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Parés Baltà: Hail the Ladies

"It’s the tail end of the harvest season, and the small laboratory at Parés Baltà is abuzz. The family is in there – the whole family – testing the season’s spoils. We crowd in at the window to watch them, a strange universe where humans observe humans at work. They hover over microscopes, dip pipettes, hold beakers up to the light.

Out in the vineyard, the vines are nearly stripped of their grapes. Some of the leaves have already begun their synthesis, turning deep red and brilliant yellow before the vines finally molt. Soon, the sheep will move in to ‘green clean’ the vines of extra leaves and prepare the soil with their natural fertilizer. All organic and biodynamic, the vineyard requires a lot of energy, human, ovine and moon alike."

Read more at BCNMés

A Trip Up the Loxarel Rabbit Hole

“We also make wine for ourselves that we stomp with our own feet. Want to try it?” Nervous laughter and then a resounding silence emanates from the group. It soon becomes clear that ‘no’ was never an option.

Josep Mitjans is walking full steam ahead toward a corner of the Loxarel warehouse. He invites us up into the refrigerated truck carefully, one by one. “Cuidado. The floor is all ice,” he says. Like a gentleman, he grabs my hand and helps me up attentively. 

Read more at BCNMés

A Rockstar in a Farmer’s Body
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"In the middle of the vineyard is a tree. He points it out, calls it the best tree to meditate under. He stops to caress a leaf, and then another as we walk between the 60-year-old vines that inhabit this small plot in Agullana, high in the Alt Empordà.

Salvador Batlle is a young Catalan winemaker whose biodynamic project, Còsmic Cellars, has made waves in Catalunya since his wines were picked up by El Celler de Can Roca several years ago. He’s followed, mostly, in his father’s footsteps, yet has carved his own way in the world of wine. Salva’s a bit of a rockstar, clothed in a farmer’s body. He’s humble, to be sure, but his wines are top shelf, and he knows it."

Read more at BCNMés

People, WineMelissa Leighty
Secret Swimming Holes

"As the summer heat rages on, anyone who hasn’t yet left town is either dreaming about cooler climates or taking a cold shower. If it’s the latter, you can get your blast of icy exhilaration against a backdrop of natural beauty in secret swimming holes dotted across the region. Escape the crowds and the heat this month and head into the hills to refresh and revitalise."

Read more at Metropolitan

Something's Cooking

"As the cold weather draws us indoors, the kitchen once more becomes a place for rustling up seasonal comfort foods. Autumn and winter in Catalunya are filled with much-loved culinary traditions and, from freshly-picked mushrooms to hearty meat dishes, there’s plenty to warm the body and soul.

They say that Catalan cuisine is based on three main ingredients: wheat, wine and oil. The origins of this trinity are more likely to be biblical than local, but Catalan cuisine certainly embraces Mediterranean ingredients that were long cultivated by the Phoenicians and Romans. The region’s culinary traditions are nuanced and determined by its landscapes and the flavours they produce."

Read more at Metropolitan


The Wines of Terramoll: A World Apart

"In Formentera, there are eight different winds, and each one has a name. They feature prominently in the evening newscasts, but also in the sixth sense of the island’s farmers, who use them to make decisions about protecting their gardens and their grape vines, which are a staple in almost every yard on the island. A wind blowing from the peninsula towards the island rarely carries rain. Likewise the Xaloc from the south, from Africa, is also often a dry wind, while the the easterly wind coming off the sea, the Llevant, will bring rain.

Enologist José Abalde is explaining the fundamentals of weather to me as we stand in a patch of lumpy clay in the vineyards of Terramoll, one of the only two vineyards found on the tiny Spanish island of Formentera, a scant 14 miles and 30 minute ferry ride off the coast of Ibiza. Formentera is the smallest sister of the four Balearic Islands, little more than an 11 mile long strip of UNESCO protected space in the middle of the Mediterranean."

Read more at Avina Wine Tools

Escape to Alella

"Our tour guide leads us down the wide aisle between the two different plots of grapes, teaching us as we walk about the grapes, organic methods of production, watering methods, and harvesting, in addition to the long and interesting history of the winery. It’s more of a crash course in winemaking than a traditional tour and easily the best I’ve ever experienced. Even as we reach the end of our nearly three-hour tour of Alta Alella Privat, I’m still learning something new.

Indeed, when I check my watch I’m shocked to find so much time has passed. After a last tour of the production facilities and the cava caves, we are whisked inside for a healthy sampling of their wines and cava. It’s one of the most pleasant afternoons I can recall in my time in Catalunya. Escaping the city to see the real the countryside, to hear its history, and to get to know the ways of the local people is priceless. Given its close proximity to Barcelona, Alella is the perfect place to do it."

Read more at Catavino

The Ibiza Escape

"If you’ve been to Ibiza, you know that it doesn’t take much time for the island to feel like an old friend. Although it has long been known for its party scene, Ibiza’s rustic charms run far and deep, and summer is the perfect time to discover all it has to offer. No matter what your vacation preferences, we’ve dug up the best and the brightest for a well-rounded summer exploration of the White Island."

Read more at Metropolitan

Written in the Stars

"Anyone who has stood outside at night and peered up into the skies above Barcelona knows that there’s not much more to see than the gold-frosted hue of light pollution typical of metropolitan cities. This light pollution, known as skyglow, means we city dwellers see a fraction of the stars that are visible in the countryside, and even with the help of telescopes, they’re difficult or impossible to spot. 

Luckily, we live near rural landscapes that are perfect for viewing the stars unobstructed. Whether you choose to see them through a telescope at an observatory or with the naked eye through the flap of your tent, we have gathered a few of the best places to stargaze in Barcelona’s backyard."

Read more at Metropolitan

A Weekend in Cadaqués

"Once a traditional fishing hub, Cadaqués is a thriving tourist destination, yet unlike many of its neighbours it retains all the charm of a small Mediterranean village. A tree-lined promenade runs along the small but well-kept harbour and boats bob peacefully in the bay. Tourists lose themselves in the narrow warren of old town streets, admiring the blue shutters and pink bougainvillea that contrast against white walls. The city may feel olde worlde, but it also embodies a bohemian vibe left over from its days as an artist colony, when it was home to the likes of Picasso, Man Ray, Bunuel, Lorca, and Dalí."

Read more at Metropolitan.

Finding Foresta

"Number 16 is just a house. It sits at the end of a paved street, just across from a patch of gnarled vines, the only hint that I’ve arrived at a vineyard. In fact, I’ve toured the two-street town twice already searching for it. I’m here for the tour of Foresta, a small winery tucked away in the tiny village of L’Arboçar, which sits deep in the heart of Catalunya’s wine-making region, D.O. Penedès, midway between the mountains and the sea. Like the town it sits in, it’s a micro-operation indeed. A few French oak barrels and two small steel fermentation tanks are housed in the garage, and there’s a small artichoke patch around back. It’s not what you’d expect of a vineyard, but in a region of small production, family-owned vineyards, it’s not unusual either."

Read more at Avina.

Catalan Rite of Spring: the Calçotada

"February can be a surprising month for those new to Catalunya. Visitors to Barcelona are sometimes struck by the seemingly non-Mediterranean feel of the temperatures, while new transplants to the city sit tight, not-so-patiently awaiting summer. In this at-times bleak in-between, the Catalan tradition of the calçotada is a welcome highlight signaling the imminent arrival of spring.

The calçotada is the event that celebrates the beloved calçot, a wild spring onion that grows in the woods and national parks throughout Catalunya. Its harvesting period is determined by the conditions of each particular season, but most years it is possible to find calçots on the menu from the beginning of February until the first weeks of March. Families and restaurant owners grow or forage for their own calçots and then gather together in groups to happily feast on their spoils. It has become such a well-loved tradition in the region that the anticipation of this annual event is almost tangible."

Read more at Miniguide


Eating like a Tourist in Madrid

"I always love to go back to Madrid, always with the hopes of finding new and better places to eat. It’s a charming, grown up city, and I love to soak up its vibe and amble its quiet corridors, and while I have intentions to find the next best restaurant every trip, I never quite make it past the tapas crawl. I’ve been told by about ten different people that they’ve had the best tortilla of their entire life in Madrid, but of course they can never remember the name, only the lustrous details of the drippy oozing center of their slice, which is the way tortilla should be. I haven’t been so lucky."

Read more at Ataula

Food, TravelMelissa Leighty
Valls: Home of the Calçot

"Valls is your typical Catalan town, a tiny poblet of 25,000 people, in the province of Tarragona. A small plaza sits in the shadow of the medieval church staked at its center. Its steeple rises high above the modest two story buildings that make up the town. The day we visited the flags were flying high, a bright dash of color against the cloud-mottled sky. The yellow and red bars of the Catalan flag sat solidly next to the city flag signifying the way the regional pride is part of the local identity there.Valls is considered the true home of the calçot, the Catalan spring onion that’s the source of great pride among locals, and we were there to experience their annual calçotada–a spring onion festival–that falls on the last weekend in January. It’s one of those wildly festive days where the entire town turns out to join the celebration."

Read more at Ataula

Food, TravelMelissa Leighty
Cooking in Thailand

"There’s something quite magical about learning about another culture’s cuisine. I love reassembling my sense of taste–understanding that sour isn’t always lemon. Instead it’s the tart pucker of tamarind, the floral grace of a tropical lime. Salt isn’t just salt–a far cry indeed from the Morton salt girl I grew up with in 1970s Chicago–but the complex umami of fish sauce, sun-baked flavor that touches all points of the tongue. Foreign spice-forward cuisines are layered. Taste is built carefully, as though pyramidal, with certain spices that create the base upon which the other flavors are built. In learning to cook these cuisines, the why often remains a mystery, even as the what and how eventually begins to shimmer into shape. The process of eating is, in turn, a series of wondrous uncoverings."

Read more at Ataula

Travel, FoodMelissa Leighty
A Journey Through Wine Country: Priorat

"To use the term wine country in Catalunya is a bit misleading. It’s not like Sonoma Valley in California or even Mendoza in Argentina where are the wineries are clustered together an easy drive (or wine bus) from one another. Wine country covers the length of Catalunya, from its northernmost point near France all the way down to where it meets the province of Valencia, a journey which, if you drove it straight, would take 3 hours and 33 minutes without stopping. In total, it includes 11 denominations of origin (DOs)–including 1 DOQ–14 major grape varietals, 221 wineries, and 346,557 hectares of vines. It may not be France, but it’s still mind boggling."

Read more at Ataula 

Travel, FoodMelissa Leighty
Dead Sea Poems

"It was springtime when we descended to the Dead Sea. I wanted to take in the wide horizon with a breath, but I was shaken and caught by the geometries of light and landscape, by the myths of the soil retold to us by the passage of time, by the plain fields of an electric sea, unburdened and alive."

Read more at Vector

Alta Alella

"From the top of the hill, you can see the Mediterranean sparkling on the horizon. Clusters of fat bees are bobbing and weaving, drunk on the nectar of the yellow wildflowers they’re inspecting. An incessant warble of birdcall trills overhead carried by the constant breeze that blows up from the sea. We are standing at the top of the amphitheatre, as they call it here at Alta Alella, the u-shaped set of terraces which hold the majority of the vineyard’s experimental vines. My tour guide, Matilde, has brought me up here for a quick look of Alella’s operation, but we’re so entranced by the view that neither of us really wants to leave. We linger a little longer, me making up questions I didn’t have on my list, her telling me little stories about the work and her life before arriving at the vineyard. We wave to a neighbor on his morning walk along the public path that runs along the property’s back fence."

Read more at Avina