While staying in the little village of Vejer de la Frontera one of our day trips in the area was to El Puerto de Santa Maria. It’s a lovely little town that sits on the mouth of the Guadalete River. You may recall from our planning for this trip that I had organized to take the Fashion Mister for a tour of a sherry distillery. I found the Bodega Gutierrez-Colosia thanks to Annie from Annie B’s Kitchen. Annie runs cooking classes in Vejer. I had emailed her when we were planning our trip and even though she was going to be in Italy doing a cooking class she sent me a list of her favourite bodegas and restaurants in the area. As it turned out Bodega Gutierrez-Colosia, in El Puerto de Santa Maria, was suggested and after a quick email to the lovely Carmen the Fashion Mister and I had a tour and tasting organized!
It was only a 45 minute drive from Vejer but knowing that it’s often hard to find parking we left a little earlier. As we were driving to El Puerto de Santa Maria I looked at the GPS and realized that we thought daylight savings was the coming weekend but it was the weekend just past. So we were actually a full hour early! That just proves how laid back our days in Vejer had been!
The good news was that getting there was easy, parking was a snap and now we had a bit of time to wander around and see the city before the tasting.
El Puerto de Santa Maria: At first I was a little concerned about the area, it seemed a little run down and tired (like me before the holiday), however as soon as you realize that El Puerto de Santa Maria sits at the mouth of a river heading out to sea you understand that the worn look is both a combination of how old the town is and the exposure to the elements it faces. And then it just becomes charming.
Interesting Finds: Of course besides a church or cathedral, every town has a fort or castle. What I thought was pretty cool about the one in El Puerto de Santa Maria was that it was going to be used the next night for a big Halloween Party! How fantastic to attend a Halloween Party held at an ancient castle! If I would have spoken or understood more Spanish, the Fashion Mister and I would have come back the next night.
I loved this bust of Juan De La Cosa, such a proud face. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the captain of the Santa Maria (as in the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria), actually came from a town called El Puerto de Santa Maria.
We also saw a really cool mosaic near the bust that was a map of the world after the “New World” was discovered. The picture didn’t turn out or I would have shared it…to much glare on the glass. It showed the Americas as being HUGE compared to the rest of the world and it didn’t even have Australia on it. I think it’s interesting to see what the people of the time actually thought the world looked like.
Sherry Tasting at Gutierrez-Colosia: I have to admit, I didn’t really know much about sherry before this and what I thought is that sherry was kind of an old persons drink and something you saw them drinking in period costume dramas. I need to tell you, I was wrong! Thanks to the two Carmen’s (mother and daughter), we learned a lot about how sherry is made and the fact that it can only truly be sherry if it is made in a very specific region. We also learned that there is a wide range of sherry from a very dry, Fino, to the very sweet, Pedro Jimenez.
Gutierrez-Colosia has been in the same spot making fine sherry since 1848. The whole idea was to fortify the wine so it traveled the long distances needed by boat, not with spirits but with wine alcohol. There is a whole rotation process that happens where the top barrels are filled first and eventually moved and mixed to the middle and then after more time moved and mixed to the bottom.
The tour finished with a tasting where they provided us with six different sherry’s to try, as well as, a bunch of food to try it with, and all for only 9 Euro each! It was an absolute bargain and a great opportunity to learn something new. The Fashion Mister and I worked our way through the six tastings, I’m pretty sure he didn’t leave a drop in any of the glasses! I was a little more selective as I was driving. However, we were both really impressed at the flavours and the quality of the sherry and in the end we both have a new-found respect and love for sherry. Neither of us will be afraid to try it or buy it again. In fact we purchased a bottle of Fino and a bottle of Pedro Jimenez to bring home with us.
We have since discovered the Fino is lovely with fish and a little drizzle of the Pedro Jimenez is nice over vanilla ice cream!
Cool and Unexpected Experience: We chatted with Carmen (the mother) for a while after the tasting because she has a new distributor in Melbourne and while talking I asked where in town she would recommend for lunch. She suggested a couple of places and then said they were members of a club just up the street and that her husband has breakfast there every morning. She mentioned that Antonio would try to feed us too much but she would call him and tell him we just wanted tapas and to watch for us, because it is a private club. We thanked her and headed up the street.
We were surprised when we got there and found out it was a Yacht Club! Luckily I had dressed the nautical theme that morning with red pants, white t-shirt and blue and white striped cardigan. They were waiting for us and again it was an interesting adventure of my minimal Spanish and their even more minimal English. Needless to say, we didn’t starve or go thirsty!
Of course our drinks arrived with gamba (prawns) and then we had these divine almost flat crab cake type things, followed by a stew of spiced pork and potato and a garbanzo been soup poured over chunks of crusty bread. I worked my way through a glass of Verdejo and the Fashion Mister went for a couple of Cervezas. The soup and stew were being served because they thought it was a cold autumn day. We thought it was warm but didn’t mind the food because it was so good! We left with our bellies about to burst and had only spent about 25 Euro!
Our little day trip to El Puerto de Santa Maria was great fun, educational and gastronomical all in one!
- Travel: El Puerto de Santa María, Spain (sophielmcadam.wordpress.com)
- Sherry Returns to Trendy Bars, Old Bodegas, Thanksgiving – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Wine Regions Of Spain (juliegilley.typepad.com)
- Holiday Fashion – Back From Spain! (astimegoesbuy.me)