| Booze |

Last Night: Women-only wine tasting at Rioja

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Forget the grooming routine from vines to wine. Forget the proper way to hold a wine glass -- and which glass to use, for that matter. And that sniffing, swirling, what-have-you, forget that, too. It's all important, of course, and was taught in one of the three previous ladies-only wine-tasting classes. But there is so much more to this event than just knowing how to pick a good Pinot Noir.

Barbara Macfarlane of Marczyk Fine Foods and her friend Ashley Trego had noticed that women don't seem to understand or take ownership of wine selection when dining. With hopes of helping women take the bottle by the cork, they created a female-friendly wine-tasting held every second Tuesday of the month, at a different restaurant each time. For the October 14 event at Rioja (1431 Larimer Street) they focused on Spanish wines -- and packed every seat.

As interesting as the importers' descriptions are, and as delicious as the accompanying food is, these Venus de Vino gatherings serve an additional purpose: They're an excuse to hang out without feeling obligated to the opposite sex. It's the flip side of men's fantasy-football drafts, although here the history and stats are for a bottle of wine.

"It starts out as educational," Macfarlane said, while sipping the 2007 Paso a Paso Verdejo from La Mancha that had been paired with chef Jennifer Jasinski's plate of grilled shrimp, poached potatoes and chorizo aioli. "By the end, it's just a party." -- Kimberly Berkey

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