Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wine and a Forgotten Monastery - A (non)traditional visit to the outskirts of Barcelona

 When Steve and Gail visited Barcelona, The Spanish Touch worked with them from the planning stages. One of the things Gail made clear was that they were not looking for a "standard" tour. Good thing that's not what we do. After going through some of the choices we decided on a unique itinerary which was just what they were looking for. 

We started the day meeting at the hotel as we headed down to the Penedes wine country. There are a lot of great wineries and some really exciting things happenning, so depending on your particular taste and what you want to discover, each winery offers something unique. We started our tour with the local star, cava. Like much of Spain, cava has been somewhat unfairly labelled as a "cheaper version of something better". However, there are cava makers who are out to disprove that myth, and Rimarts is one of them. Marc led us through the handcrafted process that Rimarts still adheres to, including hand riddling and degorging each of the nearly 90,000 bottles that they produce. Follow that up with a sampling of their finest offerings (including the rare Rosae, a smoked pink Cava which is truly unique in its class) and then we were off to the next winery. 

We got there a bit early, and were met by the owner himself, whose English is limited so he offered us a welcome drink as we waited for our guide (his daughter). A walk through the vineyards is always a great way to get a feel for the wines, and Marta was a great guide. And given the sunny day, we decided to move the tasting outside where we could sit in the tree-shaded patio and enjoy the beauty of the environment, as well as taste some delectable wines. 

A stop for lunch at a local restaurant where we were treated to a three-course lunch including a particularly tasty dessert and we were off again. As Gail had asked for something different, we decided to head up to the Monastery of San Cugat. Despite being one of the oldest recorded churches in the region, and despite San Cugat being one of the very first Martyrs  from Barcelona, this is a very overlooked monastery. But that does not make it any less spectacular. The still standing enclosures around the building, the sheer austerity of the building rising up by itself in the middle of a modern town adds to the allure. We explored the monastery and talked about the history of the region before the skies clouded up. We were back in the car and back to the hotel right on time, just catching a bit of the rain on the drive back. 

A great day with some great people, and a memory to take back of a Barcelona that few others have seen.