Catacurian – Day 2 (part 1): White monks, Dragon Kahn, and Escala Dei’s Les Brugueres

August 31, 2010

Day 2 in Catacurian began early for me – I didn’t sleep well, and kept waking up. Finally I threw in the towel at 5am, and got up to sit outside on the balcony to take in the morning. As the sun came up, the light crept over the countryside, and looked gorgeous. It was a beautiful morning.

We wandered downstairs for breakfast: Sandwiches made with skinny baguettes and jamón ibérico, yogurt, granola, fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice, café con leche (with a bright green Nespresso machine that matches my Kitchen Aid mixer!). That seemed like a vacation adventure already! Yum!

Today we would visit the site of an old monastery, the Carthusian Monastery of Santa María d’Escaladei. It took a while to arrive, and the roads were super curvy, with sharp turns everywhere. Those of you who know me probably know that I have a tendency to get a little (or a lot) carsick in this context, and by the time we arrived, I can say I was not feeling super hot at all. Yech. Fortunately, the breeze outside helped, and walking around the ruins seemed to help also.

The tour of the monastery was very interesting; in this isolated area, Carthusian monks set up a monastery, and lived in near-isolation, observing vows of silence and contemplation. The geography of the area contributed greatly to the monks’ sense of isolation, and facilitated their contemplation of the beauty of nature.

As I understood it, in the mid-1800s, the Spanish government passed laws which allowed the government to appropriate property that belonged to the Church and sell it to make money. So the monks fled, the townspeople who’d paid a bazillion dollars in taxes to the church stormed the place, and sacked and razed it. All that’s left today are ruins of the previous structures, and a mock-up of what a monk’s living quarters were like.

While here, our classmate Michael purchased a small eraser in the shape of a Carthusian monk. The fact that a religious figure was created in the form of an eraser seemed funny – kind of disrespectful. Actually, Michael purchased 3 of these erasers, and designated one as a small, white garden gnome. That is, he declared he would photograph the monk in myriad settings during our cooking classes and excursions, as has been done by others using a garden gnome. So, if you see a photo on the blog of a small white monk among food or in front of a winery or head-first in a puddle of olive oil, you’ll know what the back-story is.

Once we left the monastery ruins, we went to tour a winery called La Conreria de Escala Dei. A man named Jordi took us around and discussed the process they use to make wines. The facility was gorgeous, and we had a wonderful time tasting wines afterwards as well.

Entrada principal, Conreria de Escala Dei

Art glass exhibit, hanging over a window to the barrel storage below

Art glass exhibit, hanging over a window to the barrel storage below

Grapevines - these are cabernet, with the characteristic hole in each leaf

Jordi serves us samples from the fermentation tanks

"Dragon Kahn" is the name of a roller coaster in the area that's supposed to be super crazy - This tank of wine is named "Dragon Kahn" in honor of an unfortunate tractor-rolling incident which occurred during harvest last year - whoops!

View from the cellar below into the reception area

Jordi serves samples directly from the barrels

Escala Dei Tasting Room

These mini "cavas" are available to the public and hold 100 bottles of wine. Owners buy the wine, and can store it here, and can access the winery as they wish for meetings and parties and the like

Escala Dei sells a white wine named Les Brugueres – it’s made from white grenache, super delicious – when you smell it, it smells like it will be extremely sweet, and smells very fruity. However, this was not the case at all, and may be one of the very best white wines I have ever tried. We were told that they import this wine to the US, so I will be looking for it—and if I can find it at a reasonable price, I plan to buy an entire case. It was really delicious.

On the way home, I sat in the middle row in our van, in the center. This helped me from feeling so carsick, but I still felt a little icky by the time we make it home. I went upstairs to lie down, Alicia’s assistant Maite made me some lemon balm tea, which helped settle the tummy a bit. Next act: Lunch.

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