Home > Tasting Notes and Wine Reviews > A Private Sherry Fest in Maryland

A Private Sherry Fest in Maryland


Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, Image from Jeffrey Snow

Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, Image from Jeffrey Snow

I heard from Jeffrey of his excitement for Sherry during a recent dinner at the Little Saigon.  Earlier in the year he had traveled to Spain where he visited five different properties.  He was quite effusive about the older bottlings and with everyone game, he organized a Sherry dinner at his place.  Jeffrey kindly sent me some images from his trip and told me a little more about his introduction to Sherry.

El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830, Image from Jeffrey Snow

El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830, Image from Jeffrey Snow

The first time I ever tried Sherry I was appalled and thought it was gross. After hanging with Spaniards for a while, it slowly grew on me. Thanks to Demaison who has a tremendous Sherry book and because we sell their wines, I became intrigued. I first tasted the old Maestro wines at a portfolio show and was instantly hooked. Besides being blown away by the PX, I was also amazed by the Amontillado and Oloroso. Sherry grew on me more and more and I was tasting more and more.

El Maestro Sierra, Old Pedro Ximenez, Image from Jeffrey Snow

El Maestro Sierra, Old Pedro Ximenez, Image from Jeffrey Snow

My Dad asked me to join him in Sevilla in January, as he was there for a work conference. Only an hour or so away, we set some appointments and drove down 2 days in a row. Luckily I speak Spanish very well as little English is spoken in Andalucia. It was amazing to be able to visit all of Demaison’s properties; Bodegas Grant, Cesar Florido, Maestro Sierra, J.C. Gutierrez and La Cigarrera.

Cesar Florido with Venencia, Image from Jeffrey Snow

Cesar Florido with Venencia, Image from Jeffrey Snow

The inspiration for the dinner was to enjoy some great wines! I met everyone at the dinner through Phil, except for Darryl, and those guys have turned me on to great wine and shared their great wine with me. I wanted to repay the favor and these guys know more about wine than I do. I wanted to do something unique. After a quick survey at Phil’s party, it became aware that some people had not experienced top notch Sherry. I was sold on the idea on tasting some of the best Sherry’s with great people.

We first sat down to a few glasses of NV Ameztoi,  Hijos de Rubentis, Sparkling Rose from magnum and Spanish tortilla.  I intermittently drink Sherry so not knowing exactly what to expect in my glass nor being versed in the family of aromas and flavors challenged my note taking.  There were other challenges to.  The older bottles were very interesting with their complexity but the flavor profile and higher alcohol levels created a natural limit to imbibing large quantities.  I find that personally interesting as I could easily consume a few glasses of Vintage Port.  Still, the eight different Sherries were thoughtfully chosen, and perhaps from some being opened days ahead of time, they showed well.

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NV Ameztoi,  Hijos de Rubentis, Sparkling Rose – Magnum
Imported by De Maison Selections.  Alcohol 12%.  This was a salmon rose color.  In the mouth the flavors slowly built to fresh, riper fruit which tingled on the tongue tip.  There was bright acidity followed by a good initial burst of bubbles.  The flavors slow faded towards a drier finish with ripe spices.  Nice.

Flor, Image from Jeffrey Snow

Flor, Image from Jeffrey Snow

The first flight showed the differences between the Fino and Manzanilla but more importantly, it showed just how alive the 2012 Barbadillo, en Rama Manzanilla, Saca de Invierno was.  Barbadillo is located near the sea and that truly shows in the flavor.  The yeast flavors also show up as well, which points to its unfiltered nature.  The yeast which lives on top of the wine, known as the flor, are seasonal in activity.  The flor thrives during the late spring and fall and declines during the summer and winter.  Barbadillo produces four en rama Sherries each year.  Our particular bottling occurred during the winter.  It is a particular taste but one certainly worthy trying against another Manzanilla.

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Gutierrez Colosia, Fino Elcano, El Puerto de Santa Maria- SRP $13 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino which underwent 4 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 15%.  This was a little dusty on the nose with hints of earth.  In the mouth the flavors were a little ripe with some weight which became fatter in the good aftertaste.

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La Cigarrera, Manzanilla, Sanlucar de Barrameda- SRP $13 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino which underwent 4 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose was very aromatic with finely textured, fruity aromas that stood out of the glass. In the mouth were complex flavors and some yeast which continued to build through the finish.  It then became delicate and saline.

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2012 Barbadillo, en Rama Manzanilla, Saca de Invierno, Jerez –
From a solera averaging 8 years of age.  Alcohol 15%.  The nose was intensely aromatic with fresh aromas, wetness, and nuts.  There was a tight introduction in the mouth followed by flavors of smoky leather, yeast, and the sea.  It had low acidity.

El Maestro Sierra Oloroso Process, Image from Jeffrey Snow

El Maestro Sierra Oloroso Process, Image from Jeffrey Snow

The Oloroso flight was quite interesting.  This pair of wines was matched with a Cast Iron Dry Aged Roseda NY Strip and Caramelized Onions with Mushrooms.  The young El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso was fresh and ripe, drinking very well on its on.  However, when drunk with the steak the flavors softened and faded.  The old El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/14 (VORS) was a standout on its own but with the steak I experienced a chemical reaction which brought forth the incredible complexity of the wine.  VORS stands for Vinum Optimum Rare Signatum or Very Old Rare Sherry and indicates a wine over 30 years of age.  This wine is sourced from a 14 butt solera of unknown age.  What is known, is that the youngest wine added each year is over 50 years of age.  There was no going back to the young Oloroso after this one.  Demonstrating restraint and wisdom, Jeffrey did not open the El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/7 (VORS).

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El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso, Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $16 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent 15 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 19%.  Lot 02-2013.  The nose was fresh with berries.  In the mouth were gently ripe, round flavors with a little spice.  It stands up well.

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El Maestro Sierra, Oloroso 1/14 (VORS), Jerez de la Frontera –  SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent over 50 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 22%.  Lot 09-2011.  The nose was very aromatic with fresh aromas of nuts.  In the mouth the wine was salty and savory with mouth filling flavors of nuts.  It remained saline with a ripe and sweet expansive finish.  It had a little more acidity along with some heat and grip.  A really nice wine.

The final set of Sherries and Brandy accompanied Shitake and Portobello Mushrooms, cooked en papillote, with Manchego cheese and finally an Apple Tart with Ice Cream.  Each drink continued the high-quality set by the Oloroso 1/14.  The El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830 is sourced from a solera of two 2,000 liter butts started in 1830.  The exact age is not known but guessed to be of 70 years, think early 1940s.  I thought it interesting then that it seemed capable of further development and that the  Cesar Florido, Pena del Aguila Palo Cortado at 38 years of age seemed young.  Jeffrey encouraged us to pour some of the El Maestro Sierra, Pedro Ximenez Viejisimo on our Apple Tart.  These older Sherries were all higher in alcohol so the move to the lower alcohol PX allowed one to drink more, which was a good thing!  We wrapped up the evening with the 25 year old El Maestro Sierra, Solera Gran Reserva, Brandy de Jerez 1830.  My best description is a hypothetical blend of a smooth Brandy and Oloroso.  Many thanks to Jeffrey for hosting his own Sherry Fest in Maryland!

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El Maestro Sierra, Amontillado 1830 (VORS), Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent over 50 years of solera aging.  Estimated age is 70+.  Alcohol 19%. Lot 09-2011.  The nose was a touch sweaty with a little sweetness and complexity from age.  In the mouth were sweaty leather flavors along with evocations of the seaside and brine.  Seems capable of development.

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Cesar Florido, Pena del Aguila Palo Cortado, Chipiona- SRP $73 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Palomino sourced from 15-50 year old vines which underwent 38 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 21.5%.  The nose was ripe, sweet, aromatic before becoming pungent.  In the mouth the flavors were athletic with a super expansive  nature.  It was forward on the tongue with briney and complex floral notes.  This tastes young!

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El Maestro Sierra, Pedro Ximenez Viejisimo, Jerez de la Frontera – SRP $110 (375 mL)
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Pedro Ximenez sourced from 10-60 year old vines which underwent more than 50 years of solera aging.  Alcohol 10.5%.  Lot 01-12.  The nose revealed figs but remained fresh with a hint of macerated berries and apricot.  In the mouth were sweet figgy flavors with glycerine.  It was super dense almost like syrup with lots of residual sugar.  There were hints of spices and understated acidity.

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El Maestro Sierra, Solera Gran Reserva, Brandy de Jerez 1830 –
This brandy was aged 25 years in old oak which raised Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez.  Alcohol 37.5%.  Lot 036/12.  The nose was sweet with a lot going on.  In the mouth were tobacco and a certain, berry-like ripeness.  There was a sweet start with pleasing notes of old leather before the flavors expanded to leave a caramel sweetness.

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