Tag Archives: mike morales

Judging at The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine

In mid-August of 2014, the organizers of the 6th Annual Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, which took place on October 11, 2014, graciously asked Tequila Aficionado Media CEO, Mike Morales, to participate as a judge.  Their unique, take-at-home blind tequila tasting competition used the Tequila Matchmaker smartphone application to score and bestow awards.  You can review the results of the tasting competition here.

[Tweet “Mike Morales reflects on judging the 6th Annual Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine”]

Take-Home Test

I dreaded tests and pop quizzes in school.  I never did well on them no matter how long I studied.  The only answer for someone like me to improve his grade was to do extra credit work.  Often, that meant the blessing of the occasional take-home test.

[Tweet “Who wouldn’t love a Take-Home Tequila Test?”]

The entire text book, notes and other related materials was at my disposal.  In addition, the stress of competing against my smarter classmates was lifted, as well as any pressure about time limits.

Really, it was a license to cheat!  How could I go wrong?

That’s why the concept of the take-home cata made the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine’s tasting competition so intriguing for me.

 Matchmaker, Matchmaker,

Make Me A Match…

Grover Sanschagrin, co-founder of TasteTequila.com, is the designer of Tequila Matchmaker, the only smartphone application to date that aids tequila

TasteTequila

TasteTequila

aficionados in finding tequilas that are suitable to their taste preferences.  It also allows enthusiasts to rate and grade brands on a sliding numerical scale.

Grover has introduced Tequila Matchmaker in some of the leading and trending tequila bars in the US.  The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine is the first event to exclusively use the Tequila Matchmaker app for its blind tasting competition.

[Tweet “The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine is the first event to exclusively use the Tequila Matchmaker app”]

Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.

Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.

In this Facebook interview, Grover shares some of his thoughts on the aftermath of the competition.

TA:  So…did the results amaze you?

GS:  Not really.  I wish there were more brands involved so we could get a better comparison.

Last year, when we announced the results, several brands were in the room.  They immediately asked questions about the judges.  This gave me the idea to “test” the judges as a way of giving the brands an idea of who they were dealing with.
So, duplicating a tequila as a way to “judge the judges” was my answer.  A total experiment.  Not totally scientific, but definitely interesting.
[Tweet “Judging the judges: Not totally scientific, but definitely interesting.”]

TA:  Did they know who the judges were this time around?

GS:  No, we didn’t disclose which judges gave which scores.  Also, all of the judges, except for one, did well.

TA:  Did they know the names of the judges on the roster?
GS:  I believe so.

Also, rating these tequilas from home is a totally different method than rating them with all of the judges in the same room.  Not that any one is better than the other, just

Freddy the Cat judging añejos.

Freddy the Cat judging añejos.

that they are different.

I would actually like to try an experiment where the same judges rate things at home, and then again, together (like the SOM [Spirits of Mexico competition] format) and then see the differences.
Grover continues…
GS:  I also want to experiment with the order of the selection.  We can actually use our app to create a random order for each person, so nobody will have the same [order].
Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.

Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.

TA:  That would be a cool variable.

GS:  For me at SOM [Grover was a judge at 2014’s contest], palate fatigue is an issue, so it would be interesting to see if tequilas at the end of the line tend to do better.  I am fascinated by blind ratings, so I’m having a blast trying all these new experiments.
[Tweet “I’ve got 99 problems but Tequila palate fatigue isn’t one!”]
TA:  I think [for me] tequilas at the beginning of the line may also suffer from palate “under work.”

GS:  In our blind tasting tour, we found just the opposite.  The tequilas in slots 1 and 2 tended to score higher that 3-6.  No idea why, really – but it was clear in the comparison of the events.

[Tweet “Does time of day really make a difference in tequila tastings?”]

Beginning of the line for blanco category.

Beginning of the line for blanco category.

TA:  Did the time of day also make a difference?
GS:  It was mid afternoon for all of the events.
TA:  So time of day was pretty consistent?
GS:  I know that the SOM guys insist that spirits must be evaluated in the morning, but that seems a little odd to me.  I think the judge needs to be consistent, but should be able to choose when they drink.  I don’t usually drink in the morning. usually. :-).  There’s an element of “real life” that isn’t present when you drink Tapatio 110 at 9am.
[Tweet “There’s an element of “real life” that isn’t present when you drink Tapatio 110 at 9am.”]

TA:  Did the certified catador do better than was expected?

GS:  Nope.

Rant Alert!

Before I go into my pros and cons of rating tequilas using the Tequila Matchmaker app for the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, let me get a few pet peeves off my chest.

Judging Competitions–What A Concept!

In all my time studying, analyzing and observing the Tequila Industry, not once have I ever known any tequila enthusiast, purist, newbie, connoisseur, collector or consumer (let alone brand owner and/or importer) to be happy with the results of any spirits judging competition.

Whether it’s the venerable San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the respected Beverage Testing Institute, the famed Spirits of Mexico, or any of the smaller, regional tasting events throughout the country, no one has ever been completely happy or agreed entirely with the outcomes.

The older the judging tournaments are, the more importance their annual medal counts are given by an unsuspecting public who only purchase award winning beers, wines and spirits based on their perceived value, instead of trusting its own taste buds.

Those long running competitions become more expensive to enter, forcing smaller more deserving brands out and leaving the larger, transnational corporations with deeper portfolios and bigger budgets to duke it out.

Accusations of alleged backroom negotiations for awards has also been an issue, of late.

And let’s not forget the most lucrative part of the tasting event–

Licensing

Paying for the rights to use the competition’s branded medals and seals in addition to the entry fees per spirits expression submitted.

Yet, spirits brands in general, and tequila brands in particular, continue to allocate hard-earned marketing dollars toward entering these yearly competitions for the privilege of hanging neck tags from their bottles or affixing stickers onto their labels named for precious metals or gemstones.

Double Vibranium, anyone?

Collecting medals and awards have gone the way of tattoos and piercings–

Everyone has them, and the novelty and mystique have worn off.

[Tweet “Collecting spirit competition medals has gone the way of tattoos – everyone has them.”]

At the end of the day, it seems like everyone who participated in the competitions scored some sort of hardware and the rest of us are left shaking our heads in dismay or agreement.

Lastly…

Scoring

Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.

Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.

I was once told by a very respected spirits writer that a unified scoring system was good for an event should the organizers decide to hold other branded spirits competitions.

Puh-leez!

Whoever said that a templated numerical  scoring method used to grade different kinds of spirits was appropriate for tequila tastings?  Diffusers aside, tequila itself is so unique, it doesn’t compare with the flavor profiles of all other spirits, so why rate them that way?

[Tweet “Do spirits competitions need a unified scoring system? Is that even possible?”]

How about a rating system that’s good for the juice instead of one that’s good for the show?  (BTW…one already exists.)

Pros And Cons

Pro–scoring on the Tequila Matchmaker app is amazingly simple.

Con–There’s no numerical rating for the tequilas’ appearance on the Tequila Matchmaker app.  Takes the whole sensorial feeling out of tequila tasting.  Only your nose and mouth get to have all the fun.

Pro–Shipping two ounce samples is neat and cost effective for the organizers of the show.

Con–See what happens when minis are compromised.  (Warning:  It’s not pretty.)

I particularly found that my sealed reposado samples were extremely alcohol-y even after sitting at room temperature for a couple of days.

Pro–It’s lovely to take your time judging samples at your leisure.  I agree with

You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.

You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.

 

Grover that it saves on palate fatigue, too.

 

Con–I miss the camaraderie of other expert judges and learning from them.  It ups your game like playing one-on-one with LeBron James or batting against Clayton Kershaw.

 

Pro–Depending on my schedule, I chose what time of day to judge my samples.

 

Con–According to the guidelines set forth by the original Mexican Tequila Academy, tastings should begin by 11 AM when a catador’s (tequila taster’s) palate is freshest.  [See also their tequila scoring sheet and criteria.]  This article here explains where this custom began.

 

Pro–I knew which glassware and other tips and tools to use to make me, as a judge, more effective.

 

Con–The lack of uniformity and protocol among the judges could have affected the final results.

 

Pro–It was exciting to use Tequila Matchmaker’s breakthrough scoring system.

 

Con–I can’t, in all honesty, say that I was pleased with the awarded outcomes or my graded performance.

 

See!  What did I tell you?  I hate tests. 

 

Sipping Off the Cuff: Espolon Anejo

Espolon Anejo – Finished in Bourbon Barrels

espolonTequila Aficionado’s Alexander Perez and Mike Morales taste and discuss the new Espolon Anejo presented by Campari and explain why they feel it deserves to be nominated as a 2014 Brand of Promise.

 

 

Find Espolon Tequila online at

www.tequilaespolon.com.

Follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram

 

A Truckload of Agave – Agave Spirits, That Is

Agave Spirits Everywhere!

Agave piñas.

Agave piñas, agave spirits

 

 

If you’ve been following Tequila Aficionado Media closely, you may have noticed a lull in the weekly Sipping Off The Cuff ™  episodes that traditionally have aired every Friday.

As you may know, every tequila, mezcal or sotol label that submits samples for Sipping Off The Cuff ™ is automatically entered into our ground-breaking end-of-year Brands of Promise ™ awards program.

 

We’ve Got Our Work Cut Out for Us 

test pattern, agave spirits, tequilaAfter an unprecedented amount of entries to our Brands of Promise ™  awards, and the flabbergasting influx of new tequila and mezcal brands with fabulous juice in 2014 (and some unforeseen technical difficulties in our post production department that were beyond our control), Sipping Off The Cuff ™ returns with a vengeance.

 

Coming In Hot

agave spirits, tequilaStarting this week, our post production department is backing up the truck and dumping a huge load of agave onto your screens.

Until virtually the end of 2014, brand-spanking new episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff ™ will premier–

Daily!

tequila reviews, agave spiritsLook for your favorite–or start up or little known–tequila or mezcal brands to be deconstructed, dissected and discussed by our Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO Mike Morales.

Plus…

We’re planning some surprise guest hosts to star with Mike on special episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff ™ that will be taped from some of the more popular and trendy tequila bars around the country.

Sipping Off The Cuff ™–On Demand!

 

Fast and Furious, agave spiritsDon’t worry if you miss a chapter or two of these upcoming reviews with Alex and Mike.

They’ll be coming in fast and furious till the end of the year, but you can always catch up by subscribing to our YouTube channel, as well as following TequilaAficionado.com’s Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.

And if you haven’t done so, take a moment to subscribe to our newsletter and be assured of never missing the latest tequila scuttlebutt, event, or feature story.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

 

 

Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.


Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant–It’s In The Blood

2014-08-22 19.57.43Felipe’s Mexican Restaurant’s humble beginning exemplifies the meaning of the Latino American Dream. 

Voted a Reader’s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant in 2014 by the Wichita Eagle, the family owned chain has been in business for nearly 50 years pioneering its style of Mexican cuisine and feeding generations of families in Wichita, Kansas. 

On a bustling and muggy Friday night in late August 2014, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited to meet with the proprietors of Felipe’s, the Lujano family, at the northeast Wichita location of their four venues.  

[Tweet “Review of Felipe’s – 50 Years of Mexican cuisine in Wichita, KS”]

Family Is Everything

Felipe's logo.

 2014-08-22 20.59.43It is the family patriarch, Don Roberto Lujano, who captures all the attention.

Strolling through the clean and brightly decorated restaurant, Don Roberto, brother of the deceased Felipe for whom the restaurants are named, visits every table to shake hands with his regulars.  He responds with a wide grin and a kind word as people of every race, creed and color call him Papa.2014-08-22 20.58.13

In the next two clips, Don Roberto’s son, Miguel Lujano, manager of the northeast restaurant on Woodlawn Blvd., recounts Felipe’s vast history as the first establishment to introduce Mexican cuisine to Wichita in 1967.

Think You’ve Tasted It All?

I’ve ingested just about every single style of Mexican food.  From glitzy chain restaurants with signature tropical fruit-based tequila drinks, to hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop diners that serve handmade tortillas and guacamole, I truthfully thought I had tasted it all.

2014-08-22 20.20.01

[Tweet “Mike Morales sits down for a meal and a chat at Felipe’s Restaurant”]

Not the usual “gringofied” spicy Mexican food that is served in the corporate-owned eateries, Felipe’s relies heavily on a medley of traditional herbs, spices, and heirloom family recipes.  Still, they are not without its own unique cuisine challenges as Miguel Lujano explains…

Mild vs. Hot 

2014-08-22 21.12.04With the influx of more Mexican and Mexican Americans into Wichita establishing diners of their own, Felipe’s continues to find ways to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack.

Noting that their customer base is trending toward more spicy hot ingredients, the Lujano family has taken advantage of this turnabout by adding some picante to their signature dishes.  Don Roberto Lujano and his wife, Maria Teresa, still cook in the kitchen with most dishes made from scratch.

And in a state whose liquor is controlled (state run), the task of obtaining more authentic tequilas for Felipe’s emblematic cocktails can be even more challenging, especially when competing restaurants plagiarize them for their own menus.  The secret, Miguel Lujano insists, is educating their customers.

Maestro Dobel Special Edition

Maestro Dobel Special Edition

Felipe's Special Edition selection.

Felipe’s Special Edition selection.

Miguel admitted that it also helps to be friendly with representatives from Glazer’s and Standard Beverage Corporation, liquor distributors who share his passion for tequila.  Through his relationships, Felipe’s has been able to acquire such sought after tequilas as Suerte, Siete Leguas, Demetrio, George Clooney’s Casamigos, and participate in Maestro Dobel’s Special Edition program.

[Tweet “Distributors & Restaurants working to bring the consumer the tequila they want “]2014-08-22 22.53.24

[Tweet “Felipe’s Restaurants: Possibly the best tequila selection in Kansas?”]

 

Craving Felipe’s

Here, Miguel Lujano explains how Felipe’s is so artful at getting their customers to crave their cooking and cocktails.

Three Keys To Success

Miguel Lujano shares his father’s three keys to a successful Mexican restaurant.

[Tweet “Felipe’s Restaurant 3 Keys to Success”]

In The Blood

In a city that has seen its Hispanic population boom from a scattering few in 1967 to close to 60,000 strong in 2014, Felipe’s has actively enticed the unpredictable tastes of its community over the decades.  But, what keeps the Lujano family passionately pushing the limits of their traditional fare?

Simply put–

It’s in their blood.

***

Enjoy this Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita…

[Tweet “Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita”]

Felipe's signature recipe for homemade sangrita.

Felipe’s signature recipe for homemade sangrita.

 

2014-08-22 22.26.35

and Miguel’s signature Margarita.

[Tweet “Felipe’s: Reader’s Choice award for Best Mexican Restaurant in 2014″]

Never miss an article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

Email Format

View previous newsletters.


We Just Sit Around Drinking Tequila All Day

We don’t actually sit around drinking tequila all day, but that’s what a lot of people think we do.  There’s a lot of effort behind the scenes that goes into producing content for Tequila Aficionado.  One important thing is producing episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff.  Let me tell you a little about that.
 

 

It’s quite a process so we thought we’d share it with you:

First, we have to get the guys together.  Getting Alex and Mike together via Skype isn’t always easy.  family commitments, all the things that can go wrong with computers, and then there’s the software, both the recording software and Skype that have a part in whether or not our programs are recorded properly.

If we had roadies, we’d have them do the tech check for us.

 

 

Setup

We wash Reidel snifters, ensure we have vodka & melba toast for palate cleansing between tequila tastings, and then set up all the bottles of tequilas and other great agave spirits that must be tasted and reviewed.  It takes about an hour just to move furniture, set up the table and then bring everything down off the shelves, dust it off and then set it up nicely for photos just in case Mike & Alex decide to talk about all the brands awaiting review.  Setup time is usually when we take photos for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine.  It is important to us that the brands that send us samples feel it is a valuable proposition.  Providing them with social media content that adds to their electronic equity is very valuable in today’s market.
 

 

Filming At about 12-20 minutes per brand, it makes for a long night.  Mike & Alex will taste several brands in one night and usually spend about 4 hours filming together.  

 

Editing

I take the raw footage and edit it.  (Trust me, there are just some things those guys do that you just don’t want to see or hear.)  It takes about 45 minutes to review, edit, research, add facts, format, and produce each individual video.
 

 

Uploading Then we upload the videos to YouTube.  Some days it goes quickly and some days the computer is tied up all day because YouTube is running so slowly.  

 

Posting

With all that done, we’re ready to schedule and post the video on Tequila Aficionado.  We want to make each video posting as search engine friendly as possible so the tequila (and mezcal) brands get plenty of publicity.  That means digging into websites and Facebook for social media links, images, and details on each brand’s production process.  Some tequila brands turn out to be Not Safe For Work (NSFW) and that means wading through a whole lot of bikini images before finding one we can use.  (Please take a lesson from mezcal and stop marketing like it’s 1989?)

Then you, the tequila aficionados see the final product.  We hope the insights that Mike & Alex provide are worth your time.  It is always our hope that the materials we work so hard to produce are as educational as they are entertaining and everyone from the brand owner to the consumer feels it was time well spent.

Are you following us on Vine yet?