Later, as he poured Finca La Planeta 2007, he explained how the wine is fermented in oak barrels to give it a final touch of velvet.
The 1997 Finca La Planeta 2007, a cab-garnacha blend, was named one of the worlds 100 best wines by Wine Spectator magazine, and other accolades have followed. Now, Clos Pasanau produces about 50,000 bottles annually, about half of which are exported.
The Priorats leading producers also include British-born Christopher Cannan and his wife, Charlotte, who discovered the area in the 1980s and began exporting from the Celler Scala Dei. In 1997, they purchased Clos Figueres, just north of the village of Gratallops (Scratching Wolves in Catalan), on the advice of Réné Barbier, who is considered a founder of the 1980s new wave movement making wine from old vines with modern techniques.
Clos Figueres turns out four blends the reds Clos Figueres, Font de la Figuera and Serras del Priorat Negre and a Font de la Figuera white aging them in barrels in a large underground stone cistern that used to hold the villages water supply. Production is limited to about 25,000 bottles a year.
Outside the nearby village of Porrera, Paco Castillo climbed the steep slope of his vineyard to show off some of his oldest vines. Even though hes used to it, his feet slipped on the shale soil of the hill thats shaped like a clamshell and was the inspiration for his labels shell logo.
During the intense heat of summer, he and his daughter Ingrid work the vineyard from 6 a.m. to noon; during the harvest in late September and October, other family members pitch in.
Castillo takes great pride in the 13,000 to 15,000 bottles of Clos Dominic wines he produces annually from this 17-acre parcel.
They are served, he says, at Gironas three-Michelin-star El Celler de Can Roca, which topped Restaurant magazines list of the worlds best restaurants. Later, pouring a bottle of Vinyes Baixes 2008, he notes, This one is in the best restaurant in China. Dont ask me the name. I cant say it.
His best wine, he says, is the Clos Dominic Vinyes Altes 2008, a blend of 70 percent cariñena and 30 percent garnacha grapes that spends two years in French oak barrels.
Perhaps because of cultural and ancestral ties to Spain, Priorats tend to be more available in South Florida than in some other parts of the United States. Miami and Fort Lauderdale Total Wine & More stores, for example, stock several varieties priced from $19.99 to more than $100.
Each summer, Fort Lauderdales Wine Watch holds a series of tastings that owner Andrew Lampasone calls a crash course on the Priorat.
You can find a good Priorat for $25 to $30, says Wine Watch consultant Caldera, and at that price you will find something that will really surprise you.