Last weekend I found myself at a garden party celebrating the 80th birthday of the mother of one of my dearest friends.
The setting was gorgeous – lush and green – and the weather was picture-perfect. The sky was impossibly blue, the sun brilliant and hot…and I was thirsty.
When our host placed a glass of wine in my hand, I was so grateful. But when I tasted it, I was ecstatic.
I knew this wine!
Not only did I know this wine, but I had been to the vineyard where these grapes had been grown. I had descended into the caves where it was being aged, I had toured the beautiful grounds, I had even lugged a few bottles home in my bulging suitcase.
The wine was a cava from Codorniu, in the Penedès region of Spain . Specifically, it was their Pinot Noir Rosé Cava. On a hot, hot July day I had visited the winery and witnessed the spectacular architecture while being led around by a knowledgeable guide. The winery buildings have been designated as historical monuments and the grounds are dotted with sculptures. Inside, you can view paintings that were created by artists of the time for competitions hosted by the winery to create advertising posters.
Unfortunately, it being a hot, hot day and all, a fire erupted in the vineyard, and the tour was cut short. This necessitated a steamy trudge up 3 stories to ground level, where, thankfully, flutes of ice-cold cava awaited in the tasting room. I had never been particularly interested in the Spanish version of champagne, but on this day I fell in love with the crisp, bubbly blend of Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo. Nothing could have tasted better to me in that moment.
Solo travelers have an advantage when it comes to this type of travel experience. Without the familiarity of a travel companion, you are naturally more observant of your surroundings. You pay more attention to the nuances of culture, flavor and aroma. You open yourself up to greater opportunity.
Fast forward two years, back home in Canada, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I am handed a glass of wine and immediately transported back to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. This is the essence of what I love about gastro-travel: connecting to the source, the place, the history of the wine and food; immersing myself in the culture, the people, the tastes, the smells; and being able to relive it all with understanding and respect for its provenance each and every time I am fortunate enough to encounter it again.