Seana’s Sherry Book Report

booksI’m not a wine expert, but I enjoy learning from the experts. My husband really doesn’t like sherry, but is so proud of me and how I’ve grown to understand it beyond the glass. He says I’m Portland’s expert. I don’t always agree because there’s so much more to learn!

As I prepare to go back to Jerez this spring, I’ve been reading through my stack of sherry books (almost all Christmas presents from my husband this past year). I’m fortunate to have caught the sherry-revolution fire in a time where books are more readily available.

julianjeffsNot long ago, I received the latest edition of Julian Jeffs’ Sherry from a fellow sherry lover in Scotland. Until recent years, this was one of the few, if not the only book to really dive into the ins and outs of Sherry. I’m not sure I’ll finish it before April, but I’m excited to continue my sherry education!

When I realized my love for sherry was more than just sipping a glass here and there, I wasn’t sure what resources were available. I started with Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and JesĂșs BarquĂ­n.

sherrybibleThis is what I affectionately refer to as my Sherry Bible. It’s more like a textbook for understanding the industry from past to present. It was a slower read for me simply because I’d get lost in the details and would need to reread paragraphs a couple times. What I really appreciated about this book was the contact information for bodegas, as well as, information for traveling within the Sherry Triangle.

I recently finished Talia Baiocchi’s SHERRY: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-kept Secret with Cocktails and Recipes.

SHERRYThis is the book EVERYONE should read! It’s full of humor and specifics that make sherry relatable. The beautiful pictures are a great reference when a visual is necessary. They also serve as a reminder of what I miss most about Andalucia.

Before reading this book, I thought mixing sherry in cocktails was a disservice to the wine – like taking a really fine Bordeaux and turning it into sangria. What changed my mind was Talia’s explanation to save the top-shelf sherry for the wine glass, yet allow sherry to be accessible to those who would not drink it otherwise. I loved that she also included cocktail history, pointing out that the United States had been fans of sherry in the past. My hope is this book will encourage the masses become fans once again!

I’m not sure what truly defines one as being a sherry expert, but I highly recommend these books to get one started!

Sherry Triangle Wish List

TradicionThis spring, with much support and encouragement from my husband, I will be traveling back to Jerez for the sole purpose of exploring the Marco de Jerez (AKA the Sherry Triangle).

Although my home base will be in Jerez, my Bodega Wish List includes small boutiques and larger establishments throughout the entire Sherry Triangle.

lightsAfter reading Peter Liem and JesĂșs BarquĂ­n’s Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla, and Talia Baiocchi’s SHERRY, my bodega wish list only got longer:

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA: Bodegas Gonzålez Byass, Bodegas Emilio Hidalgo, Bodega El Maestro Sierra and hopefully connect with Equipo Navazos.

Over the last year, I have enjoyed meeting Sherry Ambassadors in Portland and really hope to visit their bodegas: Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla, Bodegas Emilio Lustau, and Valdespino (Grupo EstĂ©vez). Based on a friend’s referral, I also hope to connect with a smaller boutique Bodegas Urium. (I volunteer for an urban winery in Portland and have a special place in my heart for smaller operations.)

I recently wrote about my only bodega experience with Bodegas Tradición, and have since met its Director Lorenzo García-Iglesias a couple times in Portland. However, I may or may not have time to squeeze in a return visit with so many others to explore!

SANLUCAR DE BARRARMEDA: I would like to take a day trip to visit Bodegas Barbadillo, Bodegas Hidalgo – La Gitana, Bodega Hijos de Rainera PĂ©rez MarĂ­n (La Guita), and especially Bodegas Delgado Zuleta simply for its history and age.

EL PUERTO DE SANTA MARIA: This may be a shorter visit, but based on recommendations I’d like to see Bodegas GutiĂ©rrez ColosĂ­a and Bodegas Grant.

CHIPIONA: I hadn’t planned on visiting Chipiona, but I was strongly advised to see the King of Moscatel – Bodegas CĂ©sar Florido.

spiritsherryIdeally, I want to return from my trip with a firm understanding about sherry from grape to glass! Thanks to a mutual sherry lover and blogger Criadera, I’m excited to connect with her friends at Spirit Sherry tours to go out to the vineyards.

I really want to balance having a plan with letting things happen organically. To be honest, I’m not even sure how far in advance I should reach out to all these bodegas to set up an appointment. I haven’t figured out the bus or train routes. I’m not even sure how things will happen day to day. I have my plane ticket and my apartment reserved, and the rest will fall into place. Like the proverb says, Todo tiene solucion menos la muerte.

A memorable night at Canlis

IMG_20141111_204549As Valentine’s Day approaches, I get excited to dine out with my husband. He ruined me with his passion for fine-dining and knowledge of the truly top chefs of the world. I have tasted some of the best food, walked through many kitchens and returned home with amazing memories. For me, it’s all about the entire experience.

canlisOne of the best and most recent was at Canlis in Seattle, Washington. We wanted to eat there before Chef Jason Franey left for new adventures in California. Since the beginning, Canlis focuses on its patrons, whether you’re a regular or a first time visitor. Each person receives a touch of personal attention from etched glassware for the regulars to available proper attire for those arriving underdressed.

canlis sherryThe restaurant is warm and inviting with large windows that look out over the water. I’ve grown accustomed to ordering fixed menus when going out with my husband. I enjoy not having to make a decision, knowing it will highlight the chef’s favorite dishes. The evening began with some palate teasers and continued with four courses and desserts. I decided to do the wine pairing with my meal, which I don’t usually do because I tend to be a lightweight. I am so glad I did because our sommelier, Elton Nichols, told so many great stories about the wines in addition to their flavor profiles. I knew I met a kindred spirit by the amount of sherry listed on the wine menu!

IMG_20141112_104225Our first course was a delicious pork trotter dish that paired really well with the Valdespino Manzanilla Deliciosa en Rama. The spice in the dish brought out a sweetness in the manzanilla I’ve never noticed before. I was very impressed by Elton’s sherry knowledge. Unfortunately, most in the Pacific Northwest can’t say they know for sure what is sherry.

chablisOur server Damon Yeutter, former barista now sherry aficionado, agreed the Chablis paired with our third course would be a great transition for others to drinking Fino. It has the same almond notes on the nose, but a slight buttery finish. It was deliciously paired with the fragrant tarragon shrimp bisque and calamari. I honestly wanted a second glass on its own!

IMG_20141112_114426By the end of the evening, I my stomach was satisfied, and I was full of new stories I’ll never forget. Elton and Damon surprised me with an added thank you glass of my favorite Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. from Valdespino along with some French cheese and rosemary crackers.

Afterwards, Damon took my husband and I on an extensive tour of the entire restaurant full of its stories and family history. We even got to take a peek into the private cellar. My night was complete! This overall experience was by far one of my top favorites!IMG_20141112_005940

A sneak-peek inside Morgan St Theater

Morgan St TheaterDespite my world travels, I’ve lived nearly my entire life in or around Portland, Oregon. It’s not until I go away that I realize how easy it is to take the Pacific Northwest food and wine scene for granted. It’s also no surprise that many of my friends work in the food and wine industry.

One such friend is Jared Goodman, the owner of Morgan St Theater. With no formal culinary training, his success has already been noted in Portland Monthly’s February issue. Morgan St Theater was listed amongst the many talented and creative ice cream connoisseurs in this town! He stands by his promise to create fantastic flavors, unexpected contrasts and give patrons more than one memory to bring home.

So imagine my excitement when he extended the invitation to taste-test his “dress rehearsal” for this year’s Valentines pop-up event, aptly titled An Evening in Spain. I invited a small group of friends to join me at Jared’s home. We were all a little giddy with nervous anticipation as we entered through the side gate and walked along the candlelit path to the back of the house.

Jared shared his backstory of his love for telling stories through his dessert creations. He stated his desire to balance a time for experimentation with satisfying the expectation for decadence. He had us taste each course of his Valentine’s Day menu followed by a time of honest feedback.

I hesitate to post any pictures from “dress-rehearsal” because by final curtain call, plating or flavors might change. I will say this, not a single one of us left unsatisfied.

An Evening in Spain ~ Saturday, February 14 

*menu is subject to change

Queso Postre: Salted honey and brown butter ice cream, aged Manchego, membrillo (quince paste) and chocolate-rye crisps

Spain-wich: Olive oil ice cream, baguette, orange-sherry sabayon, chocolate-olive oil sauce, smoked paprika

Churro-Changa: Fresh mint ice cream, churros, harissa chocolate sauce, creme fraiche (mascarpone pillows)

As Jared says, “there are so many more themes and adventures to explore in the wonderful world of ice cream desserts.” Join this adventure An Evening in Spain (or Chocolate 3 Ways) Saturday February 14, 2015. There are only 10 seats left!

The event will be hosted at the location behind Old Salt Marketplace. Enjoy the flavors of Spain from dessert to sherry pairings. Patrons will also get the added bonus of live flamenco starring Seattle’s Cuerdas y Clavos. It will be an evening you won’t forget!

Hands-on Learning With Lustau

LustauAs my desire to learn more about sherry keeps growing, I’ve been able to attend tastings and formal seminars that pop up around Portland. They’ve been so vital in shaping my education. My favorite and most memorable was given in March 2014.

Lustau SeminarI was given the invitation to attend Lemma Wine Company’s seminar for Lustau presented by Cristina Bilbao Alonso and Lucia Ramos. I was completely new to this experience and it left an amazing impression on me.

I took my place close to the front, and was thankful for the materials and snacks provided. Sherry shows its true colors best with food. Everyone there was in the industry, but I could not tell how familiar they were with sherry.

I loved hearing Cristina’s familiar accent. Her presentation was so full of information and details, I couldn’t write fast enough. It was exactly what I wanted from a tasting and I found myself envying Cristina’s job as Lustau’s ambassador. I wished I could lead others through a guided sherry tasting educating them about the history and aging process at the same time!

Lustau TastingLustau repsLater that night, the ladies also did a more casual tasting at Bar Vivant. No better way to enjoy sherry than in the company of friends. I was glad I could share my obsession with my husband Jason, my local artist friend Rachel Austin, and fellow sherry lover Anthony along with his wife.


The evening gave me more time to get questions answered and to make a new connection in Jerez. The best advice I took away from that time with Cristina was how to pair sherry best with food:

If it SWIMS – Fino or Manzanilla

If it FLIES – Amontillado or Palo Cortado

If it RUNS – Oloroso

me + Cristina