Friday, September 11, 2009

Baja Wine and Food Touring Ongoing This Season

Russian Vintners Win Gold at Baja California Wine Event

Bibayoff Winery (Bodegas Valle de Guadalupe – Vinos Bibayoff) was the grand, first place winner of the La Cofradia Food and Wine Pairing event held on August 18th at the Cruise Ship terminal in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. In fact, it was the second time in the last two years that David and Abel Bibayoff captured the highest honors with their Chenin Blanc/Columbard blend of white wines. This year they were matched with gourmet delights from Ophelia Restaurant of Ensenada.
Traditionally, this Russian Molokan family was known primarily as premium grape growers, but over the last several years the father/son team has refined their skills in creating table wines of good quality. For many years they sold their premium grapes to the better boutique wineries that used the juice to create award-winning wines. This prompted them to take a serious look at their wines and experiment with the grapes from their vineyards that were of superior quality. From these research projects evolved the award-winning Chenin Blanc/Colombard/Muscat blend. In addition, Bibayoff produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and Zinfandel wines.
For those wine lovers looking for a remote, romantic and tranquil winery setting, located on the alternative wine route in Valle de Guadalupe, please visit their winery on Saturdays and Sundays. Their Russian museum offers a rare insight into the history of Russian farmers in the region. The Bibayoff family holds many special events throughout the year, they host weddings, plus they offer camping sites.
The La Cofradia food and wine event (Noche de Cofradia en Ensenada) features about 30 of the top wineries and restaurants in the region. During a random drawing held before the event, wineries and restaurants are matched to compete in the competition. The winemakers and chefs meet, select the best wine to match with a gourmet delight, and thus the contest begins.
This is a great opportunity for local, regional, national and international wine and food loves to investigate the “bottled gems” from local wineries, and sample culinary delights from the top food establishments in the region. These “masters” of food and wine have become so good in pairing food with wine that’s it is extremely difficult to pick a winner. But, other winners were: Bodegas de Santo Tomas with Laboratorio Gastronomico; Tintos de Norte 32 with Galeria Gourmet; Cavas Valmar with Restaurante Asao; Monte Xanic with Restaurante Punta Morro; Paralelo with Villa Saverios; and Roganto with Casa Canola.
In addition, Chabert’s Restaurant of the Rosarito Beach Hotel made their first presentation at this event. Vinisterra winery matched their 2005 Tempranillo with marinated swordfish from Capricho’s Restaurant that was a favorite among many attendees. Restaurante Cien Años of Tijuana created an amazing culinary delight that caught the attention of many gourmet food lovers. Marcelo Castro Chacon of La Cava de Marcelo (Cava de Quesos) offered samples of his aged, gourmet cheeses from Rancho La Campana in Ojos Negros. His cheese is gaining national recognition, further enhancing the evolution of Mexico’s food and wine culture.
Events like this make the point that Ensenada is becoming the “food and wine capital” of Mexico. Our close proximity to the wine country, an abundance of fresh seafood, gourmet cheese production, premium olive oils, superior baked goods, organic fruits and vegetables, all blended and prepared by passionate culinary wizards (from many ethnic backgrounds) is fueling the emerging food and wine culture.
Furthermore, everyone seems to be jumping into artisan cooking and “moonlight” winemaking. For example, the community of Punta Banda, or La Bufadora, held their 14th annual Chili cook-off at Los Gordos Cantina this month with ten entries from home-schooled chefs living in the region. Every sample of chili provided by these artisan chefs was of superior quality, thus making it almost impossible to select a winner. Despite the close competition, the following winners were selected: First place went to David Ortiz, Sue Graham was second, with John Jones finishing in third place. Over two hundred people attended the event, paying a minimal tasting fee, allowing for the presentation of $250 for first place, $175 for second, and $125 for third place. If you love chili and good people, don’t miss next year’s 15th annual chili cook-off, in August 2010, at La Bufadora!
Ensenada and the wine country of Baja California are shining brightly this year with a newly expanded La Ruta del Vino highway, and with the addition of new wineries and culinary establishments. In addition, La Escuelita (Valle de Guadalupe’s premier artisan winemaking institution) and the UABC have expanded their winemaking, enology and viticulture programs, drawing interest from national and international students and wine enthusiasts.
And, the Mexican wines just keep getting better and better with each vintage. For example, L.A. Cetto winery (the largest producer of wine in Latin America) has received numerous gold medals this year, including a “double gold” from a international wine competition in San Francisco and Japan for their 2004 Private Reserve Nebbiolo. Viñedos Malagon won another gold medal in California, earning a large following for their “old vine” Garnacha blends in the United States and Mexico. In fact, they’re now completely sold out of all their current vintages.
Furthermore, two top winemakers from California’s premier wine country have invested in Guadalupe Valley and will start wine production here in 2010, helping to further propel this region onto the map of significant wine regions of the world. Hugo d’Acosta and a group of investors have purchased two wineries and numerous select blocks of vineyards in France and they are reaping benefits in the form of premium grapes, juice and wine. Vinos Roganto is gaining international attention for creating a constant supply of world class wines from Mexico. And, so it goes as Mexico is emerging and evolving by creating wines and culinary wonders of high quality.
The XIX Fiestas de La Vendimia were very successful this year, holding forty-five wine and food related events from August 7th through August 23rd. These events captured the attention and enthusiasm from national residents as they discover and explore wines from their own country.
Maybe now we should sincerely thank the Spanish missionaries for the vineyards and winemaking they started in the Americas. You can tour the wine and food resources of Baja California everyday with Baja Safari, at 619-251-6005.

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