The Urium Meeting Place

Some of the most supportive people I’ve encountered in my sherry journey have been through social media connections. These days, it’s so easy to feel connected in friendship across the miles without ever having met in person. Imagine my excitement when I realized I would be in Jerez for harvest at the same time as these fellow sherry lovers! The one bodega we all share a common love for is Bodegas Urium. How fitting that this became our meeting place! Despite the jet lag and the summer heat, we all greeted each other with open arms and cheek-kisses as if this was not our first official meeting. Allow me to introduce you to my friends.

urium-familyThe Urium Meeting Place – Rocío, her husband Mario, and her charming father Alonso take hospitality to the next level! I joke that Rocio and I are like two teenage schoolgirls since we met in 2015. We text each other, giggling about life, and also share our hardships when we need support. She takes her family’s business very seriously and amazes me with how much she manages! She does it all – back office invoicing and orders, hospitality to guests visiting the winery, PR management, etc. She is the most capable woman I’ve ever met!

Heaven help me if I can understand anything Mario says, but he is so jovial! I think he laughs at the end of every sentence that comes out of his mouth. He may seem quiet in a crowd, but one-on-one, he is very passionate about his life in Cuba. In Urium, he jumps right into the family business of running the soleras and doesn’t hesitate to make sure you’re comfortable in their home. I truly believe he is the best selfie-taker!

Who doesn’t love Alonso? He looks like Santa, is so passionate about his wines, and makes a mean stew! I love listening to his childhood stories. He tells many jokes that get lost in translation, offers sound advice and encouragement, and will even sing a few lines of a Sevillanas. Just beware; he will charm you into singing or dancing for him as well!

urium-fun4Criadera – I have followed Helen Highley on Twitter since I first started my sherry journey. She and her husband Stuart live near Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve learned so much about sherry reading her blog. She’s the one who put me in touch with smaller, boutique sherry houses like Urium and Faustino González. Upon finally meeting her in Jerez, her enthusiasm is infectious. It’s no wonder she’s made such amazing partners for her own Sherry Boutique.

urium-funMontilla-Moriles UKErik and Laura Burgess are another dear couple from Scotland, in Blantyre east of Glasgow. Well, everyone will learn quickly that Erik is originally from New Zealand. They bring a stuffed animal Kev the Kiwi on their travels for some fun photo moments. Erik is my #1 fan on Twitter! I can always rely on him to like and retweet my posts! One will also learn a lot about whisky from these two, as they compare and contrast their passion for both scotch and sherry. They uniquely focus their passion for sherry in the Montilla-Moriles region where most PX grapes are grown. Although sherry styles from this region aren’t aged within the sherry triangle, I’ve learned from Erik and Laura not to disregard these wines entirely. What I discovered, upon meeting in person, are their giving hearts! They are the most generous people! I’m really hoping our paths cross again on their home turf!

Shawn HennesseyDon’t be fooled by other guided tapas tours reciting a script – Shawn is the real deal! She is the eyes and ears of Sevilla, Malaga and beyond! Originally from Canada, she has lived several years in Sevilla. Her tours include hole-in-the-wall places where she has built friendships with owners and waiters. Her love for sherry is top-notch. She is such a role model for me. Plus, we share a mutual adoration for cats. When she knew I was coming to take the Certified Sherry Educator’s course at the Consejo Regulador, she came to visit Jerez to lend me her notes! She may be camera shy, but she is anything but when it comes to one on one conversation! If anything, she’s been the one to push me out of my own shell.

alexSherry Company Alexander Dopson has been my kindred spirit throughout my journey. I was excited to finally meet up in Jerez. He and his wife just made the move back to Sevilla from Miami. Although his father is American, his mother is from Jerez. It’s a mind trip to hangout with him and see how he flips from being a total Floridian to Jerezano in one conversation. He’s so fluent; I relied on him to be my interpreter for the little details my language ability couldn’t catch. He is passionate and eloquent when he speaks or writes about sherry, not just about the wines, but the region, the history, and the culture. He’s been a mentor to keep dreaming big and to never give up on my goals for Sherry Sips. When we met at Urium, he brought along his best friend Sergio, who quickly felt like my long lost cousin. Sergio and his new bride Maria became dear friends throughout my stay in September. I hope when we all meet again, they’ll take me to Grazalema where they grew up together.

We had the pleasure of an unexpected addition to the visit from Carl-Gustav Aullo. He’s a Spanish-Swede writing a book on sherry in Swedish! I loved listening to his fluent Spanish with little Swedish interjections. Having just been to Stockholm connecting to my Swedish roots, it was a joy to get to know him and share stories. After several glasses of sherry, we even pulled him in as we serenaded Dancing Queen to Alonso before leaving the bodega and heading onto other sherry adventures.

If you’re passionate about sherry, there are amazing friends who await you with open arms. If you want to meet in person, you know where we’ll be. What happens at Urium stays at Urium.

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He said it best!

After publishing my experiences with Bodegas Urium, owner and wine master, Alonso Ruíz Olivares asked me to help translate them into Spanish. Even though it didn’t take long to do, I was embarrassed that for having my degree in Spanish, I still don’t sound like a native speaker. I didn’t realize he would publish it on his Facebook page with my picture!

I appreciated the feedback from some who called my writing poetic and lovely. One person asked for further clarification. Alonso wrote these words in response:

Pienso que es el reconocimiento a las atenciones recibidas.
Atenciones que ofrecemos a cualquier persona que llama a las puertas, redes sociales o teléfono de bodegas urium, ponemos a su disposición, la mejor selección de vinos de jerez para catar y brindar con un Jerez de Honor, totalmente gratuito y sin ningún compromiso.
Eso si aún sin tener obligación de compra, casi todos compran alguna que otra botella para compensar los gastos.
Esperamos tu visita en bodegas Urium Jerez
Un abrazo
Alonso Ruiz

I think it is the recognition of the care received.
We offer hospitality to anyone who knocks on Urium Winery’s doors, reaches out via social media networks or by phone. We offer the best selection of sherries to taste and toast with the Honor of Jerez, completely free and without obligation.
Even without the obligation to buy, almost everyone buys a bottle of this or that to offset expenses.
We await your visit to Bodegas Urium in Jerez.
Hugs,
Alonso Ruiz

Once again, he understood me completely.

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A Visit to Bodegas Urium – pt 2

Bodegas UriumWhile visiting with Rocio, the director at Bodegas Urium, I told her about my goal to have each bodega sign my copy of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla. She said her father and winemaker should do the honor, and insisted I return to meet Alonso Ruíz Olivares.

me and AlonsoI came back the next afternoon and tapped on the metal door. As it slowly slid open, there stood the smiling face of Santa Claus. He welcomed me in like an old friend.

The American in me wanted to jump right in and have him sign my book so I wouldn’t take too much of his time by interrupting his day. Instead, he started the conversation with, “what would you like to drink?” He was in no hurry, and had me taste through the barrels once again.

Any visitor will note Alonso is passionate about sherry! He commutes from Huelva to Jerez to care for his wines. As soon as he knew I was an aficionado, he quickly took the role of mentor and poured out hours of knowledge on me!

He gently reminded me to hold my glass at the stem so I wouldn’t warm the wine. He showed me how he checks the veil of flor with a mirror and flashlight. He had me smell through a vertical flight of Palo Cortado, which rabbit-trailed our conversation to his computer. He insisted on showing me his PowerPoint presentation that included the science of how aromas last in the memory much stronger than the flavors. He is so proud of Urium’s growing reputation. He excitedly pointed out how they come out on top of a Google search, and even have many YouTube references.

By the time I left the bodega, I not only got an autograph in my book, but I walked away with a new “father” in Jerez. Throughout the rest of my sherry odyssey, Alonso would text me hija, por donde andas to make sure I was safe and sound.

Even my last hours before leaving Jerez were spent in the bodega with Alonso, Rocio and her husband Mario. I felt so at home in this place with these new friends. Right before they took me to the train station bound for Madrid, Alonso sang me my favorite letra from Sevillanas – Algo se muere en el alma, cuando un amigo se va. Something in the soul dies when a friend goes away.

Rest assure, I will be back.