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Wines to Pair with Family: Thanksgiving Edition

If you’re a wino like me, you’ve been inundated with articles about what to drink with Thanksgiving Dinner. And while it’s mildly important to have a good bottle of Pinot Noir with whatever overcooked vegetable your aunt’s girlfriend brought, I find it way more interesting to have a wine for those wildly uncomfortable, highly typical family dynamics we face year after year. So here are a list of wines that pair well with my family dynamics. I hope they work for yours, as well.

Side Dish Prep-

So it’s Thanksgiving morning, you’re at home in your pj’s and you’re trying to figure out that side dish you were asked to bring. For this scenario, I recommend the La Salada ‘Tinct Set’ Ancestral. Ancestral the Spanish term for ‘half the sparkle, all the ambition.’ But don’t look that up. Toni Carbo from Mas Candí and his wife, Anna created the La Salada label for wines grown on generations of his family’s all organic soils in the Penedès. The Tinct Set is bright, light-hearted and fruity. In fact, it’s probably the most light-hearted fun you’ll have all day. Plus that low ABV means you can drink half a bottle while prepping your side dish and the other half while taking a shower. Grandma won’t have a clue.

The Family Greeting-

The day is young, the family still loves each other and no one is gossiping about how much you’ve eaten off the cheese plate. Bonus round- no one knows about that first bottle you took down at home! So let’s pop a some cava and cheers to yet another Happy Thanksgiving! This year, impress the entire family with Los Bermejos sparkling Rosado from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. It’s exotic and volcanic, zippy and fruity with just the right touch of texture and creaminess to keep your dad from announcing it’s not actually Champagne. Thank you, Canary Islands.

When the Family Asks if You Have a Boyfriend-

“Ya, I’m still single, Grandma, no I don’t have any kids, yes I know how old I am.” This excruciating line of questioning means it’s time to grab a bottle DaTerra Viticultures ‘Erea de Vila,’ snatch that entire bowl of Grandma Jewell’s crab dip and head to the TV to watch basketball for a while. The Erea de Vila is comprised of mostly old vine Godello from the hills of Ribeira Sacra. It’s got texture, minerals, fruit and herbs. It’s begging for salty chips and dip, that cream cheese salami thing my mom makes and hot men in basketball shorts. (RIP, Grandma Jewell.)

When Aunt Mary Starts to Get Drunk-

Finally, let’s get this party started. Aunt Mary is getting tipsy, she’s stepped outside for her first cigarette and it’s time to switch to red. Borja Perez Ignios Orígenes ‘Vijariego Negro’ is what you’ve been waiting for all morning. It’s the kind of wine you want to sit in the corner and talk dirty to, the kind of wine you want to share with Aunt Mary so she’ll tell you colorful stories of driving AC Transit through East Oakland 30 years ago. It’s fruity, giving and full of tamarind deliciousness without asking anything in return. It goes down so easy you’ll be tempted to drink the whole bottle right there. Save some for dinner, though, this wine may pair perfectly with Grandma Finley’s candied yams. (RIP, Aunt Mary.)

Thanksgiving Dinner- 

Ok, the jig is up, I really dislike Thanksgiving dinner. It’s so brown and gravied and mashed and cooked. All I can do is pray to the gods someone made a kale salad, or that someone hands me a tortilla so I can eek out a turkey taco. But whatever sort of bread crumbly thing I’m forced to endure, I’m keeping a bottle of 2016 Fazenda Prádio MRZ by my side and dreaming of pulpo and the Miño river hot springs. This candied fruit, graphite and slightly peppered little number has the power to make me ignore the fact that I hate mashed potatoes and that my little brother just stole all of the dark meat. I only say 2016 because I worked the harvest that year, this wine is fly in any vintage. Pro tip: keep your glass full of this Merenzao so when Grandpa Doug busts out the Silver Oak you are covered. (RIP, Grandpa Doug.)

 

This blog is dedicated to my whole family. To the ones who have passed, to the ones who can’t be here and to the ones who are braving the storm.

Happy Holidays.

Blogged At: My Condo, East Oakland

Soundtrack: SIR 

 

 

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The Tarot and the Wine

In an effort to practice self care, a prescription given to me by so many as of late, I decided to go for a little tarot reading and a two hour facial last Saturday. The usual. And if it seems like a two hour facial is a little intense, well, you should have been at the tarot reading. Let’s just say some sage was burnt, some aura was sprayed and some tears were shed. I’m not sure if it constituted as “self care,” but it definitely gave me something to write about. So here is a tiny portion of my tarot reading, in no particular order and and as it pertains to wine. Because if it actually pertains to real life, I’m just not in the mood.

The Tarot and the Wine

Lust- The lust card is about passion, energy and power. It’s and living life in the moment and mastering your inner animal. The card usually features a woman looking into the jaws of a lion, as if she doesn’t find consequence in being eaten or has somehow already tamed the beast. The card also represents passion, and the proof when we work at it hard, it pays off in the end. My logical brain thinks this card was drawn for someone else, but I don’t think the logical brain is supposed to be used here.

The Viños Ambiz ‘Alba’ from Sierra de Gredos is a lusty little number. The grape is albillo- natural, raw and unfiltered. At first it is guarded, closed off. But an exercise in patience finds it wildly expressive and virtually untamed. Maybe you don’t want to wait for it, maybe it’s not worth your time. Maybe in a month you may wonder why you were obsessing over it in the first place. But one day you’ll find yourself drinking it again and leaping right back in to the mouth of the lion. Nothing worth it is ever easy.

The Lovers- Some say the Lovers card is that of true, grounded love. It is a card of harmony and and attraction, of impenetrable bond. Others say the lovers is a card of choice- a choice between two women, a choice between things that are opposing and mutually exclusive. A choice between what’s in front of you and what’s seemingly divine. Can’t you see these things are the same?

For the Lovers, I’m drinking Alfredo Maestro ‘Lovamor,’ albillo from Ribera del Duero. Yes, Ribera del Duero pumps out some delicious white wine despite its obsession with full-bodied reds. Alfredo Maestro is a super power in Castilla y León, making fresh, natural, clean delicious wines from Ribera down to Madrid. If you are not riding his train already, I suggest you hop on. The Lovamor takes seven days of skin contact like a true professional, offering structure and a power as needed. In true form of the Lovers, it is harmonized by fresh acidity, stone fruit and white flower aromas. Plus the label shows a Little Red Riding Hood giving the Wolf a kiss, which reminds me of someone I know.

The Fool- The fool represents the beginning of something that is largely unknown. It is a leap of faith that can violate logic and twist your reality. It is unbearably innocent and super naive, a fearless foot forward in unknown situations. Be careful, however, the fool drawn reversed is a sure sign of stupidity, and clear evidence someone is taking advantage. Remember to keep one eye open and one hand on your glass. And always stay in control.

Now for an entire magnum full of fearless feet forward-3 Porcs ‘Uic Uic.’ Born after Francesc Ferré (Celler Frisach), Oriol Artigas (Oriol Artigas) and Alberto Domingo (Celler Tuets) took a van on a 7 day road trip. A small amount of showering and a large amount of guy stuff dubbed these guys the ‘3 Porcs.’ Garnatxa blanca from Terra Alta, pansa blanca from Alella and parellada from the Penedès are blended together to form the Uic Uic. The guys switch facilities each year, and this years tank, fermented in the region of Alella, grew an accidental layer of flor. It’s this kind of reckless abandon and leap into the unknown that takes the Fool to a whole new level. I have some at 3 Porcs at Bellota, come drink and let’s see what happens.

The Chariot- The Chariot card represents experience, travel or taking life by the reigns. In some decks there are no reigns, just the power of the mind to control what lies ahead. It’s almost a hero card- reflecting freedom, control and a power you may have just gained in work or in life. It is a card that requires mad respect. The moment my reader suggested I travel, the Chariot flew right out of her shuffle and on top of my reading. I promptly explained I’d be in Cadíz this April.

Looks like my next Chariot is taking me to Sherry country, to that mystical sunset in Cadíz. Bodega Forlong ‘La Fleur’ is my newest obsession in the sherry department. Forlong keeps it the oldest type of old school. La Fleur is an unfortified sherry, aged under flor in a single barrel rather than a solera. They dry their palomino sherry must in the sun, and use this deep concentration to keep the flor alive and well in the barrel. Their organic, chalky albariza soils throw some major minerality in the mix. This wine is salty, rich, raw and laser focused all at once. Concentrated and mineral and a straight up delight to drink through your whole meal. I can’t wait to take my Chariot back to visit this spring. 

Ace of Swords- Congratulations. The Ace of Swords means you’re about to cut through a whole lot of bullshit. It represents a breakthrough of power and intellect. It’s a sign to leave old stuff behind, to carve a path for what’s ahead and to take back what’s yours. It constitutes a time to set goals and is a clear cut suggestion you are about to slay. The card’s double edged sword carries a wreath on its point and is shown hovering over land and sea, a symbol your new found power can conquer lands both near and far.

And my favorite place to conquer both land and sea, to make major breakthroughs and to whip out my proverbial sword? Obviously Galicia. For this type of breakthrough, I’m going to one of my main men in the Ribeiro, Luis Anxo Rodriguez. Luis is a boss, a believer in Ribeiro and a catalyst for all those beautiful, indigenous grape varietals you see in the wines of Galicia today. He championed the revival of nearly extinct varietals and was among the first to plant grapes like ferrol, caiño longo and bracellao (thanks, bud). His A Torno ‘Dos Pasas’ Tinto has a permanent spot on both my wine list and in my heart, as he and I drank it together at a table outside his winery. It fits the bill for most of our food and impresses the novice on down to the wine geek.

Enjoy the wine. The tarot, though let’s not do that again. Vale.

Blogged at: My house

Soundtrack: Soul Queen, Aretha Franklin

 

¡Las Canarias!

I recently answered a questionnaire about what wines I was going to drink for the Holidays, and Canary Islands Wines were at the top of my list. So I figured if I’m going to lug these puppies around to every holiday party in leu of a bad Tinder date, I had better let you know just what they’re made of.

The Canary Islands

The Canary Islands sit a little over 60 miles off the coast of Morocco. They are a collection of 7 Islands formed by the Mid Oceanic Ridge, set atop the African Plate and geographically part of Africa. But since a couple of Spanish “mergers and acquisitions” in the 15th century, they have remained the southernmost region of Spain and the most tropical region in all of Europe. Each island has its own microclimate, range of elevations and terrains- most of which could be easily mistaken for sets for the original Star Trek. There are deserts, greenery, forests and rivers running through the islands. Black, ashy, volcanic rock makes up most soils. The island of Lanzarote, with underground volcanic caverns and rows of holes dug in volcanic soil for vines to grow, is a dead ringer of the Planet Vulcan from the original Star Trek Motion Picture. It is this Sci-Fi looking terrain, the myriad of tropical beaches and the tall volcanic mountains that make the Canary Islands an extremely popular tourist spot, a mad place to take a vacation and a pretty fly place to grow wine.

Like most of Spain, the Canaries have had ebbs and flows of wine making that has dated back centuries. They have had the unique pleasure of being untouched by phylloxera, the pesky little aphid that killed nearly all the vines in Europe in the 19th century. They did, however, encounter a plague of powdery mildew that overtook the vines for nearly a century. For this reason, Canary Island wines were essentially unknown to the rest of the world until a few decades ago. Much wine from the islands still doesn’t make it to the US. The wines that do make it here are highly sought after, regarded for the distinctiveness and complexity that is made possible by high altitudes, volcanic soils and old vines. The wines seem to be quickly growing in popularity among wine geeks as of late, and I wouldn’t doubt more island opportunities are heading our way. 

The Islands

Of the Canary Island wines that make it to the US, most come from the island of Tenerife. The altitudes here are among the highest in Spain, a giant volcano juts out of the middle of the island and ancient vines are twisted together in a gnarly braided looking vine system called ‘El Cordon Trenzado.’ The island of Lanzarote brings a good game, as well. Vines here are planted in a series holes in volcanic earth and surrounded by little stone walls to protect them from sharp island winds. These Vulcan-like terrains and volcanic, mineral soils add a salty, smokey element to the wines. La Palma, a personal favorite of mine, is a smaller island that houses forests in the north and a two major volcanoes in the middle. Extreme heat or gusty winds can be found within feet of each other and vines can be found twisted like the laurel wreaths of a Greek Goddess. Gran Canaria also houses its own mountainous volcanic peak, and vineyards are planted to high altitudes on rugged, volcanic soils. Red wines run the show here, and you can find Tintilla, the local variety of Trousseau, traipsing about. You can also find wines from the steep, terraced slopes El Hierro, namely in the wine room at Bellota, but production is small and finding these wines here is rare.

The Varieties

Grape varieties are mostly those indigenous to the islands, as the most varieties are planted on original rootstock. For blancos, Malvasía is an important one to mention, as a sweet style has been made since the 15th century. Dry Malvasía, Listán Blanco, Marmajuelo, Diego and Albillo are also grown depending on the island. For tintos, Listán Negro is among the more heavily planted varieties. Also found is Negramoll, Viariego Negro, Tintilla and other smatterings of indigenous varieties that are hard to pronounce and stand apart from most anything else.

The Wines

Envínate: Talk about ‘Started from the Bottom Now We’re Here,’ I bet at this point even Drake has had his hands on these wines. Envínate is set on high altitudes on the island of Tenerife. Three years ago I had my pick of the crop, and now this Canary juice is totally allocated. Come for the Taganan Blanco, stay for the Migan. Just hurry because I’m perpetually in danger of running out.

Matías i Torres: Yes, yes I have talked about this wine countless times. Victoria Torres is my Canary Island Queen, so deal with it. The Albillo is fire, and the Diego is complex and like nothing else you’ve tried. I hoard the Negramoll like I’m trying to get my episode on Viceland, but if you are reading this I’m likely to let you try any and all of them.

Borja Perez: Ok these wines are also hard to get but they are worth all the clawing and batting of eyelashes. The Viariego Negro tastes like tamarind and candied spice. It goes down super easy and makes me want to turn on ‘Like a Virgin’ with my besties and have a dance party in my living room. He does produce a label from grapes grown by local growers called ‘Artífice,’ which is also bomb and highly recommended by yours truly.

Los Bermejos: From the alien terruños of Lanzarote, Los Bermejos makes a ton of different styles from which to choose. Captain Spock and I are drinking the still and sparkling rosados as of late, so that’s probably the most logical way to go.

Suertes del Marqués: Grown on the slopes of the Pico del Teide volcano on Tenerife, the Suetes del Marqués wines are elegant, sophisticated and extremely expressive of the volcanic terruño. The vines are the super old, low yielding braided Cordon vines. He dabbles in a some natural and biodynamic practices and his wines are en fuego.

Frontón de Oro: Major shout out to Frontón de Oro, as they are the first Canary Islands wine I tried back in my days at St Vincent. The Listán Negro is super light and peppery, but try to get your hands on some Tintilla- the Canary Islands version of Trousseau.

You can get most of these bad boys at Bellota, so come drink with me. Live Long and Prosper.

Blogged at: My Condo

Soundtrack: Khalid, Suncity

 

Vulcan

 

Lanzarote

 

 

 

Riding in Cars with Boys; España 2018

Ever since I was young, I’ve liked riding in cars with boys. I grew up with two brothers, most of my friends in high school were boys and there was a time in my 20s when the only new people I’d talk to were boys. My older brother and I used to ride his Scirocco through the East Bay listening to CDs at high volumes. The boys I dated in high school had bad ass cars and when we were riding windows down, chillin with their friends, it was where it was at for me. This year’s trip to Spain gifted me the pleasure of riding in cars with boys again. From Madrid to Ribera to Barcelona and back- from the Bodega in Ribeira Sacra to the local lunch spot in A Peroxa. I’ve never been so tired and laughed so hard, I’ve never enjoyed ‘Trap’ music so much or sung ‘Despacito’ so loud. This trek through Spain left me feeling all the feels, all the gratitude and all the jamón. So without further ado, España 2018 and riding in cars with boys.

This September, I was lucky enough to have an importer invite me and a small group of industry folk to Spain to learn more about their wines. The group met at the Madrid airport and out of 15 people, Joe, Ryan, Damon and I were chosen to ride together. For context, I’ve known Joe for a while, I was meeting Ryan and Damon for the first time. The boys were hungover from a night in Madrid, I’d been on a plane for 20 hours. Our car was a red Citreon with an awkward shifter and screens on the back windows that took some time to take down. Joe was the driver. At some point the Citreon would be dubbed ‘The Red Rocket,’ although I couldn’t tell you when or where along our journey such a perfect name was fabricated. We started with sports, a favorite segue of mine to reach into the past and passions of new individuals in my life. Ryan moved from Cleveland to Oakland a couple years ago, Damon is from Chicago and Joe is a Giants fan- but we won’t hold that against him.

If I tried tell you what we talked about after sports it could be futile. We were in the car for hours at a time from bodega to bodega eating sandwiches, drinking beers, talking about life and Go Pros and performing the occasional wine rant. We drove through mountains and cities to vineyards and pools. The boys were burping and comparing things they pulled out of their teeth. They would come up with more vivid, more insightful ways to describe their hangovers each morning. Everything they said slayed me to a point I was afraid to take a nap for fear I’d miss out on something funny. At one point we bought a giant boxed torta thinking it was a puzzle. I’m laughing out loud writing about it even now. We pulled over to pee at least one hundred times, we only once got to dip our feet in the Mediterranean Sea. We nearly got Red Rocket tattoos.

We barely slept, there were too many festivals and dinners, too many beers to be had. We know most of each others life stories, someone skinny dipped. We learned and read aloud new phrases from the ‘Urban Dictionary.’ We rolled through the dusty desert listening to Bob Dylan. I gave them a complete elucidation of what the ‘sads’ were, and when we left each other we felt them like a mother fucker. Chicago isn’t very far. Joe is in the city all the time. Ryan and I live so close to each other.

We are going to hang out any day now.

I left the Red Rocket to go see Xavi and the boys in A Peroxa. It was a quiet, lonely ride from Madrid to Galicia and I hadn’t slept a full night in a week. I couldn’t wait to arrive in the tiny little town and take a proper nap. This is the third year in a row I’ve been to Prádio. It’s in a magical little town I like to pretend no one knows about and consider to be my hideaway. I’ve made a lot of decisions there, picked a lot of grapes, eaten a lot of pulpo. Xavi is a friend, some of his friends are my friends, most of his friends listen to Trap music and all of his friends are boys- at least when I’m around anyway.

One of the guys that works at the winery is a huge fan of Trap, so while Xavi was driving to lunch one day they gave me what I believe to have been the full Trap experience. I think they sang more than one song, they all sound the same, really. I don’t know that I’ll ever get into it, maybe if they could sing for me just one more time.

Xavi was doing some major remodeling at the winery involving lifts and granite slabs and things that are above my pay grade. While he and the crew were busy doing that each day, I was busy pruning vines, tanning on the Miño and writing as the mood felt right. And obviously drinking through all the Prádio 2017s. I meant to take some day trips, but riding alone in the car seemed wildly unappealing. Plus if I stuck around town I could always tag along and get some of those delicious tomatoes for lunch.

One particular day, I was chosen to drive us down the windy road to the lunch spot. My Volkswagen Polo was packed with boys and Trap was not an option on my phone without wifi. Luckily, someone suggested Despacito, which I obviously have downloaded on my workout mix (duh). We sang Despacito at the top of our lungs all the way to lunch. I think I scared them to death with my fast driving and my mad skills on the stick shift. I remember thinking I wanted the song to last forever, that it was an ethereal moment for me to be in a place that I love with a song that I love and people that I love, and that I was going to write about this feeling for sure when I got home. I only hope I’m doing it justice.

I realize this post could have nothing to do with wine. Or maybe it has everything.

¡Ay, Bendito!

 

Blogged at: My condo, East Oakland

Soundtrack: Despacito

 

 

 

 

 

Wines to Pair with the NBA Finals: 2018 Edition

NBA Finals Oakland. One of my favorite versions of the bustling metropolis, the ever-evolving, the rapidly extravagant city that (as of now) hosts the 5 time Champion Golden State Warriors. Even Ice Cube was at the Lake Chalet in Oakland this morning, signaling that everyone wants a piece of this amazing city and that Today will in fact, be a Good Day. Now without further ado…

Wines to Pair with the 2018 NBA Finals.

China Klay

I’ve heard it said, the most dependable, possibly the best player on the Warriors squad is “China Klay.” After letting it all hang out over his two week stint China this summer, Klay Thompson taught the world what it’s like to ‘do you’, and absolutely slay. And while I hope Klay refrains from the Dim Sum over the next few weeks, I feel perfectly comfortable watching the Finals with a batch of soup dumplings and a bottle of Celler La Salada ‘Roig Boig.’ Roig Boig is a hodge podge of indigenous, nearly extinct varieties from the Penedès region of Spain. Farmed and vinified organically, made in the Petillant style and so delicious with dumplings I’m surprised China Klay wasn’t spraying it all over the Rockets Locker room.

The Steph Shimmy

I named our sherry flight at Bellota after Steph Curry, so it only makes sense to drink the sherry while we watch our boy do the shimmy. For a delicious bottle of briny Manzanilla, look to Alexander Jules ‘8/41.’ Alexander Russan is an importer, a winemaker and an extremely proficient sherry barrel selector. He scours the Sherry Triangle for exceptional sherry barrels, buys them from the sherry house solera and bottles them for my (and your) consumption. (Should any of these words confuse you, reread my previous Sherry blog.) We have this wine by the glass at Bellota so be sure to quaff some down bar-side before a game.

The Hamptons 5

I have high hopes for Iguadala’s return, so when the Hampton’s Five takes the court this Finals, let’s all get fancy. I myself have never been to the Hamptons, but were I to go to this popular seaside celeb hangout, I’d take a delicious bottle of Envínate ‘Palo Blanco.’ The Palo Blanco is made from 100 year old vine Listan Blanco, grown of the steep hillsides of Tenerife, Las Canarias. It’s a relatively rare wine, more thoughtful than most celebrity types and such a great example of terruño you may not even notice Kanye West walking past you. Rumor has it, it may even be the wine they drank when seducing Durant into playing with us. We may never know.

The LeBron Show

Fine fine, LeBron James is kind of an anomaly. And after four finals and a number of Christmases together, he knows how to show off for the Warriors. When its time to sit back and watch him get crazy, I’ll be sipping on a grippy, muscular glass of 2013 Clos Martinet from the Priorat. Dark fruit, tobacco and slate to answer back LeBron’s uncanny ability to put up so many points. Hopefully my dad will have grilled up a steak and my dog will have readied her earmuffs.

The Big Win

Whether LeBron gets crazy or not, I’ve got to count on another Oakland win. For this year’s festivities, I’m drinking a bottle of Clos Lentiscus ‘Xarel.lo Xpressió.’ Winemaker, Manel Avinyó adds rosemary honey from the estate’s Bee Farm to start the secondary fermentation- giving the wine a creamy, bees-waxy flavor and texture. White flowers, jasmine, rocky terruño, herbs and a delicious nuttiness make up the flavor components of this champagne style sparkler. Last year I was in Spain when we won, silently crying and yelling from my wonderful accommodations with my friends at Succés Vinícola. This year, I plan on popping the top off this sucker right here in Oakland- just as soon as I see Steph kissing that Larry O’Brien Trophy. GO DUBS!!!

 

PS- All of these wines are on the wine list at Bellota, which is where I work now, which I swear we’ll talk about as soon as I get time. I’ve missed you.

 

Blogged At: Bellota SF

Soundtrack: (Spotify Radio)- Flow with it (You Got Me Feeling Like)

Sherry. Because the best things in life are rarely easy.

Back in my hay day I did some pretty solid, pretty fly bartending at the neighborhood Applebees in Livermore, California. We had this bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry in the corner that for years lay unopened, lonely and lifeless. One slow afternoon, however, my Applebuddies and I decided to crack that bad boy open and discover what lurked inside. It was how it sounds- creamy, super sweet, somewhat offensive, largely repulsive and invariably responsible for decades of Americans turning their heads at this delicious table wine. In addition to the false,  syrupy sweet reputation Sherry has obtained, it also has the misfortune of being more difficult to explain than Greedo shooting first. Fortunately, we now live in a universe where Sherry is praised by somms, where wine bars and restaurants alike are working to change its reputation, and where I’m here to answer all your burning questions.

—Because I strive for brevity, I’ll use this post to talk about dry styles of Sherry only. We’ll talk about the sweet stuff on a day where I’m feeling, well, sweeter.

The Location

At its core, Sherry is a fortified wine that comes from one of three towns in the Andalucía community of Southern Spain- a region dubbed by wine geeks as “The Sherry Triangle.” The three towns that make up The Sherry Triangle are Jerez de la Frontera (‘Jerez’), El Puerto de Santa María (‘El Puerto’) and Sanlucar de Berrameda. They lie fairly close to each other, yet each town boasts its own micro-climate, and each micro-climate brings its own distinct flavor to the wines.

The Grapes

There are three grapes allowed in Sherry production: Palamino Fino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel. Palamino Fino is the number one stunner, the star of the show, the total ball hog. It makes up 95% of all Sherry production, it is responsible for all styles of Sherry that are not considered sweet and it’s the only grape we are going to talk about today. It grows mostly in a soil called albariza- a white, chalky, limestone rich soil accredited with giving a neutral grape like Palamino Fino its pazaz.

The Science

There are a few elements that make sherry the delicious beast that it is. One of these main elements is the Solera System. When you walk into a sherry bodega, it doesn’t look like your average winery. The floor is covered with a layer of dirt and sand so barrels can be sprayed with water. The ceilings are high, encouraging sea breeze and salty sea air to waft through the bodega. The sherry barrels are stacked directly on top of each other, typically three or more barrels high and often times in very long rows to create what’s known as the Solera System. The Solera System is a method of fractionally blending newer vintages into older vintages in such a way that the finished product is a blend of all the ages. As the Solera ages, so does the average age of the wine. Solera itself literally means “on the ground” or “floor”, and it refers to a stack of barrels that pull wine gradually from top of the stack (the newest vintages) to the bottom of the stack (the oldest vintages.) No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. 

Another main element is a special thing that happens in the Sherry triangle, mostly due to weather and proximity to the ocean. The conditions in this specific region of Spain cause a layer of ambient yeast, called flor, to grow naturally on the surface of the wines. This layer, or veil, of flor is the main contributor to the flavor of every dry style of sherry except for oloroso. Flor is what gives sherry the intensely unique, insanely briny and extremely dry flavor profile found in fino and manzanilla- two types of sherries that spend their life under this veil of yeast. 

The Styles

Fino and Manzanilla- These guys got the flor. Both finos and manzanillas are aged entirely under flor. They are the driest wines in the world, as that layer of yeast manages to suck up any notion of creaminess or body attached to the wine. Full on flor power leaves you with an insane salinity and a complete dryness. The difference between a fino and a manzanilla is solely geographical. Fino can come from both Jerez and El Puerto. Manzanilla can only come from the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the weather doesn’t fluctuate as much throughout the year, and the sea breeze infuses the sherries with intense flavors of salty sea air. Style wise- manzanilla is typically leaner than fino, but it varies from producer to producer. Drink this wine as a palate cleanser and with salty foods like olives and jamón. Or get a fuller style of fino and drink it with your whole meal.  Pro somm tip– this style of fully aging under flor is called ‘biological aging.’

Amontillado- So amontillado starts it’s life under flor, but after a certain amount of time (at least two years by law), the cellar master breaks the veil of yeast by further fortifying the wine, leaving the wine to age in the barrel, fully exposed to oxygen, for a good amount of time before being bottled.  Some of the finer amontillados will live for eight or ten years under flor, giving the wine this beautiful dry, salty flavor as a base and then layering it with the nutty richness caused by aging and exposure to oxygen. Amontillados can be served with roasted nuts, richer sauces, full on meals and savory desserts.

Palo Cortado- A somewhat confusing category, palo cortado is similar to an amontillado, but more of a freak accident then a planned event. It is a rare style that the cellar master has chosen to be a fino, accidently loses its flor to become an amontillado, but somehow takes on a flavor profile more like that of an oloroso. Although every bodega differs, the flavor is generally more like that of an oloroso- complex, roasted and velvety while maintaining some of the salty characteristics of a fino. Palo cortado has gained a fair amount of popularity over the past few years, and a lot of houses are manipulating its rare style. For the real deal palo cortado holyfield, stick to your trusted wine shop and your trustee, ultra knowledgable sommelier. 

Oloroso- Oloroso is kind of the yang to fino’s yin. It’s the Han Solo to Princess Leia. While fino is delicate and lean, oloroso is bigger and more bulky. Oloroso lives its whole life without seeing flor, therefore aging oxidatively in the barrel for years and years. The more the wine evaporates as it ages, the higher the alcohol content gets. Most olorosos clock in at about 20% alcohol, some even higher, and they develop a distinctly bronze to chestnut brown color. The best olorosos should be dry to off dry. Sweet olorosos are typically not the business. Olorosos have aromas of figs and nuts, and are velvety and complex on the palate. Drink for or with desserts or rich foods.  Pro somm tip- this style of aging without flor is called ‘oxidative aging.’

Despite the fact this is probably my longest post, this only begins to touch on the world of sherry. For complete, geeky and easy to read info on the subject, read Talia Baiocchi’s book, Sherry or Peter Liem’s book, Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla Follow these cats on Instagram, too.

Blogged at: Anina, SF

Soundtrack: J.I.D The Never Story

Fazenda Agrícola Augalevada and My Life as a Professional Translator

Galicia is one of my favorite places on the planet. The beaches, the green hillsides, the mountains, the rivers, the pulpo(!) and, above all, the wine all come together to create one of the most beautiful experiences you can find in Spain. Right in the middle of Galicia, a stones throw from Portugal, where four different rivers meet, lies the region of Ribeiro. In this relatively small wine region sits a tiny plot of the only biodynamically farmed vineyards in the Ribeiro and the wines of Fazenda Augalevada. (more…)