Omni Escapes Magazine Escapes Magazine Fall 2017 - Page 30

In addition to its fine wines, Rioja has a rich culinary culture. The local menus feature many dishes that change seasonally and are heavily ingredient-driven. “When I think Rioja, I think of red wines and big flavors,” he explains. “But I got over there and it was the white wines that really surprised me.” The area’s impressive winemaking abilities may be a result of one technique in particular: aging. Chesson says that the local wineries, also called “bodegas,” hold the wines in the cellar until the winemakers deem them ready for consumption. They are typically aged in 225-liter oak casks, of which there are over a million in the region, for approximately one to three years. Rioja wines are then bottle-aged for anywhere from six months to six years. Knowledgeable winemakers aren’t just experts in their craft, but in the overall culture of Rioja. According to Chesson, paying a visit to a bodega will provide a chance to discuss everything under the Spanish sun, from the local produce and cheeses to the natural beauty of their surroundings. “They take everything as one big culture to speak about,” she explains. Delicious Plates According to Stephen Rosenstock, executive vice pres- ident of operations for Omni Hotels & Resorts, “The wines that come from Rioja are really meant to be served with food.” Rosenstock says that he feels this more in Rioja than anywhere else in the world. Rioja’s varied wines can be successfully paired with FA L L 2 0 1 7 OE3-Spain-eV4-e.indd 30 | 30 | many different types of cuisine, all of which take center stage in Spain. According to The Culinary Institute of America, young wines with fruity aromas tend to com- plement everything from beef, rib-eye steak and venison to vegetable curry and blue cheese. Fish-based meals or spicy dishes are enhanced when fruit-forward crianza wines are served, while foods like paella and risotto pair well with reservas. Heighten the flavors of dishes such as duck confit, winter stews or sautéed mushrooms with gran reservas. Wardynski recently took a trip to Rioja to immerse himself in the food, wine and culture prior to this autumn’s Flavors of the World series. He found that while the region is heavily influenced by Basque culinary traditions that include plenty of grilled meats and fish, Rioja’s menus were saturated with dishes that change seasonally and are heavily ingredient-driven. From fresh serrano peppers and chanterelle mushrooms to lush baby peas, the restaurants in Rioja don’t rely heavily on sauces and seasonings to add flavor. “It is just delicious food done right,” Wardynski says. One dish that he could not get enough of when he traveled to Spain was jamón ibérico de bellota. The finest cured ham in Rioja, it is sourced from free-range pigs that feast heavily on acorns. It is cured for more than two years. ESCAPES 9/21/17 11:07 AM