Executive Chef Denise Roa’s cuisine celebrates taste, vibrant colors, and the aliveness of the freshest seasonal ingredients possible. Her farm-to-table meals, usually inspired by a morning walk through the 6-acre organic farm just outside her door, are carefully prepared aesthetic triumphs—simultaneously rustic yet complex in their flavors, as well as being eminently healthy and satisfying for the body, mind, and spirit. Chef Denise’s culinary career includes studying Culinary Arts at the world-renowned Johnson & Wales University in Miami, and holding positions at some of San Diego’s best known and respected restaurants, including Pacifica Del Mar, Crescent Shores Grille, Del Mar Racetrack Turf Club, and her own restaurant, La Trattoria. Her recipes have been featured in People Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, San Diego TV stations, and other media outlets. Additionally, Chef Denise is an instructor at the Culinary Art School of Tijuana, Mexico.
WINEMAKER LOURDES "LULU" MARTINEZ OJEDA OF BRUMA WINERY
With over a decade of hands-on winemaking experience in Bordeaux, France, Bruma winemaker Lourdes “Lulu” Martínez Ojeda returned home to Baja California in 2016. A native of Ensenada, Martinez grew up with a father in the wine business. But she left Ensenada for France 15 years not to learn about winemaking, but with the idea of studying French. As an exchange student she ended up in Brittany where she reunited with a friend studying science at the University of Bordeaux. During that visit she discovered the University also offered a program in oenology, and so began her studies in winemaking. Before returning to Ensenada where she served as the head winemaker for Henri Lurton, Martinez worked at the celebrated Château Brane-Cantenac, one of the oldest and most celebrated wine houses in Bourdeux.
Martinez brought back to Mexico techniques learned from years of hands-on winemaking in Bordeaux. At Bruma, she works to make aromatically complex wines, with varietal typicity, natural freshness and balance. “To let the land and the fruit talk,” she says.
Ivette Vaillard was born in México City, the 4th generation of French settlers from Veracrúz, from whom she learned to appreciate a farmer’s lifestyle. Ivette moved to Ensenada, Baja California in 1976 to study marine sciences. In 1982, Ivette started her ranch in the Valle de Guadalupe where she began making pottery and ceramics, choosing to live a “neorural” lifestyle in harmony with the land.
One of the first disciples of local non-profit winemaking school, “La Escuelita,” Ivette was taught the craft by Mexican winemaking legend Hugo D’Acosta. In 2001 she opened her own winery, “3 Mujeres,” on her ranch in the Valle de Guadalupe, where it continues as a micro-producer today. Ivette’s wines reflects her respect for nature — they are sincere, happy, fruit-forward, and tasty! A unique aspect of her winemaking experimentation, her “Guadalupean” wines are sometimes blended with wine made in Languedoc, France as part of the “Troposfera Project,” a collective of Mexican winemakers working in France and Mexico led by D’Acosta.
Since its founding in 2001, 3 Mujeres has become well known for their sustainable winemaking practices, their small batch production, and their attention to detail.
After a 23 year career in film production, Vintango Winery owner and winemaker Jo Ann Knox moved to Baja California in 1996. She continued to commute to Los Angeles for a number of years for film work, and in 2003 Knox opened an art gallery and wine bar on the Baja coast, just south of Rosarito, where she eventually started making her own wine in 2009. That same year, she won a blind tasting competition amongst 16 small wineries with her Zinfandel. At that point Knox moved to the Valle de Guadalupe and founded the boutique winery Vintango. Most recently she has opened a tasting room and art gallery in the oldest standing house in Valle de Guadalupe, La Casa Vieja, and occasionally takes on film projects in her spare time. The winery now boasts four labels including Zinfandel, Cabernet, Nebbiolo, and a blend of Cabernet and Nebbiolo.
WINEMAKER KRISTIN MAGNUSSEN SHUTE OF VINOS LECHUZA
Kristin Magnussen Shute is the award-winning winemaker for Valle de Guadalupe winery Vinos Lechuza. Started by her father Ray Magnussen as a hobby in 2010, Lechuza has grown into one of the most popular wineries in the region because of their dedication to the craft and the merging of old world and new world styles. Lechuza is known for their sophisticated but approachable wines that have won over sommeliers and chefs around the world and have landed them accolades that include a coveted place on the wine list at The French Laundry in Napa, California (3 Michelin Stars). Kristin is proud of her family’s commitment to working “without borders” as ambassadors to Mexico’s modern wine movement around the world.
Born in Tijuana, and brought up in a hardworking family, Chef Javier Plascencia is a person with a natural curiosity for taste. This has led him to take an adventurous journey, first into Baja, and then to the rest of the world to find unique ingredients. After studying in San Diego, Chef Javier opened his first restaurant in Tijuana in 1989, and today he is one of the most prolific entrepreneurs of the region, with several culinary establishments, all with innovative concepts. Known as an ambassador of Baja California’s gastronomic movement, Chef Javier proudly represents Baja California internationally and speaks highly of the region wherever his travels take him. He is a fervent promoter of sourcing locally, from regional boutique wines and craft beers to grass-fed meats from organic farms and sustainably caught seafood. Chef Javier’s hospitality collective can be found in Tijuana, Valle de Guadalupe, San Jose del Cabo, and Todos Santos with plans for San Diego and additional US-based concepts in progress.
For the last several years Chef Robert Ruiz has been at the forefront of sustainable seafood with his inventiveness, mindful determination, and meticulous care earning him recognition as one of the nation’s progressive culinary minds. Chef Ruiz has roots in San Diego, but trained on the Big Island of Hawaii for a decade and also spent time studying fish and food culture in Japan. Ruiz has worked extensively with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and introduced edible QR code technology that linked his food to NOAA’s FishWatch website. In 2014 Ruiz opened his signature restaurant, The Land & Water Company in Carlsbad, CA, recognized in the city’s top 10 restaurants, and as a San Diego Magazine Critics’ choice. In 2016 Chef Ruiz was recognized as “Chef of the Year” by the San Diego Union Tribune. Chef Ruiz began his love affair with Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe in 2015 when he was invited as a Guest Chef to cook at Deckman’s En El Mogor, by Michelin-Starred Chef Drew Deckman. Chef Ruiz is currently working on his next project, Hold Fast, a farm to table/fisherman to table fast casual eatery located inside San Diego’s Liberty Public Market.