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, Sacrist√≠a AB and Orleans, followed by a flight of Osborne‚Äôs Amontillado 51-1¬™, 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 ‚ÄúSherry-oke.‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs famous Bamboo cocktail while I chatted with Kyle about their sherry interests. Predominantly they‚Äôve chosen sherry from Gonzalez Byass, not only because their staff was so well educated by Christopher Canale-Parola, but also because they‚Äôve found that T√≠o 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 ‚Äď 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 cr√®me br√Ľl√©e paired with Hidalgo‚Äôs 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!


Flamenco + Lustau

Flamenco + Flor FridaysDespite the cloudy skies, the patio was packed once again at Bar Vivant for Flamenco Friday! Tablao de Rosas filled the space with amazing energy, singing and dancing.

On the sherry bar was Margaux Wagenmann, from Lemma Wine Company, pouring a delicious variety of wines from Lustau.

She greeted everyone with a glass of Fino Jarana¬†from Lustau’s Solera Familiar range. Though my personal preference is an aged Fino, I do love this classic style¬†for it’s fresh¬†notes of flor and toasted almonds. Most sherry styles in the¬†Solera Familiar range can be found in high-end grocery stores around Portland.

Next in line was a beautiful Amontillado del Puerto from the Almancenista series. Almacenistas, or stock holders, independently produce and age sherry in their limited soleras of the finest and rarest sherries. This Amontillado del Puerto originates from an exclusive solera of only 10 barrels and certainly tasted like a labor of love. Rich golden color, nutty sharpness with a long dry finish.

Lustau Line UpI was pleased to see Palo Cortado Peninsula on the list. This is a classic Palo Cortado from the Solera Familiar range, combining the delicacy of an Amontillado with the richness of an Oloroso. It’s easy to find around town and the perfect wine to¬†inspire new sherry lovers!

A√Īada 1997Moving right along, guests had the rare experience from the Specialty range of the A√Īada 1997 Rich Oloroso. This oloroso was never blended with Pedro Ximenez, but subjected to a special partial fermentation process in order to preserve its natural sugars. It was aged in¬†American oak barrels for 13 years¬†and¬†limited to only 8,000 bottles. A perfect balance of delicate sweetness and dry finish. Naturally, I paid for a full pour!

The sweeter varietals for this flight were the Deluxe Cream Capataz Andrés and Moscatel de Chipiona. The Cream is a classic blend of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez creating a smooth and sweet flavor with a crisp finish. The Moscatel was light and bright, reminding me of mead with its honey notes.

IMG_20150814_201728Once again, I drank each one too quickly to enjoy them with the delicious tapas and desserts served by Cheryl Wakerhauser. On these nights, the lines can go out the door!

Instead, I enjoyed clapping my palmas, shouting my jaleos of olé que toma, and dancing a little pata at the end of the night with my flamencas. 

There are only two Flamenco Fridays left! Come check it out and try some top-shelf sherry!! Maybe you’ll become a sherry lover too!

Sherry + Flamenco = the Perfect Pairing

Flamenco + Flor FridaysOnce again, Cheryl Wakerhauser pours out her passion and creativity to bring a little piece of Spain to Portland, Oregon. Bar Vivant kicked off their Flamenco Fridays for the month of August, transforming the patio from 7pm to 9pm into a flamenco tablao and sherry bar!

This is a great opportunity to see local performers from Tablao de Rosas singing and dancing various flamenco styles, as well as, experience weekly sherry selections from the best wine makers in Jerez! Naturally, I plan to be there each week to try it all!

Cheryl + ChristopherThis week Christopher Canale-Parola from Gonzalez Byass was behind the bar. The first glass of Tio Pepe Fino was on the house.

The special flight for the evening was the rare 2012 Finos Palmas series. This series of four aged Finos creates an annual anticipated excitement for Gonzalez Byass lovers!

2012 Finos PalmasThe flight for this evening only included the first three.¬†Una Palma¬†is naturally lighter in color being the youngest around six years old when it was bottled. It’s aroma was not the typical dry¬†almond I was anticipating, but a sweeter, yeasty aroma. I smelled donuts! But as I drank it, I really wanted something salty to eat. Dos Palmas would be considered a Fino Viejo, still yeasty on the nose, but hints of caramel corn. Still dry yet well rounded. This would have gone well with asparagus or artichokes. The Tres Palmas was nearly an Amontillado; pure butterscotch on the nose. It was hard to believe it’s been bottled for three years!

The rest of the line up were the Leonor Palo Cortado and Alfonso Oloroso, two beautiful classic styles, and the very old rare sherry (VORS) of Del Duque Amontillado. By the end of the night, while a few of us still lingered, trying our hand at using a venencia, Cheryl surprised us with a glass of the Cuatro Palmas. This was an excellent conclusion to the flight! It truly tasted like a freshly bottled amontillado.

bailandoEven days later, I’m still reliving this fun evening of sharing¬†my love of flamenco and sherry with friends in my hometown. I cannot wait to go back each¬†Friday to do it again. Please come check it out! I hear Lustau sherry styles will be next on the bar!

Sherryfest + I’m Obsessed!

unnamedSherryfest is in full swing in New York City this week! I’m unable to attend, but I’m not bitter. I owe my passion, or should I say obession, for sherry because of Sherryfest!

I love this picture from Sherryfest West 2013 of Peter LIem, Cheryl Wakerhauser + Jaime Gil  photo by Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

I love this picture from Sherryfest West 2013 of
Peter LIem, Cheryl Wakerhauser + Jaime Gil
photo by Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

In March 2013, Sherryfest West, Galaxy Wine and Cheryl Wakerhauser, the owner and chef of Pix Patisserie/Bar Vivant invited several sherry ambassadors to represent their wines in Portland, Oregon. Cheryl is the trailblazer for putting sherry on Portland’s radar. She has the largest sherry menu in town with some of the best the Marco de Jerez has to offer!

Had I not attended, I never would have met Jan Pettersen from Fernando de Castilla or Jaime Gil from Grupo Estevez. Out of several representatives, these two men took time to talk me through their wines, and made sure I slowed down to enjoy each one. You can read more on that night in my first sherrysips post.

Last June, Sherryfest returned to the west coast in San Francisco. I was only able to participate through Twitter feeds. However, a small Sherryfest after-party came to Portland only hours before I had to board a flight to Costa Rica, but I was determined to fit it in!

Jan Pettersen and Jaime Gil set up tastings at Great Wine Buys ‚Äď a wonderful wine shop in NE Portland that has an amazing sherry selection! Jaime shared wines¬†from Valdespino: Manzanilla Deliciosa en Rama, Inocente Fino, Palo Cortado Viejo C.P., Don Gonzalo Oloroso VOS and Moscatel Promesa. I‚Äôm a huge fan of anything from Valdespino ‚Äď this tasting¬†made me a happy camper!

Jan shared his some of the best from his bodega: Fino en Rama, Amontillado Antique, Oloroso Antique and Pedro Ximenez Antique. His wines are refined, aged to perfection and in my opinion, worth way more than their price tag!

After¬†my quick visit¬†with them, I zipped over to Pix Patisserie/Bar Vivant.¬†I love that Cheryl Wakerhauser always provides opportunities to learn about sherry from the¬†wine makers¬†on her menu! This time it was¬†Lorenzo Garcia-Iglesias of Bodegas Tradici√≥n, the first bodega I toured, and Peter Liem, co-author of my ‚Äúsherry bible‚ÄĚ Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla.

This was a unique, intimate setting for Peter and Lorenzo to share the basics of sherry, allowing those attending to taste along and ask their questions. The flight included La Gitana Manzanilla from Hidalgo, Fino from Bodegas Tradición, Amontillado VORS from Bodegas Tradición, Palo Cortado Viejo C.P. from Valdespino, Oloroso VORS from Bodegas Tradición, and Pedro Ximenez Antique from Fernando de Castilla. As soon as the class ended, I had two hours pack and fly to Costa Rica for eight weeks with 25 high-schoolers. I think three sherry tastings did the trick to calm the nerves!

Sherryfest Get Flor'dNow one year later, I am celebrating Sherryfest NYC through social media streams. I love what Sherryfest does to bring sherry into mainstream drinking scenes. Someday, I will attend again and hope to meet the many sherry lover connections I’ve made in the past two years. Until then, I raise my copita from Portland and encourage everyone to Drink More Sherry & Get Flor’d!

Hands-on Learning With Lustau

LustauAs my desire to learn more about sherry keeps growing, I‚Äôve 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‚Äôt 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 ‚Äď Fino or Manzanilla

If it FLIES ‚Äď Amontillado or Palo Cortado

If it RUNS ‚Äď Oloroso

me + Cristina

Living Big Drinking Sherry

Mary Cecchini There‚Äôs nothing quite like meeting a kindred spirit for happy hour. You forget that you haven‚Äôt known each other long when you both share a love of¬†living life to its fullest. Don‚Äôt let her petit frame fool you ‚Äď Mary Cecchini is full of life and fulfilling her big dreams! I was first introduced to Mary at the¬†launch party for her new travel business Living Big. It is¬†specifically designed for female travelers who desire a pre-planned adventure with small groups of likeminded women. A week later,¬†I happily¬†accepted her invitation to grab a tapa at Bar Vivant in East Portland.

Mary plans to lead a trip to Spain at the end of August, which includes a visit to wine country in Rioja. I was surprised when I asked if she’ll go to the Sherry Triangle, she admitted she wasn’t sure she ever tasted sherry. (To be honest, I really should not have been surprised. Unfortunately, for being a drinking culture, Portland, Oregon has yet to catch the sherry fever.)

As we talked about our mutual love for Spain, Bar Vivant was perfect for our meeting. It has a wonderful Tuesday happy hour offering a free tapa with a purchase of a drink. I suggested we get a sherry flight and a couple tapas. Whether I realized it or not, I was about to give my first guided sherry tasting.

Until this moment, I had been too nervous to consider leading a sherry tasting because I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Yet, there I was unplanned and unrehearsed, endlessly talking about my passion for sherry!

Happy Hour Sherry Flight

I chose a flight of three of my favorites: a La Guita Manzanilla, La Garrocha Amontillado and Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso along with a Parisian Montadito of prosciutto and brie and of course Tortilla Espa√Īola topped with a spicy tomato sauce and eggless mayo. Mary¬†tasted and I talked, making sure to throw her¬†napkins on the floor to follow Bar Vivant tradition.¬†Throw napkins on the floorI think she likes it

Parisian Montadito + Tortilla Espa√Īola with Manzanilla, Amontillado + Oloroso

Parisian Montadito + Tortilla Espa√Īola with Manzanilla, Amontillado + Oloroso

I first had Mary taste each sherry starting with the Manzanilla, then the Amontillado and finally the Oloroso. She would describe the nuances she could pick up from each one. For the Manzanilla, she said there was something almost fishy. With the Amontillado, she could smell the toffee notes. The Oloroso she expected to be sweeter. She said the smell reminded her of flavored coffee. Then I asked her to do it again, this time eating the tapas first. I loved watching her reaction as the sherry flavors enhanced. We were both amazed how the spicy tomato sauce on the tortilla really balanced out with the Oloroso.

Hands-on learning is the best! She was full of great questions and I was relieved¬†that I could answer them! I still need to learn more, but she assured me she had an amazing time learning so much in only a couple hours.¬†I shared with Mary my dreams to teach more friends in Portland to do exactly what she and I were doing ‚Äď having a casual happy hour learning about sherry and become familiar with what‚Äôs available around town. I told¬†her my daydream to someday take people with me to visit bodegas in Spain and return sherry experts.¬†Someday.

If Mary can do it, why can’t I?Seana Yee

New Year’s Resolution – #DrinkMoreSherry

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions or if I do, I don’t hold to them very tightly. I prefer to reflect on the past as I move forward into the New Year. But I really meant it when I declared on social media I want to #drinkmoresherry. As I make plans for 2015, I’ve been reminiscing about my comical and someone chaotic introduction to the wonderful world of sherry.

sherryfest westIt was spring of 2013. I was preparing for my first flamenco trip to Jerez de la Frontera. I was studying bulerias with my teacher Laura Onizuka, and saw she would be performing at the Sherryfest West hosted by Bar Vivant and Galaxy Wine Company. Until this moment, I had never heard of Sherryfest, nor several of the bodegas being represented, nor even Peter Liem. I did not realize that his co-authored book would soon become what I affectionately refer to as my Sherry Bible. I just thought this would be the perfect way to further prepare for my trip Jerez.

I should preface that I prefer intimate settings to crowds of people. So, this experience was a bit of sensory and information overload. The small bar was filled with nine bodega reps, a small flamenco tablao for my teacher and her performers, a table with free tapas and several Portlanders squeezing in for the experience!

sherry menuWhen I first walked in, I was handed the list of open¬†bottles by vendor. I was still clueless about in what order sherry should be tasted. I¬†felt like I was¬†experiencing¬†culture shock.¬†I‚Äôm not even sure if I tasted all 38 bottles. I did my best to scribble¬†tasting notes by the ones I really enjoyed. My top three by the end¬†were Valdespino – Deliciosa Manzanilla, Emilio Lustau – Almacenista Oloroso Pata de Gallina (Garcia Jarana), and Gonz√°lez Byass ‚Äď Alfonoso Oloroso. However, I really enjoyed every bottle from Fernando de Castilla. I believe I didn’t take notes because Jan Pettersen was the so engaging¬†in¬†conversation.

Eventually, I gathered near the flamenco tablao and clapped along and shouted out jaleos. Jaime Gil from Valdespino stepped out for a little bulerias. He remains a great resource for me throughout my journey; always available to answer my questions. My hope is to visit the bodega on my next journey to Jerez de la Frontera.

As I look at this list, I’m compelled to taste through these again with fresh eyes. If I knew then what I know now, it would have been a whole different experience. Which is why I plan to #drinkmoresherry in 2015!