Review: Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival

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Wine.

Wine is a magical potion that can blur cultural lines and bring people together from regions near and far. Being Italian, I naturally find myself gravitating towards the wines from Italy. And while this has been my habit, because those Italians do make some fine wine, I was intrigued when I had the privilege of being invited to attend the recent Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival. Having no familiarity with Rioja or Spanish wines, I didn’t set my standards too high. Let me tell you, Rioja wines do set the standard very high.

I had taken two coworkers as my guests to the festival. We were granted VIP access which meant for an hour before the general public attended, there was a more intimate gathering. During this time, we were able to sample various wines, talk with the representatives, and snack on regional tapas.

My two coworkers Margaret and Emily

As a special treat, I was able to meet and interview the President of and grower in the Rioja wine region (Luis Alberto Lecea) and Santaigo Vivanco, curator of Vivanco Museum. This had to have been one of the most memorable hours of my life. The President was full of passion and even through the translator, I could sense his love for the wines and the region. Santiago was beaming with pride when describing his father’s life long dream of opening the world’s finest museum covering the history of wine along with instrumental art pieces. At the end of each interview, I asked (what I thought was a seemingly easy question) “describe the Rioja region/wines/museum in three words”? Luis without much hesitation and a glimmer in his eye responded with “landscapes, experiences, memories” and Santiago’s response was “passion, wine culture, experience“. Just by experiencing this festival I hope someday to experience the Rioja wine region and museum.

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View from the VIP balcony

After the wonderful interviews, and a brief moment overlooking the crowd from the balcony, I returned to the general public tasting. There were a lot of visitors, and despite my normal distaste for large crowds, I couldn’t help but appreciate the large turnout because wine brings people together. Another fun surprise was seeing one of my sorority sisters and her husband!

I could type and try to explain the ambiance but figure some photos will speak louder than my words.

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Sweet basil icecream

 

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Live entertainment from the band ‘City of the John’

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Table 22: Beronia and Casa Primicia

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Table 14: Marques de Vargas

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Table 1: Bodegas AGE

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Table 8: Bodegas Classica (Hacienda Lopez de Haro)

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Table 26: El Coto

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Table 10: Marques de Caceres

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Table 23: Finca Valpiedra by Familia Martinez Bujanda

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Table 30: Bodegas Bilbainas

 

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Table 9: Bodegas Muga

 

As if ending a lovely Saturday full of wine and experiences wasn’t enough, I was then invited to continue the celebration of Rioja Week by attending a Tasting and Lunch a few days later. Here, in a smaller setting, I was able to talk with principals from the wineries, not to mention enjoy the ambiance of chatting with fellow media and trade (bloggers). I will admit, half of the time I was thinking to myself, “How the heck did I get invited to this?!” and as I’m sitting here typing this I do still wonder how and why yet can only help but think that sharing wine experiences – not just any wine but Rioja wines – is what Daily Urbanista is all about. We share our in-depth knowledge of the best people, places, and things the world has to offer. Literally. And it’s my pleasure to share my wine experiences about the Rioja region. So next time you are in Binny’s, I urge you to stroll directly to the Spanish wine section and pick up a bottle of wine from Rioja to help make those memories and those experiences even more special.

 

Here are more photos taken at the Tasting and Luncheon (all images credited to Wines from Rioja)

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Wines from Rioja

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Wines from Rioja

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Wines from Rioja

 

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Goodie bag from the luncheon

 

I want to also do a quick shout out to the hardworking folks that organized the event. Julie and Pia from PadillaCRT are fabulous.

Now when you are adventurous and attempt to do Seven Wine Flights Bar Crawl you’ll sound like a connoisseur when asking about Rioja wines.

Have you tried any wines from Rioja? Share with us your Rioja experience.

 

 

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