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Posted by Robert Whitley on April 21, 2015 at 2:08 PM

Andy's Spirits World

 Wine enthusiasts might remember Anthony Dias Blue best from his long and distinguished career at Bon Appetit Magazine, where he wrote about wine & spirits. He also has been the longtime Director of the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

But Andy wears many hats, and one of them is as founder and Director of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Andy's annual spirits event is the gold standard for spirits competitions in the United States and last month broke all of its own records with 1580 entries. This is remarkable when you consider spirits, unlike wine, don't have vintages that change from year to year.

There is a similarity, however, between the appreciation of fine spirits and fine wines. Any wine lover who admires exceptional quality and craftsmanship in adult beverages would be a candidate to explore the world of spirits.

The list of top winners from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition would make a strong starting point for such an adventure.

Fond of Scotch, I was intrigued by the winner in the Whisky category. That went to Craigellachie Single Malt Aged 23 Years ($297) from Speyside. At that price, this is truly a sipping whisky.

I'm also a fan of aged rums. So the winner in the Aged White Spirit category jumped out at me: Parce 12 Year Old Rum ($60) from Columbia. Best Bourbon went to Knob Creek 9 Year Old Small Batch Bourbon ($31).

For a complete list of the winners, visit SFSpiritsComp.com.

Les Dauphins, Cotes du Rhone (France) Reserve 2013 ($13)
France's Rhone Valley, despite its popularity, continues to serve up value wines that over-deliver on quality for the price. The best bang for the buck wines are often found in the simple Cotes du Rhone AOC. Les Dauphins Reserve Cotes du Rhone is a delicious GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blend that delivers red fruit on the nose, with a spicy white pepper nuance on the palate, and a long, persistent finish. Do yourself a favor. Don't mess around with a bottle or two. Buy the whole case and enjoy the summer grilling season. 90 Robert Whitley

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Wine Competition Medals: The Meaning
Robert Whitley

We have now reached the meat of the wine competition season, with several majors - Sunset Magazine, Los Angeles International, Critics Challenge and San Francisco International - on the horizon in the coming weeks. Thousands of wines will be put before wine professionals for evaluation, and thousands will be honored with some type of award. You have every right to wonder what it all means. As I like to say, it's not rocket science. The oldest trick in marketing is the third-party endorsement. That endorsement is even more powerful if it is unbiased and comes from a trusted source.
Portuguese National Treasure: Quinta do Noval
Rebecca Murphy

In June of 2005, a group of Port producers held a tasting in Bordeaux celebrating the 50 years between the 1963 and 2003 with a tasting of those celebrated vintages. It was one of the many side events surrounding VinExpo 2005. I had just spent a week tasting Champagnes. I know, poor me…my tongue was suffering the ravages of acidity and tiny bubbles. After a couple of sips of Port, at 19 or 20 percent alcohol, my tattered tongue was aflame. I was about to give it all up, when I arrived at the Quinta do Noval table. I was amazed to find that--with these wines--my tongue had no complaint.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Gnocchi with Truffle Cheese Sauce

When you're talking about favorite comfort foods, gnocchi has to be somewhere near the top of the list. We love these little potato-based Italian dumplings with simple tomato sauce, or classic brown butter and sage. We sometimes make a sauce with a cupful or so of cooked spinach whizzed in the blender with garlic, olive oil, a little chicken stock and perhaps a splash of cream, gently reheated and poured over the gnocchi. And gnocchi with Gorgonzola is such an irresistibly classic Italian dish that when we recently were bequeathed a chunk of truffle cheese it occurred to us that it, too, might lend itself to saucing gnocchi.
On My Table
A Napa Valley Pioneer, Better Than Ever
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Some people believe that terroir -- the particular growing conditions of a vineyard -- encompasses only natural factors such as soil, slope, climate, weather and so on, whereas others believe that the human element is also part of a vineyard's terroir. Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is a solid argument of the latter point of view. When I think about Spottswoode and its consistently fine Cabernets, I find it difficult to distinguish how much of the excellence derives from the historic, 132-year-old vineyard and how much derives from the family that has tended that vineyard with such devotion for the past 43 years.