There is a town called Tequila – Really!

Hotels and restaurants can be found in The Plaza in Tequila, just across the street from Mundo Cuervo.

Hotels and restaurants can be found in The Plaza in Tequila, just across the street from Mundo Cuervo.

At a pre-release tasting of Trago Tequila in San Francisco a whole new vocabulary, “blanco, reposado and anejo”, was bouncing off the brick walls and stacked wooden casks at “Tres”, a trendy south-of-market Mexican restaurant.  Formerly a warehouse, Tres is famous for offering over 200 tequilas and that night the dining room was jammed with Oracle conventioneers.

I was disappointed in my taste buds when I found that I preferred the less aged silver (blanco) and reposado (rested) to the mellower, aged longer in the barrel, anejo.  A couple of margaritas later the gloom had lifted and the next day, searching for more information, it took two mouse clicks to get to Tequila, which turns out to be not only a drink, but a town, and, since July 2006, a UNESCO site.  The site, in Jalisco state, 40 miles west of Guadalajara, covers over 85,000 acres stretching from the foothills of the dormant Tequila volcano to the canyon of the Rio Grande.  It includes several towns, as well as Tequila, the blue agave landscape and distilleries.  By law, tequila must come from designated areas and must contain at least 51% blue agave.  Visions of endless fields of blue agave, with margaritas at the end of every trail, were enough to lure me to Mexico.  I found two tequila aficionados and one Saturday morning we joined a day tour from the Guadalajara Hilton.

An experienced harvester (jimador) expertly slices the fleshy spikes from the agave exposing the heart (pina) which can weigh 40 to 70 pounds.

An experienced harvester (jimador) expertly slices the fleshy spikes from the agave exposing the heart (pina) which can weigh 40 to 70 pounds.

Leaving Guadalajara behind, fields of smoky blue agave suddenly covered the land with fleshy spikes that seemed to have vaporized into a blue mist uniting fields, hills and sky.

Mundo Cuervo’s World of Tequila
All too soon the dreamy landscape was left behind as we approached Tequila, where every street sign pointed to Mundo Cuervo.  Across the street from Tequila’s main plaza is Cuervo’s World, a colonial hacienda containing the distillery on one side of the cobblestone street. Across the banner-lined street was Cuervo’s private residence, museum, shop and restaurant.

Statues are displayed in a restful patio in Mundo Cuervo.

Statues are displayed in a restful patio in Mundo Cuervo.

While the agave fields were surreal, Mundo Cuervo is as dramatic as a movie set.  Columns, arches, a video alcove and tiled patios housing art collections, sculpture gardens, antique cars, a black crow (cuervo) in a huge iron cage, and enormous talavara vases in tile niches, illustrate Jose Cuervo’s motto that “Art and Culture go hand-in-hand with the history of Tequila”.

The multi-screen video presentation outlined the 200 year history of the Cuervo family and the tequila making process.  After the video, Alejandro, our guide, led us past a row of antique cars to the other side of a high mustard colored wall to piles of the 40-70 lb. hearts (pina) of the agave that we would see cooked, pressed, fermented and distilled into Tequila.  During the tour Alejandro swept away a few myths.  “Agave is not a cactus but a member of the amaryllis family; tequila is made only from the blue agave and only in Tequila and a few other designated areas.”  “And,” he added, “if there is a worm in the bottle, it was put there for tourists.”

A colorful reception hall greets visitors at Mundo Cuervo

A colorful reception hall greets visitors at Mundo Cuervo

We sniffed Blanco, the youngest, aged 14 to 21 days, for its clean, earthy essence.  We swirled golden Reposado that had rested in barrels two to six months, and caught hints of honey.  We sipped aged over two years, 100% blue agave, Anejo, savoring suspicions of chocolate and almond.

After the tour we hurried to Fonda Cholula to sample some authentic Mexican dishes.  And, although we had just been educated in the appreciation of a fine, aged tequila, sans lime and salt, everyone reverted to familiar tastes and ordered margaritas.

Fonda Cholula Restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine

Fonda Cholula Restaurant serves authentic Mexican cuisine

I was delighted to see that the menu included Chiles en Nogado, a recipe representing the colors of the Mexican flag: a stuffed green pepper, covered with white walnut sauce and a sprinkling of red pomegranate seeds.  This famous dish celebrates the Mexican victory over the French in 1821.  A colorful cactus (nopal) salad was another interesting taste treat.

Across the street, in the bustling plaza, I spotted everything I needed for a longer visit: jewelry vendors, kiosks offering tours to other distilleries, two small hotels, a currency exchange, an internet café and several restaurants, all anchored by a large church.

I plan to return soon to try every item on the menu at Fonda Cholula, take the tours to all the distilleries and plan my trip to coincide with a fiesta. In the meantime I’ll wow the uninitiated at my next tequila tasting.

www.tresagaves.com/
www.mundocuervo.com/english

 

Meet the Writer:

Dorothy Aksamit:

In the ten years that Dorothy lived in Indonesia she didn’t get to all 1700 islands.  But she tried.  Since then she has poked into various other parts of the world seeking secrets of the universe.  Her articles have appeared in the LA Times, San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, Aloha Inflight, The Jakarta Post and the Indonesia Times.

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