Anthony Dias Blue, Whose Writing Elevated California Wines, Dies at 82

Anthony Dias Blue, a longtime wine writer and radio personality whose love for California whites and reds helped elevate the reputation of American vintners, died on Dec. 25 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 82.

His daughter Amanda Blue confirmed the deathbut did not provide a cause.

Mr. Blue, known by friends and readers as Andy, moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s and soon found himself enmeshed in the emerging California wine scene.

It had been just over a decade since Robert Mondavi opened the first major winery in the state since Prohibition, and just a few years since a pair of Napa Valley wines beat out a host of French Chardonnays, Bordeaux and Burgundies in the so-called Judgment of Paris.

Still, American wine as a whole was poorly regarded, even among aficionados. Mr. Blue set out to change that from his post as the wine and spirits editor of Bon Appétit magazine, a job he held for over 20 years.

He wrote for almost every issue. He also wrote a syndicated column that appeared in scores of newspapers around the country. Throughout his work he projected an air of confident connoisseurship while avoiding the clichés of wine journalism, with its often barely concealed snobbery and obscure tasting notes.

“For them, the enjoyment of wine is very much like an exclusive men’s club,” he said of other wine critics in a 1986 interview with The Los Angeles Times. “They perpetuate a mystique that they hope will serve as a barrier against the onslaught of the barbarians. Their greatest dread is that wine will be accepted as a normal part of everyday life, thus causing their feeling of superiority to evaporate.”

Mr. Blue was no populist. But he believed that good wine needn’t be expensive or difficult to appreciate; all that people needed, he said, was a guide, like him, to show them what was worth buying.

He could be withering in his commentary, though always taking aim at wines, not winemakers. In disparaging one California white in a 1986 column, he wrote, “It takes a winemaking genius to turn sauvignon blanc into anything more than a dismal little wine.”

“He was never shy about giving his opinion,” Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the owner of the International Wine Center, a wine school in New York, said in a phone interview.

In 1986, Mr. Blue published “American Wine,” among the first books to offer a comprehensive survey of the country’s viticultural landscape. Its 550 pages covered 6,000 wines from 900 wineries in 37 states.

Mr. Blue’s “American Wine,” published in 1986, was one of the first books to offer a comprehensive survey of the subject.

“It was a watershed moment in bringing focus by an American writer to not just California wine but to the domestic wine industry as an important and meaningful part of the food and wine world,” the wine writer Jon Bonné said in a phone interview.

Mr. Blue’s influence extended beyond the page. He hosted a concise radio program, “The Lifestyle Minute,” which appeared on stations in New York and Los Angeles for many years and for which he won a James Beard Award in 2001.

In 1980 he took over the San Francisco International Wine Competition, at the time a state-financed event. When, a few years later, California cut its funding, Mr. Blue took it private, and over the years expanded it significantly, adding a parallel spirits competition and satellite events in New York City and Singapore.

Today, the San Francisco competitions — both in wine and spirits — are considered among the most prestigious in the world.

Anthony Dias Blue was born on Jan. 5, 1941, in Larchmont, N.Y., the son of Gertrude (Sugarman) and Sidney Blue. His father was a textile manufacturer.

After graduating from Amherst College with degrees in mathematics and art in 1962, Mr. Blue moved to New York City to work in advertising. He also took a stab at Off Broadway theater production, backing a pair of one-act plays, “Fitz” — featuring a young Sam Waterston — and “Biscuit,” presented together at the Circle in the Square.

The plays were moderately well received, but closed after just eight performances; Mr. Blue blamed an ill-timed newspaper strike for their lack of publicity.

He married Kathryn Koshland in 1967 and lived in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles at his death. Along with their daughter Amanda, his wife survives him, as do their daughters Caitlin and Jessica, their son Toby and nine grandchildren.

Mr. Blue tasting wines. He sought to demystify wine but was not shy about offering strong opinions in his reviews.Credit…Amanda Blue

After his foray into theater, Mr. Blue spent a few years as a talent manager, then turned to journalism. He wrote freelance before joining the staff of the newly founded Food and Wine magazine. He moved to San Francisco in 1978 to be its West Coast editor.

He joined Bon Appétit a year later, after a chance encounter with an editor at the magazine at the inaugural Gilroy Garlic Festival, south of San Francisco.

He left Bon Appétit in 2006 to found, with Meredith May, The Tasting Panel, a trade magazine focused on the wine and spirits industry. He stepped down as editor in chief in 2020.

Though he was best known for his wine writing, Mr. Blue also wrote extensively about food, including a cookbook called “Thanksgiving Dinner” (1990), a sweeping survey of the November feast that he compiled with his wife.

The Blue family Thanksgiving was legend, a 28-dish repast whose components he reviewed and critiqued afterward, both among his family and sometimes in public.

“Chocolate dessert is totally inappropriate for Thanksgiving dinner,” he told Newsday in 1990, “but chocolate pecan pie is the one exception.”

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