Cost: Average price $10.99
Where buy now: Solo Vino, Sorella Wines & Spirits Sale has it for $8.97
Grapes: 100% Graciano
Region: Rioja, Spain
Last Friday, we ordered pizza from my fave, Crescent Moon Bakery. I’m an unabashed homer and love Northeast Minneapolis, so naturally I have these guys on speed dial.
“Hello, may I get your phone number?”
“Oh, yes, it’s you! You like it spicy.”
For real- that’s how the conversation starts. It’s true, I like it spicy. We get two pies, both “Afghani style”, which is football shaped and served with a side of chutney. Their version of chutney is filled with cilantro, garlic, spices and vinegar (plus other ingredients that they won’t devulge, even to a regular). We ask for extra because, hey, I’d bathe in the stuff, but for the havoc on my “down there” parts. The House Special contains some onions, peppers and the ever-so-ubiquitous, “Afghani beef”. The Chef Special includes roasted eggplant and other veggies. It’s all just incredible.
Recently, I stopped in to Solo Vino for one of their Friday tastings. I just love the vibe of this shop. With it’s wooden floors and wine racks, it feels homey and neighborhoody, just the way I like it. Upon walking in, you’d think a little party was being thrown. Folks chatting, people perusing the shelves with dogs in tow, many sampling the goods, so-to-speak. Before I know it, I’m swept in as one of their own (the Cathedral Hill neighborhoody folk). Let me tell you, if I weren’t such a homer for NE, this would be my ‘hood(y).
Enter Chuck. He’s Solo Vino’s owner and one crazy cat. He has such a vitality and mirth to his persona, it’s easy to see why everyone’s guard is down whilst in his shop (and why some locals consider it their second home).
I asked him, “What’s sexy right now, what do you love?” Without skipping a beat, he told me Riojas are some of the best tasting, best value wine being made right now. He took me straight to this, Rio Madre, and explained it was 100% Graciano. His staff soon concurred how much they like this particular Rioja. A few minutes later, Chuck announced he was to leave for a yoga class, which prompted a few patrons to do their best triangle, warrior or revolving half moon pose. Chuck didn’t show off his yoga moves but I could imagine catching him practicing his downward-facing dog while sipping a glass of vino.
Back to me stuffing my face with delicious Afghani pizza. I popped open the Rioja because I had a hunch it would go well with the spicy pizza. I was not only correct, I was right on the money with this pairing. I just love it when I open a bottle and the aromas waft out like a wine genie slithering out to grant your wish. Swirl this bad boy around as scents of ripe blackberry, cherry and pepper notes smack you like a Colonel’s white glove challenging you to a duel. (All this slapping, slithering, smacking and swirling- I’m actually blushing thinking about how much I enjoyed this wine!)
The Rio Madre did just that, likely because it’s made of 100% Graciano grapes. What’s the big deal? Rioja red (tinto) wines typically use four types of grapes: most notably, Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes and less common, Mazuela and Graciano grapes. Like the Pinot Noir of Spain, Gracianos produce the lowest yield of any grape in Rioja. [I think I read something like 1%.] The soil and weather conditions have to be “just right”. Thankfully, all this patience and time invested to get it “just right” leaves us with a silky, stupid good wine.
Rioja Reds are often a Tempranillo and Garnacha blend, a higher yield and better value. The “nicer” bottles blend in Graciano grapes. The Graciano adds a bold fragrance and flavor that is outstanding. But this, this gorgeous, dark beauty is 100% Graciano. All Graciano and it won’t break the bank? More, please.
This wine is superlative: plush, it’s got bite, it’s got fruit, dreamy nose – it’s the whole damned package. I see why Chuck gravitated toward Rio Madre so quickly when I asked for a sexy bottle.