Boutique Winemakers of Catalonia

Numerous, Small Wineries in Catalan Region

By: - Jun 15, 2016

This article will focus on six winemakers and their wineries in the Catalan region.

Giro del Gorner

At some vineyards you feel like you are at home.

Giro del Gorner is one of those vineyards.

Maybe it is the layback attitude.
Maybe it is the swimming pool on the property.
Maybe it’s the family pets.

Maybe it is the family that runs the vineyard.

Whatever it is, this 300 year old grape producer turned winery has it all.

Take Marta, a family member, sales manager and our guide for the day. Giro del Gorner is in her DNA.

Take Gabriel, her brother and winemaker. He is a lot more: father of three, a technical agronomist and director of the winery.

Take Oscar, another brother, father of two and responsible for the administrative management of the cellar.

And take the couple who has devoted their lives to the vineyard, father Gabriel Giro I Balta and his wife and mother to Marta, Gabriel and Oscar, Montserrat Via I Roig.

Put this family together and you have the ‘heart and soul’ of Giro del Gorner.

With 125 acres, a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and summers, lots of sun and moderate rainfall, the gentle slopes made of clay and lime generate high-quality grapes. 

Until Gabriel Giro took over the family estate in 1971, the cultivation of the grapes were mainly for other producers, with little left for home use. As time passed, so did the philosophy. With three sons willing to become part of the family business, the decision to bottle and produce wine and cava came.

In time, Marta returned from the PR world to become part of the family business.

The rest is history, the history that began on November 9th, 1595, when the Giro Gorner family purchased the estate.

Today, with over 300 years of producing wines from the grapes from their harvest, the state-of-the-art winery produces international grapes such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, plus the classic grapes of Macabeu, Xarel.lo and Parellada, the classic Cava grapes.

Producing Cava is not dissimilar to producing Champagne. Cava must be aged on lees for a minimum of nine mnths and must reach an alcohol level not below 10% and not more then 13%. Cavas are based on sweetness levels and are classified from Brut Nature (013 grams of residual sugar with no sugar added) to Dulce (sweet), which contains more then 50 grams of residual sugar per liter.

Some of the best Cava in Spain is being produced by Giro del Gorner. When cava is ordered, that is when winemaker, Gabriel, disgorges the bottles that are going to be shipped. To my knowledge, Giro del Gorner is the only cava producer that follows such a practice.

2013 Gorner Brut Nature Reserva
Production: 30,000 bottles

Alcohol: 12%
Grapes: 50% Macabeu; 30% Xarel.lo; 20% Parellada
Ageing: a minimum of 36 months
Penin Guide: 87 points
Lively, clean, dry and lingering on the palate, this Cava of the highest quality shows balance and elegance.

2007 Gorner Brut Nature Gran Reserva
Production: 5,000 bottles
Alcohol: 12%
Grapes: 50% Macabeu; 30% Xarel.lo; 20% Parellada
Ageing: a minimum of 48 months; more then 3 years contact with the lees
Penin Guide: 88 points
Balanced flavors of kiwi, vanilla and mango linger on the palate of this special occasion, elegant, vibrant, clean, toasty cava, worthy of distinction.

Gorner Brut Rose
Production: 5,000 bottles

Alcohol: 12%

Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Penin Guide: 88 points
Ageing: a minimum of 12 months
A beautiful bright pink color cava with a strong nose of strawberry and cherry make this Brut rose a perfect year-round cava that shines in the summer and warms the soul in the winter.

Giro del Gorner produces five Cavas, of which I highlighted three of my favorites, four white wines, one rose and two reds. Some of my other favorite wines include:

2015 Gorner White
Production: 8,000 bottles
Alcohol: 12%

Grapes: 45% Xarel.lo; 35% Macabeu; 10% Parellada; 10% Chardonnay

Fruity, yet sour, tropical and lively, the 2015 Gorner White is a perfect summer wine.

2014 Gorner Muscat
Production: 1,090 bottles

Alcohol: 11.5%
Grapes: 100% Muscat
Pineapple, peach, apricot and coconut rush the palate as this somewhat dry, overly flavorful, well-balanced wine hypnotizes the soul.

2014 Gorner Xarel.lo barrel fermented
Production: 707
Alcohol: 11.5%
Grape: 100% Xarel.lo
Ageing: Fermented in oak barrels and lees ageing
Amazing, well-balanced, elegant, aromatic wine that dazzles the palate with toasty and buttery, like vanilla, tropical fruit. This is a wine that can be sampled on its own, as each mouthful changes with time.

2014 Gorner Red Crianza

Production: 6,000 bottles

Alcohol: 14.5%
Grapes: 50% Merlot; 50% Cabernet Sauvignon
Ageing: 9 months in oak barrels
Dark fruit dominate this expressive wine that pairs well with fatty meat and strong cheese.

2009 Gorner Red Reserva
Production: 6,000 bottles

Alcohol: 14.5%
Grapes: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon; 50% Merlot
Ageing: 18 months in oak barrels and 2 years in the bottle
Complex, tannin-free, this evenly balanced blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with character. Flavors of spice, leather, cocoa, red licorice and cherries with cream make this wine special. It is a perfect wine on its own or paired with game or red meat.

My experience at Giro del Gorner could be yours. The vineyard has an assortment of tours, run by Marta. One tour, titled the ‘Traditional Visit’, is where you learn about the history of the vineyard, go on a cellar tour, receive a lesson on how wine and cava are made, which ends with a sampling of wine and cava.

T o learn more about the vineyard, the family runs a four hour tour titled, ‘A Walk Along Vineyard’, where you learn about the vineyard and nature. Included is a ‘typical Catalan picnic in the vineyards’, complete with wines and cavas from the cellar.

If you want to learn cava making, why not take the 3 ½ hour ‘Making Cava?’ class.
Feel free to contact Marta Giro at: if you have interest in visiting the lovely vineyard in Penedes.

Costers del Segre is a small, hot arid region in the northeast portion of Spain. It is an area known for dry, desert like conditions where water is at a premium. Only the strong winemakers survive.

And that is the case of Celler Cercavins in Lleida, located in inland southern Catalonia and under the Spanish Denomination of Origin Costers del Segre.

Enologist, Enrique Gil and three partners, Josep Sole, Flavia Serret and Josep Hernandez, produce some of the most interesting and unusual fruit-driven wine blends in the world. With close to 125 acres and altitudes ranging from 700-2000 feet, this trio of partners rely on winemaker Enrique Gil’s expertise to produce world-class wines from the sand and limestone laden vineyards. The poor soil lacks organic components and produces small grapes with deep flavors.

In 2003, international varieties, such as, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Macabeo were planted next to the Parellada and Verdejo grapes that already existed. Since 2003, other varieties have been planted.

At the same time, a modern, new winery and cellar were built in the village of Verdu, a small town known worldwide for its ceramics. That is where I sampled some of the nine wines from Celler Cercavins.

Each wine had its own personality, was unique and well blended for optimum flavor. The majority of the wines are Penin rated and award winners.

Production was substantial and availability in America exists, especially for Guillamina, a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (54%); Garnacha White (19%); Gewurztraminer (14%) and Albarino (5%), a wine I had sampled earlier at the Macondo restaurant on Houston Street in New York City. Aged for two months in stainless steel, this somewhat vegetal wine with tropical tones is a wonderful seafood and goat cheese wine.

These are some of the wines from Celler Cercavins that were of interest:

Lo Virol White
Grapes: Garnacha White (45%); Sauvignon Blanc (34%); Gewurztraminer (10%); Albarino (5%)
Production: 7,000 bottles

Alcohol: 13.5%
This wine had tropical characteristics with a rich, deep backbone of concentrated fruit flavors that were crisp, fresh and lingered on the palate. I paired it with the special snails from Catalonia and found that this wine held up well with the snails.


Grape: Macabeo (100%)
Production: 4,000 bottles
Alcohol: 13.5%
Ageing: Four months in American, Hungarian and French oak
Penin Guide: 89 points and the Silver Bacchus Medal Winner
Complex, acidic, balanced. This wine has character and a creamy richness that stands alone.

Bru de Verdu
Grapes: Tempranillo (68%); Syrah (20%); Merlot (12%)
Production:70,000 bottles

Alcohol: 14%
Ageing: 6 months in French, Hungarian and American oak
Penin Guide 87 points: Gold Medals in Shanghai and Canada: Silver Bacchus
An amazing wine, full of unusual flavors highlighted with spice, figs, caramel and red raspberries.

Bru de Verdu 14
Grapes: Syrah (46%); Merlot (27%); Tempranillo (27%)
Production: 7,000 bottles
Alcohol: 14%
Ageing: 14 months in both French and American oak
Penin Guide: 90 points: Bronze Medal decanter 2016; Gold Medal Bruxelles
Complex, powerful and made for steaks, this rich, concentrated wine stands alone.

Certainly a wine for ageing, as the potential should blossom year to year. Hands down, this was my absolute favorite red wine from Celler Cercavins.

Winemaker Enrique Gil makes fabulous wines that should be on your horizon. Others that I enjoyed were:
Lo Virol Rose  Syrah(100%)
Lo Virol Red  Tempranillo (80%); Syrah (12%); Merlot (8%)
Terra Ferma  Tempranillo (75%) Syrah (25%)
Rexach Baques

Did you know that Salvador Dali drank Rexach Baques Brut Imperial Cava at his wedding in 1958?

Did you know that Pere Baques Rafecas (born in 1885) started producing Rexach Baques in a small room between the barber shop and the party room in his parent’s house?

Did you know that in 1910, Pere Baques Rafecas started construction, manually, of the cellar and underground cave that stores Rexach Baques Cava’s?

Did you know that in 1915 that Rexach Baques Cava’s were so much in demand throughout Catalonia and the rest of the world that Pere added more Cavas to his portfolio? 

That, also meant more excavation space was needed for ageing the wines in a natural environment.

Pere’s daughter, Assumpico Baques Liopart took over the company her father had started.

She controlled the destiny of Rexach Baques for years until her son, Pere Rexach Baques, assumed the duties. The company was in an upward growth cycle and drew national attention in the media when Catalonia’s favorite son, artist Salvador Dali chose Rexach Baques to celebrate his wedding.

Today, Pere’s daughter, Montse Rexach Pexo, manages the cellar and follows the same philosophy as her predecessors.

Rexach Baques, located in the Penedes region of Spain, is a true family business.

The wines are well known throughout the world and have won numerous awards and received high marks with the wine critics, including the Penin Guide, the wine Bible of Spanish wines.  

One of the wines that Montse produces is named ‘Pere Rexach Baques’, a homage to her father—the man who taught the trade to his daughter, Montse.

The 2010 vintage, a blend of Pinot Noir, Xarello, Macabeau and Parellada exploded with fresh, vibrant flavors of creamy almonds, tart lemons and a hint of gooseberry on the bubbly, lingering finish.

Montse Rexach Peixo is the second female winemaker in her family. As tradition is the key to Rexach Baques’s success, Montse ages the cavas in the cellar for a minimum of 36 months.

According to Montse, ‘All Cavas are made from grapes that grow in our vineyards, which are located in the best areas of the Penedes region  The extensive cellar is home to all of our Cavas during this long ageing process’.

All of the Cavas contain the three essential Cava grapes: Xarello, Macabeu and Parellada except in the case of Pinot Noir in the Rexach Baques Brut Rose and the Peres Rexach Baques.

Rexach Baques Brut Nature Gran Reserva
Producrion: 50,000 bottles

Alcohol: 11.5%

Aged: 36 months
Grapes: 40% Parellada; 30% Macabeu; 30% Xarello
Wine Critics: Penin Guide: 88 points; Catalunya Wine Guide 9.58/10;

Rexach Baques Gran Carta Brut Reserva
Production: 30,000 bottles

Alcohol: 11.5%

Aged:36 months
Grapes: 40% Parellada; 30% Macabeu; 30% Xarello
Wine Critics: Penin Guide: 86 points; Cataluyna Wine Guide: 9.47/10

Rexach Baques Brut Imperial Reserva

Production: 30,000 bottles

Alcohol: 11.5%
Aged: 36 months
Grapes: 40% Parellada; 30% Macabeu; 30% Xarello
Wine Critics: Penin Guide: 89 points; Cataluyna Wine Guide: 9.63/10;Decanter 2016 Bronze Medal

Rexach Baques Brut Rose
Production: 5,000 bottles
Alcohol: 12%
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir

Aged: 12 months

Wine Critic: Penin Guide: 85 points

Devinssi Priorat

There is a winemaking genius, Josep Roca, who founded Devinssi, a small, but hugely, important vineyard in the Les Planes estate, in Gratallops, the center of Priorat in Spain’s Catalonia region.

Mr.Roca is well known throughout Spain, as he has been in the wine trade for twenty-five years. He has an MS in both Viticulture and Oenology.

In 2001 the first vineyards were planted, Grenache and Carignan made-up the first harvest. Opportunities arose and in 2005, another estate was acquired with old vine Carignan grapes.

Seeking small acquisitions in the Gratallops area has been a long term goal of Josep Roca.

In fact, to create a link between his customers and the winery, Joseph and his vineyard are part of the ‘Adopt A Grapevine’ concept. The program is a direct link that joins wine lovers with their favorite vineyards, such as Devinssi.  

Essentially, the ‘Adopt A Grapevine’ theory is to familiarize the consumer with the region and vintner by offering grapevines for adoption. The Devinssi Winery program is a smart way for the consumer to adopt specific vines, visit the winery and stroke the vines, while saving on the DOC Priorat purchases.

In fact, the consumer can get customized labels on the bottles that represent the vines that were adopted. It’s a way of making a contribution to the cultivation of the vines, while receiving a discounted price for the purchase of the custom labeled wine.

If you join the ‘Adopt A Grapevine’ program you will receive an adoption certificate, and adopter ID and the right to purchase wine.

The vineyards are located in the village of Gratallops.

There are three different adoption programs, all of which can be found on their website:

The ‘Adopt A Grapevine’ program is a smart way to do something unconventional. The program allows you the chance to see your vines grow, take part in winery chores and to get to know the local winemaking community, specifically Devinssi.

The wines that Josep Roca makes are Penin rated, small production and highly sought after by collectors.

My visit to the headquarters was a day to remember. Josep Roca is a soft spoken professional that invited me into his house to sample many of the wines he produces.

These are my findings:

2012 Rocapoll (D.O. Priorat)
Production: 300 bottles

Alcohol: 14%

2016 Penin Guide: 92 ponts
The Carignan grape shines with expression throughout as this spicy, mineral-laden, velvety wine gains character from its own yeast aged in Allier oak casks. The intensity and balance of this wine will only grow as it ages.

2013 Mas de les Valls Blanc (D.O. Priorat)
Production: 800 bottles

Alcohol: 13.5%
2016 Penin Guid: 89 points
This pale gold, white wine, made from the Pedro Ximenez and white Grenache grapes explodes with intensity of smoky acidity in the palate, while a lingering herbal composite of flavors engulfs your mid-palate. Aged three months in 225 liter French oak casks, then in the bottle, this unique white wine is one of my all time favorites.

2013 Mas de les Valls Red (D.O. Priorat)
Production: 6,000 bottles
Alcohol: 14%
2016 Penin Guide:89 points
Aged eight months in French and American oak casks, this fragrant Garnacha, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon mix emphasizes a fruity cherry jam flavor with undertones of vanilla beans and sweet, dried, intense sugary figs.

2013 Il.lia (D.O. Priorat)
Production: 4,000 bottles

Alcohol: 14%

2016 Penin Guide: 91 points
This special wine is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Made entirely from a mixture of Red Garnacha, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this aromatic, highly-structured wine evokes the brilliance of the winemaker, Josep Roca.

The wines of Devinssi Winery are all specially handcrafted and made to be appreciated by all wine lovers who are looking for that special wine.

I am so taken by the wines that I am ready to ‘Adopt A Grapevine”

Celler Jordi Domenech

Winemaker Jordi Domenech is bigger then life.

Literally, by day Jordi works for Miro, a high-end vermouth producer and by night and weekends he helps his wife run their Bar Restaurant, he baby sits their young son and somehow finds time to work on the vineyard, preparing for the harvest and the wine making that follows.

The day that I spent with Jordi, I met his son, ate dinner at the family restaurant, met his wife, walked Finca Les Comes, his vineyard, went to his wine cellar, sampled his wines and had a glass of Miro vermouth at the end of a tapas dinner at his families restaurant.

Jordi Domenech is charismatic, positive, passionate and a true family man. His goals and aspirations are large and achievable. He is an impressive winemaker. Jordi, an oenoligist, gained his wine experience at various wine companies..

His fascination, as he says, is with the Priorat region.

In 2006 Finca Les Comes was created. His plots are located within the historic Priorat township of Poboleda. Historically, in Poboleda, vines have been cultivated from the 12th century until phylloxera in the 1800's.

Jordi stressed that the vines he cultivates on his thirty acres, range in age from 5 to 35 years old. He has only cultivated  a small portion of his acreage and has many acres to grow his vineyard for the future.

All tasks are performed manually. The land is steep and hard to maneuver. Slate dominates the terrain, known as llicorella, the typical soil of Priorat.

Rainfall does not exist in the summer, where daytime to nighttime temperatures fluctuate thirty degrees Fahrenheit. With less water and nutrients, the grapes excel in the concentration of sugars, which enhances structure, from the low-yielding vines.

Finca Les Comes focuses on red wines. The two that we sampled, Petit Clos Penat and Clos Penat, were made-up of Garnacha and Syrah. The DOC Priorat wines are aged in French oak barrels from eight (Petit Clos Penat) to fourteen months (Clos Penat).

As a young winemaker, Jordi's talents exceed his age. The two red wines we sampled at his restaurant were made by a veteran winemaker, one that knows intimately, the grapes he work with.

Mr. Domenech is that  type of winemaker.

The Wines:
Clos Penat 2010

80% Garnacha  20% Syrah
Aged 14 months in French oak barrels
Alcohol 14.5%
Production: 2,500 bottles
An intense, concentrated, dark fruit forward wine that rolls its velvety texture off your tongue and coats your palate with a long, strawberry finish. There is a freshness and ripeness to the wine that is drenched with soft tannins and ample acidity. Cherry red in color, the aromatics suggest red raspberry, dark chocolate with an orange spice background.  Clos Penat is ready to drink, if decanted, but, would intensify in flavor if left to age 3-5 years.

Petit Clos Penat 2012

80% Garnacha   20% Syrah
Aged 8 months in French oak barrels
Alcohol  14.5%
Production: 10,000 bottles
A medium-bodied, brilliant cherry color wine that hypnotizes you with its fruity aromas of kiwi, red plum, red raspberry and banana, followed by a faint spicy milk chocolate fragrance. The palate comes alive with a lively mixture of red and black berries that sail motionless in the mineral laden, flavorful, persistent wine.

When asked about his wines at the dinner table, Jordi Domenesch stated that the Petit Clos Penat 2012 was created to be an easy, drinking wine that, in our lingo, could be considered a 'go-to' wine. He went on to elaborate that the wine can pair favorably with many foods, which he proved with the tapas dinner that was served to us. Courses ranged from potatoes with squid to meatballs in tomato sauce.

On the other hand, the Clos Penat 2010, according to Jordi was' a more classic style, with more complexity and more volume with a deep flavor. Although the same blend exists for the two different wines, when people see both labels, they think it is the same wine, just in two different bottles. The flavor is so different after they taste the two, they realize how much of a mistake they have made'.

Celler Jordi Domenech is a winery that is in the incubation stage, small and manageable, with growth in its future. His name is one to remember.

To learn more about the wines of Celler Jordi Domenech, visit

Trias Batlle

Think Trias Batlle and think ‘Wine’

The Trias family (D.O.Penedes & D.O. Cava) has been in the wine business for nearly one-hundred years. They have been part of the ‘core industry in Penedes’, building their reputation in bulk table wine until the 1960’s,when the son of 1932 founder, Josep Trias Batlle took over the business and focused his leadership energy on building a long-lasting reputation by bottling table wines instead of bulk wines.

It didn’t take long for son Josep to begin Cava production, as well, a commodity that cannot be sold in bulk.

Cava production began at Trias Batlle in the 1980’s.

Josep saw the future.

Today, the business is managed by brothers Pep and Rai Trias Via, the grandchildren of the founder. They are innovative partners who are working on a new wine project in their spare time.

Presently, the 3rd generation has taken Trias Batlle to a level of sophisticated, high-quality wines, certainly wines that would have made founder Josep Trias Batlle proud.

At both an outdoor sampling at a table set-up in a nearby vineyard and an all-out dinner with Pep, Rai and their uncle Pere Via, in the courtyard of the winery, the portfolio of the wines, paired with typical food from Penedes made me realize how far Trias Batlle has come from 1932 to today.

Success at Trias Batlle comes from hard work, a winemaking philosophy of balancing new technology with old world values and honest leadership. It is evident by the quality and the personality of the wines that Pep and Rai Trias Via see the future, while not forgetting the past.

During the eight hours that was spent in the company of Pep and Rai, I was fortunate enough their portfolio of wines. Besides the Blanc de Blancs, the rose and the red, I enjoyed immensely include the 18-48 month aged Cavas, a 12 month aged Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel fermented Xarel.lo.

Trias Battle Brut Reserva-D.O. Cava
Production: 30,000 bottles

Alcohol: 11.5%
Grapes: 40% Macabeu; 30% Xarel.lo; 30% Parellada

Aged: 18 months
Dry, clean and memorable, this tasty bubble is perfect for food. In fact, you could serve this Cava with a complete meal, due its body, structure and flexibility.

Trias Batlle Brut Nature Gran Reserva-D.O. Cava
Production: 15,000 bottles
Alcohol: 11.5%
Grapes: 40% Xarel.lo; 30% Macabeu; 20% Parellada
Aged: 48 months (4 years)
An ideal aperitif that is clean, bubbly and persistent, with flavors of almond, gooseberry and lemony vanilla. This Cava can be served at special occasions because of its elegant structure.

2011 Trias Batlle Cabernet Sauvignon
Production: 5,000 bottles
Alcohol: 12.5%
Grape: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aged: 18 months in French oak barrels and 24 months in bottle
Big, bold and silky, this complex wine explodes with deep dark fruit and coffee flavors followed by saddle leather and licorice. Cellar ageing is a possibility, although, the wine is fully approachable today.

2015 Trias Batlle Xarel.lo (barrel fermented)
Production: 4,000 bottles

Alcohol: 13%

Grape: 100% Xarel.lo
Aromas of roasting apricots in a fireplace abound. Intriguing outdoor flavors of undergrowth and dry hay pair well with the dominant vanilla and almond theme. Well-balanced, smooth and lingering, this barrel fermented Xarel.lo is a must try.

As you can see, there are a lot of talented winemakers in Catalonia. If you visit Barcelona, a side trip to visit one of the vineyards could be a lifelong memory. Giro del Gorner is the closest vineyard to Barcelona and a very welcoming vineyard to visit, especially if want to become a cava maker.