In the beginning, Oriol who with his wife Gloria and wee daughter Berta make up the GOB of the Penedes wine bottled as Els Jelipins, met Rene Barbier who said to him, "You're crazy like me." The superstar winemaker (Clos Mogador, married to Sara Perez) invited him out to the winery and to learn. Through Rene, Oriol met the whole intense Priorat the -fatter -the- wine- the- better crew and he learned how to make those 92+ point wines. Oriol said, "At first I thought wine was poetry. I realized it often was just the recipe." Part of the recipe was cold soaking up to a week with quite a bit of sulfur. Then, adjust the temperature to about 30-degrees centigrade (pretty hot) for fermentation to kick in and extract. Remember to punch down or/and pumpover often. Give plenty of oxygen into the juice (MOX aka micro oxygenation), rack into new barrels, MOX each month. "That's the low-tech version of a recipe wine," he said. Add the tricks like yeasts and enzymes etc, for the high tech version. Yet, the man grew unhappy using the recipe geared towards the big critic. Until one day, and there is always that one day, Oriol met the head buyer for Lavinia. "She was friends with a lot of people in France and she started to show me those wines and I started to think differently. I also met Maria Theresa Mascarello and she too told me that wine could be different. I realized that making wine in the way I had been trained was depressing me." Even in a bad picture, he and Gloria are lovely. He and Gloria who worked together at the Priorat winery, were by then a couple, and went out on their own, still making conventional wine before 2003 and then they broke out. That was the first year they vinified without yeast. "We were so afraid because everyone told us the wine wouldn't ferment. My wife was crying every day with fear." It fermented as if thumbing its nose at the cautionary tales of yeast and its vices. By then Oriol and I were on the road to rendezvous with three more Americans. We pulled up to a small cafe where wine importer Jose Pastor was waiting, with his two charges, Farm Wine imports Keven Clancy and Chris Barnes of Chambers Street. Chris's eyes were ringed in dark and his face was blending into a reptile green. I looked at the puddle of canned mussels in the middle of the table, next to a beer and I thought, "Uh, oh. Poor guy." Then we took off to the GOB's household and the road was so twisty I almost was reduced to crawling on my knees as well, this was more than just sympathy pains. I get car sick on those roads unless I'm behind the wheel. Note to self. Placed in the wilderness, in the middle of views, and smells, and dogs, was their house and garden and rustic winery, with a spring green wall as a backdrop and there, in front of the olive oil barrel like amphora, some more story was unwrapped. "We used to make Parker wine," Oriol started up his story once more. "In 2002 we were going to leave the wine world. It was depressing. Cynical. The way we worked with yeast and new oak and enzymes and everything was against everything we believed in. It was against our nature."" But now?? No temperature control. No SO2. No cold maceration. No pumps. No racking. Whole cluster (most of the years, but sometimes 20-30%). Some pigeage in small tanks. No battonage and no racking before bottling. Yes to amphora (2006 red and white were done in amphora), they don't like the lifelessness of stainless. "Inox reacts to electricity, it's not good for the wine," was the answer. The wine often macerates for 4-5 months. Sumoll is quite tannic and like Bea's philosophy for sagrantino, long maceration softens aggression. They also do a long elevage because they want their wine to be 1) stable 2) ready upon release. Right now look for the 2004. Upstairs. Gloria cooked chickpeas! Waiting in the bathroom were teensie kittens. I seemed to have an inexplicable draw to the toilet so I could cuddle the kittens. As a self-professed cat hater. Never say never. ++ 2003 Red---70% sumoll, 30% garnacha It's a different silty animal. Etheral and elegant. Brickish notes. Extremely spicy with a tumeric sort of nose and white fruit, something like gooseberries and almost similar to a barolo if the barolo has some dried cherry, Earl Grey Tea and firm expressive tannins. "Sometimes there's even a stem inside the bottle," Oriel says. "We work dirty." 2004: powerful acid punch on the long finish. Veru strong, mica like? Why do I say that? Who the hell knows. Cherry. Skunk, just a touch. But plenty of life and jumps. 2005: Firmer cherry, bluer in color, back to barolo and I'm stretching for something, slate-like nuance on top of a sun-dried tomato, ripe cherry and sangiovese grown on clay. 2006- this puppy had extended maceration up to five months and the result is almost a honeydew aroma and juiciness. 20% of this was made in amphora. But wait! Some puppy breath, or was it kitten breath? Just a hint and it is in conjunction with the cherry. They also do a little parellada which, in the Penedes usually finds its way into cava. The 2006 was bottled directly from the amphora. They make so little of it. One day they want to zoom up to a whopping 2.000 bottles, and maybe, just maybe they can one day quite their day jobs. What are they after? Oriol said as we gathered some wild mint for Chris to take in the car to guard against the bad mussels, "When you drink a wine, and you have an impression, and you are impressed, and you feel something so deeply you can't describe it, that is what I want."
++ If you want to try some of the wines, and they are expensive, Jenny & Francois brings the wine into the country except for California which is Jose Pastor Selections.
I might add that their friendly decision to share them is exemplary and makes me happy. Saying good bye, I started a two day voyage with the boys and who could guess that we were off to another paradise, complete with a disco for the wild boar under the lure of the cherry trees.