Amontillado Viejo Del Duque VORS, Bodegas González Byass, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 21.5% abv, €22

Next time you plan to enjoy, say, some manchego cheese and mushroom risotto, pull out the Amontillado Viejo del Duque VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry) from González Byass to pair up with it.

This delicious tip was provided by Maribel, our private guide at the largest bodega we visited in Jerez, González Byass.  González Byass is part of a huge, global wine empire that ships to virtually every country on the planet.

The solera was started in 1835 with 16 butts that formed the original base of the current solera.

We tasted through 9 sherries with Maribel, including a yeasty, briny Fino En Rama, an Apostoles Palo Cortado (30 yo) laced with orange blossom, salted caramel, cinnamon, raisins and oak, and the profoundly sweet and intense Noé VORS PX (30 yo) with loads of cocoa, coffee, raisin, date and Dutch licorice.

Amontillado is a style that starts out as a Fino and then after about 8 years, the layer of flor that protects the wine from oxidation dies.  The resultant wine turns darker and acquires more complexity and structure.

The Amontillado Del Duque requires special certification from the Consejo Regulador of the DO, is an average of 30 yo, is naturally dry and may not be sweetened.

A deep gold with amber tones, the Amontillado Del Duque has light yeast and seaspray with salted caramel, toasted almond, and toffee notes.  Dried apricot and cinnamon polish up the long and rich finish that ends with walnut and wood.

Absolutely delicious, a smoking deal at only 22, and aged 30 years.

WSET Very Good Plus and the best reason, apart from Maribel, to have visited González Byass in Jerez De La Frontera.




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Moscatel, Emilín, Bodegas Lustau, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 17% abv, €25

During a recent trip to Jerez De La Frontera to learn more about sherry, we planned ahead and were lucky to have the @delfgroup assist with making an appointment at Bodegas Lustau.

Originally founded in 1896, today Lustau is a medium sized enterprise that exports sherry on a global scale.

Our guide through the 20,000 sq/m of the Los Arcos cathedral complex was Isabel (the iconic white buildings which all face westward to the Atlantic ocean, and where sherry is aged in the solera system, are called cathedrals).

She explained all the details everyone was there to devour about sherry – including one I hadn’t known; Lustau is the only bodega which ages wine in all three cities of the sherry triangle – Jerez De La Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto De Santa Maria.  Each venue gives a different palate and aromatic profile to the wine because of differences in humidity levels and grapes used, among other factors.

We tasted through 9 sherries with Isabel, including the only one made of Moscatel grapes we had while in Jerez.  Three white grapes are allowed in the DO for making sherry – Palomino Fino, Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel (Muscat of Alexandria). 

The Moscatel Emilín is an average of 8 years old and is surprisingly elegant and refined with good acidity to balance the 200 g/l of residual sugar.  First impressions include almonds with raisins and figs, followed by orange blossom, lime, sweet marzipan and creamy coffee.

WSET Very Good and part of what made the trip to Spain so worthwhile.



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Pedro Ximénez, Bodegas Mons Urium, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry DO, Spain, 15% abv, €82.50

The very first thing that hit us was the overwhelming smell of the yeasty velo de flor as we walked through the bodega doors.  Flor is a layer of yeast that protects the developing wine from oxidation – and it has a particular aroma.  Now this is a sherry bodega!

Our research had indicated that Mons Urium (or simply, Urium) is a premium bodega we should visit during our trip to the sherry homeland – Jerez De La Frontera – located in Spain’s Andalusian region. It did not disappoint.

Not only was it the most hands on and private of our pre-arranged tastings – led by the incredibly gracious and lovely Rocio Ruiz – but the wines we tasted from barrel were of exceptional quality.

Urium is the Roman era name for Moguer which is Rocio’s family name.  Her father purchased this bodega about 10 years ago and asked her (trained as a financial auditor) to assist him.  Once they reordered the solera and reviewed all the casks they’d purchased, they were left with 498 (which is actually a very small solera).

Over the course of time, they’ve selected and purchased the wines they add to their solera carefully.  All their wines are bottled En Rama (unfiltered) to ensure the maximum amount of character is retained. This is uncommon; most bodegas allow only a very small number of barrels to be bottled En Rama, if any.

We tasted through the 8 year old (yo) floral Fino showing apricot, orange blossom, yeast, almonds and ripe apples, the 12 yo “Ellen’s Flor” where the flor had died but then recovered, producing a dry Fino with toffee and toast notes, and a 15 yo Amontillado with high acidity, salted caramel, dried apricot and potpourri.  At this point, two cellar hands from neighbour Bodegas Tradición dropped by to join us briefly.

Then came a Palo Cortado, a Palo Cortado VORS (‘Very Old Rare Sherry’), a 40 yo Oloroso VORS and an Amontillado VORS that was over 30 yo.  Dark amber, this was smokey with salted caramel – reportedly excellent when paired with red tuna and mango.

The bottle I brought home was the 50 yo Pedro Ximénez.  Extremely concentrated and viscous, this wine is dark brown although it’s made from raisinated white grapes.  Despite its 460 g/l of residual sugar, it’s neither cloying nor heavy because of the high acidity.  Raisins, prunes, figs and dates show alongside dark honey, creamy coffee, cloves and tiramisu.

This will pair perfectly with a sweet dessert or some Stilton and blue cheeses. Sweetly intense, elegant and complex, it’s also beautifully balanced.

WSET Outstanding

Rocio told us she often feels as though she’s an archaeologist, watching these very old, rare sherries develop, interpreting them, and then bringing them to the world.  Indeed, the world needs more Rocio.






Posted in FORTIFIED WINE, Pedro Ximenez / Pedro Gimenez, Sherry, Spain, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Torroja, Terroir Al Limit Soc. Lda., Priorat DOQ, Spain, 2012, 12.5% abv.

We visited Priorat in January 2015 after attending the WSET Diploma graduation ceremony in London.  When we were trying to put together our list of Priorat bodegas to visit, this one emerged as a bright star.

Peter, the winemaker, is a German transplant.  Although we’d made an appointment well in advance, he arrived as we were leaving.  Happily though, he held an impromptu tasting in the kitchen.

I loved his white wines.  After a week of the teeth-staining Garnacha/Carinena reds of Priorat, I was enthralled by the Garnacha Blanca whites.  And I thought I had left with one.

I was wrong.  And when the red wine poured from the bottle, I was one shocked Llama.

I’d been waiting to drink what I thought was a backboned, herbal white wine for more than 3 years.  But, this was a first world problem and the Torroja was delicious.

On the eyes, it’s translucent ruby with a stunning nose of purple violets, sweet black cherry, ripe Damson plum, dried herbs, and licorella rock dust.

The expressive palate is dry with strained tannins, flavours of deep black cherry, more purple plum, anise, thyme, tarragon, and rocky carpentry.

What a happy mistake.  WSET Very Good Plus

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Viognier, CC Jentsch, Golden Mile Bench, Naramata VQA, BC, 2015, 13.5% abv. C$23

CC Jentsch is a small, family-owned BC winery located on the Golden Mile Bench in Oliver.  Amber Pratt is Chris and Betty Jentsch’s winemaker.  The family has farmed in the region since 1929.

I first learned of their wines when I was a judge at a BC Pinot Noir competition in 2015.  Their 2013 Syrah placed first in another competition held the same weekend led by international wine judge, Steven Spurrier.

I became a member of their wine club that fall and have enjoyed receiving shipments ever since.

Their Viognier is a perennial pleaser; we enjoyed this one on the porch with neighbours.

On the eyes, it’s pale lemon with aromas of peach, kernel and dried herb.  The palate is dry with good acidity – no flabbiness here – with more Okanagan peach, kernel, and honey, with dried grass and sage.

WSET Good Plus

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Pinot Gris, Arsheen, Momtazi Vineyard, Maysara, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2015, 12.5% abv, US$16

I confess that even I get a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choice offered at some wine stores.

And I often shake my head when trying to figure out how they’ve decided to organize the styles, grapes, quality levels and regions represented.

Recently when I visited the football field sized Total Wine + More in Vegas, I turned in circles more than a few times.  But my tenacity was rewarded when I found this bottle from biodynamic Maysara in Oregon’s McMinnville AVA.

The Arsheen Pinot Gris is very pale lemon with aromas of stonefruit, pink grapefruit and dried herb.

Its palate makes you sit up and take notice.  Dry with juicy acidity, the flavours are deeply fruity and layered, showing ripe pear, nectarine and apricot, grapefruit, lemon verbena and tarragon on top of a rocky frame with not a tinge of bitterness.

Fresh, harmonious, absolutely delicious and hard to stop drinking – WSET Very Good.

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Le Cupole, Tenuta del Trinoro,Toscana IGT, Italia, 2005, 14.5% abv.

The Cupole Super Tuscan wines are usually made of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which didn’t get into their top tier bottles.

They are also regularly reviewed and rated by Antonio Galloni and Stephen Tanzer which speaks volumes about the high quality level.

The 2005 adds in Petit Verdot plus local grapes – 4% Cesanese and 2% Uva di Troia – to the backbone of 47% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This makes for an extremely unusual Super Tuscan grape blend.

This is classed as an IGT wine, and not a DOC or DOCG because of the blend of the grapes.  When a winemaker decides to use the IGT classification, it’s for reasons of freedom; any grapes can be used and the local wine laws don’t need to be followed.

In doing so – and proverbially thumbing his nose to the DOCG rules – winemaker Andrea Franchetti has produced a delicious wine.  We opened it at 12 years old, so it is developed, and its long finish augmented by some seriously complex layers.

On the eyes, you can see the age – translucent garnet – with aromas reminiscent of port, tar, dried fruit and dried herbs.  The palate is dry with tamed tannins and evolved flavours of prune, raisin, bay leaf, oregano and salinity.

WSET Very Good Plus.  Drink now, don’t hold any longer.  The window is about to close and this ship will sail.  Enjoy!

Label shot courtesy of

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon / Blends, cesanese, Italy, Merlot, OTHER, Petit Verdot, RED, Uva di Troia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment