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Catalan Coques + La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014 #WorldWineTravel

This month, Jeff of Food Wine Click! is kicking off our new wine group: #WorldWineTravel. This group will be doing a deep dive into the wines of Spain in 2021. I am really looking forward to learning more about the specific regions. January has us looking at Rioja. You may read Jeff's invitation here

All of these posts will be live by Saturday, January 23rd when we'll be meeting for a live Twitter chat at 8am Pacific. Follow along with the hashtag  #WorldWineTravel and be sure to add that to any tweets you posts so we can see them. Here's the #WorldWineTravel Rioja line-up...


Back November, I participated in an online Rioja tasting hosted by Gwendolyn Osborn of With her were three Rioja experts: Guillermo de Aranzabal of La Rioja Alta, S.A.; José Luís Muguiro, Jr. of Marqués de Riscal; and Raquel Pérez Cuevas of Bodegas Ontañón. The trio also represented the three distinct subregions of Rioja: La Rioja Alta, S.A. of Rioja Alta; Marqués de Riscal of Rioja Alavesa; and Bodegas Ontañón of  Rioja Oriental. All three of them are trying to move Rioja wines from 'great value wine' to just plain 'great wine' in consumers' minds.

image from

We tasted our way through their three wines and learned more about the three distinct subregions. I will be sharing recipes for each wine as well as more in-depth information about each winery. But, for now, here are some general thoughts and notes about the wines and the region that really stuck out for me.

All three experts are part of multi-generational winemaking estates and are engaged in lots of exploration on how to improve their wines and process. Despite their progress and innovations, they have a simultaneous respect for tradition and all of the the generations that have come before them. A perfect example comes from La Rioja Alta, S.A. 

Guillermo de Aranzabal is the fifth generation of La Rioja Alta, S.A. which is located in Haro, Spain and founded in 1890. In the 1940s, it was managed by Guillermo's great-grandfather, Nicolás Alberdi, before his grandmother, María Teresa Alberdi, took over a decade later. Then just before 1980, his father, Guillermo de Aranzabal Alberdi, took the reins. And, upon his father's death in 2005, the  leadership of the winery empire landed with Guillermo de Aranzabal Agudo.

Guillermo told us a little bit about the subregion from which his wine comes, Rioja Alta. It's the western part of Rioja and sits at a higher elevation than the others and the closest to the Atlantic Ocean. He said that as the crow flies, they are only about 60 miles from the Atlantic, so they have more rain and cooler temperatures.

Going back to the marriage of innovation and tradition, Guillermo explains that they control everything in the winemaking process from hand-picking to making their own oak barrels. They use optical sorting machines to get the best grapes, so there is a lot of technology in the fermentation process, but they are ultra-traditional in the aging process. 'Innovative tradition," Gwendolyn posited. Guillermo agreed.

And through the conversation between the four, they all agreed on three elements to Tempranillo and the wines of Rioja. The goals are: finesse, elegance, and to make you smile.

Succeess, I'd say. All three of wines were distinct and I will share notes and pairings for all. But, for this event, I'm starting with Guillermo's wine...

La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014

Guillermo shared his La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2014 and shared that they no longer make Riserva which is simply a designation of how much time the wine spends in a barrel and how much in the bottle. They now only produce Gran Riserva which requires a minimum of 3 years in the barrel and 3 years in bottles.

This was a very round wine with significant tannins and structure. However, it was simultaneously fruity and complex. Guillermo said that this Tempranillo was soft as velvet and a wine to give lots of pleasure. I enjoyed its fresh vibrancy. It was definitely a wine meant to complement food. While the oak lingered, it wasn't heavy and lent a hint of vanilla. This was a beautiful, balanced wine.

And the color was unique. It wasn't an intense, inky red as I have had in previous Rioja explorations. This was definitely clear and light. Guillermo said, "for the color, darker is not always better."

Catalan Coques

I wanted to serve something new to our table with the wine and landed on Catalan Coques, singular is Coca. They are flatbreads served all through Catalonia. Kinda like pizza but without the cheese. I intended it to be a nice variation on family pizza night. Who has people who complain about too many pizza nights?! Just me? I thought so.

This was the conversation when I called my live-in culinary critics to the dinner table. Also, I know that I recount lots of these conversations because they make me chuckle. My family really is grateful...and gracious. I promise!

D: Pizza night, again?
C: They aren't pizzas. They are Catalan Coca.
R: They look like pizza.
C: Do pizzas usually have mussels on them? Or chorizo?
D: In this house? Yes.
C: Okay, you're right. But the dough is different.
J: Uh-huh.

Ingredients makes 6 coques


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water plus more as needed
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for baking
Toppings: Be creative! I made two each of tomato sauce with anchovies, sliced chorizo and roasted peppers, and mussels with artichoke hearts.


Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until you have a shaggy dough. If the dough is too try, add more water as needed. 

Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth and elastic. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Divide the dough into six pieces and gently press each piece into a round on a baking stone of baking sheet. Prick the dough with a fork and brush the tops with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes until slightly golden. Top with your toppings and place it back in the oven for 3 minutes.

Serve warm.

Well, that's a wrap for our inaugural #WorldWineTravel event, a virtual jaunt to Rioja. Next month, Susannah of Avvinare will lead the exploration of Catalunya. Think Penedes, Cava, Priorat, and Montsant. Stay tuned.


  1. Your crew always makes me laugh Cam...thanks for sharing your family with us.

    1. They make me laugh, too. But I realized that maybe they sound irreverent and ungrateful. They are neither...just candid.

  2. The coques sound amazing-especially with chorizo! And if anyone in your crew thinks they need a night off from pizza I'll tag in!

    1. Ha! Right?!? I loved the coques and so did they, once they stopped complaining.

  3. That sounded like 3 excellent representatives for a virtual tasting. We're familiar with 2 of them but have never had Bodegas Ontañón so will have to see if we can find it and then compare notes when you write more about that winery. And...sounds like you have a wonderful family that is keeping you both entertained and on your toes!

    1. Definitely try to find them. Not sure where you are located, but has it though their shipping isn't always the same from state to state.

  4. Your food pairings are always so well thought out Camilla! I'm always jealous when I look at your photos and wish I had the same culinary prowess!

  5. Comedy and depth! That's the making of a great post and you added food and wine what could be better!
    Your tasting sounds amazing. I remember seeing something about tastings with, I should go back an investigate further!

  6. That tasting sounds like it was the perfect warmup for today's event!

  7. I love this wine and those Coques (which I was not previously familiar with) look delicious!

  8. Your family is funny. Too much pizza? Not possible! Sounds like the perfect pairing for this Gran Reserva.

  9. A wine I fondly remember! What a fun discussion you participated in... didn't realize Rioja Alta was that close to the Atlantic. Regarding the Catalan Coques, I somehow missed them on all Spain trips but since I make pizza type things often, love the idea, thanks Camilla!

  10. I've never had a coca but now I'm dying to try one - especially if it's topped with mussels or anchovies. One bite and I'll be in Spain!

  11. A great post Cam. And thanks for the introduction to Catalan Coques. They're new to me. I'd have to agree that darker isn't better when it comes to wine. Then again it depends on what you like which is very subjective. I tend to prefer (red) wines that are translucent rather than opaque. What about you?


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