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Vibrant Rioja Crawl
Terry Sullivan

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011One of the events at the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 in Charlottesville, Virginia was a crawl. This was the first crawl the author experienced. Conference attendees were invited to visit five area restaurants, all within an easy walk of the Omni Charlottesville Hotel. Each restaurant featured different wines from the Rioja wine region in north central Spain. The restaurants also prepared complimentary appetizers to accompany the wines.

Conference attendees picked up a map of the area and began the crawl on Saturday evening after a five-course multi-wine dinner. It was time to get out and amble through the Charlottesville area. On the maps were the location of the restaurants and an area for the restaurants to stamp. Upon completion of the crawl, participants with four stamps would be entered into a drawing for a case of Rioja wine, while participants with five stamps would be entered into a drawing for a trip to Rioja.

We began the crawl with the simple directions, “Go to the light and turn right. You can follow the crowd.” Following the crowd does not work if you are leading the line. The people behind were more interested in following than leading. If GPS coordinates were supplied one could use the walk mode on GPS devices. Instead we read the map in the dark and found the first restaurant. The first stop was Feast where we were warmly welcomed. In fact all the restaurants involved were very welcoming. At Feast we sampled a rosé the 2010 Muga a blend of mostly Tempranillo, some Grenacha and a touch of Viura. The chilled rosé tasted delightful in the after 9:00 PM 90 plus temperatures. Orzo, the next stop on the crawl was just feet away in the same building. The 2006 Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza was a Tempranillo with red cherry and violet tones.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011The third stop was down the street to ZINC. It was quickly realized that asking for directions was easier than reading the map in subdued light and small print. We easily found ZINC and had an opportunity to taste the Tierra de Fernandez Gomez a blend of Viura, Grenache White and Malvasia. The fourth stop was the Maya restaurant. We tasted a 2009 Onice. Steak skewers were next to the wine and this proved to be a nice match for the Tempranillo.

Trekking back to the hotel and asking for directions to the fifth restaurant didn’t quite work. We were told that the Brookville Restaurant was just two blocks away from the hotel doors. Concepts of a block must be different. We went what was thought to be two blocks only to discover the restaurant was two blocks closer to the hotel. It was actually just feet away from the hotel. We made our way up a staircase to the second floor restaurant. We had a Herederos Del Marqués Riscal Reserva, a 2005 vintage. This Tempranillo was paired with pork belly and steak. The pork belly was quite good and thoughts that “this can’t be good for you” took a backstage to trying a few. After some wine and food, we turned in our map with the restaurants’ stamps and headed to the hotel, just feet away.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011     Wine Bloggers Conference 2011

The crawl was a great way to introduce wines from Rioja. Unlike many wine tastings, each of the Rioja wines were paired with a speciality food from a restaurant. We enjoyed the exercise and the wonderful way wine and food went together.







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