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.

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.

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



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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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–


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.

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.



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.


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?

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. 


Tequila Tuesday #TequilaChat


Join us for Tequila Tuesday on November 18th at 1pm CT as we host our first Twitter #TequilaChat with Trianon Tequila.

Join us here at Tequila Aficionado and click on #TequilaChat in the main menu – or click on this link – and click on the JOIN button.

Would you like your tequila featured in our next #tequilachat?  Drop us a line at tequilachat@tequilaaficionado.com or visit our #TequilaChat page for more information.



According to Trianon:

Our family takes great care to make each of our tequilas the same way we have for generations—by hand. We think that’s the only way to make tequila that captures the true taste of blue agave. So, that’s what you’ll find in every bottle of Trianon: True agave taste with a smooth and satisfying finish. Try all three expressions of Trianon and discover the true taste of tequila for yourself.

We age our Blanco a full eighteen months in specially made American and French oak barrels to make Trianon Añejo. Because that’s how long it takes to strike the perfect balance between the taste of oak and agave. We could stop at 12 months like other makers—but by now you know that’s not the Trianon way. Aging longer allows the oak’s rich flavor to reach its full expression, perfectly complimenting the true agave taste of our tequila. With its warm, amber color and sweet aroma, our Añejo is best savored neat.

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


Follow them on FacebookTwitterInstagram

espolon anejo, tequila, espolon

Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza has taken his beloved Espolòn Tequila to new heights with his latest experiment gone incredibly right — Espolòn  Añejo. To put a creative mark on the world of Añejo tequilas, award-winning Espolòn aged tequila did the unexpected — a traditional Añejo with an Espolòn twist. In using a technique pioneered by Oropeza himself, the first of its kind in Mexico, this innovative process takes white oak-aged tequila and finishes it for two to three months in heavily charred American bourbon barrels allowing the liquid to take on the complex, rich flavor for which bourbon whiskey is famous. Brought to the United States for the first time by Espolòn Tequila, Espolòn Añejo is now available to stir things up.

Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza brings multiple decades of expertise to the craftsmanship of Espolòn, applying as much artistry to the liquid as is found on the label. The traditional Día de Los Muertos-style imagery on each bottle depicts significant moments in Mexican history and pays homage to the brave men and women who fought to establish modern day Mexico. The Espolòn Añejo bottle celebrates the Jarabe de Jalisco, now considered the national dance of Mexico, also known as Mexican Hat Dance. A liquid inspired by the risqué performance banned by 19th century Mexican authorities for being controversial, Espolòn stirs things up to create a truly revolutionary Añejo. ~ BevNet


Tequila Distillery List (4Nov2014) “Nom List”

The Tequila Distillery List (Nom List)

hanging lamps, Tequila DistilleryEach of our tequila NOM Lists contains the names and information of current brands and tequila distilleries as well as those that have previously appeared on NOM lists but have since been dropped by the CRT.

You’ll also find links (in red) to all of our reviews and articles on tequilas within the nom list, whether you use the PDF of XLS version.

Pinpointing your treasure bottles or favorite distilleries has never been easier! Please understand that this list is not a comprehensive list of every tequila brand ever made. We make every effort to be sure it is as accurate as possible from the time we at Tequila Aficionado Media began publishing our lists in 2013.

Click to download the format of your choice:

About Our NOM List of Tequilas & Distilleries

hummingbird feeder, Tequila DistilleryClick on any RED link within the NOM list to see the Tequila Aficionado articles and reviews on that brand or distillery.
 *Color Coding*

  • Brands highlighted in Green are recent additions (see comment on Excel spreadsheet for first shown date)
  • Brands highlighted in Red did not appear on the current list (see comment on Excel spreadsheet for last shown date)
  • Brands highlighted in Blue are suspected of using a diffusor in production.




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Jessica’s Journey: Adam Israel González Navarro Interview

About Adam Israel González Navarro

Adam2A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a Sunday in Guadalajara and I made mention of an exceptional man I met that evening over dinner at La Tequila, Adam Israel González Navarro. I began to expound on the impression he left with me, and the reasoning behind the great impression in that article.

Adam, at 24, is far more accomplished than many kids with many more life advantages than Adam has had. His incredible poise, his sense of assurance and confidence, and his unabashed joy at the prospect of meeting new people and sitting down to talk was just infectious!  The more he talked the more I wanted to know what made this young man tick and where he got this incredible sense of self to be the man he already is at the ripe young age of 24, going on 50.

Following is my interview with Adam Israel González Navarro.

Author:  Hi Adam! I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to interview you for Tequila Aficionado Media. In my travels around the world, I have not met a man with so much promise and assurance at such an early stage of his life, and I am inspired by you.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself, your family and upbringing and as a boy, what you wanted to be when you grew up?

adam4I’ve been involved in the gastronomic world since I was a child, thanks to a wise and expert woman, my grandmother. Even though I always had the idea of doing gastronomy as a simple hobby, since I wanted to dedicate my life to the health sciences, It was so captivating to see her cooking a huge diversity of dishes and how she literally gave her soul to this wonderful profession.

At the time I came back to Mexico, after a long journey in France, and since my hyperactivity didn’t let me stay calm, I started working as a simple kitchen helper in a Japanese Restaurant. In time I acquired knowledge and skills and could climb until I became manager of the sushi bar.

adam5Afterwards I dedicated my free time to banquets, but kept the idea of doing this as a hobby, only for amusement.

It was not until one day, when I got hired as the chef leader by a very important and popular Mexican band, that the dream of fighting and devote myself to the dinner guests was born. In that moment I challenged myself to become for life, a person who can be challenged with new missions and hand over confidence, a chef leader.

Were you a good student? Have a favorite memory? Something Inspirational that might have happened to help develop the character you have today?

adamblowingsugarI can say, school has definitively never made for me. Since primary school and because of my hyperactivity I’ve had a lot of problems staying in a 4 walls classroom. My biggest happiness is in the kitchen, where I loose time control and don’t even remember the time to go.

As every young person and thanks to my masters and teachers who have instill in me the discipline and respect for gastronomy, I’ve being able to acquire a big and strong personality and character.

What or who inspired you to want to follow the Culinary Arts as a profession? Can you share a little about this?

adam3Everything starts with Chef Daniel Martinez (a renowned chef in my native city, Aguascalientes) who gave me his trust giving me the charge of SubChef when I was 18. It was for me the, at the time, the biggest inspiration Afterwards Chef Alejandro Lechuga (member of the Mexican Pastry Team) forge me the desire of becoming a person with no limits, not only a simple student. Thanks to Alejandro I become a temporary member of the Mexican Pastry Team in Las Vegas, Nevada when we competed in a world pastry championship.

Time after that, Chef Oscar Ortega, leave me a life lesson: “there are two options; you do it perfectly or you’re no one.”

My last big life guide has being the Executive Chef at “La Tequila”. He gave me his trust and the opportunity to work in a pairing dinner with a Tequila Master. Ana Maria Romero from Indianapolis,USA. Thanks to that I could polish my skills and knowledge in Mexican food.

The fact of sharing time and skills with big personalities, made an impression on my soul. I know now, that in this world specifically in this profession nothing is free nor easy, you have to fight, you must give at every moment 101% of your heart and soul, show what you’re made of, to get what you want and become someone different.

Please tell me about your professional progression through school, opportunities, competitions, awards and recognitions?

adam 1I lived in Paris, France for 8 years, afterwards I took a Lebanese food course.

In Mexico i studied at the international gastronomy college, master of international gastronomy, and subsequently studied the Gastronomy. While I was studying, I went to Las Vegas, Nevada as a member of the MPA to compete in the World Pastry Championship as I mentioned before.

Later I participated in the National Scholar Cup in Mexico City and got the first place for the best sugar sculpture, best team and best taste.

I also studied with Ana Marìa Romero the “Process and Tequila Tasting”

What have you done in your career on your own, such as the months spent in Oaxaca without technology, to further your dreams and experiences and apply them to your ambition?

Mexican Pastry Academy AdamMonths ago I went to Oaxaca City to study the fabulous world of Mescal. Living with such humble people, was definitively an unforgettable experience that teach me a different way of life.

I’ve being improving my skills internationally, like the time I spent in Jackson Hole,Wyoming, preparing for the world junior cup.

What do you do now and what is it about the position you enjoy? Have you had inspirational moments in this position that stand out for you? If you could change something about it, what would that be?

I’m working as the Head Leader in charge of waiters, cookers at “La Tequila” a Mexican Restaurant in Guadalajara City.

My biggest inspiration is to see how families enjoy and seize the day, live the moment as one and close family, that’s what inspire me to keep giving the same service, the fact that each member spend a good moment, enjoy their food and the moment.

If I could change something it would definitively be life’s rate of people like us. It’s really hasty, we give the most part of our time, endless hours, unstable lunch hours etc.

Something I’m sure, I don’t regret anything. Each obstacle make you a better and more capable person.

What is it you aspire to? Where and what would you be doing in a perfect world? Why is this your aspiration and where will this dream take you?

adam chocolateIn a perfect world I can picture myself doing the same thing one and thousands more. Even with obstacles,achievements are more enjoyable.

My aspiration is to create and discover new things. Achieve things no one has ever done.

If you could do one thing to change your country for the better, in your industry in particular, what would that be, and why?

Nowadays dinner guests are more demanding, that’s why I would like to train, qualify, prepare or entitle new and better staff, to give the best attention, and be known as the best. To show what Mexico is capable of.

What words of wisdom do you have to those younger than yourself, with the same dreams and hopes that you have?

The only failure is to give up, you got to fight, live but never stop fighting …

Is there someone in your life now that inspires you? What is your greatest ambition for yourself? What do you hope to achieve in your lifetime?

I have two big inspirations; definitively know the reason to be. . .


My mother taught me that there are no borders which lead to a failure.

And my father taught me to never stop looking up, no matter what happens

What I hope in my life is to earn the respect for the pioneers of gastronomy and of course become one.

What is your greatest achievement to date, in your opinion?

first place adamWinning the national cup.

But above all and in spite of the circumstances, never stop looking up. That is my greatest achievement: To fall, but still getting up.

What would you like the readers to know about you that I have not asked? 

Know that I am of those who value and appreciate what he has, that I have concerns of emigrating to share my knowledge but above all, lead others.

It was not this writer’s intent to edit the answers as quoted by Adam. There is in fact a language issue, obviously, but what came through was Adam. Plain and simple.  Altering the text to read exactly right in English seemed to take away from the authenticity of the interviewed, so it is this writer’s hope you look past the grammatical issues to read the interview as it occurred without altering the style or words or method of translation on Adam’s part.

Adam dreams of working in the United States or Canada. In Mexico, his income doesn’t equate to the fare of a bus across town in any major U.S city! It seems sad that someone with so much potential drive and ambition shouldn’t be recognized to live his dreams. It is why I wanted to highlight Adam and bring special light and attention to this incredible young man. Beyond the dining experience at La Tequila in Guadalajara it was Adam who really made the meal and our evening. He inspired me in so many ways and left me in awe.

If you are interested in speaking with Adam or reaching him please do not hesitate to contact me.


jessica arent, jessica's journey, mexico, tequila, tequila aficionadoAbout Jessica Arent

Jessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing.  Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture.  Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home.  Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.

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