By Regina Winkle-Bryan
I’ve traveled all over Spain, and been dazzled, wowed, and romanced by the people, food, art and music of this country many times. Outside of Barcelona though, I have never visited another place on the Iberian Peninsula where I thought, ‘I could move here, live here, be happy here.’
Until I arrived in Priorat. This tiny wine region in Eastern Spain, is deep in the mountains and one of Tarragona’s many treasures. When we pulled up to our hotel, Cal Llop, I was reminded of hilltop villages I’ve traipsed over in Tuscany. But we were not in Tuscany. This was Spain. No, it was Catalunya! And unlike those too-cute hilltop Tuscan villages which at times teem with tourists, here we were alone.
For a unique stay in the region book Cal Llop Hotel, located in the village of Gratallops. Its official population is 150 but there are really 130 inhabitants according to Cal Llop owner Cristina. Gratallops translates roughly from Catalan to English as ‘ Wolves Scratching’. I love this name. There must have been some flea-bitten wolves around here at one time, but they are all gone now. The only thing that is plentiful in Gratallops these days is beauty and wine.
Not just any old wine mind you, but Priorat wine. A wine that is mostly exported to other countries and demands high prices due to its unique flavors and low yields. Dry, hilly, with soil of slate, the Priorat region is unforgiving but produces some of the best bottles of vino in Spain. Wine types, one Spaniard told me, is like art: you like it, or you don’t. I like Priorat. Someone else may prefer a Rioja. Wine is personal.
I like the mineral, forest fruit flavors (say that 3 times fast!) of the Priorats. I like its dark red color, like liquid rubies in my glass. I like it with a three-course lunch, as much as I like it alone, in small sips on the terrace under the stars. I also love the landscape where this Priorat is cultivated. This region looks like Northern Arizona to me, but with vineyards everywhere, and ancient stone villages.
People make the journey to Priorat because they love wine. It is not easy to get to this area of Catalunya. There are only a few things to do in Priorat: visit cellars, hike between the vines, drink wine and rock climb in Siurana. Gratallops is one of the key villages to stay in to have easy access to the area’s 80-plus cellars. The village of Falset also puts you where the action is, but it is a larger town. Gratallops is quiet, charming, and gets a Scoopometer 10. Get a car, make the effort, you won’t regret it.
Stay at Cal Llop:
Web : http://www.cal-llop.com/
Price: from 100 Euros and up.
Cal Llop is a Scoop favorite. We highly recommend this boutique hotel!
*Our stay was paid for by the hotel, but all travel expenses were covered by us. The opinions about this hotel are all my own; we keep it real!