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Scala Dei’s 2004 Cartoixa Priorat is a powerful, polished wine that positively sings from the glass. For starters it sports a saturated purple robe and a stunning bouquet that flirts with the senses and eventually seduces the nose. A heady mélange of cassis, rose petal, black cherry, hot fudge and sweet vanilla scents positively captivate the nose. On the palate the 2004 Cartoixa continues to work its magic, offering up a host of complex flavors to match its seductive olfactory. Although extroverted and robust by nature, the 2004 Cartoixa maintains a flawless composure. It fills the mouth with smooth, sumptuous flavors full of berry and spice, before culminating in a long, satisfying finish. This is a wine that has grown in stature since it was first released. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest decanting the 2004 Scala Dei Cartoixa at least an hour prior to serving at cool room temperature.
As Scala Dei’s flagship wine, the 2004 Cartoixa is meant to accompany Priorat’s finest gustatory pleasures. Roast lamb with new potatoes rubbed with garlic, oil, and herbs, is a perennial Priorat favorite. Savory croquettes and heady soups and stews made with chorizo sausage provide other traditional accompaniments to Priorat. However, Scala Dei’s Cartoixa can hold its own with almost any red or white meat, vegetable, pasta, or cheese. Chicken and sausage with green peas and orzo pasta provides a very tasty companion to Scala Dei’s 2004 Cartoixa, as does Chicken Cacciatore. Roast pork tenderloin with an herb infused black olive tapenade makes another splendid accompaniment. And if by chance there should be even a thimble full of this delicious Priorat remaining in your glass at the end of a meal, cut a slice of fine Manchego cheese, put it on a piece of crusty bread, and enjoy Cartoixa as you ascend the “stairway to heaven.”
Cellers Scala Dei (whose name in Latin means Ladder of God) was founded in 1163 by the order of Carthusian monks who first introduced vines into Spain’s now fabled Priorat. The name Priorat also owes its name to the monastery’s work. Priorat is derived from the Latin word “Prior” for the head of the Carthusian monastery that founded the first winery in the village of Scala Dei.
Scala Dei grows all of its grapes on the estate and makes three special Priorat wines: Scala Dei Negre, Scala Dei Prior, and Scala Dei Cartoixa. Scala Dei Cartoixa (this month’s feature) is the winery’s most illustrious wine. It is produced only in the finest vintages and ages to perfection.
Priorat is the birthplace of Antoni Gaudi, the celebrated Catalan architect whose hand is imbedded in the skyline of Barcelona. Priorat displays a rugged, breathtaking landscape of high mountains and sheep-studded pastures in which every village and hamlet appears steeped in history. Here, the first Carthusian Monastery in Spain was founded in the 12th century. And during the 20th century, one of the greatest and most decisive battles of the Spanish Civil War took place in Priorat along the banks of the Ebro River. However, what sets Priorat above other, more commercialized wine producing regions is its expanse of ancient, ungrafted vines of Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan, also known locally as Samsó) to which varying amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot may be added. The region’s mineral rich soil, most notably the black llicorella that characterizes Priorat, adds complexity and depth to the area’s wines. What results are lush, full-bodied, natural tasting wines of great distinction. Moreover, the best wines of Priorat age remarkably well and can compete with the finest wines made anywhere in the world, which is one reason Priorat is only one of two Spanish appellations awarded Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C.) status: Rioja is the other. In Spain D.O.C. is reserved solely for wine regions that have demonstrated over time to produce wines of the highest quality.
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