They take their Cava seriously in Spain. At one Cava the owner proclaimed ‘Cava is an everyday luxury.’ Last October I had the opportunity to go with Wine Pleasures for the 50 Great Cavas Tour. Cava is produced in Catalonia, a region that is split between wanting to stay a part of Spain and wanting independence. Although a part of Spain, Spanish is not the language here. They speak Catalan. Whatever the outcome, there’s no arguing that Cavas rival the world’s finest sparkling wines.
Day three of our adventure began with a visit to a winery co-op, Barberà de la Conca. Nine different wine producers share this early 20th century building designed by a disciple of Gaudi. The collective was formed in 1894 when the grape growers of Barberà teamed up, starting by grating vines onto phlylloxera-resistant rootstock. The co-op thrives today, centered in what’s called the wine cathedral. Old world architecture combines with the latest technology and extensive use of robotics. We visited the Castell d’Or group, tasting their excellent wines and enjoying a savory luncheon with one of the winemakers.
From there we were back to Sant Sidurni d’Anoia where we checked into the charming Masia Olivera, right across the street from Hotel Sol i Vi where we had stayed earlier. Raimon Olivera was the perfect host who made us feel absolutely at home. After enjoying a typical Catalonion breakfast with coffee, prepared for us by Raimon, we took a picturesque drive through the Catalonian countryside and wound up at Bohigas, in Odena.
Maria Casanovas-Giró welcomed us to her family’s spectacular property. It was dusk and you could feel the history reverberating everywhere. She took us inside the family’s tiny church. Inside the home she shared her family’s storied history, telling us about each room and finally showing us the attic where keepsakes dating back to the early 20th century were scattered about, there to touch and feel. We adjourned to the spacious dining room, enjoyed fine wines and cavas from Bohigas while dancers adorned in centuries old costumes entertained us while we dined. It was an evening none of us will forget.
As the trip begin to wind down, we had one more day packed with activity. The morning began with a visit to Vallformosa, where winemaker and co-owner Oriol (Oreo) Vidal greeted us with fresh-baked goodies from his wife. We toured the elaborate and extensive facility, where the winery’s past and present co-exist. We tasted six cavas, ranging from their entry-level Brut to their stunning Brut Reserva. Vallformosa is well worth a visit and their cavas are available throughout the United States.
We hit the road again and stopped at Pere Mata, where Pere Mata Coloma has been producing cava since 2000. His production facility is quite small, so after a brief look around, he grabbed a few bottles and we left for Hostal Grau for lunch. Coloma’s passion for wine runs in the family. Both of his grandfathers produced wines and Cavas and he is bringing the family tradition back to life. He thinks outside the box, making Cavas specifically for certain times of the year. His Cupada Number 9 is meant to be enjoyed in summer. He uses indigenous grapes, primarily Macabeu, Xarello and Parallada.
We traveled close to the sea, to Sant Pere de Ribas to visit Clos Lentiscus and Can Ramon wines. Owner Manel Avinyo promptly ushered us into two 4x4s. We drove around the property, through the vineyards and up a hill where we took in the view of the sea and his property while drinking his cava, Manel farms bio-dynamically and his passion for the vines and property is clearly evident. Back at his home he showed us the centuries old Mastic (Pistacia Lentiscus) tree that gave the winery its name and logo. The Sumoll grape grows on his property, a varietal that faced extinction. Today there are only 250 acres remaining, all of them in Catalonia. He makes a cava from the Sumoll grape that is unlike anything I have ever tasted. We feasted on a Catalan Paella made with pasta instead of rice and Manel entertained us, at one point walking around the room with two metal rods in his hands, showing us the energy fields in the room.
We said our goodbyes and made our way to Capallades where we stayed at the lovely Can Carol. The hostal is comfortable and loaded with charm. We unwound over a bottle of wine and in the morning had breakfast and toured the property. There’s a small church and beautiful grounds. A men’s only wine club gathers here monthly. Again there is history every way you turn. For part of the group the journey was over. We bade farewell and our smaller group continued on with just one stop this day.
Jordi Codina and Bruno Tannino greeted us at Finca Valldosera, where once again we hopped into a 4×4 and toured the property. Above the property overlooking everything we drank cava and signed the bottle. Bruno and Jordi took our signed bottle and placed it inside a small hut that had been used by gardeners years ago. Part of me remains in that hut as I scraped my head on the way out. We gathered back at the estate for wine, Cava and elegant appetizers. Jordi’s background includes stops in Marlborough New Zealand and the Napa Valley and he has been Finca Valldosera’s oenologist since 2009. All the wines are produced from estate fruit.
We began our last day in Catalonia with a 20 kilometer bike ride. I hadn’t been on a bicycle in years and made it about two K before deciding it wasn’t worth risking life and limb. The ride ended at Rovellats Cava and we couldn’t have hoped for a better host than Rosa Cardona i Vallès. We took a tour of the estate and walked through the caves, stacked floor to ceiling with bottles of cava. At one point I said to her that there must be several hundred thousand bottles. She turned to me and said ‘No. Three and a half million.’ The Rovellats Cavas were among my favorites and if you ever come across it, I urge you to grab it.
This amazing journey had drawn to a close. We had a farewell barbecue and a walking tour of Barcelona and then headed home.