Like many people, I am a lover of sherry. Sherry comes exclusively from the Jerez de la Frontera region of Spain, and lucky for me Rotterdam called nearby at the port of Cadiz. With the help of Cellar Master Frank, I arranged a trip from Cadiz to the Jerez region, about 45 minutes away. The cellar master wanted to bring his team of wine stewards on this tour to further educate them so they can provide better service to our guests.
I am reminded of my days in hotel school when my fellow students were jealous, even outraged, to find out that as part of my class work one semester I had to take part in two wine tasting sessions a week. What a tough life!
So on a warm morning in Cadiz, the wine stewards, along with several other sherry lovers, piled into a bus for the trek to the birthplace of that exceedingly dry yet delightful beverage known as sherry. We arrived at the veritable center of the sherry-making world, the Gonzalez-Byass Bodega. Gonzalez-Byass is the maker of the most well-known sherry in the world: Tio Pepe.
The bodega is basically a small walled city containing many buildings, many of which date back to the 1800s when the bodega was founded.
Tio Pepe was a real person, by the way. Tio Pepe roughly means “Uncle Joe” and the sherry was named in honor of the founder’s uncle. The grounds were magnificent and the best part was the smell. Walking through the winery one could almost constantly smell the sweet aroma of the olorosso variety of sherry. What a treat! All that smelling kept taunting us, though, as we were all anxious to get to the tasting and tapas!
As we passed through the “Guest Book” — a large building containing autographed casks — we came upon a very interesting story. A long time ago one of the workers in the winery, a man called Jose Galvez, would come into this building and sit among the barrels enjoying his lunch. The crumbs that fell to the floor were eagerly enjoyed by the mice that also lived in the building. One day Jose decided to see if the mice would like to try some sherry. It turned out that the mice were very big fans of the sweet beverage and Jose wanted to make it easier for them to enjoy, so he constructed a small ladder and taught the mice to climb the ladder and take a drink for themselves. Well it became a tradition and now there is a permanent glass of Olorosso (sweet) sherry and mouse tapas in the shadow of a special barrel dedicated to Jose Galvez.
Our tour finished with a tasting of Tio Pepe and Croft (a British favorite), and a stroll through the gift shop.
Everyone had a great time and walked away knowing a little more about sherry, Amontillado and brandy.
See you out there!
Anthony Garofalo is Rotterdam’s crew purser.