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.

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

This Isn’t Sherry?!

CityMarketSherryRecently around Portland, I’ve seen bottles of sherry not necessarily from inside the Marco de Jerez. One that caught my eye was a  Fino from Bodegas Cesar Florido. Because they are in Chipona, their Moscatel is regulated by the D.O. (Denominación de Origen) but not their Fino.

IMG_20150322_130137~2When I opened the bottle, I was surprised by the pungent smell of vanilla rather than a yeasty smell of flor. On the palate though, their Fino resembled everything like a true Fino Sherry – light, dry, refreshing and still had hints of flor flavor.

So, I asked my sherry guru Helen from Criadera, how do I explain to non-sherry drinkers why it’s not technically sherry? Her reply was this:

“The simplest way to describe it, is that it hasn’t been matured in the regulated Sherry zone, so can’t be called Fino Sherry. But it’s made the same way as Fino Sherry with the same types of grapes, so is likely to taste extremely similar. So it’s Fino but not Fino Sherry. Because the production isn’t regulated by the Sherry D.O., there may be some differences in maturation time and processing as the producers can be more flexible.”

I think that summed it up quite nicely. So don’t think a bottle not technically inside the Sherry D.O. is a total imposter. You might be surprised — in a good way!

The Magic of a Macaron

Pix Patisserie DisplayFriday, March 20th, Portland celebrated Macaron Day to benefit Meals on Wheels. It was 2009 in Osaka, Japan when I first saw macaron fame rekindle. Still today, the magic of the macaron hasn’t lost its enchantment. Fifteen bakeries brought out special flavors to celebrate, and I was so happy to see Pix Patisserie bring back their Spanish Almond & Sherry macaron to the mix.

Sherry Almond MacaronIt was in November last year when I first tried this melt-in-your-mouth macaron. Imagine the lightness and sweetness of a macaron cookie, slightly salted on the outside with a Marcona almond on each end, and filled with Lustau Palo Cortado Peninsula cream in the middle. It was so spellbinding, I gave a shout out on Twitter. My fellow sherry lover @Criadera in Scotland responded in envy. I joked maybe we could do a trade for proper mince pies and a copy of the newest edition of Julian Jeffs‘ book SHERRY.

I couldn’t get the conversation out of my head. I love a little old fashion pen pal connection, and her Twitter feed and blogs have been a huge source of help on my own sherry journey. So Operation Macaron ignited!

Operation Macaron had unexpected hick-ups that I clearly did not research beforehand. 1) Placing a special order. 2) Keeping them cold, because macarons are very fragile. 3) Shipping them internationally from Portland, Oregon to Scotland.

Placing the order was the easy part, but even the they cautioned me about shipping them internationally. My original excitement deflated when considered the challenges. But my husband rekindled the fun when solving how we would keep them cold and safe for transport. Between IKEA icepacks, his industrial vacuum sealer and shipping them in the middle of winter, the odds were in our favor.

Operation Macaron

Imagine my surprise when I saw this picture appear on Instagram! Not perfect in appearance, but still tasty!

Weeks later I was even more surprised to receive a Christmas package of proper mince pies and a copy of the newest edition of Julian Jeffs’ book SHERRY. 

The magic of this macaron was the beginning of a friendship between two sherry enthusiasts across the globe.