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5 min read

Wine Tastings: Rioja

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Hearty Steak Menu for a Spanish Red

Rioja (pronounced: re-OH’-hah) is Spain’s most revered wine region, where wines blended mostly from the old school Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes are grown and produced. When we think of Rioja, most assume we’re talking red wine, which is likely 85% correct. That’s because about 15% - a small amount in comparison – of the wine in the region becomes a light-bodied, lively and dry white. While not as popular as the reds, Rioja Blanco (white) is worth seeking out.

But let’s focus on the Rioja Tinto (red), because when it comes to eating and drinking, this region produces wines worth experiencing, from the young Joven’s to the deeply structured, oak-aged Gran Reservas. 

It’s all about that oak.

Four Main Categories of Red Rioja Wines

  • Joven or simply Rioja – youngest of wines with little to no oak – great for a summer barbeque or sangria
  • Crianza – aged at least two years, one in oak – think everyday wine
  • Rioja Reserva – aged at least three years, one in oak – the benchmark Rioja
  • Rioja Gran Reserva – aged 5 years, at least two in oak, three in a bottle – special occasion, complex wine

If Rioja Reserva is the benchmark of which all other Rioja’s are measured, let’s look at building a menu worthy of this earthy fine wine. Because Reservas develop firm tannins, they pair exquisitely with meat. Have you fired up the grill lately? You’ll want to for this menu. Uncork a Reserva and get ready for a perfect night.


  • Appetizer:  Aged Cheddar Cheese
  • Oven-warmed baguette with herb butter
  • Bone-in Ribeye Steaks (for 2)
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Watercress, Avocado and Orange Salad
  • Bottle of Gran Reserva Rioja


Perfect Grilled Ribeye Steaks 


  • 2 ribeye steaks, 1 1/2 to 2-inches thick, about 2 pounds total (bone-in recommended)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

Season steaks liberally with salt. Set on a plate and let rest for at least 40 minutes, or up to 4 days. If resting longer than 40 minutes, tent loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until ready to cook.

Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Make sure your grate is cleaned and oiled. Season steak with pepper and place on cooler side of grill, cover, and cook with all of the vents open, flipping and taking temperature every few minutes until steaks register 115°F for medium-rare or 125°F for medium on an instant read thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes total.

Transfer steaks to hot side of grill and cook, flipping frequently until a deep char has developed, and internal temperature registers 125°F for medium-rare or 135°F for medium, about 2 minutes total. Transfer steaks to a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 10. Carve and serve immediately.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes


  • 8 medium russet potatoes (about 4 pounds)
  • 1 head peeled garlic cloves (about 15)
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces

Peel potatoes and quarter lengthwise; cut crosswise 1/2 inch thick. In a 5-quart saucepan, combine potatoes and garlic cloves; cover with water (about 8 cups) by 1 inch. Add 1tablespoon salt.   Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 25 to 30 minutes.  Drain; return garlic and potatoes to pan. Stir over medium-high heat until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.  In a small saucepan, bring milk to a boil; pour over potatoes. Add butter and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mash until smooth and creamy.

Watercress, Avocado and Orange Salad


  • Red Onion
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sliced avocados
  • 2 medium oranges
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 bunches watercress
  • ¼ cup Toasted hazelnuts

Soak 1/4 thinly sliced red onion in cold water, about 10 minutes. Whisk 1/4 cup orange juice, the juice of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl. Whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Drain the onion; toss with 2 bunches watercress, 2 sliced avocados, 2-segmented oranges and the dressing. Top with chopped, toasted hazelnuts.

Salud! (to your health!)

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Founded in 1934, Haskell’s has championed fine wines for over 80 years. We have 13 wine stores in Minnesota, two delis and one restaurant. As one of the top wine shops in North America, Haskell’s is known for legendary service and one of the finest collections of wine, beer and spirits. Led by Chairman and CEO Jack Farrell, and the Farrell family, Haskell’s continues to be at the forefront of the wine scene throughout the world. Haskell’s also can ship wine, beer & spirits all throughout the world, the U.S. and we deliver locally.


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