Rio Madre Rioja

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

Vintage: 2011

Rio Madre

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.

11 thoughts on “Rio Madre Rioja”

    1. Dear Amanda,

      Chuck said he has more cases coming as it’s flying off the shelves! Lucky you to live so close by!


  1. an amazing bottle for the price, to be sure. I can’t stop drinking it. the best part about the spanish upsurge here in the states is lesser known varietals not only being made available but receiving accolades from all sectors (I think of a few mencias from bierzo that are zooming off our shelves).


    joel (from the north loop harem)

    1. Dear Joel,

      It’s really unbelievable how great this wine is for the price! I think with all the talk of California wine going up in price you’re going to see more Spanish wine flying off your shelves! Thanks and looking forward to meeting you soon.


  2. That’s a great line – “like a wine genie slithering out to grant your wish.” Chuck is the best. Really enjoying your blog!

    1. Dear Jason,

      Thanks for your comments! I just call it as I see it. I love when a wine hits my nose and transports me. Are you attending the Rosé tasting in May? I say we ask Chuck to do a yoga session beforehand. You dig? 😉


  3. I drank a bottle tonight on the recommendation of Chuck and Rob and it is really nice. Great weekday night wines are often tough to come by but this has the fruit my wife digs and enough acid and grit to pair well with food. Well done!

    1. Dear Kevin,

      Isn’t it universally pleasing?!? Not in an easy-listening elevator music kinda-way. But, just as you said fruit fans will love but it has some bite and complexity. So happy to read you enjoyed a bottle this evening.


  4. We often like a Rioja, but this whole Graciano grape is new info. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    1. Dear Brian ~

      Oh you must check it out! It’ll make you happy. When you do try it out, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  5. Picked some up at Costco, (along with a bottle of Apothic). I thought it was a red wine (doesn’t Rioja mean red in Spanish)?
    Alas, it is not a “red” wine. It is a little dry for my taste (my Wife loves it though). But the aroma is wonderful! I could put this in a glass. Swirl it around and smell it all day long.

Comments are closed.