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

Ataula Presents González Byass

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When it comes to pairing sherry with entrees, I owe a lot of my knowledge to Ataula, a Spanish and Catalan restaurant located in northwest Portland. Unlike the home-cooked Spanish comfort food of its sister restaurant CHESA, Ataula is where chef José Chesa and his team push gastronomic creativity and the dining experience to its fullest potential.

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Recently, they had a private ticketed event pairing Chef’s cuisine to the amazing sherries of González Byass. I was elated that my non-sherry loving husband would join me, and be sure to capture the experience. (I still have not mastered how to stay on task, capturing both pictures and conversation, whilst drinking my way through the sherry rainbow.)

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Emily Metivier, General and Beverage Manager for both restaurants, and Christopher Canale-Parola, Area Manager for González Byass. Christopher has been a wonderful mentor and networker for me since we first met at Ataula in 2015. His enthusiasm and knowledge for not only sherry, but for González Byass as well, is infectious!

cocktail + fino chaserTo start the night, we had a lovely Tío Pepe Fino based cocktail created by Angel Teta. I’ve always been cautious about the sherry cocktail trend, but Angel’s creations are on point! As she described it, she added Ontañón Moscato, a touch of Aveze Genitian Apertif, watermelon syrup, Pares Balta Cava and a touch of saline, all garnished with fresh flowers. It was so refreshing, and both the watermelon and Fino came through. It was specifically paired to the amuse course, but I drank mine way too quickly whilst mingling with other guests. I hope she adds it to their main menu!

Once seated, chef came out to greet us and explained that sherry was always used in his home for cooking and Tío Pepe was always the go-to bottle. Pairing five sherry wines to Jose’s wonderful creations from the kitchen, he would explain the entrees and Christopher would explain the sherry wine and history of González Byass.

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With a traditional tumbler of Tío Pepe Fino, we warmed up our palates with an amuse bouche of seared watermelon and fried anchovy or house cured boquerones. As Christopher explained, we’re in a time where sherry it taking a very important place in the world’s food and wine scene. And yet, it’s still a niche.

If you’re new to sherry, the important first thing to know is that the vast majority are bone dry. Some of them at the other end of the spectrum are intensely sweet. This is the reason why they are an absolute gift to gastronomy, chefs and sommeliers. You’re able pair some powerful flavors of the wine with powerful dishes without necessarily covering each other up, which is really something quite special. The potential, when paired correctly, is a flavor explosion!

First Course: Ajo Blanco – white gazpacho, marcona, red wine poached foie; Tío Pepe Fino en Rama, 2015 bottling

As Chef explained, tomato gazpacho is the most drinkable, fully vegetarian option in the summertime in Spain. In Malaga, they use ajo blanco the most. This dish used Marcona almonds with milk, sherry vinegar and a little salt and drops of olive oil. This particular dish, Chef has made for over 15 years. In the middle he added a slice of red wine poached foie gras – the four most beautiful words ever heard together! The dish was finished with olive oil pearl caviar from Spain and white currents underneath for texture. You know a dish is good when the room goes completely quiet!

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The wine paired with this was Tío Pepe en Rama. This is award-winning wine is really quite new to the sherry world. Essentially, it is just the Tío Pepe Fino sherry, using 100% Palomino grape, fortified to 15% alcohol and then aged in 600 liter American oak barrels. This style of this wine is really almondy, intensely savory, and has an oyster shell component that plays really well with the Marcona influence of the dish.

En Rama is local jargon meaning totally unfiltered. Typically like most white wines, a Fino goes through a stabilization and clarification process. But this is a sample pulled fresh from the barrel. The most exciting thing about this is it was bottled April 2015, so it had considerable time in bottle with the natural yeast as well. These wines age in barrel under a fluffy blanket of yeast because the wine is never filled up to the top of the barrel like most wines in the wine world. This yeast grows on top and gives it a really pungent yeasty nose. Even more so after a year in bottle!

Second Course: Pulpito – spanish baby octopus escabeche, tomato sofrito, confit, marrow bone; Viña AB 12-year Amontillado

Chef cooked the baby octopus escabeche with vegetables, extra olive oil and sherry vinegar. Under the marrowbone was tomato sofrito – onions and tomatoes cooked for five hours. The maltodextrin powder was made using the marrowbone fat.

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This was paired with Viña AB, an Amontillado style sherry. This side-by-side tasting from Tío Pepe Fino en Rama to Viña AB Amontillado is one of Christopher’s favorites in the wine world simply because of tasting exactly the same wine at two completely different stages in its life. The Tío Pepe en Rama is bottled around four years average, where as the Viña AB has been in the solera blending system for up to an average of twelve years.

That nice fluffy duvet cover of yeast on top of the wine is an organism coming to the end of its lifecycle, and is breaking away and floating down to the bottom of the barrel. So for the first time the wine breathes. This oxidation process turns the color slightly browner, the flavors more intense, the alcohol starts to creep up a bit to 16.5%, but my goodness does it concentrate all those phenolic compounds. That almond character concentrates into more of a hazelnut character now. That oxidation gives you a slight sensation of sweetness, which is tricky because it’s not really sweetness, but just oxidation playing with your palate. Because it’s more structured, it goes well with more structured dishes.

Third Course: Pato – seared muscovy duck breast, corn, quicos, foie; Leonor 12-year Palo Cortado

By this course, the sherry was flowing and the conversation volumes growing. It was getting harder to catch Chef’s detailed technique explanations. To compensate, Christopher began speaking louder and faster. From what I gathered, the Muscovy duck breast was seared and placed on a bed of corn puree and foie gras.

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The wine paired with this was Leonor Palo Cortado. It is a very special style that starts off like a Fino and quickly redirected into a life of oxidation. It’s actually fortified up to 18% alcohol in the very beginning so that the yeast is never protecting the wine. You get a light style in the beginning, but with oxidation over time, you get something much more intense. The wine is aged a minimum of 12 years, similar to the Viña AB Amontillado, but this time a totally different expression. It’s made for these types of meats. Still bone dry, but oxidized to trick your brain to expect sweetness when it isn’t there.

Fourth Course: Bou – painted hills ribeye, charred torpedo onion puree, vegetable menestra; Apostoles VORS 30-year Palo Cortado

The ribeye was nicely charred on the bottom and plated with jus and chanterelles. It was paired with the very special “very old rare sherry” Apostoles. Similar to tasting Tío Pepe much later on in its life, this began as the 12-year Leonor Palo Cortado, but instead of bottling it, it was removed from the solera and placed in another to age for a minimum of 30 years! These wines are often referred to the sacred wines. Nearly all the blend is the Leonor with a little addition of 13% of Pedro Ximénez – another white grape, dried in the sun to concentrate the sugars. Just a touch of PX to the blend adds a natural richness, which creates a very special pairing for red meats.

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Once America realizes the flavor potential between Palo Cortado and red meats, I’m going to go on vacation because it’s going to take over! But we’re not quite there yet, so I hope to win over a few hearts every step of the way.

Final Course: Textures – valdeon cheese, strawberries, chocolate; Noé VORS 30-year Pedro Ximénez

Sadly, I don’t think I’m the only one who completely missed the description. By dessert we were very “happy” and dove right in. It was light and refreshing. The classic pairing for Pedro Ximénez is ice cream or cheese. Chef was smart to combine both to conclude this amazing dining experience!

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Noé is very simply 100% Pedro Ximénez showcasing the rich sweetness of the greatest dessert wine of the world. Hand harvested, these grapes are dried in the sun for two weeks. This VORS is nearly 40 years old. It is incredibly sweet, yet dark and savory at the same time with a lot of smoky cigar elements and strong aromas of fig.

Noé has around four times the sugar content of Coca Cola, so it’s not a diet wine.

What a fantastic evening that truly delivered and went beyond expectations. I’m still surprised that I ate baby octopus. It only took three glasses of sherry to overcome my aversions. I truly appreciated not only the passion and detailed execution, but also the down-to-earth kindness of everyone involved. It is very rare to find a place like this that truly makes you feel at home time and time again.

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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!

To The Pillars of Jerez & Beyond

Pillars of JerezPrior to May of this year, I really wasn’t familiar with González Byass apart from Tío Pepe. It was Christopher Canale-Parola who arranged a private tasting for me in the bodega. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to interview Christopher about their Pillars of Jerez YouTube series. Here’s what he had to say about their wines, and working with wine expert, Antonio Flores.

Seana – Are you just sherry focused, or do you represent all of González Byass products?

Christopher – I work with all of them. We have six wineries in Spain, and we have an expanding spirits line. For quite a few years now, we’ve been producing a gin called London No 1 Gin. We have a vodka. We’ve been making brandies forever; Lepanto and Soberano, beautiful brandy de Jerez. Then of course Nomad whiskey, which is our newest baby, which is very exciting. It’s a very old company and innovative since the beginning.

S – As soon as I open a bottle, the smell instantly takes me back to Jerez.

C – You’re absolutely right! It’s so distinctive; it really isn’t like anything else. When you get that real oxidative nose, or when you get that acetaldehyde kick, or whatever, it can only take you to one place. Really in the world there are very few places like Andalucía. And of course sensory memories are the strongest. So, you get that smell, and it takes you there emotionally before it does mentally. Because sherry is so distinct, it has that ability. When you see someone playing the flamenco guitar, when you see the streets of Jerez, or when you see the white Albariza soil, it’s just so different to anything else. It can only take you back there.

C – We go into detail about one video per wine, but we just do three wines. Maybe if we had time we would have done more. Within that range, I think those three have a real interesting story to tell: Tío Pepe which is an icon, Viña AB which is one of the few traditional amontillados, and Leonor which is a dry, textbook-classic Palo Cortado.

S – Once these nine videos are released, are you already in the works for something more? Or are you seeing where this goes?

C – We’ll see. We haven’t got anything planned with regards to more videos of this type. Antonio was born for the camera. He was born for people. He was born for tastings. No doubt he will continue to do many other cool things.

Alonso - Vina ABI don’t know if you remember the story, but he was born in the winery. His dad was head of Board of Direction of González Byass. Often people shy away from what their parents do, especially if their parents are really good at something. The thing about him is, he originally wanted to become a sailor; he wanted to be in the Navy. So he did that. He went off and joined the military; did the Navy for a little bit. Then his number-two career choice was being a writer. He thought about being a journalist and creative writer.

AmontilladoThen he fell into wine making, because it was almost inevitable that he was going to do that. But the fact that before that, he had this desire to be a writer and create, that’s something that shows in his tastings.

There’s a guy in New York called Levi Dalton. He does a podcast called I’ll Drink to That! He’s a quite respected sommelier in Manhattan. We did a podcast with him, and you’ll see that just in the middle of conversation, [Antonio] starts quoting Octavio Paz. (Literary poetry translation is a full-time dedication of career. I thought, “stop talking about poetry; go back to sherry!”)

Tio Pepe CheersWhen he references literature, or when he creates these beautiful images in his communication, that communicates concepts really powerfully to people. So, yeah I’m sure that he’ll continue to do other videos. He’s the perfect person to be doing them.

me + christopherI hope you watch each video in the series! Even better – watch the videos while drinking a glass of sherry from González Byass! The rest of our conversation can be found in my archives under What Is Sherry.

Biological + Oxidative Aging ~ Pillars 3 + 4

Pillars of JerezI cannot express enough how much I enjoy the Pillars of Jerez videos from González Byass! I am very fortunate to have co-host Christopher Canale-Parola living in my city of Portland, Oregon. We continue our chat around the third and fourth pillars; biological and oxidative aging.

Seana – Some say the salinity in Manzanilla and Fino comes from the sea air. Others say it’s the soil, having been under water so many years ago. Is it one or both, or just BS?

Christopher – No, I don’t think it’s BS at all, and very important in fact. You’ve got to remember that when you have a biologically aged sherry, you have this big surface area that’s covered with this living yeast. That yeast is constantly in contact with the oxygen in the air around it, and it will have an impact.

flor on venenciaS – Is flor only particular for that area? I have friends who always ask if I’m going to make sherry, and I just laugh.

C The sherry region isn’t the only one that uses flor yeast, but it is one of very few, and it’s the only one that does it exactly in that way. So, for example in Jura in France, there are white wines that are aged under a layer of yeast. So, here and there in the wine world, it does exist, but it’s very difficult to reproduce.

People have taken yeasts to Australia; they’ve taken it to the States, and to South Africa. People have tried to age beer under it in Belgium, but it’s very difficult because you’ve taken a native yeast out of its home environment. It just doesn’t do its thing.

S– So most sherry styles outside of the region are going to be an oxidative style?

C – Predominantly yes, which I think is perhaps the traditional mass-marketed cooking sherry. Everyday I’m still teaching people that sherry isn’t just a cooking wine. That, I think will be mostly oxidized wine that people are reproducing.

S – Putting aside that sherry is protected in the first place, I can’t imagine replicating the process elsewhere.

flor in barrelC – I am aware of a couple of more serious operations that have really tried to make a sherry style wine. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason why you can’t make wines in a similar style that are really good elsewhere, or there’s no reason why you don’t try. It’s just difficult to do.

It’s like the Champagne community perhaps saying you can’t make sparkling wines outside of Champagne. Of course you can, right? With Champagne, it gives us a good feeling and people love drinking it, yet most people have no idea how it’s made. To most people, a sparkling wine from Prosecco is more or less the same as Champagne, except that one’s just more expensive and they should like it more. But ask them about it, and they probably won’t know.

At the moment the sherry world would say you can’t make sherry outside the sherry world. You can’t call it that, and it probably won’t be as good. But that’s no reason why somebody doesn’t give it a go, you know? The wine world is in constant motion. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was something that became more of a thing going forward.

Tio Pepe Jerez

We are incredibly privileged where we are in terms of climate and soil. You just can’t ever think anything will come close in terms of quality. If we could ever get there with sherry, where we don’t have to explain the solera system, fortification, biological aging, oxidative aging, and have them dig it and want it – give it a little sex appeal, you know – that would be wonderful!

me + christopherStay tuned as we discuss the final sherry pillar, who is sherry wine expert Antonio Flores, and the three classic wines from González Byass!

The Soil + The Grapes – Sherry Pillars 1 + 2

Pillars of JerezHave you seen the Pillars of Jerez YouTube series yet?! My conversation with co-host Christopher Canale-Parola continues! Before talking a bit about the soil and varietals, I wanted to know more about Christopher and his role with González Byass.

Gonzalez ByassSeana – How did you become the “face” of these videos?

Christopher – That’s a funny story! Basically before I moved to the US, I was the only native English speaker based out of Jerez in a sales role. Over time, I ended up interpreting tastings for Antonio Flores and we built up a rapport.

Sherryfest 2013Then we’d do trips together: Sherryfest in New York and Toronto in 2013, then again together in San Francisco 2014. Then this year he wanted to do it again, so I went to New York. People were really enjoying the tastings we were doing.

So, the reason these videos came about was we had one of our Canadian agents come over on a trip with about 15 others. Antonio and I did a tasting and they had a good time. Somebody that came with them said, “wouldn’t this be really great if you could record this tasting? It would be a really informative, thorough sherry tasting in English from Antonio through translation.”

We thought about it. But we can’t really record an hour and a half tasting. That would be SO boring! So we thought, how can we take that concept, transmit the same information without so much technical detail, and make it effective? The way to do it is to break it down into little chunks and give each video a very obvious purpose and focus and then just record them, edit them and see how it goes right?

venenciaS – Are you considered an ambassador?

C – I think my official title is something like Regional Sales Manager. I handle the whole portfolio in Canada – Atlantic Provinces right through British Columbia, and a zig-zag cut through the US from the west coast to the south. My colleague in New York handles the east coast and a little bit in the mid-west. Basically, it revolves around the distributors we work with. People often say that’s a really big territory, but for sherry, normally you have like one or two people to do the whole world! So we’re incredibly privileged to be able to send two people to just do North America.

S – When I watched the First Pillar video of the soil, my husband remarked “it’s so dry and crumbly,” and he’s never been. Even for me, when I went to Jerez in May, I was shocked by how absorbent it is.

Soil– Exactly – it’s visual! The idea is to just give a sense or an impression of what it is and what this wine region is all about. I think we put something together that would communicate to people who already knew a lot about it – you know things like the asepiado – the steps put in the soil – which even people who are very familiar with sherry, may have never seen that process put into action.

S – I saw that for the first time when I visited. I was shocked to learn that vineyards aren’t watered, which is why those steps are there to collect the winter rains. I was amazed to see how fine the roots are that can go digging in the soil searching for water seven meters deep and up to sixteen meters across!

S – Most bodegas [or sherry wineries] purchase their grapes elsewhere, but González Byass has their own vineyards?

ViñasC – We have a large vineyard area where we get our grapes from. We have about 10% of the Jerez Superior. We have an important nursery, as well, where we’re growing vines up, one of the very few to have our own Pedro Ximenez. It’s very rare. At the moment, we do purchase grapes like everybody else from a region in Montilla, but we also have our own vineyards and are increasing that production. Antonio and the team hope in a few years time to be 100% self-sufficient for our own PX.

VarietalsS – I loved seeing them sun-drying the PX grapes in the video. Can Palomino Fino even grow in Oregon or elsewhere?

C – There is some in California and Argentina. My dad was drinking some dry PX from Argentina the other day, he told me about it. There are a few experiments going around, but not an awful lot. It’s just such a unique growing region like any other in the world, you just can’t really reproduce the style, and neither should you. You should perhaps maybe take inspiration from it and do something cool. I’d love to see what comes out of it. But you can’t really reproduce exactly the same thing, you know?

me + christopherTune in for more from our conversation as we discuss the remaining videos of the Pillars of Jerez series, the creativity of Antonio Flores and the future of sherry!

5 Pillars of Sherry – a look behind the scenes

TitleAs my desire to learn more about sherry grows, it can be challenging to find local resources to take me further. I am envious of all the classes and tastings provided in Jerez. When will technology figure out teleportation already?!

However, it is exciting to see more of my favorite sherry makers interacting on social media. Recently, Antonio Flores from González Byass has been posting YouTube videos on a regular basis! If you haven’t seen them yet, you MUST watch the Pillars of Jerez series releasing this month! The introduction video alone made me ache to go back!

I had the privilege to sit and talk in depth with the co-host of the series, Christopher Canale-Parola. Each week I will post the videos here with his commentary. Here’s what he shared about how these videos all came together: Christopher + Antonio

Seana: I’m so excited that you guys have been doing these! How long ago was this?

Christopher: We did this back in September – it’s a beautiful time of year to be filming. The concept was to have a short video – people have really short attention spans. As you’ll notice if you’ve watched the video, the technical information is very light. We’re not actually going into a lot of detail about sherry production really. We’re kind of skimming over the basics. The idea is to just give an impression of what it is and what this wine region is all about. Antonio + Christopher

S – Is the target audience people who are unfamiliar with sherry?

C – Our job would be so easy if we could just pick up everybody and take them to Jerez for the day. Because this is quite difficult to do, the whole point behind this is was to be able to give people just a visual image so they don’t need to read through a whole lot of information just to get the basics. So the idea was to go through and give an overview of sherry to a mixed audience, and to be able to break it down in a very easy format.

We tried not to go over two minutes which was a little bit difficult, so we kept them under 3 minutes for these videos. Quite a lot was edited; we did it all in about four hours, all in an afternoon. We didn’t even have a huge amount of preparation time. We just went out there and tried it as an experiment, and it came off quite well.

This whole concept of the Five Pillars, this is Antonio’s little brain-child. This is something that he’s been referencing in his tastings as long as I’ve been tasting with him.

S – How long have you been?

C – I began in 2011 with González Byass.

– It’s nice that these are coming at a time as I keep introducing others to sherry. I have something I can point them to that is professionally done, rather than creating my own webcam video.

copita brindisC – That’s the luxury that we had. We work with a very good media team that has done several events for us in the past. We have so much to show, that we have to do it the best way possible.

That’s what we did basically. We have nine videos: one of them is the introduction – do you love that shot of the drone over the vines? I love that shot! Five of them are the five different pillars of sherry – we have the soil, the grapes, biological aging, oxidative aging, solera and criadera.

That leaves us with three more. So, we go into detail about one wine per video. One on Tio Pepe, one on Viña AB Amontillado and one on Leonor Palo Cortado, just those three. Maybe if we had time, we would have done more. Within that range I think those three have a real interesting story to tell: Tio Pepe which is an icon, Viña AB which is one of the few traditional amontillados, and Leonor Palo Cortado which is a dry text book classic Palo Cortado.

me + christopherStay tuned for more videos and our continued conversation! Until then – be sure to #drinkmoresherry!