Zambombas!

zambombas

Every time I visit Jerez, I return home feeling like I need to go back for even longer. My first visit was for 10 days in 2013. Then for 14 days in 2015. Naturally, when I went back for harvest it only seemed logical I stay for the month. However, the more I fall in love with this little town, the more I realize I truly need at least one full year to really capture it all! So many festivals, including Zambombas this time of year!

This season is my jam, man! Perhaps it’s because my birthday lands on the 30th in the middle of all sorts of festivities. The holiday season just makes me giddy! For just a moment, let’s put aside the angst of holiday shopping, horrible traffic (though isn’t that every day?), and some sadness this season can bring to the surface. This time of year brings up so many happy memories of decorating the house, singing Christmas Carols on a professional stage in huge choirs, driving to see the “rich” neighborhoods lit up with Christmas lights, and knowing I’ll be the first to get up Christmas morning, turn on the lights in the quiet and open my stocking as soon as the family comes into the living room. As a child, I always knew mom, I mean Santa, will leave gold chocolate coins, a book of lifesavers and an orange at the end of the toe.

zambomba-de-los-reyes-magos

Both my husband and I enjoy traveling abroad. If it weren’t too complicated with family expectations, unpredictable weather, or the intensity of holiday airport travelers, we would love to go experience Christmas in other cities around the globe. Jason’s never been to Jerez, and I would love go during my favorite season to experience zambombas! Every year when December arrives in Jerez, multiple zambombas are preplanned around the city. For the last three years, I’ve been enviously watching social media posts about all the festivities.

Originating back to the 18th century, zambombas start as early as mid November and last through Christmas Eve. Now, to my untrained ear, a zambomba on its own sounds very much like when I was a child playing with my plastic straw in the lid of my soda at McDonald’s. But this earthen vessel is only played at this time of year to accompany local carols. It’s like a Christmas patio party! It’s all my favorite things in one place – friends, bonfires, food, sherry, bulerías dancing and singing to the rhythm of zambombas.

Anyone can join and participate in this party. You better know when the opportunity comes my way, I will be there and prepared to bust out a bulería or two!

 

Thank You Note

thank-you

To the sherry lovers on social media – thank you for your dedication to your feeds. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by it all, and often times I want to go silent rather than viral. You are my inspiration to stay engaged.

To the local bottle shops, bars and restaurants – thank you for letting me bend your ear to know your sherry journey. It’s so easy for me to stay in my own little world of knowledge. You remind me that sharing the journey is all part of the fun!

To my friends in the Sherry Triangle – thank you for your growing friendship. Without you, there would be no sherry. Your stories are what compel me to write, not just the characteristics of the wines. A piece of you is inside every bottle!

A mis amigos del Triángulo – gracias por su creciente amistad. Sin vosotros, no habrían los vinos de Jerez. Sus historias son lo que me obliga a escribir, no solo apuntar las características de los vinos. Un pedazo de vosotros está dentro de cada botella!

I am so very thankful for you today.

Sherry Week in Portland

recapInternational Sherry Week could not have come at a better time to Portland. The week was so emotional leading up to the presidential election, and after with days of protest demonstrations. Without getting too political, I will say Tuesday and Wednesday were difficult days for me. I’ve never mourned for my country before now. Never before have I woken up feeling fearful of what lies ahead or how government decisions will impact the lives of my loved ones. If anything Tuesday’s results will not allow me to be complacent. In the midst of all this, my community paused to open its doors for healing conversations, good food and great sherry!

I know that my sherry journey has only been since 2013, but I really feel Portland is growing in its sherry interest, especially the cocktail scene. I kicked off my Sherry Week as a guest at the Super Sexy Sherry Party. John House of Ole Imports and Ovum Wines, bartender Angel Teta, and many industry friends piled into the Wine Cave on Monday, November 7 for old school vinyl, even older sherry, and karaoke. The Wine Cave was in an undisclosed location in northeast Portland, and certainly the coolest space for a private party. It was a balance of modern masculinity of wood and concrete with the softening touch of candles, lowly lit Edison bulbs and a cozy nook for those who want to sit and talk away from the crowd. The bar was stocked with amazing tapas. John and Chris Dorman, from Elk Cove, poured the drinks starting with glasses of Cava, then two Manzanillas, Sacristía AB and Orleans, followed by a flight of Osborne’s Amontillado 51-1ª, Sibarita Oloroso and Capuchino Palo Cortado. I truly enjoyed meeting more people in the food and wine scene in Portland. The best part was finishing the night with “Sherry-oke.” Who knew these new friends had amazing voices?! I even belted a little Adele before heading home.

Thursday was a great day to recharge. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Jordan Felix and Kyle Sanders at the Green Room. The two of them have created an amazing space for those waiting to go upstairs to the Multnomah Whiskey Library. Downstairs, their classic prohibition style sherry cocktails prepare the palate for the full menu upstairs, including the 1600 bottles of whiskey. Jordan prepared me Louis Eppinger’s famous Bamboo cocktail while I chatted with Kyle about their sherry interests. Predominantly they’ve chosen sherry from Gonzalez Byass, not only because their staff was so well educated by Christopher Canale-Parola, but also because they’ve found that Tío Pepe Fino encapsulates everything they need; salinity, dryness, floral + green apple notes. They do carry Hidalgo La Gitana Mananilla, and are expanding their library of Lustau sherry. Overall, the cocktails are a mix of classic inspirations as well as house originals. They also enjoy pairing whiskey and sherry side-by-side like Highland Park 12 year Scotch and Oloroso. Another fun tasting I hope to try when I return is the Tomatin Cuatro Series – single malt scotch with sherry inspiration from Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and PX butts.

Shortly after my visit at the Green Room, I finally got to check out the newly opened Bar Casa Vale for their sherry pairing dinner. It was an intimate setting with one-on-one sherry education with Front of House Manager Bryon Adams-Harford. Each dish prepared by chef Louis Martinez was perfectly matched to a sherry. First course was tapas of anchovy stuffed Manzanilla soaked olives, Halloumi cheese montadito on a crustini with delicious pear jam, and Moorish spiced pork belly that melted in my mouth. This was all paired with Fernando de Castilla’s Fino Antique. The second course almost was reminiscent of an Italian dish of fried bay shrimp, calamari and fennel along side a brightly dressed octopus salad with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers. Valdespino’s Manzanilla Deliciosa was a great choice for wine.

Third Course was by far my favorite of the night! I barely saved room for it all. I completely devoured the locally sourced braised rabbit, chanterelles and cipollini onions. The Amontillado Antique from Fernando de Castilla was the perfect choice. The other two components also paired well, but for me it was the rabbit that soared above the charred brussels covered in romesco + manchego or the New York Strip with chimichurri. Finally the evening ended with the Crema Catalana. Essentially a lovely crème brûlée paired with Hidalgo’s Faraon Oloroso. This pairing surprised me. The contrasting flavors actually worked well together despite the sweetness of the dessert and the dryness of the sherry. I really cannot wait to go back and try some of the sherry cocktails Daniel Parker-Guidry has created. The Trident, which combines Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado with Krogstad Aquavit, Punt e Mes and bitters, just might be my new Negroni.

Saturday I had the privilege to partner with one of my favorite wine shops Pairings Portland. Jeffrey invited me to share my passion for sherry with his patrons. It was a steady flow of about twenty or so people. Nearly all of them were brand new to sherry and so willing to taste and learn. We selected a great line up with simple pairings to really make the sherry pop! Guests started with Fino en Rama from Equipo Navazos and Marcona almonds, followed by Manzanilla La Cigarerra with olives. I loved how the olives brought out the Manzanilla’s fruity notes with a a bit of a smoky finish. Of course I chose to showcase my favorite Amontillado La Garrocha from Bodegas Grant. Jeffrey sautéed up some yellow trumpet mushrooms to go with the wine. I feel both enhanced the other! The favorite for most customers was El Maestro Sierra’s Oloroso. This was classically paired with slices of manchego cheese. Jumping from dry to sweet, we paired Cesar Florido’s Moscatel Pasas with dried black fig and El Maestro Sierra’s Pedro Ximénez with blue cheese. It really was a fun night and hope to do it again soon!

If I hadn’t had my tasting scheduled at the same time, I wanted to participate in the Sherry Obstacle Course at Bar Vivant! Judging from the Instagram pictures, it was a huge success! Cheryl Wakerhauser said it was really steady without chaos, just how she likes it! Tables were set up around the restaurant with different stages for sherry learning. Even a venencia challenge was set up outside on the patio! The real challenge of course was choosing the perfect pairing from the buffet in the kitchen. Guests had fun AND learned about sherry, so mission accomplished!

What better way to end sherry week than with the people who started it off with me! I joined my friends at Ataula for a paired brunch with Gonzalez Byass sherry. It was no surprise that the place was packed! It’s always a pleasure to learn about sherry from Christopher Canale-Parola when he is in Portland. Once again, Chef José Chesa created amazing dishes to go alongside these delicious wines.

We were greeted with Angel Teta’s Welcome Punch (Gonzalez Byass Amontillado AB, Pampero Anniversario anejo, Grapefruit cordial, lime and Angostura). Since we were mostly seated in a family style, it was a nice way to end an emotional week eating and drinking with people from the community. First course was a lovely Sunday Salad of organic greens with a glass of Tío Pepe. Next was Spanish Tortilla with chorizo and a very large pour of Leonor Palo Cortado. The final dish was the fan favorite Sunday Brunch Paella of rice, chicken, jamon de bellota, bacon, and eggs on top. This was paired with Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso. To my shock, I was given seconds of that sherry without even asking. I happily accepted. Like all good brunches, we ended with something sweet with a little coffee. I love Chesa’s Xuixo de Crema. They’re so light and flaky and the cream isn’t heavy or too rich. Angel made a delicious Coffee Action using Gonzalez Byass Nectar PX, sous vide infused with cocoa nibs and espresso beans, strong brew coffee, Angel’s Envy Bourbon, Bitter Cube Corazon bitters, Banana brown sugar 2:1 and Matusalem 30 year Oloroso whip. I wish I could have that to start every day!

I am proud of my city and community. I love seeing it rally together. I love that Portland embraces culture and the sherry revolution! I wasn’t able to make it to every event listed for my city during International Sherry Week, but I’m making note of where to visit next!

ataula-natalia

Sherry Sips + Bits

sherryweek

It’s International Sherry Week and it could not have come at a more perfect time! With all of the emotions I’ve been processing from the political climate in the US, I’ve needed these days to celebrate something I love.

This year, I am excited to co-host of one of many sherry-focused events in Portland, Oregon! As a recent Certified Sherry Educator, I’m so excited to guide guests through the styles and story of each sherry. Saturday November 12th, I will be at Pairings Portland Wine Shop from 3-6pm. Come taste 6 sherries with 6 pairings that POP!

Sherry may be a bit intense for someone tasting it for the first time. Sherry Sips & Bits will be a simple display of “POP—The Power of Pairings”. The bits purpose is to alter your experience of the beverage you’ve just tasted. Sometimes POP can be for the worse or it doesn’t change the experience at all. Most often POP is an interesting change that will both enhance the sherry and the food. This experience may not make you a sherry lover overnight. The key is to come try something new and have FUN!

WHEN: Saturday November 12 between 3-6pm. Come when you can.

WHERE: Pairings Portland Wine Shop – 455 NE 24TH AVE. PORTLAND, OR 97232

COST: $20

Can’t make it to my event? No problem! You might see me at one of the many happenings around Portland! Be sure to try and go to at least one of them before the end of the week!

sherry-flight

Sherry Tasting + Social Anxiety

dcec-map

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.

dcec-me-sergio-alex

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.

family2

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.

crowd1

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.

paco-group

Me, Rocío, Mario, Paco + Fran

From Blog to Boutique

 

sherry-boutique-logo

I just returned home from a month in the Sherry Triangle. Part of my visit I finally met Helen Highley in person. I’ve been following her criadera.com blog since I first started diving into my sherry obsession three years ago. I’m very excited to help announce that she is now launching an online store SherryBoutique.com TODAY! (Sadly, the store is only serving the UK.)

In recent years the UK has rediscovered its love of sherry, with a new generation learning that sherry doesn’t have to mean a sticky, sweet bottle brought out by a great-aunt at Christmas. In the same way that we’ve embraced craft beer and gin, the fresh, exciting and complex wines produced in Spain’s tiny ‘sherry triangle’ have found an enthusiastic and growing audience in the UK.

Part of the band of bloggers and food writers helping to drive this growth is the team behind criadera.com – a blog about the people, places and wines of the Sherry Triangle. The success of the blog, coupled with their passion for sherry has prompted the Criadera team to launch the online store sherryboutique.com – giving UK sherry lovers the chance to buy some of the most exceptional, limited release sherries available.

As the name suggests, this is a truly boutique approach to online retailing – a small range will be available, from a classic bone-dry Fino to accompany olives or seafood, to a VORS Oloroso with an average age of 45 years. Currently, sherryboutique.com imports wines from two very small, family-owned bodegas – Bodegas Urium and Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez – that make exceptional wines in small volumes in Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucía. These are artisans producing very special premium products. Future plans include featuring guest sherries from other bodegas to complement the range.

uriumBodegas Urium is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for owner Alonso Ruiz, whose father passed on his passion for sherry and inspired a desire to make it. Alonso bought a bodega containing soleras dating back to the 18th century and in 2009, with daughter Rocío, launched Bodegas Urium. As well as Fino En Rama and Manzanilla Pasada (both eight years average age), they produce two ranges:

  • Clásicos – with average ages of between 12 and 15 years
  • VORS – minimum certified average age of 30 years, but in reality close to an average of 45 years

They also produce a very special Palo Cortado (Gran Señor de Urium) – average age of 100 years. Bodegas Urium sherries can be found on the wine lists of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain and the rest of Europe.

cruzviejaBodegas Faustino Gonzalez was founded in 1971, when a local doctor bought soleras dating back to 1758 and moved them to his wife’s bodega in the part of Jerez known as Cruz Vieja – the old cross. In 2014 his family launched the Cruz Vieja range of sherries, the first time sherries from the bodega have been commercially available. Each sherry is ‘En Rama’ meaning that it has been bottled without any filtration, clarification or other treatment. This means that all the flavors and fantastic complexity are retained for you to enjoy.

These are very exclusive sherries, with only 1000 bottles of each type released each year worldwide. They grace the wine lists of several Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain and every sherry in the range has been awarded 90+ Parker Points. The listing for each sherry includes knowledgeable yet accessible tasting notes and descriptions, and information on the bodegas themselves to give customers an understanding of the people behind these wines. There’s no minimum order quantity and the sherries can be shipped throughout the UK.

Helen Highley comments “We are sherry lovers first and foremost, and over our years of visiting the region we became convinced that the UK was ready to rediscover sherry and fall in love with it all over again. The success of criadera.com proved that there is clear sector of consumers who want to learn more about this wonderful wine, but we wanted to do more. We’ve been lucky enough to taste amazing wines from tiny bodegas that simply weren’t available in the UK and we felt passionately that they should be. They trusted us to bring their brands to enthusiastic sherry lovers in the UK, and we’re thrilled that a number of independent wine merchants and restaurants now stock these wines and we can share them with people who love them as much as we do. But not every sherry lover lives in a big city with indie wine shops or restaurants that ‘get’ sherry. sherryboutique.com is for those sherry lovers who want to enjoy these very special sherries but don’t have a stockist nearby.”

criadera-team