Transformed by my first visit to Catalonia.This summer I shared with an acquaintance, who is a little lost in life, "When I was in Catalunya two years ago, it was the first time I felt like I found a place where I belonged. It was as if I had finally found home. That's the kind of place I believe you are seeking."
The Catalan people, their beautiful language, delicious cuisine and their world class wines, all felt familiar, but somehow forgotten. While I was there, I realized that a part of me was missing, and I found that essential part of me in Catalunya. I now consider Catalunya the home I did not know. The home I yearn to return to. Somehow.
Today, I am sharing my sentiments toward Catalunya, vi Català (Catalan wine), my desire to return and a bit about what I have learned and wish to experience.
“Wine brought me to Catalunya, wine will likely bring me back.”
|Visiting the village of Gratallops in Priorat, Catalunya.|
Where is Catalunya?Catalonia/Catalunya is the wine growing region in Northeastern Spain surrounding Barcelona. Catalonia produces over 140 million bottles of wine and 240 million bottles of CAVA.
Wine has been produced in Catalonia for over 2,500 years. Rome was particularly fond of many wines from the area. Today, over 55,000 hectares (135,908 acres) of vines are cultivated for wine production.
The Catalan Designations of Origin includes - DO Emporda, DO Alella, DO Pla de Bages, DO Penedes, DO Cava, DO Conca de Barbera, DO Costers del Segre, DO Catalunya, DO Tarragona, DOQ Priorat, DO Montsant, DO Terra Alta.
Learn Català or Re-learn Spanish?I’ve recently discovered a channel on youtube called, “Learn Catalan from Barcelona.” The videos are beautifully produced, and the lessons are well suited to me. A true treasure. Go check it out and visit their website too.
However, I did minor in Spanish, and once spoke Spanish fairly well. Happily, earlier this year, I found a Spanish conversation group in town. They meet a couple of times each month. I participated briefly, and found some benefit, but stopped when I realized my accent and knowledge were about as good as I was getting. So, I still need to find a conversation group better than my current skills.
- Note: I have written about the Catalan language.
See: Language of Catalunya: A Return Home.
"His deep gravelly voice was a pleasure. Català spoken as if from the rocky ground itself. His quiet, reserved demeanor hid great depths of knowledge and passion. My affection grew throughout the day."
What more about Catalunya after 2 years?
Music:Catalan Music, I have become a fan of Sílvia Pérez Cruz, Manel, and Txarango. And I hope to attend a live concert in Catalunya. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
|One version of pa amb tomàquet I make at home.|
Pa amb tomàquet:I often make "pa amb tomàquet" at home. Which is a slice of toasted bread, with a clove of garlic rubbed over it, then half of a sliced tomato is rubbed on the bread (pulp and juice of the tomato is rubbed all over) and then garnished with drizzled olive oil and a little salt. Not only delicious, but pairs beautifully with Catalan wine.
|My La Senyera pin.|
My La Senyera pin:La Senyera is the official flag of the Spanish Autonomous Communities of Catalunya, Aragón, the Balearic Islands, Valencia and the historically Catalan-speaking city of Alghero in Sardinia. It is also included on the flags or coats of arms of Pyrénées-Orientales, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, the flag of Roussillon, Capcir, Vallespir and Provence in France and is a quarter of the coat of arms of Andorra. I wear it proudly on all my wine country trips.
|Books on Catalan enotoursim.|
In my possession are several books on Catalan "enotourism" in wine country. They are a wealth of information on Catalan wine tourism, wineries, routes, restaurants and the sites you must not miss.
It would be a high honor to attend a Castell competition, where the community tests their strength, balance, flexibility adaptability, endurance and strength of will. Truly a powerful expression of the Catalan culture. Watch the Castell competition titled "Life is Full of Difficulties."
What am I missing?
|Steps of Girona Cathedral, where the Castell titled "Life is Full of Difficulties" occurred.|
Are you familiar with the Castell competitions in Catalunya? "Castell" means castle in Catalan. The tradition of building Castells originated near the city of Tarragona. It was first documented in 1712. Over the course of the 18th century, it spread to other towns and cities. In the last 50 years it has spread to the rest of Catalunya.
Castells are human pyramids/castles. The layers of the Castell are assembled quickly in order to put minimal strain on the lower castellers, who bear most of the weight.
"Catalans do not consider themselves Spanish. Some who live in Catalunya will tell you they do, but they are not Spanish. If you read what I wrote about the History of Catalunya, you should understand why. It took me three days to understand this and to become sensitive to that fact. This is reflected many times over in the culture."
Neither have I attended the Calçotada festival in Tarragona, celebrating the harvest of calçots in January – February. The descriptions I've read about this festival made my mouth water.
|Another place I must visit.|
And there are many wonderful wine regions to explore, winemakers to meet, and wines to taste and write about. And the food, the food, the food.
- Note: I have written about Catalan food: Cuisine of Catalunya:
"The delicious cuina/cuisine of Catalunya which embraces and showcases the food of the sea and land. I found many dishes recognizable, while others were new creations inspired by centuries of multi-cultural interactions and humble living. I ate very well. And I want more."
|Flight path destination, Barcelona, Catalunya.|
How to return to Catalunya?The last two years I’ve continued to work as a wine educator in the Washington wine industry. I’ve studied for WSET 3 and have hosted many focused wine tastings for groups of 5 to 85. My passion and enthusiasm to share what I know about wine is often reflected by my guests thank yous and their handshakes.
|Hosting a wine tasting for a tour group at work.|
“Great presentation, very educational & delicious tasting.”
“William is a knowledgeable asset and host – a wonderful experience.”
|CAVA chilling for my Bubbles and Bites class.|
|Hosting a CAVA focused Bubbles and Bites at work.|
CAVA Wine PairingsAlso, I’ve been fortunate that work has allowed me to bring in CAVA from Catalunya for my Bubbles and Bites educational wine and food pairings. Yes, I’m on a mission to convert people to drinking CAVA, especially when paired with tomato based dishes. It brings me great pleasure to see that moment when my guests “understand” the beauty of pairing CAVA with food. Great satisfaction.
|Posing with Gemma of Mas LLunes Winery.|
Catalan Wines USA Visits SeattleOctober last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Gemma Roig of Mas LLunes winery, at a Catalan Wines USA tasting in Seattle, Washington. It was a joy to meet the daughter of the winemaker from DO Empordà. And there were many wonderful wines shared by Catalan Wines USA that day.
|Catalan Wines USA presentation in Seattle, Washington.|
- Note: I reviewed the Mas LLunes 2013 Rhodes from DO Emporda, Catalunya earlier this year. And wrote about visiting the winery and their 117 year old vineyards with Antoni Roig. There's also a video interview with Antoni Roig.
"The drive to the Mas LLunes winery was full of narrow, shoulder-less, twisty back roads. Through some very beautiful country. Once the Pyrenees mountain range became visible, it served as the backdrop for our drive through wine country. Manel shared a lot of detail about the area and its history while driving. Making a great deal of eye contact and constantly expressing himself with his hands. I had a firm grip on the door handle for most of the drive."
|Posing with winemaker Antoni Roig in his vineyard.|
Tour Guide?I’m also gently working on becoming a wine country tour guide. Next year, I am scheduled to tour a group through wine country in Walla Walla, Washington and Oregon's Willamette Valley. Truly, I hope to expand my wine tour offerings and educational wine presentations. And yes, Catalunya is on my wish list.
- Note: If you are interested in a wine touring vacation, then check out Taste Vacations by Zephyr Adventures. You’ll see that I am listed as one of the hosts.
Catalunya remains close in my thoughts. I still wish to return. I know far more about the people, country, culture, wine and cuisine. I’ve begun to realize that I should not be sad, that I should feel happy and blessed that I now know that I have a second home. A home in Catalunya. A home I want to return to.
Vi CatalàAccess to Catalan wines is limited in my portion of Washington state. I do what I can, when I can. I encourage my guests to seek them out on their own. And I regale them with tales of the wonderful wines and winemakers I met in Catalunya.
|Anna Martí, winemaker to watch.|
Anna MartíWhen I was in Catalunya, I met a fascinating winemaker, Anna Martí. Her fathers winery is Ca n'Estruc, located on the slopes of mount Montserrat, in the municipality of Esparreguera . A well equipped facility making lovely, delicious wines. What I learned is that she is making wine in clay amphorae. The way wine was made 2000 years ago!
- Note: Ca N’Estruc is the first winery registered in the DO Catalunya, created in 1999, heir to a winemaking tradition with more than 2000 years of history.
|Xarello two ways, Anna's is at right, her fathers left.|
I was struck by her passion, strength and intelligence. She told me her father was very much against what she is doing. Because it is inefficient. But I loved the wine she made and shared with me. I've noticed that she is finally receiving the attention she deserves in Spain. I'm excited to touch base and taste her current vintages. I still have a bottle of her wine, unopened and waiting to be reviewed. I sense the time is near. You can follow her on instagram @annamartipitart
|Making CAVA. Inverted bottles so the yeast can settle for removal.|
|CAVA Portell winemaker in the wine cave.|
CAVA production is serious business at Cava Portell. CAVA is sparkling wine made in the traditional Methode Champenoise. Just like champagne. Cava means cave. And Cava Portell has underground "caves" beneath the winery where the CAVA is made and stored.
|CAVA Portell Brut, Rosat Trepat|
The wines of Cava Portell truly impressed. If you know of anyone importing these wines to the United States, please contact me. I'd like to bring some bottles home, and hopefully to work for a focused CAVA tasting and food pairing.
|A few Catalan wines waiting to be enjoyed and reviewed.|
I'm just beginning to understand Catalonia. Yes, I must return, for the reasons above and the ones I have not yet discovered. Wine brought me to Catalunya, wine will likely bring me back. I encourage you to seek out wines of Catalunya. Embrace the culture, wine, food, music, and language. And plan your next vacation to Barcelona, or Tarragona or Girona. There is so much to experience and appreciate.
And I still think of it as home.