Rioja Tasting 101
I'm a bridesmaid for a wedding. The couple's married name will be...you guessed it! Riojas. So as part of our wedding research, I decided organizing a Riojas tasting was #1 of my list of duties.
Unfortunately, it is a wine varietal about which I know nothing. So here's my plan:
-gather Chowhound favorites
-visit two or three of my favorite San Francisco wine shops this weekend
-compile a list to give their hotel. They say they'll be able to buy any wine we name, but I want to let the bride and groom take a look at which price points are feasible before buying sample bottles
-throw a party with about half a dozen bottles and invite everyone to a blind tasting
Any and all advice about how to proceed is greatly appreciated!
I'd suggest that you first obtain the required price points from the bride and groom before you get ideas on what wines to sample. Rioja is one of the largest wine region in the world and which produces wines at a wide range of the price spectrum. It'll be easier to gather information about what wines when you know your price range.
The wine list at the hotel starts in the forties, and there's no way for them to wiggle out of using their list or ordering through them, so any wine that retails for $10-20 and that the hotel would sell them for $20-60 would be considered.
Other than that, we're looking for a couple of different reds, not rioja blancos. One heavier variety, one lighter one, sort of like how people tend to serve one Cabernet Sauvignon and one Merlot to cover most preferences. The dinner menu has not been set, but it's possible there will be some kind of white fish and braised short ribs.
My concern is that in my experience, riojas don't tend to shine in the $10 range. And I know no wine really "shines" for $10, but I just mean that at that price I've had okay California wine, but only pretty bleh Spanish wine. But I really don't have much experience so I'm hoping to be wrong.
These are some of what I would consider Riojas that would be sufficiently “safe” in a large crowd and are under $15 (at least in stores here in my city):.
These reds can be crowd-pleasers and on the modern fruity/oaky side, medium-bodied with enough acidity to be food-friendly.
CUNE Vina Real Crianza 2004
Abando Crianza 2004
Marques de Riscal 2004
Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2005
For whites, you can look for
Marques de Caceres
No, no corkage. But while my friends won't be able to purchase the wines themselves, the hotel will order wines for them if they want certain wines by name (I know, what a racket). The bride just confirmed for me that most wines on the hotel list are at a 3x markup. They've made vague promises to her that if they order just for her the markup will be a little less than that, but who knows.
I found the 2004 Lan Rioja Reserva for $16 locally, which I guess would mean the hotel would give it to them at $40-50. Right in the range of the cheaper wines on their list! I'll be hunting around some more. Thanks for the help so far, everyone!
The Spanish Table in Berkeley specializes in Spanish wines. They have several Riojas, including Lopez de Heredia, which releases Reserva and Gran Reservas after aging them. I believe the white Riojas are up to 1998. The oldest reds are in the 1960s and are several hundred dollars each before mark up.
Awesome wines, by the way.
K&L also has 41 wines from the Rioja, including Lopez de Heredia.
Thank God their married name won't be Temecula. . .