Cooking to the Wine: Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva with Smoky Seared Octopus

We celebrated 4th of July weekend this summer with our friends Lucy and Drew at the Culinary Cabin.

We love these weekends. They’re all about cooking up a storm and drinking good wine with our friends for days straight. I have to say, I love the summer trips even more since I love sunshine and we get to intercut the feasting with hikes and occasional boat rides on Lake Tahoe.

(We have a few more Culinary Cabin posts in the works from trips this summer. To own it, this one has been pending for a month now!)

Summer also means that there are more chances to use the grill. Since we live in an apartment, we don’t get to grill at our place. It’s fun to make use of one when it’s available. 

One about Tahoe is that shopping options are limited. However, a while ago Drew discovered a wonderful specialty store called Market 28 in Tahoe City. There’s always something fun to be found here, so it’s now almost a tradition to stop in for treasure hunting. This time around we found frozen madako tako, or steamed octopus, along with a few other flavorful treats. We decided to use them to create seared, smoky octopus dish that was traditional of nothing whatsoever. 

I had a bottle of Rioja Reserva waiting for us and thought that we could create a tasty pairing for it with the octopus. Tempranillo is Spain’s star grape, and Rioja is arguably its star region. (Located in NE spain, Rioja shares the category of Denominación de Origen Calificada, or DOCa, the top rung of Spain’s quality ladder, only with Priorat.) Red Rioja’s (white and rosé versions exist too) are usually Tempranillo driven, with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo (aka Carignan) as the potential supporting cast. I think Rioja's wines are among the most versatile reds out there.

The tricky thing about Tempranillo is that it can be a little bit of a chameleon grape. It usually has red to dark red fruit flavors of strawberry or cherry, but it can go deeper and darker. You’ll also often find savory tobacco and herbal notes, and earthy notes like clay. The structural elements – acidity, alcohol, body, and tannins – can kind of range all over the place, which can sometimes make this a hard grape to pin down. Tempranillo’s million and one aliases speak to this grape’s multiple personalities. Here’s just a small sampling of the names it goes by: Cencibel, Tinto Fino, Tinto del Pais, Tinto de Toro, Tinto Madrid, Ojo de Liebre, Ull de Llebre, and Aragonez and Tinta Roriz in Portugal.

The other thing to be aware of is oak aging. In Rioja (and elsewhere in Spain) you might see the words Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva on the bottle. In the US and other New World countries, we sometimes stick Reserve ad Grand Reserve on the bottle and it really doesn’t mean anything. They’re marketing terms that might be the winery’s way of telling you this an upper tier, or maybe they just thought it sounded good. That’s not the case in Spain. Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva are regulated terms pertaining to the length of time the wine has been aged in oak.

This infographic from summarizes the details.

Both oak contact and aging affects the flavors in the wine, and these indications can give you an idea of the types of flavors you might find. Straight up Rioja, with now other indicator, will have little to no oak aging. These will tend to have lighter, brighter fruit flavors. As you move up to Crianza, you can start to expect little hints of spice notes in the wine, which comes from contact with the oak barrels. Reservas tend to have more spice notes, plus notes of tobacco and leather than start to emerge as wine ages. Gran Reservas spend the most time in wood, so you get lots of spice box notes, as well as lots of complex savory leather, tobacco, mushroom, earth, and dried fruit notes that come with time. One more thing to be aware of is that oak has tannins and can add to those already in the wine.


Today’s wine is a the Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva 2012. The winery has been around since 1972 and the name is made up of initials of three provinces of Rioja DOCa: Logroño (currently part of La Rioja), Álava, and Navarra. 

Note: This bottle was provided as a sample. No compensation was received and, as always, all opinions are my own.

LAN’s wines are pretty easy to find in many places in the US. They’re sizeable, but they pay careful attention to sustainability. They believe by doing so, they help to develop the immunity of their vines to pests and diseases. They also predominantly work manually in their vineyards as part of their effort to reduce soil erosion and pollution. In addition, they limit their water usage and do not apply any chemical herbicides. Their sustainability practices go much further – you can read about them here.

LAN’s winemaker María Barua has had a big part to play in their sustainability efforts. She got her love of wine from her father, who would always take great care in selecting the wines to be served with their Sunday lunch. She went on to study Chemistry and Enology, and eventually started working at LAN in 2002, where she rose through the ranks. María puts LAN’s founding principle that winemaking starts with viticulture into practice.  This is enhanced by research and innovation. María has spearheaded some of LAN’s more special projects, like LAN Xtrème Organic, her and the winery’s commitment to the land and a more sustainable future. 

Photo of María Barua courtesy of Bodegas LAN and Gregory + Vine PR

Our subject wine today though is their Rioja Reserva 2012. Like I mentioned, we enjoyed the bottle at the Culinary Cabin over July 4th weekend. Greg, Drew, and I gathered around to taste it and get ideas for our lunch. The wine showed notes on the nose of steeped cherries, tobacco, cigar box, dills and other mixed herbs, hints of coffee.

On the palate, there were sour cherries and other mixed red fruits, light tobacco, mixed herbs, leather, licorice, and spice box – a pretty classic representation o Rioja Reserva. It had medium acidity that was approaching medium plus, medium tannins, and medium+ body. Greg noted that the wine’s structure was very integrated, a fact that only increased with time, as the wine got smoother with air.

As I mentioned, we’d picked up octopus at our favorite local store and we thought it would be a good match with the wine. So you might be thinking, ‘Red wine and seafood?!’ Depending on the region and style, Tempranillo can have moderate tannins (I did say they could run the gamut). When this is the case, and it often is with Rioja, it allows the wines to work with certain seafood dishes. Seafood and tannins don’t like each other very much and tend to clash, creating unpleasant flavor sensations when had together. It’s one of the factors that has led to the rule of thumb that seafood should be paired with white wines.

As is the case with a lot of rules of thumb, however, the reality is more nuanced, and if you know more about the issue you know there are ways around it. Picking red wines that have light to medium tannins will lead you to a higher success rate at having them get along with seafood at the table. Light, delicate fish are also less likely to play as nicely as something a little more meaty. Salmon and Pinot Noir are generally considered to be a classic combo for just these reasons – rule of thumb be damned.

Octopus is also a pretty meaty piece of seafood, and I find it often works well with light to medium red wines. On the flip side, the tannins on this Tempranillo were present, but not terribly aggressive, so it stood a good chance of working well with the octopus. The oak was a similar case, and we thought we could integrate those flavors further by giving a smoky char to the octopus on grill. In addition, Greg, Drew, and I all huddled around the spice drawer tasting and smelling things to come up with a blend we thought would work.

I took our selections and made a seasoning mix that served multiple purposes. It served as a rub for the octopus, seasoning for vegetables to be grilled, and got mixed into an oil to be drizzled on at the table. 

Just as we’d hoped, the complex mix of herbs and spices brought out similar notes in the wine, with the char on the octopus speaking to the light toast. It all worked super well together!


I think we covered the basic of red wine pairings for this above: keep your selections in the light to medium body camp, with tannins that are light and/or very supple.

I think this dish should be fairly versatile – plenty a white wine and rosé would work here as well!

By a similar token, I think this is a wine that can go well with a lot of different dishes. On their site, LAN recommends, “All kinds of meat, particularly game, lamb, ‘cocido’ and other rich stews.”



Taken from the tech sheet.

GRAPE VARIETIES: 92% Tempranillo and 8% Mazuelo.
VINEYARDS: Selected vineyards in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa subzones with an average age of more than 25 years.
WINEMAKING: Fermented in stainless steel tanks, with temperature control to ensure that it doesn't go over 28ºC to avoid losing the aromas from the grape. Three weeks' maceration with frequent pumping-over to ensure a good colour extraction.
AGEING: 18 months in hybrid barrels of French and American oak. Bodegas LAN is a pioneer in the use of hybrid barrels that combine American oak staves - giving vanilla elegance - and French oak bases, which provide touches of spice. LAN Reserva remained a further 20 months in the bottle, to complete its rounding off.


The SRP on this wine is $20, and lists the average price at $16. The wine delivers quite a bit at this price point, making it an Over Achiever.

Yield: 5 to 6 meal portions, or serve smaller slices as an appetizer

Spiced & Smoky Seared Octopus with Cauliflower and Broccoli


  • 5 to 6 madako tako tentacles  (aka steamed octopus. Ours came frozen and was thawed.)
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon smoked paprika, or regular smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ cup kosher salt
  • Approximately ¼ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus additional lemon wedges for serving if desired
  • Mix of cauliflower and broccoli, cut up into florets (Note: We made a heaping amount of broccoli and cauliflower, so as to have leftovers, but make as much as seems appropriate per person)


How to cook Spiced & Smoky Seared Octopus with Cauliflower and Broccoli

  1. Remove the octopus from the fridge and pat dry as needed.
  2. Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan, heating just until fragrant and lightly browned in color. Transfer to a bowl or mortar with pestle. Lightly crush the seeds with a pestle, potato masher, or whatever you have laying around that you can use to crush the seeds. Add in the smoked paprika, oregano, parsley, and cinnamon.
  3. Transfer 1 heaping teaspoon of the spice mixture to a separate small ramekin or bowl with the olive oil. Set aside.
  4. Lay out the octopus tentacles in a large baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of sugar and ⅔ of the remaining spice mixture, reserving the rest. Rub the seasoning onto the octopus well. Set aside for about 30 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, sprinkle remaining spice mixture onto the vegetables, along with the lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil if desired. Cover the bowl and cook in the microwave for about 12 minutes on high heat, or until the vegetables are just cooked through. (Note: if you don’t have a microwave you can steam the vegetables until tender-crisp.)
  6. Prepare and heat grill to medium-high while the vegetables are cooking in the microwave.
  7. Once the grill is heated and all components are ready, start grilling. Sear the vegetables first, followed by the octopus. Sear all just until there are medium-dark grill marks on the surface. (As everything is already cooked through, you’re just trying to give the vegetables and octopus a little bit of char.)
  8. Serve the octopus and vegetables with the spiced olive oil drizzled on top and lemon wedges (if using) on the side. Octopus tentacles can be served whole, or sliced into rounds for smaller portions.
Created using The Recipes Generator


We were so lucky to have Bodegas LAN represented at this year's inaugural Della Donna event, and we were so grateful for their participation! I was so excited to try more of their beautiful wines.


The Wine Pairing Weekend group explored wines from Bodegas LAN last month. I got a little behind, as you can see. You should definitely check out their offerings as well:

  • Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen shares Vegan BBQ: 3 Ideas to Pair with Crianza Rioja“.
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares A Father’s Passion is Passed Down to Daughter and Expressed in Bottle
  • David from Cooking Chat shares Grilled Paprika Pork Chops with a Rioja
  • Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Grilled Sausage Feast Paired with Rioja Crianza
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “Paella and Bodegas LAN: Perfect for Your Summer BBQ
  • Jill at L’Occasion shares “On the Grill with Rioja Wine
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “Oven Roasted Italian Sausage with Rioja Riserva
  • Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Grilled Garam Masala Lamb Chops paired with Bodega LAN Reserva
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Keep your cool with grilled steak salad and Rioja
  • Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Robatayaki and Rioja Wines, the Perfect Summertime Party
  • Pinny at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings shares Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza and Thick-Cut Sirloin Steak on the Grill
  • Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Our Favorite BBQ Ribs with LAN Rioja
  • Gwen at Wine Predator shares “An American Summer BBQ with Spanish Rioja Wine: LAN Crianza and Beronia Rosado
  • Rupal at Syrah Queen shares Bodegas LAN Rioja with Canjun Butter Steak
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Smoking Low & Slow with Rioja Wines“ 


    Additional sources used and related reading:
    The Oxford Companion to Wine on
    Learn About Rioja Wine From Spain on
    Rethink Your Drink: Debunking the Myth that Red Wine and Seafood Don’t Pair on



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