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Catalunya Travel Guide | Wine Geographic
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Catalunya Travel Guide | Wine Geographic

by Hilarie LarsonOctober 7, 2016

Everyone adores Barcelona, and why not? It’s brimming with life; a fascinating city that captures your senses. But there’s so much more to this area, especially for travelers who believe you know a region through its food and wine.

Just venture an hour or so away by rail, rental car or, if you prefer, a private tour. You don’t have to log lots of kilometers to encounter a different world.

Discover Penedès

Castell de Subirats, el Penedes, Barcelona

Castell de Subirats, el Penedes, Barcelona

The winegrowing region of Penedès lies in the foothills of famous Montserrat – a symbol of Catalunya and home to Sant Sadurni d’Anola, the heart of Cava country, with over eighty producers responsible for 90% of all DO Cava production.

See:

Make the Cava Interpretation Center your first stop.  You’ll learn everything you need to know about how Cava is made: just like champagne but with different grapes.

Insider Tip:

Simón Coll Chocolate Experience. Your nose will lead the way to the headquarters for this renowned Spanish chocolatier!

Sip:

Most of the Cava Bodegas are within walking distance or a quick taxi ride:

Cava Winery Gramona –producing elegant Cava for over 150 years, visit the vineyards and cellars of this prestigious house.

Cava Winery Freixenet –the largest and most famous producer, this is a must see. And by the way, it’s pronounced “Fresh-ah-net”!

Freixenet - A Must See -A guided tour into the winery will let you experience magnificent process of creating Cava.

Freixenet – A Must See -A
guided tour into the winery will let you experience magnificent process of creating Cava.

Cava Winery Codorniu –the oldest family owned business in the country, known for its history, intriguing Modernist architecture and fabulous wine. Take the cellar tour on the ‘train’ for an unforgettable experience.

Insider Tip:

Only 5 km south of town, you’ll find the sweeping vineyard slopes of Llopart, who’ve been here since 1385 and crafted Cava for over 125 years.  They offer a variety of touring options from basic tastings to full vineyard-cellar-food pairing experiences.

Bodega Torres – one of Spain’s premier winemakers, their Penedès location near the town of Villafranca, is worth the drive for wonderful wines and educational tours.

Eat:

Many of the wineries offer pairing, but if you’re still hungry, seek out local favorites Botiga Ticus, Restaurant Canals & Munné, or Il Picardo.

Feeling adventurous? Drive to Sant Marti Sarroca for authentic, Catalan cuisine at Restaurant Sant Jordi ‘Ca la Katy’.  Must-try items: ‘Xató’ (endive salad with almonds, garlic and white anchovies) and Muscovy duck with prunes and pine nuts. Fresh, local and inspired.

Stay:

The Hotel Barcelona Golf offers comfortable accommodations and a relaxing, country retreat in the Alt Penedès.  Only a short drive to San Sadurni, regional wineries and Montserrat.

 

Discover Sitges

sitges-turismo-info-situacionyalrededores

Laid-back, seaside venue more your style? The idyllic town of Sitges  is under an hour away from Barcelona by train or car.

See:

With over 4 km of beaches, you can spend your time relaxing in the sun.  Sitges has a practically perfect climate, sheltered by the Garraf mountains to the north.

Museums and galleries abound.  Did you know that Facundo Bacardi (yes that Bacardi) was born here? Check out his namesake museum. Art lovers, will appreciate Museu Cau Ferrat and neighboring Palau Maricel, both celebrating the colorful, creative, and often quirky, Modernist era– typically Catalan. Wander the winding street and soak in the casual, relaxed lifestyle.  Or wait until dark and party the night away.

Insider Tip:

Check out festivals, including the International Film Festival of Catalonia, the Barcelona-Sitges Vintage Car Rally, Harvest Fest and June’s annual Gay Pride Fair.

Eat:

Sitges is crazy for tapas; every April they host the ‘Tapa of the Year Competition”.  You’ll find a wealth of options, especially in the winding streets off the beaches.

Speaking of beaches, when it’s cocktail time, seek out one of the many beach clubs, known as “Chirinquitos”.

Stay:

Hotel Calipolis

Hotel Calipolis

The Hotel Calipolis offers comfortable, modern rooms with views of the city and sea, mere steps from beaches, shops, clubs and restaurants. The hotel’s Infinity Restaurant serves modern Mediterranean cuisine and has a lively terrace.

 

The Costa Brava and Empordà

Rent a car and head 90 minutes north of Barcelona to explore rustic beach towns, castles, vineyards and medieval villages.

See:

All along the Costa Brava  you’ll find iconic Mediterranean resorts like Platja d’Aro, Palamòs, or Aiguablava.  Stop and explore to your heart’s content.

Hotel Aigua Blava is a four-star hotel with amazing sea views, located in one of the best beaches of the Costa Brava, Aiguablava, in Begur. Surrounded by beaches with crystal clear water and golden sand, and beautiful towns like Pals or Tamariu, the hotel offers its guests a charm that is hard to forget.

Hotel Aigua Blava is a four-star hotel with amazing sea views, located in one of the best beaches of the Costa Brava, Aiguablava, in Begur. Surrounded by beaches with crystal clear water and golden sand, and beautiful towns like Pals or Tamariu, the hotel offers its guests a charm that is hard to forget.

The hillsides of Empordà   are dotted with castles and medieval towns. Meander narrow, winding streets of Torrent, Castel d’Aro or Peratallada (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was shot here!).

Insider Tip:

Should you only have time for one village, visit Pals – a perfect example with remarkable views of the Mediterranean.

 

Sip:

Near the town of Torrent, you’ll find the welcoming Mas Oller Winery.  Sustainable vineyards surround the 17thc farmhouse and cow- barn, which is now the modern winery.

Near Palamòs, take a narrow road off the C-31, winding through pine forests, to Brugarol Cellars,  one of the most architecturally compelling wineries you’ll ever visit. At first glance, it’s very traditional; well tended, vineyards, manor house and gardens. The cellar, however, is hidden underground; an ultra modern, steel labyrinth.

Eat:

‘Vicus’ is a fabulous restaurant in Pals. Gerard and Elisabet Damia put a youthful, fun spin on traditional ingredients, like the famous rice cultivated in Pals. Seaside villages offer up fresh fish in abundance. Local wines and local food!

Stay:

Brugarol Cellars offers country quiet or try NM Suites in Platja d’Ano. Tucked into a quiet, residential street, it’s close to the beach and all the action.  Indulge yourself:  choose one of their ‘Suite Rooms’ – décor is contemporary, ‘70’s modern. Fabulous!

 

Travel To Girona

Take the high speed train or drive from Barcelona to magical Girona  – an amazingly well preserved city that’s easy to explore.

See:

Take your time and stroll the streets.  Fan of ‘Game of Thrones”?  You might some of these locales as many scenes in Braavos and King’s Landing were filmed in these streets.

Girona Cathedral – Jaime Lannister braved its staircase on horseback

Girona Cathedral – Jaime Lannister braved its staircase on horseback

Investigate the Arab Baths and The Jewish Quarter; home to a large population from the 12th to 15th century. Today, the narrow, cobblestone streets host trendy shops and eateries, as does the captivating Medieval Quarter.

Climb the 86 steps to the majestic Cathedral, centerpiece of Girona.

Cross the River Onyar via the pedestrian bridge built by the Eiffel Company of Paris in 1877.  Stop along the red iron structure to savor the amazing view of the Cathedral juxtaposed with colorful houses.

Eat:

Girona is known for innovative cuisine, with many Michelin rated restaurants including ‘El Callar de Can Roca’, voted best in the world by Restaurant Magazine.

Most establishments are located in the old town or Ramblas, like ‘Llevataps’ –  charming and wine-centric with an ever-changing seasonal menu.

Stay:

The only terrace with views of the whole Girona, is the ideal place to take a drink outdoors, talking calmly with someone in a sophisticated space and enjoying a starred sky with the best company.

The only terrace with views of the whole Girona, is the ideal place to take a drink outdoors, talking calmly with someone in a sophisticated space and enjoying a starred sky with the best company.

Like most cities, you can find a wide variety of accommodations.  The Hotel Ultonia  is a modern, comfortable three-star hotel with a location that cannot be beat – it’s right across the street from the Ramblas.

Next time your travels take you to Barcelona, explore the many faces of Catalunya – only a short adventure away.

 

 

 

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Michelin Stars of the Wine Country
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Michelin Stars of the Wine Country

by Wine GeoDecember 19, 2013

When fine dining enthusiasts are on the hunt for a world-class establishment, few would seek guidance from a tire manufacturer. But the Michelin Guide, produced by its namesake European tire company, is exactly what those diners are looking for. Michelin first rolled out its three-star scale for fine dining venues in France in 1900, and over time it has slowly expanded its guides to cover destinations in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Meadowood in Napa Ca - Michelin Rated restaurant

Meadowood in Napa Ca – Michelin Rated 3 Stars

Michelin’s unique three-star scale is among the world’s most revered, in large part because it’s so discerning: Out of the entire world, only 81 restaurants have received three full stars, which is defined by Michelin as a restaurant of “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” One star is defined as “very good cuisine in its category,” while two stars indicates “excellent cuisine, worth a detour.”

Performing Under Pressure

In the restaurant world, ratings and reviews are vital to business. Strong word-of-mouth reviews help a restaurant endure, but critical reviews and fine dining ratings like those available in the Michelin Guide can make or break an establishment. Chefs, restaurateurs and other staff are under constant pressure — not only to earn positive critical reviews, but to live up to those evaluations for the average customer is a constant pressure — particularly for venues drawing the highest industry praise.

 

A truly excellent dining experience encompasses many other facets of the meal beyond the food itself. In addition to the quality of cuisine and the overall dining experience, wine plays a huge role in the rating of a restaurant. Given that the Michelin Guide originated in France, this is no surprise. An extensive and quality wine list is a key component of any highly rated Michelin restaurant. An experienced sommelier, a professional wine steward knowledgeable of wines and wine & food pairings, can also help elevate the status of a restaurant and earn a higher Michelin star rating.

Michelin always reviews its restaurants anonymously in order to experience the restaurant as any other diner would. This gives the reviews a more trustworthy practicality, since restaurateurs aren’t pulling out all the stops to impress the reviewer. In many cases, reviewers evaluate restaurants over the course of multiple meals, even enduring overnight stays to make sure they gain an accurate, comprehensive perspective on the restaurant in question.

Michelin Guides cover a number of regions in the United States, primarily major cities. But given the fine dining oasis found in California’s wine country, Michelin has devoted itself to covering this region as well. And good thing, too, because it’s home to some of the world’s most highly rated destinations. Here’s a look at what sets them apart from the pack.

The French Laundry, Yountville, CA

The rustic exterior of The French Laundry belies the experience waiting inside. Ceiling beams, wood railings and other beautiful elements of the wine countryside are woven into an elegant dining experience. From the chef on down, the staff of this restaurant creates a dining experience informed by deep culinary knowledge and an innate sense for how meals should be presented and enjoyed.

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The restaurant is run by owner and chef Thomas Keller, who is world-renowned for his expertise — in 2001, Time Magazine named him America’s Best Chef. Guests aren’t surprised when they sample the seasonal fare, which could feature sautéed pompano fillets or a fava bean agnolatti. The French Laundry offers nine-course tasting menus in which no single ingredient is ever repeated, a demonstration of the restaurant’s commitment to variety, creativity and excellence.

The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA

Asserting itself as a restaurant of the highest order, The Restaurant at Meadowood is a tour de force: sleek, modern and dynamic. Its menu is similarly demonstrative, offering diners a nine- or 10-course tasting menu, with an optional wine offered with each course. Diners are also welcome to choose their own wine from an extensive list. The restaurant is attached to the five-star Meadowood Resort and is the work of renowned chef Christopher Kostow.

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Kostow is known for being only the second American-born chef to earn three Michelin stars, and he was the third youngest to do so, achieving that goal before the age of 30. At The Restaurant at Meadowood, Kostow blends French cuisine with a farm-to-table approach. In addition to three Michelin stars, The Restaurant also received the rare distinction of a four-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle.

One of the beautiful benefits of making visits to wine country is that fine dining is often attracted to destinations drawing sophisticated palates. Many wine regions of the world have Michelin-starred restaurants worth trying out. Check out a few of those selections below.

 

Notable Wine Country Michelin Star Restaurants

 

Sonoma Napa

900 Meadowood Ln, St Helena, CA 94574 (707) 531-4788
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599 (707) 944-2380

 

Southern France

334 Rue René Vielle, 40320 Eugénie-les-Bains, France +33 5 58 05 06 07
5 Avenue Saint-Victor, 11360 Fontjoncouse, France +33 4 68 44 07 37

Paris

9 Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France, +33 1 42 78 51 45
4 Rue Beethoven, 75016 Paris, France +33 1 40 50 84 40

Portugal

Vila Joya: Estrada da Galé, 8201-917 Albufeira, Portugal +351 289 591 795

Barcelona/Girona, Spain

Carrer Nou, 10, 08395 Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona, Spain +34 937 60 06 62
C/ de Can Sunyer, 48, 17007 Girona, Spain +34 972 22 21 57

 Italy

Località Runate, 15, 46013 Canneto sull'Oglio, Mantova, Italy +39 0376 723001
Via Stella, 22, 41121 Modena Province of Modena, Italy +39 059 210118