-notch. She is such a role model for me. Plus, we share a mutual adoration for cats. When she knew I was coming to take the Certified Sherry Educator’s course at the Consejo Regulador, she came to visit Jerez to lend me her notes! She may be camera shy, but she is anything but when it comes to one on one conversation! If anything, she’s been the one to push me out of my own shell.

alexSherry Company – Alexander Dopson has been my kindred spirit throughout my journey. I was excited to finally meet up in Jerez. He and his wife just made the move back to Sevilla from Miami. Although his father is American, his mother is from Jerez. It’s a mind trip to hangout with him and see how he flips from being a total Floridian to Jerezano in one conversation. He’s so fluent; I relied on him to be my interpreter for the little details my language ability couldn’t catch. He is passionate and eloquent when he speaks or writes about sherry, not just about the wines, but the region, the history, and the culture. He’s been a mentor to keep dreaming big and to never give up on my goals for Sherry Sips. When we met at Urium, he brought along his best friend Sergio, who quickly felt like my long lost cousin. Sergio and his new bride Maria became dear friends throughout my stay in September. I hope when we all meet again, they’ll take me to Grazalema where they grew up together.

We had the pleasure of an unexpected addition to the visit from Carl-Gustav Aullo. He’s a Spanish-Swede writing a book on sherry in Swedish! I loved listening to his fluent Spanish with little Swedish interjections. Having just been to Stockholm connecting to my Swedish roots, it was a joy to get to know him and share stories. After several glasses of sherry, we even pulled him in as we serenaded Dancing Queen to Alonso before leaving the bodega and heading onto other sherry adventures.

If you’re passionate about sherry, there are amazing friends who await you with open arms. If you want to meet in person, you know where we’ll be. What happens at Urium stays at Urium.

La Vendimia with Covijerez


salva-martaI have learned over the years that the best experiences often happen when they aren’t planned. When I first planned my Sherry Odyssey in 2015, I never expected I would have met one of the key players in the sherry industry. At that time, I only knew Salvador Espinosa as the president of Covijerez and the man who let me sign my first sherry barrel.

These days, he’s wearing several hats at not only the cooperative, but in his vineyards, at Bodegas Diez Mérito, in his role at the Consejo Regulador, and most recently as one of the Magi on Three Kings Day. (For those of us in the US, it’s like Santa Claus only on a much grander, festive scale!) What’s humbling for me is that he always has time to be my friend. Salvador has offered me opportunities in my sherry exploration and education that I wouldn’t have created or planned otherwise! Let me share one of them with you from my most recent trip in September.

covijerez1I wanted to go back to Covijerez to see it in full swing during harvest! This is where the majority of grapes are trucked in and processed for press and often for the first stages of fermentation. This is the perfect resource of modern technology to help when harvest has to happen quickly to maintain standards set by the Consejo Regulador. Most wineries transfer their bulk grapes in dumper trucks, which are weighed before pressing to monitor the yield requirements set by the Consejo for quality control purposes.

sheldonI met Salvador in the morning and the temperatures were already rising quickly into the upper 90’s (I think that day it got to 104F (40C). We piled into his brother’s car with Sheldon, the happiest dog in Jerez, and headed to Caribe Vineyard. Salvador’s family has been working to restore Bodegas Diez Mérito to its prestige. This vineyard is one of the oldest and provides the must for the Bertola sherry series. The older the vineyard the better the grapes!

After a quick morning coffee and toast and chat with locals, we met up with those already hard at work hand-cutting baskets full of Palomino grapes. Though I appreciated my quick lesson, even with my best effort I was too slow, my hip protested immediately with all the squats and I couldn’t lift more than a half-full basket. I have so much appreciation for the human-power that goes into harvesting the Sherry Triangle!

Back at Covijerez, it was the same guided-tour as the year before, only with the machinery and workers in full swing! Non-stop truckloads were dumping tons of fruit and juice moving them all along. The byproduct of skins, seeds and stems looked almost like ginormous cow pies. The noise of it all made it difficult to really understand the details of what was happening. I was thankful for Salvador’s use of English.

Inside the lab, he offered me the refractometer to see how they make sure the sugar levels stay within range. Here, they measure by BaumĂ©, which will indicate the alcoholic strength that will be reached after fortification. 10.5 % is the goal for the best sugar potential for alcohol. They also analyze the health of the grapes for proper fermentation – 0.8 or higher isn’t healthy for fermentation.

Across the way, we walked to check on the fermentation tanks. Not very many bodegas ferment in barrels anymore. Tank systems help maintain consistency. Covijerez has two types of tank systems here. The older is La Ducha – a shower system where cold water cools the outside of the tank. The newer tanks are Camisas, a cold water insulation system. It’s amazing the heat that fermentation can generate! The circulating cold water helps control the fermentation in a consistent, non-aggressive way. I’m glad I didn’t have a fear of heights as we climbed a good 15 meters up to monitor the tanks. The smells were strong and I was firmly reminded not to breathe in when looking into the bubbling liquid.

fermentationThe fermentation takes 14 days and is complete once the bubbles have stopped and all the sugar has been consumed. Everything settles throughout the fall and the base liquid must, or mosto, is sold right around the end of November. Creating the best mosto is crutial for the initial aging and maturing process of sherry, either biologically as a Fino or traditionally as Oloroso. Julien Jeffs said it best, “The must is the life blood of the bodegas; it is continually examined and checked, as everything depends on it.”

Despite being pulled in many directions, Salvador Espinosa is kind, generous and down to earth. He has taught me so much about the importance of making mosto. If you fall in love with sherry as I have, and visit Jerez, I really hope you and he cross paths!