Once you get into it, drinking good sherry is a dangerously addictive, habit forming way to roll. I highly recommend it.
I drink way more manzanilla and fino than any other type of sherry. Regardless of the season (yes, we do experience variations in temperature as well as seasons in San Francisco...well, sort of), I love the crisp, saline, sometimes appley sometimes citric bite of the drier styles of sherry. When I say "bite" I do mean it; these wines are bone dry, disarmingly so for many people. Anyway, I could be just about anywhere south of Greenland and still crave a bracing glass or two (ok, three) of manzanilla or fino.
Olorosos (the variety of sherry which never has much of a tuft of flor form above it in the barrel) are wonderful. Pedro Ximenez based sherries, for me, are just too damn sweet for sipping, regardless of the style or VOS (very old sherry) or VORS (very old rare sherry) status. Amontillado and palo cortado styles, with their initital ageing under flor influence, hit a nice sweet spot between nuttiness and racy, tangy immediacy [he says as he downs his glass of amontillado.] Ahh!
So that having been said, I'm focusing on the three bottles of amber hued sherries which are currently open in my apartment.
Herederos de Argüeso Amontillado Sanlucar de Barrameda
#AwwHellYeah. Oops, I'm not twittering now. Anyway, this tastes like dried toffee and orange candies, if you were to take out the sugar, add some salt and a pinch of magic. There is something about amontillados from Sanlucar that are so full of energy and vitality. Awesome value at $25/750ml.
Barbadillo "Obispo Gascon" Palo Cortado Sanlucar de Barrameda
Deeper amber in color, with a decidedly more pungent and slightly boozy nose. It's 21.5% abv, a bit up there by palo cortado standards. Aromas are a shade more rancio, more oxidized, with something that I often find in amber sherries that I can only refer to as "yellow Triaminic." I don't recall what the yellow variety of Triaminic cold medicine was specifically for (maybe really bad colds, given the extra nastiness of its smell and taste), but rest assured that this sherry "tell" as it were is a personal one, and just one element of a satisfying sherry experience. Flavors echo the richer aromatics, with a bit more ripeness, nuttiness, and a hint of a dark chocolate quality as well. To me I see this as a terrific after dinner drink, whereas the aforementioned Argueso Amontillado could function as apero as well as dinner accompaniment for the right dishes.
Lustau Almacenista "Pata de Gallina" Juan Garcia Jarana Oloroso
At 20% abv, this is a comparably lighter oloroso. Very minimal detectable sweetness as well. It drinks brighter than the Barbadillo Obispo Gascon PC, with racier acids as well as a more noticeable depth in the mid-palate and finish. Hella walnut, we might say here in the Bay Area. I think this could well be the most versatile of this trio, equally adept as apero, dinner companion, and after dinner drink with cheese (Cabot clothbound cheddar, perhaps?), nuts, or just a warm fireplace and some interesting modern or contemporary fiction. Nothing pre 20th c, that would just be too stodgy in today's fast paced, casual, drinking and reading environment.