During a September 2017 visit to Jerez, Spain, we wanted to find a way to spend some time in a vineyard growing Palomino grapes.
This proved to be more challenging than one would think! The grape growing system in the Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO is often quite separate from the activities at the bodegas where the sherry is aged in the Solera system. As a result, bodegas are not often co-located with the vineyards their base wines come from.
However, after a little asking around, the owner of La Fonda Barranco, recommended a truly inspiring experience with the Sherry Spirit Enotourism vineyard tour. To say it was unique and picturesque would be an understatement.
Guides Cecilia and Isabel arrived at our small hotel in Jerez to pick us up at 6pm.
Four hours of albariza soil, Palomino grapes and a full tasting of Bodegas El Maestro Sierra barrel samples followed, complete with delicious pairings – and all in the middle of the Pagos Aniña vineyard.
Sherry Spirit Enotourism is a petite tour company run by Cecilia Rodriguez and Eduardo Valderas. Eduardo also happens to work at Bodegas El Maestro Sierra, a small (2000 barrel) sherry bodega in Jerez dating to 1830.
We had a walking tour of the vineyard to see the white, powdery, calcium carbonate (30-80%) albariza soils up close. It really is amazing that anyone ever thought, “Gee, let’s plant some vines here and grow grapes.” Expert interpretation and analysis were provided by Cecilia in Spanish and Isabel in English, and then we moved to the tasting.
We started with some Infinito Palmira, their unfiltered 100% Palomino, dry, white wine with notes of guava and pomelo.
Then, we enjoyed some 5 year old (yo) Fino paired with sunflower seeds, and the Amontillado which had the most unique pairing – BBQ corn nuts.
The 15 yo Oloroso was stunning, but it was the Cream that impressed me. This is a blend of 70% of the 15 yo Oloroso and 30% of the 5 yo Pedro Ximénez. The two are then put into American oak barrels for 4 more years to age with the Cream being the culmination.
Burnt orange zest with toffee and toasted almond rest on a base of butter, coffee and biscuit. Refreshing and not cloying with high acidity, the Cream paired beautifully with peach jam and pâté on fresh telera bread.
This wine experience was outstanding and comes highly recommended if you find yourself in Jerez wanting to traipse through chalky, white vineyard soils while drinking beautifully crafted sherries.
You can buy El Maestro Sierra sherries at select private liquor stores located around the world, including Kitsilano Wine Cellar and Marquis Wine Cellar in Vancouver, Canada.