Living Big & Drinking Sherry

Mary Cecchini There’s nothing quite like meeting a kindred spirit for happy hour. You forget that you haven’t known each other long when you both share a love of living life to its fullest. Don’t let her petit frame fool you – Mary Cecchini is full of life and fulfilling her big dreams! I was first introduced to Mary at the launch party for her new travel business Living Big. It is specifically designed for female travelers who desire a pre-planned adventure with small groups of likeminded women. A week later, I happily accepted her invitation to grab a tapa at Bar Vivant in East Portland.

Mary plans to lead a trip to Spain at the end of August, which includes a visit to wine country in Rioja. I was surprised when I asked if she’ll go to the Sherry Triangle, she admitted she wasn’t sure she ever tasted sherry. (To be honest, I really should not have been surprised. Unfortunately, for being a drinking culture, Portland, Oregon has yet to catch the sherry fever.)

As we talked about our mutual love for Spain, Bar Vivant was perfect for our meeting. It has a wonderful Tuesday happy hour offering a free tapa with a purchase of a drink. I suggested we get a sherry flight and a couple tapas. Whether I realized it or not, I was about to give my first guided sherry tasting.

Until this moment, I had been too nervous to consider leading a sherry tasting because I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Yet, there I was unplanned and unrehearsed, endlessly talking about my passion for sherry!

Happy Hour Sherry Flight

I chose a flight of three of my favorites: a La Guita Manzanilla, La Garrocha Amontillado and Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso along with a Parisian Montadito of prosciutto and brie and of course Tortilla Española topped with a spicy tomato sauce and eggless mayo. Mary tasted and I talked, making sure to throw her napkins on the floor to follow Bar Vivant tradition. Throw napkins on the floorI think she likes it

Parisian Montadito + Tortilla Española with Manzanilla, Amontillado + Oloroso
Parisian Montadito + Tortilla Española with Manzanilla, Amontillado + Oloroso

I first had Mary taste each sherry starting with the Manzanilla, then the Amontillado and finally the Oloroso. She would describe the nuances she could pick up from each one. For the Manzanilla, she said there was something almost fishy. With the Amontillado, she could smell the toffee notes. The Oloroso she expected to be sweeter. She said the smell reminded her of flavored coffee. Then I asked her to do it again, this time eating the tapas first. I loved watching her reaction as the sherry flavors enhanced. We were both amazed how the spicy tomato sauce on the tortilla really balanced out with the Oloroso.

Hands-on learning is the best! She was full of great questions and I was relieved that I could answer them! I still need to learn more, but she assured me she had an amazing time learning so much in only a couple hours. I shared with Mary my dreams to teach more friends in Portland to do exactly what she and I were doing – having a casual happy hour learning about sherry and become familiar with what’s available around town. I told her my daydream to someday take people with me to visit bodegas in Spain and return sherry experts. Someday.

If Mary can do it, why can’t I?Seana Yee

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