Spirits of Mexico 2013 in Pictures

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy

Tequila Aficionado Media covers North America’s premier agave spirits tasting event – Spirits of Mexico

Since a picture says a thousand words, Rick Thibault Levy, Tequila Aficionado’s correspondent to the 2013 Spirits of Mexico show, took plenty – along with some great video (video coming soon).  For your viewing enjoyment, we present the 2013 Spirits of Mexico in San Diego, through Rick Levy’s lens.  Enjoy!

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
1. The overflow crowd lines up for Spirits of Mexico


– For the First Time in the Festival’s History, Two Tequilas Tie for the Coveted ‘Best in Show’ Award –

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
2. More tequila aficionados queue up for Spirits of Mexico





The 10th-anniversary Spirits of Mexico Festival, North America’s premier agave spirits tasting event, returned to San Diego Sept. 17 to 21 and named the top agave spirits in the world. The week-long celebration attracted more than 2,000 tequila enthusiasts, featured more than 70 brands of tequila and presented more than 200 signature styles of spirits produced in Mexico including tequilas, mezcals and hand-crafted artisanal beers.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
3. Checking out tequila bottles for the silent auction


For the first time in the history of the festival there was a tie for the competition’s highest award, ‘Best in Show’, in which Herradura Anejo Tequila and Desaire Joven Edicion Especial Espadin Mezcal shared the win. The ‘Best in Show’ award for packaging went to Number Juan Tequila.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
4. Carefully placing bids for the silent auction.





The Best Western Hacienda Hotel in Old Town San Diego was the venue for the IWSC Group’s annual Spirits of Mexico Festival Tasting Competition that took place on Sept. 15 and 16.


spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
5. Which one would you bid on?





Entries were judged on five key elements including appearance, aromatics, flavor, mouthfeel and finish, with a rating system totaling a maximum possible score of 100 points. The intensive blind-tasting schedule included more than 100 entries.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
6. Grabbing a bite to eat from the food vendors


Winners of the Tasting Competition’s ‘Best in Class’ awards are as follows:

Tequila Blanco: Excellia

Blanco Overproof: Tapatio 110 proof

Tequila Reposado: Herradura

Tequila Anejo: Herradura

Mezcal: Desaire Joven Edicion Especial Espadin (86 proof)

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
7. Antojitos!



A total of 27 entries received gold medals, 28 received silver medals, and 30 received bronze medals.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
8. Do you love tacos?







The gold award winners in the Tequila Blanco category are Arrogante, Gran Dovejo, Herradura Silver and Viva Los Sanchos.

In the Overproof category, Tarantula 100 proof took home a gold.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
9. Don Adolfo Murillo proudly pours his award winning Alquimia tequila.




In the Tequila Reposado category, golds went to Cava de Oro, Dos Lunas, El Jimador, Gran Dovejo, Mexican Moonshine, Montalvo and Oro Azul.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
10. Alex Viecco, CEO of medal winning, triple distilled Montalvo tequila–with a surprise appearance by the NEAT glass






Gold recipients in the Tequila Anejo category were El Jimador, Gran Dovejo, Mexican Moonshine, Montalvo, Milagro Select Barrel Reserve, Suerte, Rudo, Viva Los Sanchos and Revolucion.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
11. Superstar brand Suerte Tequila explains its tahona process and quality to fans







In the Tequila Extra Anejo category, gold honors went to Crotalo 7 Year, Herradura Selección Suprema, Malinalli and Number Juan.



spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
12. Suerte Sunset






Desaire Joven Tobala took gold in the Mezcal category and Ocho Cientos Reposado took gold honors in the Sotol category.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
13. The noble blue agave






The Tasting Competition was co-hosted by Robert Plotkin of BarMedia and Jack Robertiello of Drinks Ink.

Judges included Alfredo Gama of Wine Warehouse; Founder and Director of Creativa Sensorial Ana Maria Romero Mena; Grover Sanschagrin of Taste Tequila and Tequila Matchmaker; Mixologist and Tequila Expert Jen Queen; Certified Mezcalier Julie Harrington-Giffin of Agave Love; Master Mixologist Junior Merino “The Liquid Chef”; Levi Walker of Young’s Market; Thomas ‘Mac’ McFarland Gregory III of Starwood Hotels, and Zack Romaya of Old Town Liquor.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
14. The sacrificial blue agave



On Friday, Sept. 20, Spirits of Mexico Festival Founder and Director Dori Bryant and Marketing Director Anna Grant hosted the Awards Ceremony and revealed the winners from this year’s competition.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
15. A smile and a sample




“The unprecedented tie for Best in Show, the competition’s highest honor, stunned all,” said Bryant. “This is the first time that a tequila anejo as well as a mezcal took top marks.

“This highest honor recognizes the enduring artistry and craftsmanship of Tequila Herradura, as well as the sophistication and elegance of Mezcal Desaire,” continued Bryant. “We are pleased to congratulate both of these formidable brands.”

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
16. Carlos Camarena’s Excellia displays its gold medal




Comedian Jason Lawhead hosted the live auction benefitting the Sky Ranch Foundation, which featured rare spirits and other items from the private collections of many of the distillers.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
17. Representatives of Karma tequila generate great vibes






The night was also honored by the city and county of San Diego, which provided proclamations naming Sept. 17 through 21, Spirits of Mexico Week in the county and city of San Diego.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
18. Karma tequila takes the stage





Mayor Todd Gloria spoke about the importance of the festival to the region.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
19. Tequila cupcakes for dessert from Harina Dulce





“San Diego is a unique cross-border and cross-cultural region – there is just no other place where two economies and two cultures come together into one critical entity like they do here,” said Mayor Gloria.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
20. Tequila Uno and Fortaleza headline the silent auction at the Spirits of Mexico





“This festival breaks through and tears down cultural walls, fences, barriers in appreciation of one thing: the joy, passion and pride of truly exceptional agave-based spirits.”

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
21. Crotalo, Pura Vida and Suerte tequilas contribute to the silent auction at Spirits of Mexico




On Saturday, Sept. 21, the Main Tasting Event presented more than 200 styles of agave-based spirits. Guests also sampled traditional Mexican cuisine from Casa de Reyes, met with master distillers, mixologists, historians and other agave aficionados, attended educational seminars by Milagro Tequila and Olmeca Altos, and bid on hundreds of bottles at a silent auction.


spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
22. Spirits of Mexico Founder, Dori Bryant, announces the 2013 medal winners



The Spirits of Mexico Festival, North America’s largest event dedicated to agave spirits, is presented by the IWSC Group, a leader in organizing wine and spirit competitions around the globe.

spirits of mexico, 2013, rick levy
23. Tequila and mezcal brand owners proudly display their medals







The festival made its 2013 national tour to New York City, Chicago and San Diego. For more information, visit www.thespiritsofmexico.com.

Look for videos from the 2013 Spirits of Mexico coming to Tequila Aficionado soon!


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Founder’s Feature: Tequila Aficionado’s 1st Podcast, 7 Years Later

The preceding podcast was recorded by Tequila Aficionado’s Founder, Alexander Perez, on March 21, 2006.

Sadly, many brands still persist in the Tequila Girl marketing that Alex mentioned over seven years ago.  Some brands believe they’ve evolved and took it a step further with Tequila Boy marketing.  I believe the true aficionado finds both of these offensive.

True aficionados don’t buy their tequila based upon how attractive an ad model is.  It saddens me that so many brand marketers are stuck in the 1990s and won’t let go of this old advertising paradigm.

When all you put out there is co-ed bimbos doing shots, drinking from red Solo cups, or worse, from the bottle, you’re telling the world you don’t want your brand to be taken seriously.  I love a shirtless hunk as much as the next straight woman but don’t try to dazzle me with him while you pour cherry soda and light beer into a blender to hide the taste of your mass produced tequila.

Show me a brand owner, male or female, who is smart, savvy, self assured and passionate about their tequila and I’ll stop what I’m doing to listen.

Alex said “Tequila companies need to rethink their marketing tactics” and they still do.  The big boys are still marketing their swill with expensive distractions, but the little guys…we love the little guys here at Tequila Aficionado.  The little guys are slowly changing the tequila marketing landscape.

People like Alex Viecco at Montalvo who is also involved in programs to create biofuels from tequila production waste products; people like Sergio Olmos of Nuestro Orgullo who take up the banner for a family business and knock themselves out trying to create the best product possible, not for the money, but for family pride and love of agave spirits; people like Laurence Spiewak and Lance Sokol of Suerte who put thought and meaning into a logo rather than attempting to dazzle us with tits and ass.

Yes, there are still small brands that believe they can grow by emulating the big brands with sponsored DJs, rock bands, edgy artists, and girls with great plastic surgeons but they rarely make it past that crucial five-year threshold.  Superficiality attracts superficiality.  When your marketing involves pretty girls in club attire giving shots to partygoers who will quickly forget what they drank, then you must realize that your tequila will last only about as long as their buzz does.

I think we’re on the cusp of something, though.  It makes me very happy to see tequila brands that are finally letting the tequila do the talking.

As brands take themselves and their products more seriously, so too does the consumer.  People like Mary Clemente of Jurado Tequila are partnering with great chefs like Grant MacPherson.  Pairing dinners are becoming popular ways to market good tequilas and I hope they’ll soon take the place of trays of shot glasses.

People are beginning to appreciate what great tequila and tequila culture can bring to their lifestyle through books by authors like Lucinda Hutson.  Lucinda was well ahead of her time when she first began this journey, but perhaps tequila drinkers have grown up enough to become aficionados and truly appreciate the treasures she pens.

We welcome these changes at Tequila Aficionado.  Alex’s vision was that Tequila Aficionado become a resource for all things agave including mezcal, sotol and other agave spirits.  He wanted to interview people in the industry, people with a passion for fine tequilas, people breaking the old paradigms.  He wanted to provide honest discussions about the merits of particular spirits over tastings, not just a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” He envisioned an online resource that would bring depth to tequila culture.  He hoped to create in a magazine what a master distiller creates in a small batch, something that pleases the senses, enhances, informs, and provides the perfect finish that brings you back time and time again.

Something was missing in the mix all these years, but we believe we’ve finally found the right combination to bring that dream to fruition.

We have new Sipping off the Cuff episodes airing every week so you can taste along with us; bloopers and outtakes so you can laugh with us; Founder’s Features that are interviews and articles of significance to tequila history; Portraits in Tequila taking you beyond the label to see the story of the people behind the tequila; reviews of books on all aspects of tequila from dirt to drink and beyond; reviews on tequila related products like glassware and the foods, treats and cigars that can be paired with tequilas; articles on agave related industries; features on distilleries; and reviews of hotels and restaurants in Mexico’s tequila region.

We will always have a focus on the finished tequila product, but we’re deeper than that.  We’re no longer focusing simply on the finished tequila; we’re expanding to encompass all of tequila culture because, after all, it isn’t about just a quick shot –

It’s about the whole experience.

We look forward to sharing that experience with you.

Lisa Pietsch, COO


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Tequila Week in Review: Senor Rio, Tequila Boss Ladies, Montalvo & Vinturi

Did you miss any of our stories or reviews last week?  In case you did, here they are for your clickable convenience:

senor rio tequilaSipping off the Cuff: Senor Rio Tequila

Mike Morales and Alex Perez explore the Senor Rio brand in this classic episode of Sipping Off The Cuff, newly released from the Tequila Aficionado vault!

tequila boss ladies, mike moralesTequila Boss Ladies

 “The world will be saved by the western woman.”

The Dalai Lama, Vancouver Peace Summit, September 2009

We’re pretty sure His Holiness had no idea that his proclamation would also include this Who’s Who of women in the Tequila Industry and beyond.

montalvo tequila, vinturi, tequilavinturi spirits aerator, tequilaSipping off the Cuff: Montalvo Blanco and the Vinturi Spirit Aerator

We have a rare treat for you today! Instead of just one Sipping off the Cuff episode, we have two!

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Sparkle Donkey Blanco Tequila Review with the Vinturi Aerator

Alex Perez and Mike Morales revisit the Sparkle Donkey Blanco with the Vinturi aerator. You might be surprised at the result!


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Portraits In Tequila–Alex Viecco of Montalvo Tequila…

Alex Viecco, CEO of award winning and triple distilled Montalvo tequila is a new hybrid of tequila brand owner.

While he shares the passion of many of the family owned brands that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, he has a keen business sense that comes from his many years in the financial planning industry.

In other words…

He doesn’t let his emotional attachment to the juice get in the way of his business decisions.  Like a solid investment portfolio, he is also quite diversified.

Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila.
Alex Viecco unwraps Montalvo tequila

Alex is one of the founding investors of a company that I’ve been watching with interest for some time–Greenhouse Holdings (now Premier Alliance), a company dedicated to finding a solution to the alarming Vinazas Crisis that I’ve discussed here.

As outspoken and passionate as I have been about the illegal dumping of tequila wastewaters (vinazas) by distilleries into the rivers and streams of the Paisaje Agavero, Alex has been even more of an advocate for foreign investment in wastewater processing plants as a way of combating the pollution epidemic that still haunts the Tequila Industry.

Since this February 2011 Fox News Latino news release cited here, the original project that he brought to Greenhouse’s attention has been placed on hold due to the merger with Premier Alliance.  Viecco assures, however, that the mission to clean up tequila wastewaters is again gaining traction with the present company, whose new investors include basketball great, Shaquille O’Neal.

“They are exploring a couple of different options to provide yet additional solutions in the region,” explains Viecco.

Montalvo“As you know, many of the companies are a bit leery due to the Big Guys being in so much control.  The goal is to provide a much broader solution to the region which will include the small and mid guys [tequila producers].”

“We have been talking with two groups, Premier and another group, to see who will fund a project to get things cleaned up.  My partners and I are the ones bringing in the guns to make it happen.”

“Like anything else,” Alex cautions, “it is still about relationships and foreign companies overcoming their fear of investing in foreign lands.”

Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.
Montalvo tequila and Vinturi aerator.

And relationship building is exactly what Viecco strives for when visiting new accounts to sample Montalvo blanco, reposado and añejo.

A small batch tequila whose agave is sourced from the Lowlands of Jalisco, Alex realizes that his brand isn’t for everyone.  And just like the fourth generation distillers who oversee the triple distillation of Montalvo (a brand named after a fictional family brand of the popular 2007 telenovela, Destilando Amor), he carefully and deliberately chooses who he will partner with and where he will place the precious bottles of Montalvo.

Another strategic partnership Alex has forged is with Vinturi, makers of wine and spirits aerators (an item we’ll cover in an upcoming post) that allows your wine and spirits to open or “bloom” in a much shorter time.

Finally, what would Alex Viecco like for you to know about Montalvo?

In a word, “explore” the wonderful world of tequila, and start with Montalvo.

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