Weekend in Penedes, Day 2 - Part 2

After Albet i Noya we headed to another organic winery called Eudald Massana Noya which, according to our map, was just down the road. However the map showed it before the small town, when in reality it was just past it. So we drove around and around in circles while Brian called the winery and tried to talk to them in his Spanish and their English. When that wasn't working, I eventually got on the phone (while driving standard through narrow pueblo streets UPHILL) and figured out the directions in Spanish.

We arrived to this gorgeous sight and a group of people waiting for us! On all our other tastings/tours we had been the only people, so we took for granted that there might be others scheduled for the tour as well. We felt like complete idiots pulling up 20 minutes late with everyone standing around awaiting our imminent arrival. They had even sent someone out by car to look for us! Ha! Brian had been so confused when he was on the phone with them and they kept asking what color car we were driving.

To make it worse, the other four people on the tour were all Catalan, so we were the only English speakers. When Brian scheduled the tour, they said they could do English, so we just assumed it would be like the others - with an English guide. Instead a woman led the main tour speaking in Catalan and we trailed behind with another woman who was reading English from typed pieces of paper. Except it was absolutely hilarious because the woman in Catalan would speak for at least 2 minutes pointing at the vines and describing something in great detail and then the other woman would look at her paper and then look at us and say one sentence like "they pick the grapes by hand."

We were trying to make the best of the situation and not inconvenience anyone more than we already had so we just went with the flow. We had just come from the other organic winery so we pretty much knew the spiel anyways. I would translate for Brian anytime I could catch a Catalan word that was similar to Spanish. At one point the guide who was speaking in Catalan asked me if I understood what she had just said and I replied in Spanish that I could understand some words here and there but not many. She was surprised to find that I spoke Spanish and asked the other family if they minded if she did the tour in Castellano.  They all thankfully agreed and the second half of the tour was much better!

For the rest of the tour I was able to translate for Brian most of what she was saying about the grapes, the fermentation process and their specialties in wine and cava.

After the tour of the facilities, we proceeded to the tasting room where we tried a cava, a rose, and a white. The winery has a partnership with Riedel (German glass maker) so we tasted each wine in different glasses that the woman painstakingly washed with a little wine. She also had us taste the exact same wine from the exact same bottle in two different glasses - a Riedel glass and a glass of lesser quality. I have to say I was completely sold. It was unbelievable how much better the wine tasted in the higher quality crystal.

The tasting was definitely the high point of the tour. Once we got past the embarrassment of being late and the awkwardness of not understanding the guide, we totally bonded with the other family. It was a husband and wife with their daughter and her husband.  The son-in-law worked for an American-owned company and spoke some English. He and his wife had just traveled to the states and visited San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and a few other places and spoke highly of their time there. I spoke in Spanish with the parents about the woman being a vegan and about organic standards in Spain versus the US. It was so fun to have an intelligent conversation in Spanish! As for the photo above, the plants are all organic, and these boxes are made with city dwellers in mind. The idea is that you can fit one of these on your balcony and enjoy farm-fresh veggies. The Catalan tour guide is the woman in blue on the far right and the young woman behind her was our English-speaking guide. From the left of the photo are the mother, daughter and the daughter's husband.

I know I'm sounding like a broken record at this point, but I'm LOVING all the fun, interesting people we're meeting on our little weekend jaunts.  Even with Brian's limited Spanish, he made fast friends with this couple as well. When we were served the two glasses of wine to compare glasses, Brian smelled the wine in both, tasted both, and then poured all the wine into the good glass. The others (especially the father above) thought this was hysterical and brilliant and all followed suit. It was a great moment!

After Eudald we were scheduled to visit

Agustí Torelló Mata

which was again, just down the road. Lol. But unfortunately after being late all day, we were late yet again.

We pulled into their very modern grounds and were welcomed in the parking lot by our tour guide. By now it was 1:45pm (our tour was scheduled for 1pm), and they were set to close at 2pm. We told her we could just come back tomorrow, but she graciously offered to tour us anyways.

Agusti is very well-known for their cava, and high-quality cava at that. Whereas the minimum aging time for cava in general is 9 months, they age their youngest for 3 years and their oldest for 5 years. They opened their doors only about 2 decades ago in 1993, so it was a really interesting contrast to see their state-of-the-art facilities. This chandelier of bottles hung in the stairwell to the cellar.

We went down, down, down. She pointed out how their walls were painted to look aged and affected by humidity, another nod to the relative youth of the facilities compared to the bodegas whose walls are weathered from centuries of use.

While Agusti is known for making great typical Spanish cava, their crown jewel is Kripta, a fine cava whose oval-shaped bottle is a nod to the Roman bottles of centuries ago.

I was awestruck by the stacks and stacks of cava. I wish I remembered the exact number...she told us the facility was built to house well over a million (I think) bottles.

When we exited the cellar we came out on the other side of the property UNDER some vineyards! We had twisted and turned under the ground for so long that I'd completely lost my bearings. Brian was impressed when she described how the cellar entrance was designed with efficiency in mind. Just opposite this door was the bottling and distribution facility. They created it this way so the workers had only a short distance to cover when transferring cava from storage into production.

The tasting room was very modern and very cool. I can imagine this being a hip bar in Austin.

Another thing that really impressed us was the family's research into the local terrain of the region and where certain grapes grow best. Working with university scientists and researchers, they discovered the exact soil types that work best for the region's three signature grapes and set out to either grow or acquire grapes from the areas where they thrive best. This display in the tasting room was a visual representation of the soil types.

Enjoying cava with our great guide Celia! You can see the Kripta bottles tilted on their side in the shelves behind her.

Cheers! After our visit we drove into Vilafranca de Penedes and found a little tapas place to enjoy a mid-afternoon snack. We were scheduled for another dinner at the B&B cooked by Pepa so we didn't want to eat a big menu del dia. After tapas we wandered around Vilafranca and were gawked at by the few people out and about during the 'siesta' time. I guess it was pretty obvious we weren't from around there. Brian blamed my Barcelona 'de moda' outfit. Ha!

When we got back to the B&B we were surprised to find more guests! There was a small family (mom, dad and daughter) sitting in the comedor playing Monopoly (the money was in euros!). We exchanged pleasantries and sat down to play cards until dinner. Pepa served us all our dinners at the same time, so we all finished up at relatively the same time as well. After dinner, we all began chatting over a  bottle of wine and learned a little more about each other. It turns out they are from Barcelona and live very near Brian's school.  Carlota (pictured above) is 13 years old and spoke Spanish, Catalan, French and some English. I absolutely adored her!

Both these pictures were taken by Carlota, who downloaded them to my computer right away. Her parents both spoke fluent English and we chatted about our travels thus far and their toy shop in Barcelona. They gave us a few other suggestions of places to explore just outside Barcelona, and we're hoping to maybe escape to one of the nearby towns this weekend for a Valentine's getaway. Of course we don't need Valentine's as an excuse for a getaway. Haha!

Overall, it was an absolutely lovely day in the Penedes and we felt like we topped it off nicely hanging out with our new Spanish friends.

When we first planned the trip we had intended to visit bodegas both days, but we made a game time decision and made a slight change of plans. The weather was supposed to be absolutely gorgeous on Sunday. so we decided we'd get up, check out and head to the coast.  It seemed like a lovely day for a walk on a beautiful beach and an even better day for Brian to learn how to drive a standard...