After my initial public tour at González Byass, I was encouraged on Twitter to go back for a private tour with Alvaro Plata. After a few emails and texts on Whatsapp, the visit was set!
Alvaro is young and very passionate about the sherry at Bodegas Tío Pepe. His green eyes shine even brighter when reciting all he’s learned from his mentor and wine expert, Antonio Flores. Alvaro is certainly a walking encyclopedia in rapid fire! Everything he knows was verbally regurgitated at me in the fastest Spanish – I was proud of myself for keeping up! (And relieved I recorded most of it before my phone died.)
Having already been on the public tour, he took me into areas that seemed familiar, but revealed new corners unseen by most tourists. My favorite moment was being led into the room of untouched bottles from the 1800’s, encrusted in dust and dirt. I had previously seen this only in pictures, so I’m sure I looked ridiculous bouncing up and down like a giddy school girl.
I also got to see special barrels not on the public tour – the famous Cuatro Palma, THE barrel of 2015 Tío Pepe en Rama, a barrel of Cuatro Palo Cortado (I’d love to know what THAT tastes like), the cherry wood barrels of Del Duque, and got to go down into the cellar for an up close look of the private barrels of the real Tío Pepe.
Sadly, my phone died before my private cata. Alvaro led me into a room full of mini bottles of sherry from over the decades. To the general public, it just looked like a glassed in display. But on the other side, was a large conference room full of natural light. Rows of tables and chairs faced a stage area with each bottle for the tasting. I sat at the front with my place all laid out with a placemat, folder of tasting notes and my own Tío Pepe pen.
It was beautifully orchestrated. Alvaro poured my glasses and then poured a glass for himself. Naturally, he was a great teacher. He did not lecture at me about the wines, but made me feel included as part of a conversation.
I have extensive tasting notes from González Byass if anyone wants to know specifics on these wines. Of course the first glass was the Tío Pepe Fino followed by the coveted 2015 Tío Pepe en Rama. I love the label and the new cap. It was so fresh and intense flor flavor, or as they say Pura Vida. For the Amontillados, I tasted Viña AB and Del Duque VORS. Both have a lovely dark golden color and that classic dry complexity. The Del Duque VORS has a nice lingering dried fruit finish.
Similar to my first visit, I was poured a lovely glass of Alfonso Oloroso and the Solera 1847 Cream. However, the rest of my tasting was a very special treat! Two Palo Cortados – the Leonor and a taste of the Apóstoles VORS. I’ve never been a huge fan of sweet sherry, but I clearly was won over by the Matusalem VORS Cream, the Néctar PX and the Noé PX VORS.
If that didn’t make me feel spoiled already, Alvaro pulled out all the stops with a shot of the Nomad Outland Whiskey nearly impossible to find in stores! The label depicts the whiskey’s life story from Scotland to Jerez.
I am so unbelievably grateful for the two visits I had with Bodegas Tío Pepe. Two very different experiences, but both very informative. I certainly had my reservations about visiting such a largely commercialized bodega, but I’m glad I went with an open mind. Their pride in their history and excitement for their winemaking has not been lost.