On May 2, the Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival packed in a huge crowd, with more than 50 winemakers represented inside Union Station on Canal Street. More than 30 chefs prepared Rioja inspired tapas to accompany the tastings, including a jamon bar, a variety of cheeses plus enough blood sausage to appease any meat eater.
A live band played relaxing tunes as lines for samplings stretched around the large event space for four hours.
Rioja is a wine region in Spain. It is the only one in the world that does not release its wines until they are ready for consumption.
Tempranillo was the most represented varietal in the building, with the grape being from the D.O.C. ( Denominacion de Origen Calificada ) region in Rioja. Many wines are blended from grapes grown in three zones in Rioja : Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa.
Notable wine companies included many family names like Muga and Familia Martinez, with some family descendants in attendance to show off the family legacy. While most wines were red, there were some white and blush wines to try as well.
Bravo Top Chef Carlos Gaytan, from the restaurant Mexique, stirred up a tasty sauce to accompany his dishone that had many going for seconds.
Ceviche from Vera restaurant and shrimp sandwiches from Mercat gave samplers something to bite into while enjoying an overwhelming amount of wine that afternoon.
Proceeds from the Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival will benefit culinary scholarships at the James Beard Foundation. The weekend featured many activities surrounding the James Beard Awards, which took place May 4.
Follow www.riojawineandtapasfestival.com for more upcoming events in the Windy City.
Some tastings in May will be held at The Wine Goddess in Evanston through May 10, with another called A Taste of Rioja at Bascula Wine Bar now through May 31.