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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Catalan Wine Routes Adventure Continues: October 18 AT Roca at Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the Sparkling Wine Capital of Spain

* * * * * 
October 18, 2016 Vilafranca del Penedès - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia 
We arrived at hour southeast of Barcelona

Agustì Torellò Roca, winemaker at AT Roca and son of Agustí Torellò Sibill, shows us one of AT Roca´s free-standing old vines vineyards from which their exceptional Clàssic Penedès methode champenoise sparkling wines are made.
Agustí Torelló Roca came by to pick us up at 9:00 the next morning to show us some of the AT Roca vineyards, their fine vinification facility at Can Bonastre, which is also a wine resort hotel and restaurant, and then on to their production and facility where the Torellós age and bottle their exquisite Champagne-quality methode champenoise sparking wines, including their native varieties Brut Rosat in a complex at the edge of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. 

Agustí Torelló Sibill in his Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

AT Roca, an artisan, family owned, viticulturally oriented winery, produces superb quality Clàssic Penedès Brut and Brut Rosado sparkling wines Agustí Torelló Sibill and his sister Lali were shut out of their father’s  family winery Agustí Torelló because of a family dispute.  Agustí, who was the face of the family’s wines, decided to begin anew.  Agustí, Lali and his son and winemaker Agustí Torelló Roca, set up shop on the outskirts of the Cava capital of San Sadurni D’Anoia, and named their wines AT Roca. 
 Xarel.lo grapes, AT Roca, July 2015. Conca de Foix Plana de l'Urpi vineyard (Foix basin, l'Urpi plain), near Sant Sadurni D'Anoia in Catalunya, southwest of Barcelona.  Photo by Gerry Dawes.

The Torellós also found three prime ecologically farmed vineyards, owned by eight dedicated viticulturists with mature vines in three different areas of Penedès at three different altitude levels, from which they source their grapes:  Their Macabeu (Viura) grapes come from L'Ordal (coastal Massís del Garraf), Finca Canta Llops (Howling Wolf) vineyard, 420 meters (nearly 1400 feet above sea level); Xarel·lo from the slate-laced vineyards of Conca del Foix, Plana de l'Urpí, 220 meters (more than 700 feet); Parellada from La Llacuna, La Ginestera, 725 meters (2400 feet).

 Agustí Torelló Sibill explaining the topography of his vineyards in Penedès at his finishing winery in San Sadurni d'Anoia, July 2015.

The exceptional Clàssic Penedès methode champenoise sparkling wines of AT Roca:

AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Reserva 2013  $28.99   12.0%

“AT Roca is a new winery that was started by the brother and sister team of Agustí and Lali Torelló Sibill, as well as Agustí’s son, Agustí Torelló Roca, who handles all the viticulture and winemaking for the new sparkling wine house. These are the same family members who ran the famed Agustí Torelló Mata Cava house, who were one of the driving forces in the formation of the prestige of the category in past generations and continue to make one of Spain’s greatest sparklers, which they call Kripta.  An internecine family argument led to the ouster of Agustí and Lali Torelló and they promptly set up on their own operation, contracting with eight small farmers to purchase grapes from 97 cooler, high altitude vineyards farmed in the proper, Six Percent Club manner.

The 2013s are the first releases from AT Roca and not surprisingly, they are exceptional in quality. The 2013 Brut Reserva is a blend of the Big Three grapes of Xarel-lo, Macabeu and Parellada and offers up a superb bouquet of tart apple, bread dough, wild fennel, lovely minerality and a top-note of ocean breeze. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and rock solid at the core, with frothy mousse, lovely focus and complexity and a long, perfectly balanced finish. 2016-2025+. 92+.” – John Gilman, View From The Cellar

AT Roca Vi de Terrer (Wine of Terroir) Brut Rosat 2013  $29.99   12.0%
The 2013 AT Roca Brut Rosat Reserva is comprised of a unique blend of fifty percent Macabeu (Viura), ten percent Garnatxa Negre and forty percent Monastrell. The wine is aged for fifteen months sur latte prior to disgorgement and is a lovely, pale salmon color. The bouquet is bright and classy, wafting from the glass in a mélange of blood orange, white cherries, salty soil tones, dried rose petals and a smoky top-note. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and complex, with outstanding mid-palate amplitude, elegant mousse and excellent cut and grip on the long and racy finish. This is terrific Rosat! 2016-2025. 92+. John Gilman, VFTC

After our visit to show Brad Haskel the AT Roca production facilities and introduce him to Agustí´s aunt, Lali Torelló, partner and operations manager at the winery,  Agustí then took us us to meet up at 10:30 a. m.  to meet up with the Spanish National Tourist group at the Cava Museum in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. 

AT Roca Brut Rosat 2013.  Photo by John Sconzo, Docsconz LLC

 Phylloxera larvae figures, large enough to be carried by fiesta participants through the streets during the annual celebration of the demise of the devasting vine louse's effect 
on the vineyards of Catalunya (and most of the rest of Spain and France) at the Cava Museum, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (Barcelona), Catalunya, Spain.

 October 18, 2016 Vilafranca del Penedès - Sant Sadurni d'Anoia - Castellví de la Marca -

About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

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