Sherry Tasting + Social Anxiety

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I am really proud of all that is done in the effort of introducing sherry to others around the globe; Copa de Jerez, Sherryfest, International Sherry Week to name a few. Unfortunately, I’m not always able to attend any of them. Mostly it comes down to the affordability of flights, rental car, lodging, and food, in addition to just attending an event.

I’ll also be the first to admit that even despite logistics and excuses, I’m extremely intimidated. Despite what you may have seen in pictures, I’ve never enjoyed large crowds. Throw in extra volume levels of music and screaming conversations and it’s sensory overload for me! The other part that makes me nervous is feeling like I’m so new to the sherry and wine scene, that I wouldn’t know the “rules” for attending a grand tasting event. How could this wallflower even hope to fit in? I’m so much better at one-on-one conversation in a quiet corner.

The main purpose for my recent visit to Jerez was to experience harvest and the harvest festival. Part of the festival included De Copa En Copa, a three-day public tasting event at the Claustros de Santa Domingo where several bodegas could show off their sherry. For me, the three days of De Copa En Copa were mostly about networking, as well as tasting amazing new-to-me sherry that’s not yet available in the US, all in one location.

I was actually surprised by how many remembered me, kissed their hellos and then introduced me to other sherry connections. I finally met Margarita from No Solo Jerez who introduced me to José Caireles who’s making an amazing Manzanilla at Bodegas Los Caireles. I ran into Juan Mateos Arizón from Lustau who introduced me to Carla Terry from Osborne. Edmundo (hijo) from Bodegas Grant introduced me to Alberto and Gabriel from Bodegas Yuste as a future sherry author. Food for thought – Sherry Sip Memoirs.

The best part of course while conversing were the extra sample pours my tickets didn’t pay for. I really do hope to find products from Yuste in Portland. Originally, I fell in love with their labels and hoped to connect with them in Sanlúcar. Their Manzanillas are amazing and very refreshing on a hot day! I highly recommend La Kika!

I also got to try the Vermouth, or Vermut, from Gonzalez Byass, Fernando de Castilla and Lustau, each one uniquely different. My favorite on its own was the one from Lustau because there wasn’t a strong bitter note on the finish. The trend is growing, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see other bodegas join the competition. I could really see them doing quite well in the US cocktail scene!

for-all-generationsWhat I didn’t realize until hindsight was the diversity of who attended. It wasn’t just an older crowd. I saw entire families attend. I saw children learning to use a venencia. I saw a global representation of people, not just Spaniards. Most importantly, I saw men and women in their 20’s either working the event or hanging out with their friends drinking sherry instead of going out to the bars. It was truly a snapshot of what the sherry revolution is trying to achieve.

De Copa En Copa stripped away my fears of fitting in or being overwhelmed. I actually felt quite welcomed and at home. I had a wonderful time! Perhaps it will give me courage to try others in the near future.

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Welcome Home

planeThe best part of traveling to Jerez is that I can always pick up right where I left off. Compared to my ever growing, ever changing city of Portland, Oregon, Jerez relatively remains the same from year to year. I can slide back into life right along the daily routines. My landlords Manolo and Carmen will have an apartment waiting for me. My friends at Bar El Porrón will have toast and coffee ready in the morning. I can text Rubén should I need a taxi. Best of all, Rocío is my lifeline when I just need a bff!

There’s nothing better than walking off my plane battling jet lag to be greeted with a huge hug from Rocío! She was so generous to pick me up this time and whisk me off to Urium to see her father and husband. Reunited as if no time had passed, glass of fino in hand, I was home.

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My first evening in town, she took me to Tabanco El Pasaje for the photo exhibition of Paco Barroso. Paco has an amazing eye and talent. I have admired several of his photos focused on local flamenco dancers. This evening, the first to grab my attention set the tone for my reason for coming – harvest. Sherry starts with the hands that work so hard to hand-cut the grapes for long hours in unforgiving heat. If I could, I would hang this photo in my home as a reminder each time I enjoyed a glass, to pause and silently thank them for their efforts.

This evening also highlighted moments frozen in time in some of my favorite bodegas: El Maestro Sierra mother Doña Pilar and daughter Maria del Carmen smelling copas of wine, Urium father Alonso and daughter Rocío holding a copita, and best of all the silhouette of recently passed enologist Manuel Lozano from Lustau. This was rightfully placed in the center and caught my breath a little with the title, “Seguimos caminando…” or “Let’s keep on walking…” Paco explained this was a phrase Lozano would repeatedly say during their visit. But what a reminder this evening for those who grieve his loss.

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The entire evening I was squeezed into a tiny space full of loud conversation and kissing hellos to key locals in the sherry and tourism industry. Despite my jet lag, this was the perfect way to dive right back in and feel completely welcomed home.

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Me, Rocío, Mario, Paco + Fran