Road to Falset – Day/Night 1 – En Vino Vertias

The weather had improved considerably, just in time for me long drive to the Spanish wine country of Monstant and Priorat via the small town of Falset. I had initially planned stopping in Pamplona for lunch but given how good that Bar Zapoleta torilla was, I got one of those to go instead. The Spanish toll system is an incredibly impressive maze of roads which cut through the mountainous regions of northern Spain. This, of course, comes with a price and I ended up spending about $30 in tolls throughout the trip. Still, given it shaves hours off of driving, it was more than worth it.

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I had missed my old friends, the Osborne brandy toros that dot the highways in Spain. The problem with driving yourself in a standard vehicle is that road snapshots are very challenging. This is about as close I could get.

After filling up for the first time (good fuel economy job, Black Stallion!) and a few more tolls, I finally made it into the Montstant region, the entry of which surprised me with a rather large nuclear power plan just off the main highway (my 2 pictures turned out to be rubbish so just visualize in the mind’s eye.) Eventually, I arrived at the ancient town of Falset, which given it was the off season wasn’t exactly bustling with activity. As it typical with these towns, there was a general parking lot and then I had to just carry my luggage inside the city.

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Apartments Falset was located just right off the main square, and the street was in the process of being repaved. My apartment was basic but given I’d only be there one night, it was perfectly fine. After I got my bearings, I was anxious to go try some local wine but the main wine bar was closed given it was Sunday. I ended up at a bar filled with locals and tried a pretty decent Monstant red for 2 Euros.

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The restaurant I wanted to go to, Hostal Sport, wasn’t going to open until 9PM but I found out the accompanying bar would be open so I asked the bartender/server to choose a good Priorat. He brought me one he liked, and it was very good. The wine list was incredibly impressive – basically a phone book – filled with just about every major winery in the area and a lot of smaller ones. I asked if I ordered a bottle if I could take away what I didn’t finish and the server said of course I could do that.

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I ended up selecting one I had read about – a local Falset collective of wine makers called Castell de Falset. They were known for doing some pretty interesting blends and the bottle was only 19 Euros so why not?  It turned out to be a great choice as the wine was dark and rich – superb and exactly what I wanted on this cold night. The restaurant finally opened and I soon discovered I would be probably its only patron of the evening.

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The menu had all kinds of intriguing options but I asked my server for some local recommendations. She said they have a lot of game meat and that the croquettas and the hunter casserole would be good options. Sold.

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The croquettas turned out to be 3 kinds – ham and chicken, wild mushrooms and rabbit with Priorat wine sauce. The last one was the most unique with a nice mix of the gamey rabbit cut by the slightly tangy wine sauce. The hunter’s casserole with rabbit, wild board and beef with elemental gratin was excellent and again perfectly matched the cold weather. Simple but delicious. Not wanting to make them stay open longer, I paid my check and made the walk back to my apartment, noticing now I was pretty much the only one around – except of course for the zombies that were no doubt hiding in the shadows.

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Fortunately, I made it back alive and in one piece. I was tempted to have some more of my wine but once again, given the big day coming up, I thought better of it. Tomorrow would give me ample opportunities for mas vino.

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