By Alan Markoff

The Rioja region in Spain has been famous for centuries for producing excellent wines. In more recent years, wines from other Spanish regions like Ribera del Duero, Toro, Priorat, Rueda, Cava Valdeorras and Rías Baixas have all gained in popularity. But Spain has dozens of other wine regions that many wine drinkers might not know and one of them, Penedès, in Catalan has been producing excellent wines for more than 2,000 years.

Penedès is located about 25 miles southwest of Barcelona and about 15 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast. The region is now most known for the production of Cava, Spain's famous sparkling wine, but prior to the phylloxera outbreak that destroyed most of the vineyards in the latter part of the 19th century, it was more known for red wine production. Some of the more than 140 wineries in Penedès still produce high quality red wines, and one of those wineries, Parés Baltà, was first planted with vineyards back in 1790.

To showcase the wines of Parés Baltà and the cuisine of Avecita at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, a wine dinner was held on 8 November. On hand to talk about the wines and Parés Baltà was the winery's area export manager, Oriol Bargallo.

Food and wine

After an outdoor reception that included passed canapés and Parés Baltà Brut Nature Cava, a refreshing sparkling wine that has no added sugar, guests were seated in Avecita Restaurant. While Head Sommelier Michele Carnevale and his team poured the first dinner wine, Executive Chef Massimo De Francesca spoke for the entire culinary team as he welcomed guests. He noted that Avecita had hosted a few wine dinners since it opened three years ago and hinted that they will happen more often going forward.

"We are excited to work these kinds of wine dinners," he said. "There are more to come."

Bargallo then talked a little about Parés Baltà and the fact that all of its wines are either organic or biodynamic and that it has two female winemakers. He revealed that Parés Baltà wines had been available on Grand Cayman in the mid-2000s, then they were not, and now are again at Jacques Scott Wines & Spirits.

Throughout the evening, Bargallo rose to speak about the Parés Baltà wines being served with each course, starting with the non-vintage "Pink Cava" made from Grenache grapes. This wine was served with gazpacho with smoked blueberries and goat cheese that was artistically made to look like a cherry tomato.

"It's one of the few times you'll find Grenache in a sparkling wine," Bargallo said.

The second course, a scallop served with a piece of crispy ham, was paired with Parés Baltà Electio Xarel-lo, which is pronounced "sha-rell-o." Unlike most other white wines except Chardonnay, this wine is fermented and aged in oak barrels, giving it a yellow colour and a creamy texture to go with its crisp acidity and floral aromas.
The meat course, a super-tender beef tenderloin served with roasted celeriac, apple purée and slices of black truffle, was paired with an exclusive red wine. Only 961 bottles of 2014 Parés Baltà Absis were made and the Cayman Islands received the exact same allocation — 60 bottles — as the entire United States received, Bargallo said. The unique blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah is made only in the best of years and there have only been six vintages ever produced.

Dessert was a modern-art-like display that merged the flavours of coconut ice cream, blackberries and sesame. It was paired with Parés Baltà Music, a late harvest blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were allowed to fully ripen on the vine. As a result, the wine was sweet, but not cloyingly sweet like many dessert wines. Since the dessert was not overly sweet either, the pairing was excellent.

The wine and food were complemented by exceptional service and Avecita's attention to detail, which was not only evident in the creative plating of each course, but also in elements like the unique and interesting plates, the fashionable silverware and the correct glassware for each wine.

This article originally appeared in the December 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Avecita pairs perfectly with Pares Balta wines.”

About the author

Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for three years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. An avid baseball fan, Alan loves travelling but also schedules trips back home around catching a summer game or two with his home team, Cleveland Indians.