Sherryfest is happening here in New York City this week, and before one can say that sherry has arrived, I might argue that it has always been here, albeit not commonly consumed or appreciated, but revered and sought increasingly by those who seek excellence in all their wines.
Sherryfest is an idea put into reality by Rosemary Grey and Peter Liem, two people who dared to dream that even if a select few drink sherry, they do so proudly, eschewing the common thought that sherry is cheap wine made in bulk, that a real renaissance is upon us, that sherry marries well with food, and can sit right up there with the most exquisite wines of the world.
Aside from putting together this Sherryfest, this gathering of great Spanish producers in the great international American city that is Gotham, Peter Liem, a Champagne aficionado and wine writer has inked Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla, a comprehensive guide to the traditional wines of Andalusia, with Jesus Barquin, one of the dynamic duo that has brought us Equipo Navazos, flying winemakers who strike deals with bodegas to create special cuvees of top sherry, at the forefront that is currently the sherry revolution.
The Grand tasting was held at The Ace Hotel, coordinated by Carla Rzeszewski, whose passion for all things sherry is second to none, creating an electric atmosphere for tasting sherries from several top producers. Present were twenty bodegas with a long tradition and history of winemaking who have persevered during a down time in Jerez, but continue to stay ahead of the curve and offer wines of purity and integrity.
Having spent a week back in late May this past year, I had the privilege of visiting several of these bodegas and producers, and it was so warm to see many old friends. A cerebral gaze into the eyes of Lorenzo Garcia-Iglesias A Californian high five with Steve Cook of Barbadillo, a gentleman’s handshake with Jan Petterson of Fernando de Castilla, topped only by a genuine hug from the lovely Ana Cabestrero of El Maestro Sierra. I miss Dona Carmen too.
Absent were the wines from Equipo Navazos, who is in part responsible for raising the quality of sherry and garnering a tremendous amount of press of late. It would have been nice to have seen Eduardo and Jesus, whose pride and knowledge of sherry is top notch.
The exhaustion of a long day of tasting was masked by the smiles of the winemakers and their representatives, such a large turnout for sherry overwhelming satisfying their efforts.
I would have stayed for the whole event, but had a few more errands to run at the Union Square farmer’s market to get the final ingredients for one of the scheduled Sherryfest producer dinners, one of which Pata Negra was hosting. The reps from Barbadillo and Emilio Hidalgo arrived early, weary from the day thirsty for Mahou beer and Jamon.
Then the party kicked off at seven, sherry flowing, and pata negra glistening, magical, classic pairings anchoring a good old fashioned tapas fiesta. Pimientos de Padron, Pata Negra bacon, bacalao crudo, tortilla, morcilla, chorizo, gambas, croquetas, datiles, just to name a few dishes. The Solear Manzanilla en Rama was my favorite, as well as the Villapanes Oloroso, La Panesa, and the Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado.
The night ended at The Beagle, a beacon for sherry selection often infused in their ingenious cocktail service, with event organizers, planners and staffers winding down with leftover bottles and delicious drinks. Great hospitality from the new-look Beagle. The East Village just gets yummier and yummier.
There are seminars scheduled for the next two days as well as other evening events. There is still time to join on the fun and Get Flor’d.
What does this all mean? For me Sherryfest is a good example of what happens when a group of people are passionate about something. Sitting outdoors at Gaspar Restaurant in Chipione on the beach, I recall a conversations with friends and industry people about bringing and promoting all the excitement of our trip to Jerez, Sanlucar, and Montilla back with us. The night sky and moon in the background, the aroma of manzanilla in the air, bottle after bottle of Solear and shrimp and snails, pimientos and fried fish. I remember being pessimistic, speaking about advanced palates and educated consumers. The truth is sherry is a wine to love, with pleasure on many levels from the quaffable to the profound. The dream becomes a think tank, and forms collaborations and relationships to create awareness and celebrate it in a meaningful and fun way. It shows that the preservation of tradition is paramount, and that by spreading the word to even a few, the seeds are planted and can grow without limits. Just check out the number of restos offering sherry on wine lists now.
Get Flor’d. Indeed.