Weekend in Penedes, Day 2

Our first winery tour started at 10am, so we scheduled our breakfast at Cal Santi with Pepa for 9am, which meant an 8am wake-up call. Brian gets up at 7am every Tuesday and Thursday for school, but I definitely can count on one hand the number of times I've seen 8am since we've been in Spain. So it was a slow morning to say the least, and I overdid it a little on the cafe con leche...to the point where I was chattering my jaw and tweaked out most of the morning. It was pretty hilarious! I don't drink a lot of caffeine back home so I don't exactly know my limits.

We had a map of the region from our hotel, but we unfortunately learned the hard way that it wasn't exactly to scale and whoever made it wasn't quite a stickler for putting wineries right where they actually are in real life. So we were of course 15 minutes late to our first tour which threw off the whole day! I should mention too that the gate pictured above is what I had to DRIVE THROUGH to get onto the grounds. It was only a few inches wider than our compact car and I held my breath the whole way through.

I love seeing the acres and acres (hectares and hectares) of vines.  This first winery,

Albet i Noya

, is an organic winery and was actually the first in all of Spain. The winemaker, Josep Maria decided to become a vegan in the 80s. Around that same time a Danish supermarket approached the DO Penedes about making an organic wine for the Danes, and knowing of Josep Maria's own eating habits, the project was given to him. They have become renowned in this specialty and are trendsetters for other organic wineries.

Our tour guide, Salvador, told us all about the very delicate process of growing organic grapes. They spray sulfur to protect the plants from bugs and use a pheromone compound on the stems to confuse the butterflies.  Apparently butterflies are a big problem when growing grapes because the males and females use some sort of sex hormone to find one another and then they have a nice little intimate moment on the vine and deposit their babies there. Which of course turn into worms, which in turn damages the skin of the grapes. So sexual confusion is the name of the game according to Salvador, and the boys end up not being able to find the girls!

By now, we're getting fairly knowledgeable about the whole wine process. Grow the grapes, pick the grapes, smash the grapes. Then they put the juice (with skin and seeds in the case of the red wines) in these stainless steel tanks for the first fermentation.

Then, to barrels they go for the second fermentation. I still get so blown away in each cellar we see. I love seeing all that wine stacked up just chilling out and taking its time getting nice and tasty.

The new part of the process to learn about was the CAVA! Cava is bubbly wine (like champagne) and goes through its second fermentation in the actual bottle it will be sold in. It has to be stored on its side to age for a minimum of 9 months while added yeast eats the added sugar to create the BUBBLES! Yay bubbles! Once this is done, there is a small amount of sediment left that must be removed. So the bottles are tilted and turned s-l-o-w-l-y for 30 days to allow the sediment to collect at the cork. Then the most typical method is to freeze the neck of the bottle so they can uncork and remove the sediment-filled ice cube. For some reason the organic wineries do it a bit different, but we both missed that part of the process.  We do know that once the sediment is removed (however they do it) they have to refill the bottle a little with the same wine. It's at this point that sugar is added if you're making a sweeter cava. Brut Nature is unsweetened cava while Brut has a little sugar added. I could handle even more sugar, but I liked the Brut.

I loved seeing all the bottling machinery! We've yet to see a winery that was actually in production but these guys were hanging out on the production line ready for labels.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for wine tasting. (What day isn't?)  :)  I can't imagine how much more amazing it must be in summer and early fall though with all the vines green and full of grapes. We simply have to come back!

We made a new friend....

I know I've said it again and again, but we just love meeting the people on these wine tours. Our guide comes from a farming family but studied wine-making at the urging of his father, as farming is tough business. He spent 6 months in Napa during the harvest and couldn't say enough good things about his time in the states. I think we're so used to being labeled "those" Americans that it's always so nice and refreshing to meet people who've had positive experiences with Americans. We pride ourselves also on hopefully being the people that break certain stereotypes others may have about Americans.

Me and Salvador in their little wine shop!  :)  Aside from their own wines and cavas, they also had a few from other organic vineyards around Spain. We thought it was neat that they were working together and cross-promoting.

We tasted one cava and two reds and left with one bottle of cava and two bottles of red.  :)  As usual we felt like we stumbled upon a gem.  We were still a bit behind schedule, so we said goodbye to this gorgeous view, zoomed out of our tiny little gate and set out to get lost yet again!