Can you taste them?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The oak casks, critical for properly aging the “Criança” wines, come from France and the United States.
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.
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.
The Finished Products
Empordàlia wines are highly rated by by chefs and sommeliers and distributed throughout Spain, the United States, Germany, Britain and France.
Put to Work
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
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.
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.”
Empordàlia’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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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