Moving (or sailing) right along, after two relaxing days at sea, we have arrived in Cadiz, Spain; a brand new port for me. As is my wont, if there is an excursion that combines touring with eating or drinking a local specialty, I’m totally down! Here is the description of today’s tour from MSC:
JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, HOME OF SHERRY WINE
Bottoms up … Jerez is the home of sherry and we will drink to your health during this fun half day outing! Enjoy a 45-minute drive to Jerez de la Frontera, a small, pretty town some 50 km from Cadiz. Visit the wine cellars and learn more about the famous Jerez sherry. Have fun spotting the signatures of celebrities that have visited the wine cellars… and keep your eyes open for the glass of wine and cheese that is on the floor for the cellar mouse! We will end the excursion with a sightseeing tour of Jerez before returning to port.
This tour was $56 per person, so again, really reasonable. We again had our tour tickets left in our cabin the evening before and as before we were to meet in the lounge to check in, then head to the busses for our tour. Also, as before, we were combined with the German tour.
We began with the drive to Jerez through some very pretty countryside and crazy cool shorelines with all of the fishing boats sitting on land due to it being low tide. The tour guide gave us plenty of history and culture along the way and did a fairly good job of mixing the languages, so everyone felt included. Cadiz was originally founded by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC and has been continuously inhabited since then. Wow.
Once we arrived at Gonzalez Byass Winery (and made the obligatory potty break) we met our winery guide. What can I say, this guy was PERFECT! He looked exactly like I would expect Tio Pepe to look (to be clear, he is not the “Tio Pepe” that inspired it all). He was funny and informative and I loved listening to him talk about the winery as he clearly loves it.
My experience with Sherry up to this point was just in cooking. I had never actually had a Sherry as a stand-alone drink, so I was excited to learn. I think we’ve established my fondness for wine, so why not learn more about it. This winery is still owned by the same family that founded it in 1835, and the original pale Tio Pepe (Uncle Joe) Sherry is still produced here. There are special little things all over the place that pay homage to the history and family. I really loved all the little nuggets of information learned on the tour. I was amused at the Sherry left for a mouse and impressed at the dust covered original tasting room.
Our tour culminated with a Sherry tasting. Three sherry’s from lightest to fullest. We started where they started, with the pale Tio Pepe. This was the closest to what I had in my head as “Sherry.” While it was leaps and bounds better than cooking sherry, it had that bite to it still. I did not like it, but since I am not one to turn down free alcohol, I was prepared to soldier on with the other two.
The next one was Alfonso. It was amber colored and smelled a bit like wet wood. This one was where I started to think that there was more to sherry than I had first assumed. It had a touch of vanilla and toasted nuts! Hey! This is pretty good! On to our third and final tasting.
Solera 1847 – deeply colored, like a good red wine without the purple, more mahogany. And the taste? WOW! This one blew my sherry preconceptions right out of the water. Figs and caramel…who doesn’t love those?!?!
Also, we purchased a charcuterie thing to go along with the tasting…actually it was just one type of ham, one type of cheese and walnuts so not sure charcuterie is an accurate description, but it was darn good and helped keep us a smidge more sober for the ride home!
After the tasting and the obligatory trip to the restroom (where they have a bunch of GIANT Tio Pepe bottles decorated by different artists!), we ended our tour in the shop. Let me tell you, this shop is awesome! There was so much I wanted to get, until I remembered I would have to get it in my luggage and home (that turned out to be a whole ‘nuther story, we can talk about that later). I settled on a small six bottle sampler in a tin case and a Tio Pepe car decal.
Our ride back to the ship was smooth and relaxing and soon enough we were back on board and ready for our evening. Our dinner tonight was in the Main Dining Room and we had reservations to see “Come Il Mare” the abridged version on La Boheme. I will give you all of my thoughts on food and shows in a later post. Up next: Lisbon, Portugal (and why I can’t figure out what time it is!)