Rioja, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Denver is offering guests the opportunity to learn more about wine and food pairings from the Mediterranean region with their Sips and Snacks $15 happy hour special. The Larimer Square staple has been led by James Beard Award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch since its opening in 2004. Incorporating Spanish and Portuguese tones in both food and drink, Rioja stays ahead of the curve with their seasonally changing menu and uniquely themed happy hour.
The History of Sips and Snacks
Sips and Snacks began nine years ago and since has evolved into a weekly wine and food pairing menu offered Monday’s through Friday’s from 4-6pm. Each week the culinary team at Rioja picks a theme to focus on. Sometimes they feature bubbles, other times it’s the red wines of Spain. The restaurant then pairs the selection of sips with four snack sized dishes created exclusively for the week.
About Those Weekly Themes…
Choosing a theme for each week seems to be the easy part for the Rioja crew. The team believes it’s important to introduce and inform guests on wines from all over the Mediterranean region that they might otherwise not be exposed to. Rioja’s General Manager, Katie Murphy explained why the Sherry Sips and Snacks is one of her favorites. “Not a lot of people in Denver know a lot about Sherry or have tasted through some of the great Sherry’s of Spain. It’s nice to introduce people to different wines that they’re not used to having everywhere.” Murphy also explained that a fan favorite is bubbles, which is why the theme is frequented. “We’ll do regular bubbles or Cava (all the bubbles of Spain), maybe throw in some Prosecco or a French champagne so that people can taste the difference between the three.”
The Pairing Process
When asked about the pairing process for each Sips and Snacks, Murphy mentioned how it’s an all-hands-on-deck process. “A bunch of people are involved. Sometimes we’ll do it on Friday’s when there’s a lot of us here and we can taste or on Saturday’s when there’s only a few of us here who can do some of the pairings.” Murphy explained that the staff often tastes the wines together before discussing the various flavors and notes that are being picked up in each. Afterwards, the culinary team gets the chef’s opinion because they’re “more savory and sweet centered, whereas we’re a little bit more focused on what’s on the palate as far as the wine is concerned. It’s a nice collaboration of people.”
Murphy is most excited about the upcoming Vermouth theme on August 14th and encourages people to visit Rioja for the happy hour special. “Sips and Snacks gives people a really good insight into wine and food pairing and it’s also a little bit of a lesson in some of these wines and where they come from and how they’re made. It’s great!”