Monday, September 1, 2014

Montserrat, Cava, and Dinner on the Patio

Today we had to rise and shine early to catch our ride to Montserrat. This outcropping, formerly an underwater area, was pushed upward violently a way long time ago and is now a dramatic formation just outside of Barcelona. It is considered a holy mountain due to a legend that young children sighted a bright light coming from there. A bishop established an abbey there in 1025 AD and Benedictine monks have been present ever since. Unfortunately, Napolean's brother destroyed the area mostly by burning it, so most of the structures there now are dating back only to the 1800s.
This is a large complex frequented by pilgrims seeking favors from the Virgin Negra. There is a church, a school for the mesosopranos of the boys choir, a couple of facilities for housing and feeding pilgrims, beautiful scenery and hiking, a monestary and lots and lots of people. And of course, a funicular, but thankfully this time, no carnival rides. There are however a group of farmers selling cheese.
The black virgin of Montserrat. She is said to perform miracles. There was a long line of folks who wanted to touch or kiss her.

Impressive interior of the altar

Paul and I also walked around the grounds of the mountain and rode the funicular. You get tremendous natural scenery from this area.
Great views. The fog eventually burns off and there are nice vistas of the valleys below.

This funicular is REALLY STEEP.

The complex at Montserrat.
The abbey now also has a very nice art museum that we were able to visit with many works by well known artists such as Caravaggio, Picasso, Monet and others you would recognize. They also have an area devoted to artwork of black Virgin Marys. Very interesting.  We really enjoyed our visit and the scenery.
From here, we reboarded the transport and were off to visit the cava making industry in this part of Spain. The cava manufacturer we saw was
The grounds were gorgeous and they invested some cash in their buildings, but Lord have mercy do they have a big operation! We got to visit their "cave" where they can store 100 million bottles of sparkling wine. "But," they said, "we never have over 70 million." Serious underachievers!
The tour begins here. The inside is reminiscent of Gaudi but is by someone else.

The old living quarters of the Cordonui-Revantes family.

the "new" summer estate

The old storage area...too small now

external view

Historical storage equipment and presses

Graduated bottle sizes

Historical electrical equipment.
Initially the cava is stored in a slanted position and turned in a regular rotation.
on the vine
In the glass
The wine "caves" were really impressive. Four stories underground with a constant temperature in the low 60s, these things went on forever and ever!
There were many many hallways like this one full of sparkling wine.

The aging process for cava takes 9 months to 2 years. After that, a second fermentation takes place with addition of more yeast and varying amounts of sugar, depending on how dry the sparkling wine is meant to taste.

To get the sediment out of the wine, they freeze the first 5cm of the bottle and then open it. The sediment is naturally "blown out" of the bottle and then it is corked. It has a metal lid sort of like a coke bottle until the final process.
This was a really interesting tour with an impressive number of bottles being produced and sold. The storage facility is mindboggling!
After our ten hours of touring Montserrat and the wine caves, we decided to just take advantage of our swanky hotel and have a relaxing dinner on the patio. A good choice.
Overall, it was a really nice day with lots of great views, historical buildings and in the end, a glass of sparkling cava. What's not to like about that?

Paul's Ponderings:  Montserrat is just an incredible place.  It is about an hour out of Barcelona and obviously very steep up above the valley with incredible rock formations around it.   The funicular up there was among the most steep I've ever seen but worth the time to go up.   The cava producing factory was also a marvel, but of technology.   It had among its treasures the earliest power producing plant in the region and miles of underground caves, capable of storing 100 million bottles.  That's some serious cava by any yardstick.   Many of the caves were dug by hand originally.   The buildings were also quite impressive from an architecture view and the estate has been with the family for nearly 500 years. We bought a bottle of reserve red rioja to enjoy on the patio tonight and it was quite nice.   Our time here is nearly at an end -- it's off to Palma tomorrow for a few days, then back to Barcelona briefly before returning home.   This is a fabulous city and it is no wonder it gets millions of visitor per year.    

Finally, in case you wonder, the island of Montserrat, which was (is?) a big rock star hangout is named after this place.  Back in the day, Columbus took a monk from Montserrat to spread Christianity on his second journey and the Caribbean place was the first place they landed....they named the island accordingly!

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