Barcelona – Get Out Of Town – 3 Day Escape – Exploring the Penedes Wine Region

One of my absolute favorite ways to Get Out Of Town when having guests visit me in Barcelona is heading down to the Penedes Wine Region.

Not only is Penedes rich in many varietals of reds and whites, it’s the home to over 90% of Spain’s cava (sparkling wine of the champagne method of production), so any day that I can go wine tasting is going to be a great day, but adding cava to the mix makes it even better, and a more interesting wintery cellar experience for visitors.

Allow for three days in Penedes so you can truly savor the fruit of the region at the pace that it was meant to be enjoyed.  Take the train early from the Barcelona city center, Paseo de Gracia station and in 40 minutes, you’re there at Villafranca de Penedes.

For your first day, you’ll want to get accommodated and perhaps do a wine tour, via El Moli Tours, which is hands down the best wine tour company in the area.  Your guide and owner of El Moli, Paddy Mannion will take you to three wineries as well as an amazing country tavern style lunch, which is a fantastic introduction into Catalan cuisine and serves as a much needed sobering up point although the meal does include plenty of wine.  Afterwards, as things wind down, he can drop you at the charming country inn, Cal Ruget Biohotel, to relax and take in the beautiful panoramic views of Alt Penedes while sitting poolside with a glass of wine then later enjoying a fantastic garden side dinner at their Ecogastronomy restaurant.

Day two should begin with a hearty breakfast included in your stay at Cal Ruget, then taking the train to Sant Sarduni, one stop down and touring the Freixenet factory.  Yes, I’m typically not a big fan of mass production, but this factory’s museum like qualities on the history of cava making secure it as a very worthwhile stop, and you will be pleasantly surprised with some of their higher end reserve cavas that you can taste afterwards.  When finished up take a short walk into town to the cellers of Gramona, one of my personal favorites.  Here, you can do a tour of their cellars or cavas (caves in Spanish), tiny in comparison to the multi million bottle operation of Freixenet, but much more intimate, then do a tasting in their upstairs tasting room with beautiful rooftop terrace.  Gramona features a variety of fantastic cavas as well as wine and desert wines.

Later, returning to Villafranca de Penedes for your afternoon, it’s the perfect timing for lunch at Masia Aran, a rustic style restaurant, characterized by exposed brick walls and full of locals dining and chatting for hours.  The typical Catalan, “a la brasa” or grilled cuisine is a perfect match with the many local wines they serve.  Make like a local and linger over your multi course meal, and perhaps strike up a conversation with your neighboring table while trying the local dessert wine straight from the “porro” style bottle.

At this point, or whatever point you finish up with your lingering meal, you’re probably feeling like you’re ready to pass out, so take in a little R&R at Cal Ruget for a few hours.

Keeping with the cava theme of day two in Penedes, revive yourself in enough time to get to the nearby cellers of Josep Maria Ferret Guasch.   This small family operation will welcome you into their home while sharing with you their high end and ever so precisely measured cavas.  Located at one of the highest points of Alt Penedes, Font Rubi, you’ll bask in their expansive views of the countryside and then be dazzled by the sunset.

Day three, get out there and explore on your own.  I love being a guide, but I don’t really love being guided too strictly, so set out early on one of the “Burricleta E-Bikes” (easy riding electronic bikes with side containers, great for storage of picnic items) available at the resort, stock up on picnic items and find some more wineries, or return to ones you’ve loved from previous days.   If you’re feeling a little lost without me and need a few suggestions of additional wineries to see, I won’t let you down.

I always love Mas Comptal, one of the oldest family owned wineries in the land that has a history dating back to the days when the region was owned by counts and nobility, and they are happy to guide you through their vineyards share with you their history.  Pares Balta, who focuses heavily on single vineyard and organic wines, with an acute eye for quality and has a casual but elegant setting that matches their wines.   Last, but not least, the larger operation of Vallformosa, who boast an expansive selection of wines and cavas in a wide range of prices, in addition to this, their garden / poolside setting for tastings (weather & small group size permitting) will make you feel like you’re a guest in a beautiful Mediterranean wine country villa.  Adding to this ambience is the feeling when you leave that you’ve just become friends with Angels, Vallformosa’s gracious hostess.

In many ways, I consider the Penedes Wine Region as a secret gem.  It’s wines and cavas come from a long history of established growers and producers, yet it’s really just starting to make it’s mark in the enotourism industry, so you’ve got the best of both worlds and only 40 minutes from Barcelona.  Get there now, explore and hope you experience Penedes before the rest of the world!

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