While countless articles have been written entitled something along the lines of Why [Insert Wine Region] Might Be The New Napa Valley, it is obvious to even the most casual observer that, for better or worse, whatever region is being covered does not have even the remotest chance of being confused for the storied California AVA. However, thanks to a unique partnership between the Raimat Arts Festival and Festival Napa Valley, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a small taste of Napa in Lleida, Spain, this coming October.
The brainchild of Elena de Carandini Raventós, the Raimat Arts Festival is an initiative launched by her Raimat Lleida Community Foundation, which aims to create long lasting social, environmental, and economic impact in the local area via funds raised by the arts festival and other programs. The first edition of the festival, to be held October 14th to 16th of this year, is modeled on Festival Napa Valley and will unite wine, art, and gastronomy. As part of the cooperation between the two festivals, Raimat and Lleida will be showcasing and offering premium-quality local products at this year’s Festival Napa Valley. In Raimat, Napa Valley will have a selection of food and wine on offer for guests.
The event will be centered at the historic Castillo de Raymat, a restored 12th century castle that is now wholly owned by de Carandini Raventós. It was acquired by her great-grandfather Manuel Raventós in 1914; he had a vision to transform the surrounding area, which was then a desert, into an agricultural and winemaking region. Today the castle sits among 7,413 acres of its own 100% organic vineyards and those of 35 neighboring wineries in DO Costers del Segre. Castillo de Raimat was formerly the property of Raventós-Codorniu and its business partner, Carlyle Group
Inspired by Festival Napa Valley and its charitable efforts within its own community, de Carandini Raventós created the Raimat Lleida Community Foundation and the Raimat Arts Festival with the goal of supporting the small village of Raimat, which was first built by her great-grandfather to house local workers, and the larger region of Lleida. About a two-hour drive from Barcelona, Raimat is also not too far from its sister winery, Codorniu, the oldest producer of Cava in Spain.
We had a chance to speak with Elena de Carandini Raventós about the her foundation, the Raimat Arts Festival, and how she came to own a castle.
World Wine Guys: What initiatives will the Raimat Lleida Community Foundation support?
Elena de Carandini Raventós: The Raimat Lleida CF focuses on four areas: social action, culture, innovation, and biodiversity and climate change. Social action is articulated in collaboration with the United Way Foundation and its objective is to support third sector entities and vulnerable groups in Raimat and Lleida through the creation of an annual long-term grant program with a special focus on training, innovation, and digitization.
In the cultural field, this year the RLCF will promote the celebration of the first edition of the Raimat Arts Festival, a unique and pioneering initiative that is presented as a multisensory artistic experience with a transformative purpose. It will bring together…internationally renowned chamber musicians; local, regional and international cuisine; and pairings with organic wine. The revenue generated by the festival will go entirely to the development of social projects of the foundation. Raimat Arts Festival not only has the purpose of supporting the Raimat Lleida Foundation, it also serves as a sister festival to the renowned Festival Napa Valley, which has become an international benchmark for unmatched artistic performances combined with positive social impact.
The boost to sustainable economy is articulated around Raimat LAB, an innovation platform designed to support companies and start-ups that want to work on the triple impact and generate social, economic, and environmental benefits.
Through Raimat Natura and in collaboration with the Raimat winery, the foundation is working on its commitment to the dissemination and implementation of the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals through its program to support biodiversity and address climate change.
WWG: How did your partnership with Festival Napa Valley come about?
EdCR: It came about very naturally. I did an internship for a few months at Artesa Winery in Napa a long time ago and fell in love with the place, the scenery, the people, and the food. And I’ve been back several times with my family to show them. It is not only about the region, which is absolutely stunning, but also the program of the festival…and its social purpose. It really is an inspiration, and we share the same values.
When the Raimat Lleida Foundation was constituted, we dreamt of a nice event to help the region of Raimat and Lleida be better known, nationally and internationally, and the Festival in Napa Valley was the perfect “sibling” to look up to.
Charles Letourneau, Executive Producer of Festival Napa Valley, and Raphael Bemporad, Founding Partner of BBMG, have been so excited and helpful from the very beginning with our festival. I only have words of gratitude for them. They have oriented us on how to create this event, what artists could be interesting performers, et cetera. They are the dream team to partner with in this adventure.
Moreover, this collaboration will be made visible in both festivals. At Festival Napa Valley, during the “Taste of Napa” day, Raimat and Lleida will be showcasing and offering premium-quality local products. In Raimat, Napa will have a similar presentation as well.
WWG: What can visitors to the inaugural Raimat Arts Festival in October expect?
EdCR: The Raimat Arts Festival will take place from October 14 to October 16, 2022. The festival will open on the 14th with a private launch event for founding sponsors and supporting institutions, followed by public programs on the 15th and 16th.
On Saturday, October 15, we will start with a walking tour through the Raimat Natura preserve, incorporating visual arts installations and performances by local artists integrated into the landscape. The walking tour will conclude in the village of Raimat.
Afterwards, attendees will be able to participate in a food and wine fair with wine tastings and gastronomic workshops from local restaurateurs and purveyors to be held around the Raymat Castle. The event will be enlivened by performances by young musicians from the Conservatory of Lleida. (Although the name of the village and winery are spelled Raimat, the castle uses the original name, Raymat. Differences are attributed to the spellings in Castilian and Catalan as well as the translation of the original Arabic name of the castle.)
In the evening, the Raimat winery will host the main event of the Festival: an intimate concert with internationally renowned artists including guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas, lyric soprano Serena Saenz, violinist Francisco Fullana, and cellist Sophia Bacelar. They will perform works by renowned composers from Lleida, Catalonia and Spain, such as Isaac Albéniz, Enrique Granados or Manuel de Falla, among others.
The festival will conclude on Sunday, October 16, with a celebratory brunch featuring a unique menu of local delicacies.
WWG: Will Castillo de Raymat be used for events during the festival?
EdCR: Indeed. Sponsors, partners and VIP attendees will enjoy a private dinner with a performance by the festival soloists on Friday night at the castle. In addition to this, the food and wine fair will take place on the grounds of the castle with stunning views of the village of Raimat and the vineyards.
Our goal is to make the castle the central place where projects with an impact come to life. This is why we are delighted to use it to organize private gatherings, company meetings, recordings and photo shoots. My intention is that the castle will be an asset to help generate income to be invested in the foundation’s projects.
WWG: Can you give us a little history as to how and why you personally came to own the Castillo?
EdCR: The Castle of Raymat is a 12th century building located in the village of Raimat and it was declared ‘Cultural Asset of National Interest’ many years ago. It is the only testimony of the antiquity of the village.
My great-grandfather, Manuel Raventós, acquired the castle in 1914, imagining a better future for the territory when it was still a desert with only one tree. He cultivated the land and revitalized and repopulated the area, laying the foundation for its future prosperity. He then handed over the management of the Raventós-Codorníu company to his sons and daughters, to dedicate himself to the transformation of Raimat, planting over a million trees, breeding animals and also rebuilding the castle. He even fostered the construction of 100 houses for workers, a school for the children, a church, a cooperative building to supply the community, water reservoirs, aqueducts, 150 km of roads, warehouses for grain and corrals and stables for the animals.
The project grew from an agricultural colony to become the village of Raimat. Despite the initial difficulties, my great-grandfather managed to overcome them with a lot of effort and tenacity and the help of his deeply committed team.
Raventós-Codorníu and then The Carlyle Group managed the castle for many years. I acquired it in January 2020, and it is now privately owned. In fact, on many occasions we use it as a residence for our family. I live between Barcelona and Raimat, since it is very close, and I stay at the castle when I am there., but my main purpose is to open its doors to initiatives that bring value to the community.