Noche de Cofradía
THE PERFECT UNION IN WINE PAIRING
By Sylvia Mendoza | PHOTOS by Mario Nomura
The art of wine making in the food industry extends to pairing the right wine with the foods placed in front of them for the best culinary experience. The appeal of a sumptuous meal that engages the senses can start with the right wines. The robust flavors of a tender filet mignon will need a different varietal than a rich paella with its steaming mussels or a delicate queso de cabra ice cream treat to round out a meal.
Who knows the best way to pair wines with culinary delights than top ranked chefs, sommeliers and the movers and shakers of the wine industry?
The Cofradía del Vino de Baja California is just the organization that brings such experts together. It takes pairing seriously. And it offers a friendly competition to showcase the best-of-the-best pairings from Baja California – Noche de Cofradía in Ensenada.
“Cofradía del vino” is a term which could be translated as a fraternity or brotherhood in the study, knowledge and promotion of wine and food,” explains Antonio L. Escalante, spokesperson for the event, who majored in agricultural engineering at Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey – and who also happens to produce the excellent wine Bodega Roganto, “The Cofradía competition gathers together the best restaurants and wineries from small to big, from the very famous to the most humble. Each local winery is matched up with a restaurant that will bring out the best of each. They create a gastronomic dish paired up with the perfect red, white or sweet wine.”
Trying to emulate the practice done in Europe, the Cofradía del Vino was born in 1986. The organization had a variety of members from varying backgrounds including doctors, lawyers, merchant marine captains, entrepreneurs, astronomers, chemists, engineers, chefs, winemakers and housewives, says Escalante. “These multiple professions move the mission forward: to enhance the group and promote wine.”
At the Noche de Cofradía event in 2015, forty two restaurants gathered from Ensenada, Mexicali, Tecate, Tijuana and Rosarito with a respective 42 wineries from the local valleys, he says. 1300 entries came to enjoy the culinary creations with their wines.
Held against the beautiful backdrop of Ensenada and its International Harbor and Cruiseport, the annual competition becomes an interactive event offering a fascinating view of the ships coming in and out of the harbor. The ambiance of the sea, the port, and the city add to the festival feel, while the tugboats spray water with their waterguns, offering a waterworks show extravaganza.
And attendees celebrate food and wine. At the entrance, they are welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, a portable wine glass and small table – their tools for the evening. As they come in, they are free to wander and taste the creations made by the pairs all on one floor: watching the cooking, pouring, and having fun while listening to live music.
For those participating in the competition, however, the focus is on their art.
The event is judged by highly recognized chefs, sommeliers, and connoisseurs from Mexico, Spain, Italy, the U.S. and other countries, including experts from the Mexican Association of Sommeliers. The panel is made up of 25 judges. Using a system developed and supervised by the president of the Culinary Art School of Tijuana, judges are trained to view the pairing as one offering, which can be difficult for some to do.
At the Noche de Cofradía 2014 Ana Laura Martinez Gardoqui who was serving as a judge and was also director of the Culinary Art School says it is important that judges understand the concept: they are not looking for a stand-alone taste, the prettiest display or best flavor. They are looking for the best match and how the food and wine must complement each other.
From the minute they start to the last morsel and drop, they are looking for a series of factors that judge the two together. They look for texture, aroma, uniqueness. They taste and swirl, and linger over the effects.
The Cofradía brings out the best of the competitors. The bottom line is it shows the harmony that exists between fine cuisine and delicious wine and showcases the best of the Baja Californian wine-making industry.
The Noche de Cofradía tops the event and is the ultimate in the concept of synergy. “It’s where two parts united as one can produce something better than each one separately,” says Escalante. And in the end, in the world of fine wine and dining, that is simply magical.