Oct 042012

Can you taste them?

"Grapes on the Vine in Catalonia wine country"

I did. I plucked one of these grapes right off the vine and popped it in my mouth. Sweet.

But that was only one of the things that made this afternoon in Catalonia so delicious.

Catalonia Wine Country

It was a picture perfect day for being in Catalonian wine country in the Costa Brava region of northeastern Spain. I was enjoying a day trip courtesy of Visit Costa Brava with a group of bloggers attending the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) conference in Girona. Our afternoon was hosted by Empordàlia, a business cooperative that has been producing wine and olive oil from their own vines and olive trees for over 40 years. I’ve been to many wineries, especially in California, but don’t recall any that produced olive oil as well. Our excellent guide, Alba Sala of Empordàlia took us to a vineyard, the winery and the oil mill.

This is the Empordà region of Catalonia which is bordered by the Alberes Mountains (at the eastern end of the Pyrenees) to the north, Mediterranean Sea to the east and the plains to the south and west.

Bloggers in the Vineyard

At the winery in Vilajuïga, several miles from the vineyard, we watched a truck pull up to the winery laden with juicy grapes ready to be poured into the crusher. I’ve watched grapes being delivered to some of the large commercial wineries in California, but here we were so close we felt like we were taking part in the process.

Grapes being dumped into the crusher


Grapes into the Crusher

Inside the winery, Alba took us through the production, fermentation and storage areas. She is extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the operations and proud of the work done here to produce fine wines and olive oil.

Alba in Winery

Empordàlia’s wine-making philosophy is to make use of modern technology, while ensuring that the traditional local character of the Empordà is still reflected in the wines — just like it was when Alba’s grandfather was producing the wines 40 years ago.

Alba Sala in front of old fermentation tank

The oak casks, critical for properly aging the “Criança” wines, come from France and the United States.

Oak barrels from France and America

In the olive oil mill in Pau just a few miles from the winery, olives grown on centuries-old trees of the Empordà region are processed to produce their extra virgin Oli de Pau.

Although new and more effective processing equipment is now used in olive oil production, this old stone mill, in operation until 12 years ago, is on display.

old olive oil press

The olives were placed on the mats of each layer and pressed to extract the oil. It was a time-consuming and less-efficient process than employed today.

old olive oil press mats

The Finished Products

Bottles of Wine

Empordàlia wines are highly rated by by chefs and sommeliers and distributed throughout Spain, the United States, Germany, Britain and France.

Empordalia Olive Oil

Put to Work

Getting wine from the steel barrel

No, not really. Alba very generously allowed each of us to pour a jug of wine to take away. Notice the big smile on my face.

Bringing it All Together

Lunch at Empordalia

The flavors of wine and olives were brought together with the good company of my fellow bloggers as we were treated to a lovely lunch on the terrace of Empordàlia’s winery.

Alba graciously served us multiple courses — salad of tomatoes, onions, olives and cheese; anchovies and peppers in Empordàlia’s Oil de Pau; Catalan meat and rice specialties; and traditional tomato bread that quickly became a favorite of mine in Catalonia. Here’s just a taste.

Salad with olives, tomatoes, onions & cheese

Anchovies and Peppers

We enjoyed a few of Empordàlia’s signature wines throughout our lunch as well — Sinols Blanc 2011, a young white wine to start; Sinols Criança, a ruby red aged wine; and for dessert, a delectable Sinols Moscatell 2010 served with biscuits and cookies. Empordàlia wines have won many awards and the Moscatell took first place in the Nariz de Oro 2011 in the sweet wines category.

We ate. We drank. We laughed. We didn’t want the afternoon to end.

I was very impressed with Alba’s involvement in every aspect of our visit as tour guide, expert, lunch host & server. As one of the younger generation, she represents Empordàlia very well. I love this line from the Empordàlia website expressing the company’s love for their work and the land:

“We rise when it is still dark but are the first in the Iberian Peninsula to see the new day’s sun.”

Gràcies, Alba Sala of Empordalia and Visit Costa Brava for hosting a fabulous afternoon in Catalonian wine country.

EmpordaliaEmpordàlia’s facilities are located about 40 miles north of Girona and 5 miles west of Roses on the Mediterranean

For more information or to schedule a tour of the Empordàlia facilities, send an email to: info@empordalia.com or call +(34) 972 53 01 40.

Wine shop hours:
Pau: Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm / 3pm to 7pm
Vilajuïga: Monday to Saturday 9:30am to 7pm
Sunday 9.30am to 2pm

  79 Responses to “Flavors of Catalonia”

  1. What a fabulous day. It sounds like they’ve done a first class job with the bloggers and appreciate just hw much you can do for them. The whole experience sounded marvelous and I bet that bottle of wine was consumed in that lovely beach front hotel.
    Did you get a lot out of the conference aside from the wonderful outings?

  2. You definitely enjoyed the tastier side of life in Costa Brava! 🙂

  3. What a delicious tour through Costa Brava and yes, I can taste every drop of wine, olive oil and and every bite of your savory meal too! Gorgeous pics Cathy!!

  4. What an incredible experience – I would love to spend a day like that! And my mouth is watering over that pic of tomatoes, olives and cheese salad – one of my absolute favourite dishes!!

  5. What an incredible day…this foodie is supremely jealous:)

  6. How fun! I’ve been to wineries before but have never actually picked the grapes and watched the wine-making process. (That salad looks incredible!)

  7. What a fantastic experience! When I was in Catalonia, it wasn’t the right time to visit the wine country, but I would love to, especially after reading how much fun you had!

    • Hope you get to do that sometime in Catalonia. Not only it a beautiful area that produces great wine, the people are so warm and friendly.

  8. I love wineries but have never done a tour. This sounds so fun and such a wonderful experience for all of you. First, that seaside hotel and now wined and dined like royalty – I wouldn’t want to leave either. I’m so glad you had such a great vacation. Beautiful pictures! It’s too bad it’s late or I would have been craving for some wine after reading this 🙂

    • A tour really gives you a different look at the whole process. I’m usually just in the tasting rooms, too. Nice to get behind the scenes sometimes.

  9. Vera and I did a wine tasting as well and thoroughly enjoyed it. Can’t beat a bit of freshly tapped wine eh 😉

  10. Interesting! I also registered for TBEX, but had to back out the last minute 😐 Nice to see the works on making good wine 😀

  11. What a fabulous day. The wine, the oil and the delicious food. They certainly looked after you.

  12. Looks like a gorgeous day on the Costa Brava – beautiful clear photos too. Would like to try the anchovies with some white. Jealous.

  13. Ah the food and the wine, just two of many things I love about Catalonia. It was sooooo nice to finally meet you in person. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip.

  14. I`m so sorry I missed out on Girona, looks like people had a fantastic time. Any chance you`ll be at WTM

    • Doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to swing WTM. 🙁 But I’ll hopefully be back in Toronto for TBEX in June.

  15. I love wine trips and don’t know much about this region so I really enjoyed this post!

  16. yes… I can almost taste everything. The savors and flavors of Spain are so special!

  17. I love the “Bloggers in the vineyard” picture. It looks like they’ve found a way to plant and grow bloggers.

  18. My mouth is watering! Luckily we just visited the Mediterranian deli down the street and picked out several Italian dishes that we plan to try this evening. . .I love the photo of the grapes!

  19. That photogrpah of the grapes made me want to reach out and pluck one too. What a great day you had.

  20. Sounds like such a great day. The food photos look amazing! I would love to do a tour of a winery one day.

  21. What a great day you had. The food looks delicious, and I am sure the wine was excellent.

  22. Some great insights here, Cathy. How enjoyable it must have been!

  23. What an awesome experience that must have been!! So cool!!

    Thanks for linking up with us this week!

  24. Food looks delicious! I have visited a winery in Sardinia, it looks so similar, they still have the traditional way to make wine, very nice 🙂

  25. This food looks incredible! What was your favorite?

    • The salad was absolutely delicious — olives, tomatoes, feta cheese! You can’t go wrong with that combination, especially when paired with a nice wine. 🙂

  26. What a fantastic adventure this was! Not much better than good food, good wine and great company 🙂

  27. The Costa Brava is fabulous, isn’t it… I was on a vineyard last summer, much like your experience, and heaps of lovely wine and nibbles in the sun for hours and hours… Wonderful!

    So nice to meet you, Cathy, even if it was brief. Hope our paths cross again so we can have a long chat.

  28. I. Want. Wine. Right. Now.!

    – Maria Alexandra

  29. OMG you remember lot of details! I’m really really impressed. I’m glad that you like l’Empordà and that you enjoy with our culture and dishes

    a pleasure share with you the day, and hoping to see you soon!

    a big hug!!

  30. Looks delicious – what a great trip!

  31. Yes indeed, look at that big smile on your face! Sounds like a super-fun day. I love winery tours and hope to be doing one in either Marlborough or Otago next week!

  32. Wines and olive oil are the only one things to taste in Catalonia 🙁 This is my impressions after visiting this region.

  33. It all looks so delicious! I think I would prefer the grape after it’s been fermented, though… 🙂

  34. What a delicious day in Costa Brava! I really didn’t like wine before moving to Italy, but oh how the last three years has changed that! I love trying wines from around the world and especially learning about what makes them so unique.

  35. Wines and olive oil? Nice combination. Would be great if all wineries gave away free bottles…
    That salad looks so fresh and delicious, I could almost taste it!

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  37. This all looks so tasty and hands on – what a great experience!

  38. It’s a pity you didn’t get to stomp on the grapes with your feet. I’ve always wanted to do that!

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  41. All I can say is that I wish I was there!

  42. What a fun way to explore Catalonia, the food you have posted looks so delicious, I want to go now!

  43. I’m hopefully heading his way soon, Catherine. After reading your excellent article, I want to speed up time. To enjoy what you did.

  44. Such an excellent tour. I like to see behind the scenes. Plus never hurts to sample good food and wine.

  45. That fruit looks good enough to eat! What a great day that must have been.

  46. What a beautiful way to spend a day in Catalonia. And the work didn’t look too strenuous either.

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