Vilafranca del Penedès, Spain

Photo: Cava & Hotel Mastinell

This is how a trip to wine country should begin. As soon as you arrived at your hotel, a glass of Cava was poured for you in the lobby. Its bubbles almost spilled over the rim. In your room, you found wine-influenced shampoo in the bathroom, long-stemmed wine glasses on the hardwood furniture, and a full bottle of chilled Cava in the minibar. Then there was the view of the vineyard through the round picture window. You immediately popped open the sparkling wine, plopped yourself at the little table in front of the window, and celebrated your arrival in Penedès.

Penedès is the wine region where 98 percent of Spain’s Cava is produced. It’s in Catalonia, the autonomous northeast corner of the country. Barcelona is to the east. The Garraf Massif, a coastal mountain range, sits to the north. It shelters the Penedès Depression from strong north winds. The Balearic Sea, with its cool sea breeze, lies to the south. The temperate microclimate is very similar to France’s famed Bordeaux region.

Vilafranca del Penedès, usually shortened to Vilafranca, is your home base in the Penedès region. The historic city is situated along the left bank of the Foix River. Its medieval center is full of old merchants’ houses and excellent restaurants. The Basílica of Santa Maria de Vilafranca, a Gothic church with a single nave, is decorated with lots of gargoyles. Palau Reial, a royal palace from the 13th century, is now home to VINSEUM (the Wine Culture Museum of Catalonia). While rows and rows of vines surround the small city.

Photo: Cava & Hotel Mastinell

Cava & Hotel Mastinell is hidden among those vines. Though the hotel isn’t large, it’s hard to miss. The modernist building looks like Cava bottles stacked on a riddling rack; the holes where the bottles would fit are the rooms’ round windows. Its mosaic roof is a tribute to Antoni Gaudí, the Catalan architecture who left his mark all over Barcelona. It extends over the wine bottle-filled lobby and the restaurant’s open kitchen.

That restaurant is where you’ll eat tonight. After finishing that bottle of Cava, you shouldn’t be driving back into the city anyway. Though En Rima Culinary Space has a minimalist, Scandinavian vibe, it only serves local, seasonal Catalan cuisine. Sweet potato and orange soup, roasted cannelloni, pork fillets with cep mushrooms, and grilled black snapper are on the menu right now. The dessert courses begin with mató, a local cheese served with honey and hazelnuts. Plus each course is paired with the vineyard’s own wines, of course. It looks like a lot more Cava is heading your way.

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