The Spirits of Mexico Festival, the largest, oldest and most comprehensive forum of its kind in North America, will be held September 11 through 18 this year in Old Town San Diego at the location of California’s birthplace, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Last year’s Spirits of Mexico Festival was awarded proclamations from the City & County of San Diego, commendations from the Mexican Consulate and Old Town Chamber of Commerce, lauded as an ‘A List’ event by San Diego Magazine and noted as ‘one of four festivals not to miss’ by ‘O’, the Oprah Magazine.
Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol and Bacanora, each with its own denomination of origin and all distilled from the juice of the ancient agave plant, have quickly captured the hearts of the American consumer. The festival celebrates these spirits and their heritage. Cuisine, paired and infused, cocktails, educational seminars, a tasting competition and the resultant awards ceremony, live and silent auctions are all in this year’s festival recipe. Where better than in the nation’s No. 1 marketplace for consumption of these spirits? Old Town San Diego.
The Festival makes living history every year as well. Of the more than 150 brands and 400 styles that have participated in the past eight years, 25 percent have exclusively launched at this festival—a singular accolade. This year will see the debut of Tequilas El Decreto &Montoro and Vitzo Bacanora.
For agave enthusiasts and aficionados, the Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition is like the Oscars and Olympics rolled into one
The 2011 Festival launches with a new event, the Tequila Trail on Sunday, Sept. 11, sponsored by newcomer Vitzo Bacanora Cream and 91x radio station, which makes stops at 9 of Old Town’s world-renowned eateries. Barra Barra Saloon, Café Coyote, Miguel’s Cocina, Old Town Mexican Café, El Fandango, The Cosmopolitan, Casa Guadalajara, La Pinata and Rockin’ Baja Lobster will offer up tastes of their signature dishes paired with Herradura, Chinaco, Milagro, Arta, Fortaleza and 1519 Tequilas; Scorpion, Maria, Mijes and Oro de Oaxaca Mezcals; Casa ZG Sangrita, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur and, of course, Vitzo.
The Tequila Trail is also the scene of the Festival’s Solerno Liqueur Cocktail Challenge Semi-Finals at The Cosmopolitan Restaurant, which will narrow down the field in the search for the 2011 Official Spirits of Mexico Cocktail. The challenge put forth to mixologists, bartenders and drinking establishments is to create their best cocktail with this blood orange liqueur as the showcase ingredient.
“With its blend of Sicilian citrus, red berries and Sanguinello blood oranges, this year’s winner just may turn the margarita on its heels,” said Dori Bryant of Polished Palate, producer of the Spirits of Mexico Festival. The Solerno Liqueur Cocktail Challenge finals, sponsored by San Diego CityBeat and Liquid Living magazines, will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Barra Barra Saloon. The event is open to the public.
This year marks the fifth time the Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition will be held at the festival’s official hotel, the Best Western Hacienda in Old Town San Diego. This private event brings together industry experts from Mexico and the United States to judge agave-based spirits.
“The competition has grown significantly over the years, indicating the importance and popularity of this spirit to the U.S. consumer,” said Jack Robertiello of Drinks Ink, competition co-host.
Along with co-host Robert Plotkin of Bar Media, judging panelists that will vote in a number of categories for the best agave-based spirits include Master Distillers German Gonzalez of T1 Tequila Uno and Ana Maria Romero Mena of Corrido and 1519, Thomas ‘Mac’ McFarland Gregory III of Starwood Hotels, Zack Romaya with Old Town Liquor and Mario Marquez of Magia Azul Consulting. Also Rachel Nichols-Bernyk of Tequila Nuts, Larry Auman of Cantina Mayahuel, Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef, and Charlotte Voisey of William Grant & Sons will offer their palates to the judging panel.
Additional panelists are Alfredo Gama of Wine Warehouse, Drew Levinson with Wirtz Beverage Nevada, David Grapshi of Gemini Spirits and Wine and the winner of the 2011 ‘Win a Seat on the Competition Panel’ Clayton Szczech of Experience Tequila. Last year’s winner, Eric P. Lorenz, started Lorenz Agave Spirits in British Columbia and is presenting a seminar at this year’s Spirits of Mexico Festival Main Event.
“For agave enthusiasts and aficionados, the Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition is like the Oscars and Olympics rolled into one,” said Plotkin of Bar Media. “Earning one of the competition’s coveted gold medals has proven an invaluable indicator to the success of new brands of Tequila and mezcal.” The reigning winners, out of 153 entries in 2010, are Best of Show Chinaco Reposado and Best of Category winners Regional Blanco, Chinaco Reposado, Kah Anejo, Abandonado Extra Anejo and Casa 1921 Tequila Cream.
On Friday evening, Sept. 16, Executive Chef Jose Pulido of Barra Barra Saloon serves up his alchemical agave-infused cuisine at the festival’s Tasting Reception and Awards Dinner. Guests will sample a variety of world-class agave spirits while savoring infused hors d’oeuvres and entrees. Guests will then move to the Fiesta de Reyes courtyard for the Tasting Competition awards ceremony where the Best of Category and Best of Show winners of the 2011 Tasting Competition will be announced.
A live auction follows that benefits the Sky Ranch Foundation. The auction offers an opportunity for those wishing to bid on rare collectables, most accompanied by the Master Distiller’s signature. Kah Tequila’s inaugural Extra Anejo topped the bidding last year at $1,000. This year three bottles of El Decreto Tequila Extra Anejo, not available elsewhere; Tequila Los Abuelos Lot #74 series, valued at $1,500, and T1 Tequila Uno’s Barrel #1, of which only four cases remain, will be highlights of the auction.
The Spirits of Mexico Festival’s Main Event takes place on Saturday evening at the Robinson-Rose House, McCoy House Museum, Barra Barra Saloon and the plaza that connects them all in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. According to festival producer Bryant, all the stars will come out for the Main Event as more than 200 styles of agave spirits will be sampled and accompanied by culinary delights from Barra Barra’s kitchen. Seminars take place at intervals throughout the evening.
Eric P. Lorenz of Lorenz Agave Spirits, Douglas French, master distiller with Scorpion Mezcal; Jaclyn Jacquez, president of Don Cuco Sotol; Mario Marquez, president of Magia Azul Consulting, and Charlotte Voisey and Gaston Martinez, both of William Grant & Sons will headline seminars at this year’s Main Event, sponsored in part by the San Diego Reader. The public will be able to meet master distillers and learn first-hand from experts how these spirits are made. A silent auction will benefit the Sky Ranch Foundation, which is celebrating 51 years of helping troubled youth this year.
Samplings will be available from Tequilas 1519, Antiguo, Arta, Azunia, Chinaco, Corrido, Don Diego Santa, Don Eduardo, El Decreto, el Jimador, Fortaleza (Los Abuelos in Mexico), Hacienda Vieja, Herradura, Magave, Milagro, Puerto Vallarta, QV, Regional, T1 Tequila Uno and Tres Agaves. Mezcals will be sampled from Maria, Mixes, Oro de Oaxaca and Scorpion. Also sampling spirits will be Sotol Don Cuco, Bacanoras Cielo Rojo and Vitzo, Casa ZG Sangrita and Solerno Liqueur. Harina Dulce confections will provide pastries at the Main Event.
On Sunday, Sept. 18, the annual Lobster Bus excursion to Puerto Nuevo, Baja California, takes place. The public is welcome to join industry members and fellow Tequila aficionados on the bus for a traditional Baja lobster lunch, hosted by Poco Tequila.
Bryant added that “as a result of our partnership with Fiesta de Reyes, the vibrant dining, shopping and entertainment plaza at the northeast corner of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, several festival events take place in the State Park this year.” Fiesta de Reyes’ shops and restaurants are inspired by 19th century pueblo life, the essence of living in San Diego during its infancy from 1821 to 1872.
“Old Town San Diego and the State Park are the ideal settings for this festival,” concluded Bryant. “It brings the gastronomy, history, culture, in fact the heritage of Mexico together, in one festive setting. For more information and to purchase event tickets, visit http://www.thespiritsofmexico.com.
Background on Spirits of Mexico
The Spirits of Mexico Festival started as a one-evening event in San Diego in 2004 with 12 brands and 350 guests. In 2007 several elements were added including a Tasting Reception and Dinner and the first Agave-Only Tasting Competition in the United States, creating a more comprehensive multi-day and multi-faceted festival, celebrating all aspects of this spirit. The Festival saw more than 2,500 guests and 200 styles in 2010. As consumer interest grows and the industry evolves, the festival continues to meet those demands and is enhanced each year.
About Polished Palate
Since 2005, the Polished Palate has been hosting cutting-edge tasting events, educating the consumer on all aspects of each distilled spirit category. Through seminars hosted by recognized industry professionals, guests learn about the history and culture of each spirit, their impact on society, current trends and appropriate tasting techniques, while promoting responsible consumption—all in a festive format.