Rioja’s best-kept secret


Do you know what all these wines have in common? 2009 Tores Esmerelda, Catalunya, 2009 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia, Rijoa, and 2009 Trenza Rosado, California?

They were all selected and paired with a Chef Jennifer Jasinski meal – yes, that’s Chef Jen of Rioja Restaurant fame. The feast was prepared as prelude for a recent “coming out” of Chef Jen’s new cookbook, The Perfect Bite, and all those glorious wines sprung from Chef Jen’s business partner, Beth Gruitch. Gruitch is not just the brains behind the duo’s restauranting trifecta, which includes Bistro Vendome, Rioja and their latest endeavor, Euclid Hall. She is also Rioja’s general manager and sommelier.

The Perfect Bite, a compendium of some of Chef Jen’s most outstanding Rioja dishes, is made all the more intoxicating due, in large part, to Gruitch’s expertise, experience and renegade approach to wine pairing.

Guitch comes by her knowledge honestly. At just 25-years-old, she realized she had a passion for wine. “I saw that there was a true marriage between food and wine,” she says. “In addition to studying, I read a ton and went to Napa Valley, Italy, France and Spain. I was and still am attracted to tastes and people doing different things with wine.”

True to form, one-third of Rioja’s wine list is from Spain. And as Spanish wines gain in popularity due to the country’s increase in marketing and export efforts, Gruitch and Jasinski robustly embrace their wines’ relatively new availability. Old-World meets New World on Rioja’s wine list, making selections exciting and current.

Though Gruitch manages the Rioja wine lists, she has abdicated the day-to-day wine management of Euclid Hall’s and Bistro Vendome’s lists to her managers. “I originally built both lists,” she says, “but both are now at a place where those restaurants’ managers oversee and maintain them.”

Chef Jen also brings a robust resume. She trained at the Culinary Institute of America, with tenures at Manhattan’s Rainbow Room and the Los Angeles Hotel Bel Air, and also worked with Wolfgang Puck. Readers and would-be chefs who embrace The Perfect Bite will get to enjoy the opportunity of bringing some of Chef Jen’s signature dishes to their own tables. Artichoke and White Truffle Tortellini, Cardamon-Scented Pork Belly and Fig and Goat Cheese Beignets are but a sliver of what she’s included in The Perfect Bite.

Moreover, readers also get a bit of lagniappe with the cookbook. Gruitch lends insight into wine, wine-pairings and her own wine philosophy at the front of the book. Wine lovers and food connoisseurs will gain confidence in Gruitch’s insistence and easy-going encouragement that wine drinkers everywhere are perfectly capable of making their own, instinctive choices.

And that – Chef Jen’s recipes + Beth Gruitch’s wine insights – equal a perfect combo.

New! Weird Wine Trivia

Wine myths and mythology have long played into colorful wine culture. The new Weird Wine Trivia brings a tidbit of “skewed” wine information that can be remembered and dropped into any conversation anywhere – when the topic is wine and even when the wine has already been flowing awhile.

This week’s Weird Wine Trivia:

According to Persian mythology, wine was discovered by a woman. She drank the fermented juice from grapes stored in a jar, went to sleep, and surprisingly woke up cured of a headache, instead of suffering from the world’s first hangover as one might have expected.

Amen, sister.

One Winning Wine Tasting:

Zinfully Delicious Wine Tasting

Park Hill Golf Course will host the Zinfully Delicious Wine Tasting on Tuesday, February 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The tasting is a popular night out and benefits The Positive Project. The Positive Project´s goal is to provide a mechanism by which people infected/affected by HIV/AIDS can share their experiences with those who can benefit from hearing them, to use their stories for the greater good. Cost is $30 in advance and $35 the day of event, which includes a tasting of hundreds of wines and generous appetizers.
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