We arrived, on a warm Saturday morning, at Finca Valldosera´s sun-drenched estate, tucked amidst its many vineyards and expansive pine forest of the low-to-middle Penedes. Immediately, we piled into a four-wheel drive vehicle and climbed to the top of a nearby peak to survey the local geography. With scattered vines below, the bumpy ride up a winding road was well worth the view. To the north you see the Pyrenees and Montserrat, hills to the west, and, on a clear day, the mediterranean glimmers in the East. From here, there is no debate: the grass at this vineyard is greener than in the neighboring vineyards of Vilafranca de Penedes down the other side of the mountain.
We stopped to inspect fossils imprinted on the shelves of limestone and clay. As we drove through the forest, smells like pine, licorice and fresh flowers wafted suddenly and then fainted. Valdosera also features wildlife befitting a regular Iberian cansada. While we did not see any of the wild boars (the primary nuisance to the grape vines- two were recently found and caught who had stumbled into a well). We did see some goats and numerous varieties of birds including a magnificent peacock. Domed stone huts are scattered through the forest, like sommeliers´ igloos which never melt, a testament to vine guardians of a bygone age. All this gave one the feeling of being in a sunnier version of the film Pan´s Labyrinth, where delicious wines and cava take the place of mythical labors and creatures.
Returning to the estate for a proper tour and tasting only confirmed what an unusual operation Finca Valldosera really is. From start to finish this entire process is a four man show (with a little help here and there, sure). The hallway down to the cellar is lined with huge old barrels. Beautifully maintained, they lent our friendly host and guide the air of an Amontillado cask salesman as he led us down a staircase towards the dark, cool Cava cellar where our voices resonated the green glass of bottles waiting to be filled, and others waited to be turned. We held one up to the faint light to inspect the progress of fermentation, the pale gold liquid illuminating our faces.
Back in the open air, we enjoyed the product of xarello grapes and munched on coca with roasted pine nuts. This white was one of my favorites produced by Valldosera- light, floral, aromatic, and able to stand on its own while at the same time inviting a sumptuous paella (or was I just getting hungry). Next was the Rose, a blend of Syrrah and Merlot that, when swirled, is something like inhaling Spring. But the cava is Valldosera´s specialty, and it soon became evident why. Of the two brut naturels we tasted the first was more brutish, while the second was like or dissolving your worries in a bubbling aqua vitae that cleanses your mind and soul (admittedly, while taking in a breathtaking Spanish vista on a saturday afternoon, few worries are likely to arise in the first place). Conclusion: antique winery + perfectly calibrated micro-climate = cava you wont soon forget. Highly recommend!
The equipment and technology is, seemingly, from another era. The wine, however, particularly, the cava – is timeless. As you taste the six different wines, it is somewhat surprising how you find yourself reliving olfactory sensations from moments before when you were driving through the property; smells and tastes of licorice, rosemary, rose, pine, apricot among others…
The Finca Valldosera estate is hidden in a valley to the east of VillaFranca de Penedes.
Alysa Bernal & Nisham Bingham, Wine & Travel writers for Wine Pleasures