Our first full year of catalunyawine.com is coming to a close. This year has been a fantastic year, discovering more amazing people, interesting stories, and compelling history of those in Catalan wine. This venture wouldn’t have been possible without those who took the time to show us their projects, invite us to events, and accept us into their worlds.
Those who’ve joined me on the adventures have been an absolute pleasure, from Michael to Denise Medrano, Zoltan Csaba Nagy, Rob Dobson, Sinisa Curavic, Andrew Funk, Paul Budny & Benédicte Rigollot from Lazenne, Conrad of Winewankers, Mike of Please Bring Me My Wine, and Isabel Santana of Beyond Sitges. Thank you for making every moment something special to remember.
While every visit has been a special time for me, there’s always those few times which stand out above the rest for a variety of reasons. Here’s my top moments of 2015.
Cistern Revival at Torre del Veguer
The team at Torre del Veguer has been great to work with this year during the principal filming of Grapes of Catalunya, and it’s been especially interesting to follow the journey of Joaquin. Back when we first met in 2014, Joaquin told me his dream was to use the cistern that sits in the barrel room of their castle, constructed by the monks in the 1400s, for fermenting wine. After months of preparation, they were able to use the cistern for the first time since the 1800s to ferment a petit Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. To see the joy on Joaquin’s face during the day of filming the first grapes falling into the cistern, was a remarkable experience. To be part of the experience, and document the experience was something I’ll remember for years to come.
Roca Madre in Madrid with Sao del Coster
The Sao del Coster winery in Gratallops is a special project with several fantastic wines. They’ve got some exciting developments coming in 2016 and 2017, and winemaker Xavi Barrachina had a chance to spend 48 hours together discussing those developments on a trip to Madrid in June. Xavi was participating in a wine tasting at Lavinia with several other Spanish winemakers that make up the group “Roca Madre” who are from wine regions all over Spain, producing unique wines naturally and organically as possible. What was remarkable about the trip was seeing that the movement towards minimal intervention, plus combining technology with traditional methods is not only happening in Catalunya, but the majority of regions in Spain. The camaraderie of this group of winemakers showed me that if likeminded people come together at the grassroots level to accomplish something collectively without the assistance of government agencies, amazing things can happen.
If you’re on your way to the Poblet Monastery for a visit, I highly recommend a stop at this incredible monument of Roman/Moorish/Spanish/Catalan history. There really isn’t another private collection in Catalunya that has an equal amount of historical artefacts spanning 2000 years. The Gil family is known in the history books for starting the company that is now Endesa, for being the bankers of Napoleon III, and more. The estate has everything from a reconstructed Roman bath of the original founders of the property, a magnificent castle with elements built by royalty, monks, and Moors over a 600 year period, and a museum featuring Roman relics, letters from Napoleon III’s wife, period clothing, a dinosaur egg, and winemaking equipment from the 1800s. They’re now making wines, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to taste some of the best Rancio wine I’ve ever had. Castell Riudabella also features two apartments for overnight stays. Great for a romantic weekend getaway.
Priorat with Please Bring Me My Wine
Mike Turner is a special guy with a deep passion for wine. It was a special treat to tour around with him, his wife, his friend Miles and Miles’s wife for the day. We toured to Sao del Coster, Clos Figueras, and Celler Joan Ametller, with a pitstop at the Scala Dei Monastery. To hear the perspective of someone with a deep education in wine marvel at what Catalunya as a region has to offer was a great reminder of why I started the catalunyawine.com project. If you haven’t followed Mike on twitter, I highly recommend it, and also check out his great blog.
An intimate interview with Scala Dei winemaker Ricard Rofes
Scala Dei is receiving the critical acclaim it deserves from wine critics around the world, including top scores from the typical sources, gold medals, the top Rosé this year in the Catalan Wine Guide, and more. After having the opportunity to spend several hours with him earlier this year and discussing his history in wine, his opinion on the future of the Priorat, his philosophy on making wine, and his loyalty to not only Priorat region where he grew up, but his feelings on the future of Catalunya as a whole, I discovered why he has become an influential voice in the wine world. I’m looking forward to tasting more of his work in the future, and maybe a foot race or two up Sant Antoni.
A day with Sinisa, one-half of Sweet Easy Wine Tours and export manager at Jané Ventura is always a memorable time, but throw in two bloggers and an incredible winemaker and you have one of my top visits of the year. The winery is producing very special cava and still wines, and a Sumoll I can never have enough of. But probably the most memorable part of 2015 was the blooper that came out of trying to say manometer, which instead came out as the famous Muppet song “Manamana”, maybe because Rob and I subconsciously planted the word during a conversation prior to recording the segment. Denise did her best to try to keep it together, but there was no hope.
There were several others which meant quite a bit to me, from spending a day with Albert Costa and Roger Simo of Vall Llach enjoying a memorable conversation and fantastic lunch, to filming a wedding at Terra Remota, to an afternoon with David, Olivia, and Joan of Marco Abella (plus seemingly to film Olivia frequently all year), time at Verema with Andrew, Fintan, Mireia, Miquel (Coca i Fito), Paul and Benédicte, and more.
I can’t wait for 2016.