Agave harvesting is tricky business. First of all, they take at least 8 years to mature. Second, if you harvest them too early you’re gonna wind up with a bitter batch. Harvest them too late then the Tequila will be too sweet. Perfecting the process is the job of the jimador (HE-mah-door).
The jimador is the master farmer who tends, picks and harvests the Agave plants to ensure that they are of the highest quality and harvested at precisely the right time. They tend the fields, select which plants are mature, slice off the leaves to expose the piña – which is then cooked, fermented and distilled to produce Tequila.
One of the great things about my recent trip to the Tequila Valley was that I got to see a lot of distilleries and learn first hand how each distillery adds their personal stamp to their batches.
All Tequilas start with the basic ingredients- agaves, water, yeast- and must be produced in one of five states in Mexico – Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The master distiller adds his/her own processes and techniques to arrive at a very distinct flavor. Some distilleries are mammoth like Herradura. Others like Cofradia are contracted by many to produce a variety of brands.
El Llano (meaning “the Plains”) is a small, boutique distillery that was founded in 1900 by one of Mexico’s foremost Tequila families. Eduardo Orendain is a fifth generation Tequila master. His pride and passion show in every word he utters. He was a complete joy to talk with and meet. While down there we recorded Tres Agaves’ Eric Rubin as he took us on a tour of the “fabrica” and highlighted why some might fine Tequila flows from El Llano’s stills.
Note: The “tour” progressed to the tasting room and, er, we “forgot” to get footage. Next time I’ll add more from the cellars and tasting rooms.
While visiting El Centenario distillery in the highlands region I got to see a Tahona working in action. The distillery produces Siete Lequas which is named after Pancho Villa’s horse.
A Tahona is basically a 1-2 thousand pound wheel that is moved by mules in a circular fashion to crush the cooked agave to extract the pulp and get it ready for fermentation. Here’s a pic of a Tahona at El Centenario. It’s both nostalgic and impressive to see:
At El Centenario they work the mules in two shifts, at 6am and 11:30am, for an hour and a half each time. The pulp and fiber are then removed by hand to be fermented – labor intensive for sure.
Want to learn more about the Tahona? I suggest starting at TequilaSource.com which has nice alternative definition.
In celebration of this weekend’s Arizona Taco Festival I thought provide some quick stats on this American-adopted Mexican sensation.
God, I love these delicious bites. According to Wikipedia the Taco predates Europeans where indigenous Mexicans served them up with fish -which is just how I like them. At the Bay area’s La Corneta they make them fresh with salmon and a little bit of pico del gallo. Give me that bit of northwest flavor with south of the border sabor. Yum. You up north? Try Taco del Mar. I like the shack of a place in Seattle’s Capital Hill. And who knew the fish taco was so traditional?
Here’s some other facts you might not know about this tasty treat:
During my recent “fact finding” trip to Mexico we had a couple of hours on Sunday to enjoy some of Eric Rubin’s delicious Sangrita alongside a shot of Blanco.
Sangrita is commonly confused with Sangria which is basically fruit-infused wine. In Mexico, Sangrita (meaning “little blood”) is the traditional chaser that is served alongside a shot of Tequila. It’s a blend of orange juice, tomato juice and a dash of hot sauce. The flavor can run from citrusy sweet, to tomatoey tart. I like Eric’s because I’m a fan of the tart side; the acidity complements the tequila and cleanses your palette. And I love the kick.
And while Sangrita is great with Tequila many also like it as a side to their favorite beer as well. So you might serve with a Pacifico or a Modelo.
A nice presentation is on a small wooden tray with seasoned & regular salt plus lime wedges, or with sliced cucumbers with lime, salt, and chile de arbol.
Here’s how you can make your own:
Eric’s Spicy Sangrita:
7 oz. fresh, seeded tomato juice
2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz. fresh orange juice
2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. Valentina or Tapatio hot sauce
1 oz. Tres Agaves agave nectar (which is optional but it does a nice job of balancing the heat)
1 fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, sliced lengthwise (serranos are best as the seeds tend to not release from the pod)
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir until the salt dissolves. Let the mixture sit until it reaches the desired heat level; usually 15-30 minutes. Discard the pepper and refrigerate.
Welcome to the Tres Agaves Marketing blog. Here I hope to mix up a delicious- if not then at least refreshing- elixer that is 1 part marketing think, 1 part personal journal and commentary and 1 part 100% blue agave spirit.
The goal is to deliver a mighty fine cocktail but I’ve been on the job exactly two weeks today and if I’m gonna keep up with Tres’ expert Tequila mixologists (@ericrubinsf, @barryaugus, @chrisalvarezlv) then I’ve got some “work” to do. What I do know is that I find Tres Tequila sublime and the 100% agave market is hotter than the Chihauhaun Desert.
Lucky for me the “work” starts tomorrow with an educational trip to the Tequila Valley to learn more about the fermentation, distillation and bottling process. (And I plan to sample, taste and sip some of the finest that the region has to offer. ) Look for posts and videos from the trip (coming soon!).
It’s the start of a fun, exciting adventure. I plan to document a lot of it here. The goal is to create posts that offer stories from the road, ideas from the the marketing office, shout outs about the latest news along with thoughts about tequila, culture, the beverage industry. And, God knows, I hope to share a recipe or two. I invite you to share the ride and do the same: provide some commentary, pass on a favorite recipe and bust me in the chops when I need it. I look forward sharing and learning with and from you.