The SOMM Journal

February/March 2015

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Page 49 of 92

{ }  49 { cellar view } SHERRY IS EXPERIENCING SOME- thing of a revival these days—very deserv- edly so—and in-the-know somms should be on the lookout for unique bottlings to add to their lists. One of the more interesting Sherry bottlers to come along recently is Alex Russan, an adventuresome Los Angeles–based aficionado who dis- covered the delights of Sherry a decade ago and decided to invest time and energy into bringing some of these unique wines to the U.S. under the Alexander Jules label (Jules is Russan's middle name). Russan's model is somewhat unortho- dox within the traditional framework of the Sherry trade. Rather than bottling from an entire solera, he selects wines from individual barrels within a solera, labeling them with the number of barrels selected from the total number of barrels. His current Amontillado, for example, is labeled 6/26—the wine coming from six of 26 barrels in the solera. Naturally, the selections are highly per- sonal and subjective, a process that Russan sees as "accentuating" various aspects of an entire Sherry solera. "I'm playing with numerous flavor variables," he says, "though recently I've come to think of it more as chiseling something out from the whole mass, like sculpture almost." The quantities bottled from his selected barrels, according to Russan, are relatively small and do not affect the solera's finished wines. (Interestingly, Russan also works as a specialty coffee importer, another profes- sion that takes a keen palate that's eager to explore.) "I don't think Sherry will ever be huge," admits Russan, "but people really love these wines. Places that are already into Sherry appreciate them as something unusual, and places new to Sherry really get excited about them." He also remarks on how food-friendly Sherry can be: "Sherries are more versatile on the table than essentially any other wine—any given Sherry will pair wonderfully and easily with a wider range of cuisine than the vast majority of individual wines. I think this is due to a combination of their salinity and umami flavors paired with their acidity." Alexander Jules Sherries are currently available in California and several other states, and Russan also exports to Japan, where Sherry is something of a cult. Most recently, Russan has collaborated with California's K&L Wine Merchants to create pair of single barrel old Amontillado bot- tlings of around 50 years average age, per- sonally hand-bottled, labeled and corked by Russan and exclusive to this retailer. Russan also imports table wines from other producers around the Spanish main- land and islands, concentrating on rare grapes and unique areas. These include fascinating wines from Bodega Dominguez Cuarta Generación, a producer on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, whose Antología DO Tacoronte-Acentejo ($69) is a racy yet earthy blend of 40% Negramoll, 30% Castellano Negra, 20% Baboso Negro and 10% Vedello Blanco. Alexander Jules Fino 22/85, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Spain ($40) Golden amber color ; soft rancio nose; toasty and rich with rancio and bright, dry style; nutty and smooth. 91 Alexander Jules Manzanilla 17/71, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry, Spain ($40) Golden amber color ; soft rancio nose; elegant, bright and tangy, dry and juicy; toasted rancio and citrus with a salty, bright finish. 92 Alexander Jules Amontillado 6/26, Jerez- Xérès-Sherry, Spain ($40) Burnished gold color ; rich, smooth nose; silky and dry with rancio, toast and depth; dried orange and brine, complex and long. 92 Alexander Jules Los Abandonados, Jerez-Xérès- Sherry, Spain ($80) Deep reddish amber; rich, spicy, rancio nose; tangy, lush and dry with intense age and richness; from a solera begun in the mid-1800s; salty, complex and layered, long and powerful. 95 Solera Savvy PHOTO: FEDERICO FERRER, COURTESY OF ALEXANDER JULES Alex Russan, founder of Sherry label Alexander Jules, in a bodega in Jerez. ALEXANDER JULES BRINGS A UNIQUE VISION TO SHERRY by Anthony Dias Blue

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