By Lisa Green
What if you decided to throw a great big party and nobody came? That was the risk that Perla Garnica and Mac Sutton of La Bodega de Todos Santos were willing to take while pulling together the very first GastroVino, Baja Food & Wine Festival in Todos Santos on May 20. Hotel California, Wide Open and Baja.com co-sponsored the event, enthusiastic about the emerging Baja wine scene. And then the best local chefs jumped on board, creating culinary treats to pair with the fine vintages created by winemakers who were happy to participate.
So, the risk was greatly rewarded. On a magnificent, sunny, Sunday afternoon, the local community of Todos Santos welcomed more than 500 Mexicans, Gringos, and visiting tourists from La Paz and Los Cabos for an afternoon of wine sampling, gourmet food, and festive entertainment. This special event showcased the wines of northern Baja and the unique and creative cuisine of southern Baja.
For 250 pesos (roughly $20), guests received a commemorative etched wine glass and a wrist band authorizing them to enjoy all they could eat and drink throughout the afternoon. The public plaza in front of the beautiful Mision del Pilar church was festive with tents, umbrellas, and white linen-covered tables and chairs, adding an air of class and charm to this inaugural event.
Wonderful musicians performed from the stage in the plaza. The Robert Drake Jazz Band provided the mellow background sounds for the afternoon crowd as people mingled and socialized while sampling the delicious food and drink on offer. Luna Itzel took the stage in the mid-afternoon and commanded the crowd’s attention with her compelling vocal performance.
Wines were poured from familiar Baja wineries like LA Cetto and Santo Tomas, each of which brought a large selection of whites and reds to sample. MD Vinos was also present, just a day after their own winemaker’s event in San Juan de los Planes. Brand new local winemakers Sierra Laguna Vineyards enthusiastically made their debut, presenting their locally produced and freshly bottled fruit wines with colorful, artistic labels illustrating the Todos Santos area.
Two more vineyards had paired with local chefs for Winemakers’ dinners the night before the festival. Vinart wineries presented three unique and different wines with a rich and flavorful six-course dinner on Saturday night with Chef Angelo of Tre Galline. Chef Dany of Santo Vino at Hotel California created his out-of-this-world feast paired with wines from the Baron Balche winery, who was the overall crowd favorite in the competition for best winery at the afternoon event.
Nine fabulous local restaurants from our area presented a variety of rich and tasty treats that were enjoyed by all. Wind and C – who operated from Suki’s this season, and will have a new home next season – pleased the crowd with mini-lamb burgers. The smiling staff from La Santena served up gourmet potato chips. There were different types of ceviches from Compa Chava, and other tasty offerings from Santo Vino, Landi’s, and Guaycura. The paella from La Casita paired nicely with both whites and reds. The big winner in the food competition was Chef Bueno and Rancho Pescadero who put out a full plate of empanadas, chorizo, arracherra, and so much more, paired with their own sangria prepared by bartender extraordinaire Danny Sanchez. We finished up with yummy cookies from Tre Galline.
Along with the indulgence of food and wine, the organizers were sure to remember those less fortunate with a silent auction for the local Internado – a camp where local ranch workers live and educate their children. The auction of generously donated art, jewelry, wine, lodging and fine dining helped to raise over $6000 to help support the lives of these residents of our community.
The Mariachis took the stage as the event was winding down and the restaurants and winemakers packed up their booths in anticipation of next years’ big event. Many of the happy crowd headed to the beach to watch the solar eclipse that was scheduled to happen right at sunset. Once again, with the creativity of its residents, the support of the community, and a little help from Mother Nature, Todos Santos continues to live up to its title “Pueblo Magico.”
Even though this festival is over, gastronomy and wonderful events happen all year long here in the southern Baja. The charming wine experience continues to flourish in the Valle de Guadalupe, which is often compared to Napa and Tuscany.
Want to feel the special Baja magic? Let Baja.com help you plan your next visit here or anywhere in the Baja.
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