Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Afternoon in Gratallops



While in Barcelona a few years ago, my wife and I took an afternoon trip to Gratallops, a mountaintop enclave in the Priorat region of Catalonia famous for its fantastic old-vine Grenache wines.

Rene Barbier Jr. toured us at his family's Clos Mogador estate, then hosted a long lunch at his ultra-modern wine bar restaurant, Irreductibles, in the middle of nowhere in the dusty, remote Priorat mountains. I got to give it to the Spaniards for their boldness in creating such contrasting settings. El Bulli in the Costa Brava is the same way. And so is El Celler de Can Roca, which we visited the next day, situated in the seedy outskirts of Girona.


Cases of Nelin in the Clos Mogador cave. The white from Clos Mogador. This was the first production. A complex and unique blend of mainly Grenache Blanc, with Viognier, Roussanne, Macabeo, and Pinot Noir, the Pinot gives a touch of color to the wine. I took home a bottle, the 2003, the first one to enter the US.


Rene Barbier Jr. checking out a vertical of Clos Mogador before I jump in. Clos Mogador is a Grenache based wine with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carignan. His father, Rene Barbier, is the pioneer winegrower in Gratallops. He was soon followed by Daphne Glorian of Clos Erasmus and Alvaro Palacios of L'Ermita. Rene Jr. is a meticulous winemaker and never stops studying his craft. When I visited he was experimenting with 20 different oak barrels to see which would produce better results. He told me his vacations are usually spent visiting wineries in other parts of the world to learn new things.


The menu at Irreductibles is a bit unusual, as it's encased in a chicken-wire frame.


The dishes are a modern take on Catalonian and Spanish cuisine with riffs on international cooking


Fredi Torres, the wine guy at Irreductibles. The cellar/wine store is filled with Grenache-based wines from all over the world and, of course, Priorat's top wines like cases of Clos Manyetes


Here I am in the Cims de Porrera section of the wine cellar


And speaking about Cims de Porrera, here is Adria Perez who runs Cims de Porrera and Clos Figueras with his sister, Sara Perez. Unlike Clos Mogador, Cims is a Carignan-based wine from very old Carignan vines (over 100 years-old) growing in the llicorella (slatey) soils of Priorat. The lunch at Irreductibles took almost the whole afternoon (Spaniards love long lunches) so my visit with Adria was short. He's a really cool, animated guy, really fun to be with. I fell in love with his Solanes, made from younger vine (about 45 years-old) Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. They love to do lots of pigeage here, and I thought the Cims de Porrera Classic was a bit too extracted and opulent for me. The Solanes, on the other hand, was just right.

Note the tabletop resting on the barrels. Adria didn't have a tasting bar to host our tasting at this old, cooperative cellar his family owns, so he went to Ikea the day before to pick up this oak top just for my visit. I was touched. Catalonians are so hospitable.


Irreductibles
Restaurant Vinateria Botega de vins
c. de la font 38
43770 Gratallops
661.356.766

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