Mid Summer Evening Duo of Gastronomy & Music Matched with Sumarroca Wines

Sumarroca 50 Great Cavas 2016Some of the Wine Pleasures team recently had the, ahem, pleasure of taking a tour of the Sumarroca winery cellars, tasting room, vineyards and more one beautiful day in Spain’s Penedès wine region.  It was an absolutely fantastic experience, made more so by the enthusiasm and warm friendliness of Carles Sumarroca, his wife Nuria Claverol and the General Manager Josep Puig Subirana. We tasted an absolutely delicious cava which will be featured in the 50 Great Cavas 2016 book, and were invited to a special event at their chateau, the Heretat Sabartes Estate.  We arrived the next evening, finding our way around lots of roundabouts with a less than cooperative GPS, and pulled up to the impressive 19th century modernist mansion.

In the words of Josep, “Es otro mundo”, and it truly is like another world.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWe arrived at about 8 in the evening, a lovely time to see the sun streaming through the branches of the enormous tree in the center of the driveway approaching the mansion.  Near the entrance to the estate, there is a stand alone building used as a space for performances, with seating and a stage set up for the music later in the evening.  The estate has 25 hectares of vineyards, where Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are absolutely thriving in the chalky soil typical of the Baix Penedès.   The lawns around the mansion are beautifully manicured, and we are greeted with glasses of Cava Rosado immediately.  Many guests have arrived already for the event, an evening of gastronomic delights, wine and a musical performance by a very talented Catalan guitarist, Xavier Coll.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWe walk with our glasses of delicate and refreshing cava, and meet Josep on a grassy knoll to the left of the mansion.  Just beyond is a large bar set up with many tables around it for open-air dining.  Josep gives us a tour of much of the estate, including large rooms with beautiful floral arrangements, furnishings, tables set with pristine linens and stemware and enormous floor to ceiling windows with views of the vineyards surrounding the estate.  It is in these rooms that many events and even weddings have been hosted.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasBehind the mansion itself, you can take in the view of their own vineyards and neighbouring vineyards on all sides.  There is a lovely pool surrounded with lush green plants, and a duck waddling around, to the delight of the guests (myself especially J )

We explored the estate, enjoyed glasses of cava and the tasty appetizers.  It was soon time for dinner and all the smiling guests began to head for the grassy hill where beautiful large, round tables were set.  It was a social kind of dinner, each table was set for eight, so we had the opportunity to Sumarroca 50 Great Cavaseat and mingle with some new faces and enjoy our meal with Josep.  It was beginning to get dark now, and we headed to the bar to try more wines.  Their Temps de Flors was absolutely lovely, delicate, floral.  It is a blend mainly of Xarel-lo combined with the sweet and elegant aromas of Muscat and Gewurtzraminer, which are international grapes that are grown in their own vineyards.

Dinner was an absolute delight.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I personally expected something perhaps a little more traditional from an estate such as this, which boasts such timeless beauty.  Instead we saw many different tables set up with food all around the perimeter of the grassy seating area on the lush lawn.  Each table represented food from a different part of the world.  The mushroom risotto and caprese salad from the Italian table were absolutely mouth-watering.  The sushi was fantastic, including red tuna nigiri, salmon sashimi and much more.  Lamb kebabs and humus awaited in a Middle Eastern themed table.  Omelettes with prawns, cheeses and crackers were on offer at a French inspired table.  Fajitas with guacamole and tortilla chips on a Mexican inspired table.  Small steak burgers grilled right before your eyes and topped with cheese and caramelized onion were a great surprise at what I guess is an American table, complete with French fries and ketchup.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWhen we first sat down we went to the bar at the epicenter of all these tables and ordered a glass of wine each.  Later someone came to bring us bottles for the table.  We were so impressed, and I personally felt completely spoiled.  The food was truly impressive and all the guests were having a fantastic time.  The energy of the night was infectious, everyone was well fed and had all the wine you could possibly ask for, smiles and laughter abound.

As darkness spread and the stars began to Xavier Coll at Sumarroca 50 Great Cavascome out for the evening, all the guests finished with their dinners and were led to the performance hall near the entrance of the estate.  There was a small stage set up and we were lucky enough to snag seats right at the front.  Four acoustic instruments were set up, a traditional guitar and three other string instruments bearing similarities to the guitar, some with more strings, all different sizes.  Xavier Coll came out and played hauntingly beautiful music with each instrument, that had the room shrouded in silence as all the guests watched on with bated breath.  He played three songs with the traditional guitar.  All the songs so far had been only guitar music, but with the final song he demonstrated his very powerful and moving voice.  The entire crowd was stirred by this show of talent and he received a standing ovation.

It was truly an unforgettable evening, and far exceeded my expectations.  If you have the chance to experience this, we highly recommend this to anyone with an appreciation for fine foods and wine, a healthy appetite and an ear for traditional music.

Ayesha Durrani

 

La Fassina, Phylloxera, Calçots & 50 Great Cavas

50 Great Cava Media Tour 2014The final day of the Wine Pleasures 50 Great Cava Tour found our intrepid group in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the epicenter and world capital of Cava.

Our first stop was at the Centro de Interpretación de Cava – La Fassina de Can Guineu where we were able to learn all about Cava in the excellent self-paced multi-media touch screens. The interactive panels tell the story of the region and the history of Cava production. One of the most interesting sections depicted the many adverts and posters promoting Cava Festivals over the years. I think these posters, beautiful examples of graphic design, would make for great souvenirs. I wish the museum gift shop carried them.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Media TourBut the true focal point of the museum pertains to phylloxera. Most people think of phylloxera as a devastating pest that destroys vineyards, but from the perspective of Spain it was an economic opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of France.

There is an entire exhibit room devoted to the phylloxera festival that’s held every September 7 & 8 in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. A short film shows the annual Phylloxera Festival as it celebrates the tiny bug in a lively fashion. Part Mardi Gras style carnival, and part folk festival, the phylloxera is honored with a giant replica of the aphid and the whole town joins in a parade and revels in the streets with many people wearing paper mâché bug heads that are quite 50 Great Cavas 2014 Media Tourhorrific looking. The exhibit also had examples of angry vine head masks that were gruesome and looked like the faces on the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz.

For a more profound experience, you can get up close and personal with a 3D phylloxera insect from larvae state to full-grown creature that will look you right in the eye as you stand before an interactive display. This is best experienced after a glass of Cava, or for those in a good state of mental health. If you are prone to nightmares I suggest you skip it.

50 Great Cava Media Tour 2014The rest of the Centro de Interpretación de Cava has plenty to see and enjoy including a 3D film on the region and wine making process.  The film ends with the motto: “the offspring of a feeling” –which I suppose can be open to all sorts if interpretations –but many in our group thought it evoked a double entendre with a sexual overtone. Well, not many in our group just one who shall remain nameless but here’s a hint –“butter fingers” with an iPhone. Okay, enough insider information. On with the tour–

The museum was a previously a distillery, and in the basement, a former tank room, you can watch a light and sound show projected on the walls and ceiling that depicts the primary elements necessary for the production of Cava— earth, water, wind, fire/sunlight and of course, time. The room shakes with surround sound and a gentle breeze blows on cue to give you the feeling of total immersion in the vineyard. Afterwards you will be panting for a taste of Cava.

50 Great Cavas Wine Pleasures visits Celler VellLuckily for us we only had to trot up a few flights of stairs to a conference room where we tasted several Cava’s from the small artisan producer, Celler Vell. In the tasting line-up was the Estruch Brut Gran Reserva 2009, the Celler Vell Extra Brut Gran Reserva, and the Celler Vell Brut Nature Reserva –all awarded in the list of 50 Great Cava’s of 2014. 

Next stop on the 50 Great Cava’s tour– Canals & Munné to view the cellars and taste the award winning Cava’s. 2015 will mark 100 years of Cava production at Canals & Munné and we brain-stormed a few ideas for the centennial celebration next year with export manager Natalia de la Calle Zancajo. Then we were given a tour of the facility and the charming Oscar Medina Canals demonstrated the manual corking equipment and showed us how the cage and cap was attached to the bottle.

In the tasting room we tried several of the wonderful Cava’s including an organic offering, Dionysus Brut Nature, and my personal favorite the Insuperable a blend of 40% Macabeau, 30% Xarel•lo, and 30% Perellada—a lovely balanced Cava with a floral nose, bright fruit flavors, and a bit of spice on the finish.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Canals i MunnéAfterwards we went back to the Cava centric town of Sant Siduru d’Anoia to the original location of Canals & Munné, which is now a restaurant and there we commenced upon a long lunch and paired traditional foods of the region with several more of the Cava’s.

The highlight of the meal were the calçots –fresh green onions that are barbecued six minutes on each side, then the center shoot is pulled from the long green outer leaves, dipped in salsa de calçots and eaten by throwing your head back and dropping the onion into your mouth and hopefully not down your shirt. Fortunately plastic bibs were provided to keep everyone pristine.

50 Great Cavas 2014Natalia showed us how to prepare the traditional Catalan appetizer Pa amb tomàquet which consists of tomato, garlic and olive oil on fresh toasted bread. She cautioned us not fill up on too much before the main meal but it was hard to resist. In addition to the fabulous calçots, the lunch included plates of fresh salad greens, artichokes, white beans, roasted peppers and eggplant, lamb and sausage with potatoes and the signature dessert Creme Catalan. The wines served were the Canals & Munné 1915 blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Xarel*lo and Macabeu. Alos the Reserve de L’Avi, and the Gran Duc Cava in the distinctive flared bottom bottle.

After the meal we had a grappa like digestive Marc De Cava made from the pomaces of the Cava’s. Thus with a toast and a salute we ended our meal and the 50 Great Cava tour came to a close. What a week it was.

Marcy Gordon

50 Great Cavas 2014 cover

Istria & Vinistra pave the way for wine & culinary tourism in Croatia

When many people think of Croatia they do not think of wine and culinary Tourism. Think again! The Croation National Tourist Board breaks Croatian down into digestible chunks and include Kvarner, Dalmazia, Zagrabria Slavonia and Istria.

Istria (or ISTRA to Croats) is where Continental Croatia meets the Adriatic Sea. The coast or “Blue Istra” gets flooded with “beach and sun” tourists. Head inland to “Green Istra” and you’ll notice that crowds dissipate, hotels complexes give way to charming rural accommodations set within unspoiled countryside of medieval hilltop towns, pine forests, fertile valleys and vineyard- dotted hills….

How to make The Perfect Spanish Omelette.

wine pleasures tortilla española The long chewed over recipe of the Tortilla Española is finally over. No British, you will not defile the dish with your peas or other such ridiculous vegetables any longer. The time has come to put an end to this nonsense, and print the truth (you will no longer have egg on your face!) but can enjoy al fresco dining with a traditional Spanish dish once more.  

I’ve attempted this dish a few times now and, after messing it up (think uncooked potato and raw egg stuck to the bottom of the pan) I’ve come to learn the secrets of the omelette lie in the heat of the pan, and also how much oil you put in to begin with.  …