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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Flor Friday at 15 Romolo

15 RomoloBack in June, Chef Michelle Matthews and Sommelier Ian J. Adams from 15 Romolo were declared the winners of the 6th edition of the Copa Jerez. (Here’s a great recap from fellow sherry blogger Ruben at Sherry Notes.)

Ever since, I’ve been following 15 Romolo on twitter, anxiously awaiting a chance to go visit! The opportunity finally presented itself this past weekend. I had to fly through San Francisco to visit family in wine country. I decided to squeeze in a bite before heading to Sonoma. What better way to spend #FlorFriday than at a sherry bar in the city with friends?!

sherry listOn a Friday night, this area of town is a busy place! The old hotel space was already packed with people by 18:30. My eyes went straight to the sherry list. They offer so many wonderful libations including two sherry flight specials.

Flor FridayTo my disappointment, Ian J. Adams was not there that evening, but Daniel was very helpful with sherry suggestions. He brought out the Old & Rare flight which had a couple of my favorites, as well as two from Toro Albalá I’ve wanted to try for some time: Manzanilla Deliciosa en Rama from Valdespino, Amontillado Viejisimo (35 yrs) from Toro Albalá, “Apóstoles” Palo Cortado VORS (30 yrs) from González Byass, and Pedro Ximénez “Gran Reserva” 1983 from Toro Albalá. Daniel also surprised me with their signature sherry cocktail Maids of Cadiz.

sherry rainbowWe started with the Pork Croquettes and an order of a delicious Romolo Poutine! I decided to drink my Manzanilla first. It’s mild nuttiness and freshness helped cut through the richness of the dishes. The Amontillado Viejisimo was also a perfect pair. I loved this dry, aged amontillado for its toffee notes.

While I waited for my entrée, I had “dessert” first. The PX was full of raisin flavor yet a bit too sweet on its own. Daniel brought out a dish of blue cheese. It’s been suggested to me before to pair blue cheese and Pedro Ximénez, but until this moment I hadn’t actually tried it. On its own, I’ve never been a fan of blue cheese, but paired with the wine BOTH became total rock stars! I couldn’t get enough of either!

good eats + sherryAt their suggestion, I ordered the Yo-Mama Burger to enjoy with my Apóstoles Palo Cortado VORS and Maids of Cadiz cocktail. Yes, house-made peanut butter and bacon actually go very well on a burger, and the entire entrée went surprisingly well with the Palo Cortado!

The cocktail should have been enjoyed before the flight. The apple brandy really is the star here but a bit too thin to go head-to-head with a Palo Cortado and burger. Overall, it is a nice palette-cleansing cocktail to end a long week and kickoff the weekend!

Unfortunately, I did not leave any room for the dessert recommendation of their Chocolate Torte paired with the Oloroso Dulce “Matusalem” VORS from González Byass. I’ll make room next time! Yes, there will definitely be a next time!

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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.

Criaderas + Soleras ~ Sherry Pillar 5

Pillars of JerezExplaining my passion for sherry wine isn’t always easy to do concisely or eloquently. González Byass has made the job easier for me by creating their short video series the Pillars of Jerez. I had the unique opportunity to interview co-host Christopher Canale-Parola for behind-the-scenes commentary. Here’s what we discussed with regards to the fifth pillar on criaderas and soleras.

solera shotSeana – I have the hardest time simplifying the solera system. How did you do that in two minutes?

Christopher – Visuals help a lot! We’re standing in front of a whole barrel system, and we even simplify it in our communication. When you’re standing in front of three or four barrels and doing it with your hands, it makes it much more obvious.

We’re explaining how the fresh wine goes in the top, and once or twice a year we take out a third or a quarter and put it in the barrel below. In addition to this, as Antonio and I are talking, it fades to an image of a barrel, and we have two different shadings so that one of them goes lighter than the other, so you can visualize how it’s been moved down.

C – When I’m doing a tasting, what I sometimes do is get four wine glasses and I’ll take a drink out of [the fourth] one. I’ll top it up [from the third one], then top that up [from the second one], then also top that up [from the first one], and then say that’s where the fresh wine goes in. It’s a very simple thing, but people can associate the same wine moving through the barrels never being completely empty. It’s not that hard a concept, just tricky in the beginning. quality control

S – People who aren’t as familiar with sherry want to know the vintage to know how old it is.

C – That’s one of the classic footholds of people who come into the wine world – first, they look at the color of the wine. Is it a white wine or a red wine? Then they look at grape varietals. Is this a grape that they know, and do they like it? Then beyond that, they look at the year. These are easy footholds. So if you take them away, sherry makes it challenging for people a little bit. Because it’s so different, you do have to hold their hand through it and give them a little information.

S – It’s challenging for me when I introduce others to sherry and they still just don’t get it. tabanco cheers

C – If someone in that position goes to Jerez, and they sit down and have a load of food, get poured a glass of wine, and they drink it, and it goes with the food, they’ll think WOW that’s amazing! It wasn’t sitting down with the wine maker and learning about the solera system, or learning about the varietals and the vineyard or whatever it might be. It’s just that moment where it’s treated like a wine. You look at all the tables around you and they’re drinking it. It’s that moment or realization that it’s just the perfect wine for the cuisine. Don’t ask anymore questions, just get another glass.

That’s the experience, the epiphany, for a lot of people; more than studying it and realizing in a very cold, intellectual way that it’s a very good wine. Understanding it emotionally and feeling the flavor combination and looking around and seeing everyone doing it and realizing it is a thing and it’s not so weird.

S – I’m hoping that Portland gets there. me + christopher

Stay tuned for the rest of our conversation regarding classic wines and the creative spirit of sherry expert, Antonio Flores!

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!