On a very rainy evening, Christina and I arrived to the “town center” of Font-Rubí (really just a building and a sign) to a smiling woman and her young daughter waving warmly to us. This was Gloria Garriga and Berta of Els Jelepins.
We all loaded into Gloria’s car, Berta’s violin and all, and carefully climbed the muddy and pot-holed dirt road up to the cellar and their home- almost getting stuck once or twice. Two very enthusiastic (and wet) dogs greeted us at the cellar door, which is basically the basement of their home.
The house and winery are run on solar power and heated by fire and pipes of warm water that run below the floors. It hadn’t been very sunny lately, so we sat at the dining table with but a single bulb of light over us. It was all we needed.
Gloria, beyond being a mother and winemaker, has a day job as an agricultural engineer. So…basically she is a superhero.
Els Jelepins produces about 2,000 bottles per year. Which is practically nothing, the very definition of “small production.” Everything is bottled by hand and simply labeled with a tiny painted symbol. Each vintage has a different one.
We tasted just the reds: 2003 (their first vintage), 2004 and 2006. The first vintage was made with borrowed equipment and a “we’re still very much trying to figure everything out” mindset. You can tell that the style changes as they get into their groove and discover what works best for their grapes. By the 2006 vintage, which was my favorite, there’s more sumoll and less garnacha in the blend. Gloria said of sumoll that it gives flavors of “cherry, red fruits, black pepper…it needs to be a free soul. (You) can’t force it.”
Force it she most definitely does not. All fermentation is with native yeast and uncontrolled temperatures, a good amount of whole cluster and several months in open top barrels. She prefers a long elevage- 40 or so months in old barrels and some in amphora and then another couple years in bottle. There’s no racking, fining or filtration and only a very small amount of sulfur added at bottling.
Gloria felt that because of weather, the wines were “less expressive.” Maybe, but I had nothing to compare it to and thought they were delicious. Balanced, layered, thoughtful and texturally lovely. Just look at the color and translucence…
As we tasted and talked, Berta was busy in the kitchen. I heard the sound of something frying and then the sweet and savory smell of pork sausage. It’s a smell I’ll always know and love- when I was little my Mammaw was the kindest sausage sample lady in her grocery store in Kentucky. Anyway, I hoped that Berta would be sharing!
And share she did. A plate of hearty bread, baked earlier that day, accompanied what are surely the best sausages I’ve EVER had, made by a local butcher not too long before we ate them. Gloria gave us napkins and that’s it. I realized quickly I should use a chunk of bread as my plate and just dig right in. With the juices and warm fat soaked into the bread- I think I know what heaven tastes like.
We spent the rest of the night talking about our collective travels, gardening and…pets! Gloria loves them and usually can’t help it when one finds its way into her life. This little cat was abandonded and Gloria and Berta took him in…
Sitting around Gloria’s table with a belly full of those sausages and a glass of Els Jelepins in hand, I pretty much felt exactly the way that kitten did in the moment above.