Spanish Wineries

I haven’t had much time to sit down and blog, I’ll get into details about that later, but I do have a few posts I want to make before school starts and things get way too busy.

This post is out of order, what I mean is out of chronological order. We visited 3 wineries this summer, each about 2 weeks apart. So this is a summary of all the visits and my thoughts on each of the places we had the pleasure of touring and tasting.

Spain is obviously known for it’s red wine, everybody knows Rioja, but we were not in that particular region this past summer. We were in close proximity to the Penedes and the Terra Alta regions, both of which produce beautiful, delicious wines. The Penedes region is known for it’s Cava, which is made in caves with two fermentations, the same as French Champagne. The Penedes area was the site of our first tour, which Donnie, Paul and I went on the morning we got back from Munich.

We were in the car, gearing up for the drive back to our beach place, and Donnie suggested that we stop at Freixinet on the way back. He called and they had space for us on their 11:30am English tour that morning. It was perfect. We made a quick Starbucks stop and a drive through the city and then hit the road.

I had researched Freixinet before we left to go to Spain, and it seemed like a really nice place to visit. I’d never had their wines, but their bottles seemed familiar, like I’d seen them around stores. I was interested to learn more about the process of Cava.

Freixinet is located right off the A7 highway, easily seen from above, but we arrived a little bit late, worried that we may have missed the tour. It was fine, and soon enough, we were sitting in a theater watching the history of the family and the process of making Cava. Freixinet is not the oldest Cava making family, but they are definitely the most widespread. From there, we walked down to the caves to see where the bottles are stored and learned about the rotation process and how the second fermentation takes place. The caves were cool and humid, and Paul had a good time dancing around instead of listening. 🙂 We walked down quite a few floors, and when we’d reached the bottom, we took a train up through the storage rooms to the tasting room.

In the tasting room, we got to try two of their cavas. One was the Cava Brut Natur, which has no added extra sugar. It was light and refreshing, dry on the end and definitely not too sweet. The second was their Elyssia Pinot Noir, which is a pink colored cava, do to the addition of Pinot Noir grapes. I enjoyed this one the most! They also gave Paul a glass of house-made grape juice and a cute bag featuring their iconic little boy with the bottle. We stopped by the shop to buy a case (which we were disappointed to find out later is more expensive at their winery than in Carrefour), and then drove back home. It was a really nice tour, kid friendly and very pleasant. We took some pictures on their super cool bottle shaped scooters before we left too! I would definitely recommend doing this, and drinking their cava. http://www.freixenet.com/

The next tour we went on was about a week or two later. Our friends had arrived (more on this in another post) and we decided to do an adults only side trip. It was our last full day together as a group, so the day before, we reached out and contacted a few wineries in the Terra Alta region. Cellar Piñol was super friendly, and they scheduled a tour for us at 10:30am the next day. Cellar Piñol is located in the city of Batea, which is nestled up in the mountains with quite a few other wineries. It would be perfect for a weekend getaway if you really like wine.

That morning, we piled in the car and followed the GPS through the mountains, which were picturesque with olive groves and vines dotted with old villas. We all day-dreamed about getting one, adding a pool and creating the perfect summer house. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Batea, but unfortunately I had mixed up which winery we were actually going to see. We arrived at Cellar Batea at 10:35, but we soon found out we were at the wrong place. We wandered around the city trying to find Cellar Piñol, and finally after several phone calls and lots of sweat we got there around 11am.

To our surprise, it was a private tour, just us four, so it didn’t really matter that we were so late. The tour was given by the actual winemaker, Maria. She is in charge of testing, tasting and adjusting the wine. It was so cool! She walked us through the old part of the house, then back to the lab, then to the tanks. Cellar Piñol only makes a few kinds of wine, and they have three price points, cheap, decent, expensive. I lost count of all wines we tasted, but luckily Jessica took notes. Their wine is made with grapes that they grow, and the winery is in the city, which means that they have limited expansion opportunities. They are a relatively small operation, but it’s all quality and very good. We tasted their white blends, red blends, and even their 100% Morenillo (local grape) straight from the barrel or tanks.

We were all sad to see the tour end, but we made up for it by buying way too much wine to enjoy with each other that evening. I managed to save a bottle which is sitting in my fridge here in China this moment.  All of their wines are delicious, and for 7 Euro a piece for a private 90 minute tour, I think this was my favorite of all the winery tours we did (but this could be because we didn’t have to corral any children while touring). Maria was friendly and funny, and answered all our silly questions. She was super down to earth and we didn’t feel like wine novices (even though we are). If I could get their wine here in Shenzhen, I would buy it exclusively. http://cellerpinol.com/index.php/en/

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Our final winery tour was back in the Penedes region with my sister and her husband. We decided to do another cava tour, mostly because that’s what they wanted to see, but also because they seem to be a little more kid friendly. We did some research and booked a tour at Codorniu, which I’d never heard of, but looked beautiful on the website. Also, you can book online, which is a huge bonus! It turns out, this winery is 500 years old, and has been making cava for centuries. http://www.codorniu.com/en/

We piled into our tiny Fiat, and drove about an hour and fifteen minutes again (this seems to be a pattern). It turns out that this winery was just down the road from Freixinet, so it was easy to find as well. The entrance to Codorniu is stunning, lots of vine fields and tall trees, and the actual buildings are gorgeous and original. I was very impressed when we arrived.

We had time for coffee and a snack before starting our 10:30 tour and this one also started with a theater and a movie, but in 3D! Our tour guide was nice, but a little bit less friendly that our other tours, but she entertained Paul’s questions and was very knowledgable. From the movie, we took a walk through the grounds, which have been in the family for centuries, and headed down to the original winery with the caves underneath. What I really liked was that they kept all the old equipment that they used many years ago, so it was easy to imagine how the winery used to work and look. There were a lot of perfectly preserved artifacts of the wine making process, presses and bottles and carts and bottling machines. Our guide walked us through the process and the history, and then we toured the caves below.

The coolest thing about the caves were that the oldest ones had been dug out by hand! It’s crazy to think how much work that would’ve been. After walking down to the lowest and oldest caves, we took a train back up to a cave for a tasting room. Codorniu has lots of event spaces, little rooms tucked away with tables, and great rooms near the caves. You could peek into all these places and imagine all the fun parties that must have taken place. We ended up at the tasting room, which was still underground, and tried their brut nature and their pinot noir cava as well. Again, soooo tasty. Andie and I had some fun taking pictures, but unfortunately we were ushered out of the tasting room before Ben could finish his wine! He said it was ok, and we trekked up to the shop where we put together a collection of 6 bottles to have our own tasting at home (we only had time for 3 bottles). I also got a neat canvas bag, and some stickers for Trunki. Codorniu has the most beautiful winery for sure, and we all enjoyed it, but I think Freixinet was a little more kid friendly. Overall though, it was a really wonderful experience.

I learned so much about Spanish wine this summer, and I had a blast touring them with my favorite people. I checked our local shops for some of the wines that we tried and all I can find is Freixinet, and it’s about 5x more expensive than in Spain. I miss Spain and it’s wineries already.

Cheers! Love to all, J.

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