Wine Bike Tour & Wine Pleasures in the High Penedès

28 06 2009

foto16A cycling tour of the Catalonian countryside interspersed with a visit to local sights and a regional winemaker; sounds ideal doesn´t it? Cycling up undulating roads through the pine trees of the high penedes overlooking the Montserrat mountains, sipping wines and seeing local sites of interest seems like the perfect way to spend the day.

Our group of five set out at half past nine for the start of the day. Combining a passion for wine and cycling, the plan was to cycle to a nearby winery, stopping along the way to take in the feel of the place. I was lucky enough to be in with a group with a real knowledge of wines; two locals who were researching local winemakers and a former wine exporter. All were keen to experience products direct from the source with descriptions from the people who make them.

But there were many stops to enjoy first along the way to the winery. Our first stop was La Llacuna, a traditional village with small windy streets leading to a picturesque courtyard. A crowded restaurant overlooks the plaza, spanish chatter filling the square. The village square, dappled with bright light and with olive tree dotted about, is where the summer fiesta takes place, when the fountains water is changed to cava. Sadly that was not the case on that day, so on we cycled. Biking through the village and beyond, past old buildings and tiny churches, it´s hard to believe that busy Barcelona is only thirty-one miles away.

Wine & bike webA dusty track lies to the right of us, we turn and suddenly from the tall trees we have moved into fields of wheat and poppies growing wild, the smell of hay wafting from the grass. The sound of crickets and birds are in the air and the weather is phenomenal. I can´t work out why everyone else isn´t out here too, experiencing this for themselves. The track gets smaller and smaller until we reach an opening, which winds us down to sheltered and secluded spot to rest in during the warmth of the day. In between the trees there lies a pond created by a spring of fresh mineral water, with a young family playing nearby. Here we stop and take the opportunity to refill our water bottles directly from the mouth of the spring. The water tastes unbelievably cool and fresh, invigorating us on this hot summers day.

After we manage to tear ourselves away from the spring, we head towards the winery. We spot vineyards hidden through the hills, sudden pockets of order in the wild countryside. Lavender bushes lined the roads up to the winery, creating not just an exqusite smell, but attracting clouds of butterflies overhead. The actual wine visit I won´t describe here, as it has been depicted in past blogs. Suffice to say, the location was stunning, the host genial and the wines delicious. After some Montenegro, Riesling and Merlot it was back on the bikes for the final leg.

rentadorsThere was a final stop on our way home, the old communal washing site of Sant Joan de Mediona where women would gather to chat and socialise during their chores. Women could work together by the river and collect water from the village fountain next door. At this point the sense of past and present intermigled, and it was easy to believe that women even now oculd come here to wash their clothes. After taking plenty of photos we journeyed on, where we knew food and drink would be waiting. 43

Finally, our cycling finished, all that was left to do was enjoy the nibbles, sip the cava and reflect on the wonderful views and experiences of the day.

Amy Wilkerson, Wine travel writer for Wine Pleasures.


FINCA MAS RODÓ Wine Pleasures´summer visit to a young winery with a lot of potential

5 06 2009
Mas Rodo1
I enjoyed the pleasant contrasts of Mas Rodo, a family-owned and managed winery and vineyard set in the High Penedes, from the unnamed entrance to their deceptively simple-looking bottles of wine. The unidentified gate that turns into a long driveway may confuse some strangers, but once we arrived inside the property, the family was nothing but welcoming and forthcoming. The winery itself has several pretty, old stone buildings, but the heart of it clearly is their Wine Cellar, an arresting stone structure encased in a bright, modernistic, wooden shell. (Notably, this was designed by Carles Sala and was a finalist in Spain´s ¨Living with Wood¨architectural competition.) Together these old and new buildings overlook what is one of the largest estates in the region, but surprisingly the winery maintains relatively low production. And although the winery currently sells only merlot, riesling and montonega, each wine was memorable, and there is the promise of many more varieties to come.Mas Rodo2
The estate has been growing vines for decades, but Mas Rodo was formed just five years ago. In 2004, the approximatey 150-hectare estate was purchased by the Sala family. During the tour, Oriol Sala emphasized the intensive thinning and pruning of vines, hand-harvesting of grapes, a rigorous second sorting of the harvest, and the resulting low production of wine. These techniques are meant to ensure a quality that sophisticated wine connoisseurs could appreciate, but Mas Rodo´s more ambitious goal is to make high quality wine that novices or connoisseurs can understand and enjoy. They hope to achieve this range with their quality standards and marketing and educational efforts. The Mas Rodo bottle labeling was designed to attract and edify consumers. The front label is simple and elegant, providing only the company name, year, wine, and a brief but vivid description of the wine.The back label provides specific details on the grape, the soil and land it was harvested from, its fermentation process, and even production figures for the vintage
Mas Rodo5The winery anticipates being fully open this summer for tours and free tastings. I am already looking forward to bicycling through the undulating green hills of Mediona one autumn day, and revisiting Mas Rodo. Perhaps their muscat will be ready then, or I can enjoy sipping in their Wine Cellar the lovely montonega, drinking in as well the spectacular views of their vineyard awash in orange and red-golds set against a backdrop of the lush Penedes mountains.
Anne Shih.
Here’s the video made during the wine tasting: