Down the Tequila Trail

It is time for another Great Taste Tour and this time we ventured back to the land of Tequila.  We set our sights on Mexico to hopefully learn more about the mystique behind what makes this agave nectar so amazing.  We had a great group of people that consisted of many from Oregon and few from North Carolina, overall it was a very well rounded group of liquor store owners and employees. 

We arrived in Guadalajara on a Sunday and I was immediately reminded of what a beautiful city it is.  The
weather was perfect and the people were very friendly.  The city was working on its final push before the Pan-Am Games began, so everything was nicely groomed and cleaned.  The Hotel De Mendoza awaited us as we pulled up to this hotel that is built next to the Santa Maria De Gracia church, which was the first metropolitan cathedral in Mexico, built in 1542.   Everyone settled into their rooms after a long day of traveling. 

We all met in the lobby and headed out for some traditional local food.  We ended up at a place called La Chata.  While waiting outside the most amazing roar come from a few blocks away.  As we all looked at each other in amazement we saw thousands of motorcycles come around the corner, one after another, some trikes, some dune buggies.  They were all in town, nearly 5,000 of them for their annual ride from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta.  After we calmed down and regained our hearing from the roars, we sat down for a nice dinner and discussed what the next 7 days held for the group. 

We started off our distillery tours with a trip to the town of Tequila, which is a small, old-fashioned town that sits just west of Guadalajara.  We arrived at the Sauza Visitor’s Center, where they showed us a movie and the tools used by the Jimadors, the people workers that harvest the agave.  Then we got on an open trolley and they took us to an agave field where we were shown many varieties of agave.  It is believed that nearly 400 exist but only one, the blue weber agave, is used for tequila.  We also learned that agaves are not cacti, not even from the cactus family.  They are a perennial that only flowers once and then dies.  There were several ripe agave in the field, where we were all given the chance to work as a jimador and dig up an agave that would soon be made into Sauza Tequila.  This was extremely hard work and takes many years to learn how to do it properly.  To this day jimadors still harvest every agave by hand because it is such an honor to hold the position as a jimador.  An average jimador can harvest about 200 agave plants a day.  

A Jimador at Sauza, harvesting agave.

 We were then taken to the plant where we were shown the factory; it is a huge facility that is impeccable.  Everything was beautiful and the people were all so polite and made us feel at home.  The highlight of the trip was when the tour guide took us to the aging warehouse.  Inside she gave us samples of many types of tequila, and explained the difference between Sauza & Hornitos.  She also gave us samples of some experimental tequila that are yet to be released.  But are coming in the future, but she made us swear not to tell anyone. All that I can say is that I was impressed with what I tasted.  After our tour we were taken to a beautiful courtyard, where were treated to a 5 course pairing lunch.  Sauza had their master chef pair a different tequila with each course of lunch.  This was an amazing way to start the trip.

After everyone was full, we all loaded the bus for a short trip to the other end of the town of Tequila to the Partida Distillery.  Partida Tequila is a relatively new tequila to markets, but I was very impressed.  They are a small batch tequila that isn’t constantly in production, and we were there on a non production day.  But we were able to wander all of the plant and look at anything we wanted.  It was great to have the run of the place.  The real treat came when at the end of the tour we were taken to an outdoor pavilion where we had a complete sampling of Partida Tequila.  We sampled their Blanco, Reposado and Anejo tequilas.  I was very impressed with their reposado and swore to myself I could taste hints of bourbon.  I asked Jose Valdez, their Master Distiller how they aged they tequila, he told me that they used bourbon barrels from a famous Kentucky distillery.  It all made sense to my taste buds then and it was time to have another sample.  Just to confirm what I thought, this could be a very nice sipping tequila.  They let us stay at Partida until we were done and had consumed all we wanted, then it was back to Guadalajara.

Once back at the hotel somehow we all found our way to the pool to cool off and discussed our favorite tequilas of the day.  After some deep discussion, we all turned in for the night.

We arose early this morning for a trip to the East of Guadalajara to the highlands where everyone claims the sweeter tequilas are made.  We boarded the bus for a trip to Espolon Tequila Distillery.  This distillery normally doesn’t do tours but were gracious enough to open their doors to our group.  We arrived and were greeted with open arms.  We got a tour of their entire distillery, which was not in production on this day.  They explained their distilling process and took us to their bottling line, which is still done by hand.  Their plant was very clean and they definitely pay attention to every little detail.  At the end of the tour they allowed us to sample their line of Espolon Tequilas, which were very sweet and smooth.  We thanked them for their generosity and head on our way. 

We had a short ride to Arandas, which is where Cazadores Distillery is located.  We arrived at Cazadores, which is a very big distillery and extends as far as you can see.  After making it through security and being outfitted with the proper attire to get inside the distillery we were ready for a great tour.  We were led on our tour by their master distiller, who explained every step of the process.  He allowed us to look around the entire factory which covers both sides of the highway and is connected by and underground tunnel.  I was very impressed by the amount of tequila that is distilled at the plant.  It was like an intricate dance to watch the machines and people work with precision.  After the tour we had an amazing lunch that was paired with several of their tequilas.  For dessert we had any tequila drink we wanted prepared by their master mixologist.  This is definitely a tour I won’t forget. 

We all loaded the bus for a trip back to Guadalajara, which took about 2 hours.  So I took advantage of this time for a nice relaxing nap.  Once back in Guadalajara, we freshened up and had a group dinner at a fabulous restaurant called Santo Coyote.  This is a must visit if you are ever in Guadalajara.  They make your salsa and guacamole at the table side to your liking.  The service was like nothing I had ever experienced.  We had no less than 4 waiters assigned to our table.  After some very satisfying food, someone decided that nothing would be better than a bottle of Herradura Seleccion Suprema for dessert.  We all toasted the night and the trip with the most amazing tequila.  We had been told that this tequila was legendary and something we all must have, and they were definitely right.  It was a nice sipping tequila that I can’t wait to enjoy again.  We decided that this was a perfect way to end our night and head for bed, since tomorrow was going to be our last day to tour distilleries.

Santo Coyote Restaurant

We awoke in the morning for an exciting day of horses, tequila, beaches and most of all Herradura Distillery.  After we all loaded the bus we headed for the Herradura Distillery which is located about 45 minutes west of Guadalajara, near the town of Tequila.  We arrived and were welcomed inside the facility like we were long lost family members, with smile and greetings from everyone.  Herradura is small city where they actually have some houses at the distillery for the employees to live.  We were taken to the back of the distillery to a narrow street that was lined with trees and had horses wandering around and Caballeros riding horses.  We were told that each of us needed to pick a horse for the ride to the agave fields where they were serving breakfast.  After carefully picking a horse, that fit me I mounted up.  I hadn’t been on a horse in 30 years but I settled right in.  We started our journey to the agave fields being led by a beautiful young woman wearing traditional Mexican dress riding side saddle.  After an exquisite 45 minute ride past the Jimadors working in the agave fields and through the mountains.  We arrived an agave field where they had a fresh cooked breakfast waiting for us.  We enjoyed breakfast and several cans of Herradura’s new product ‘New Mix’ which takes several popular tequila drinks and puts them in convenient cans which are a very simple treat.   They showed us how to harvest agave and answered all of our questions.  Then we had one last ‘New Mix’, of which Vampiro is my favorite.  It’s a sweet mix of El Jimador and Bloody Mary mix.  We got back on our horses for a ride back to the distillery.

We arrived back at the distillery and were greeted by the Herradura Brand Ambassador.  He guided us around the distillery and showed us all of the intricacies of the distillery and was very patient and took the time to make sure everyone understood every step of the process.  After the tour we were treated to a nice lunch and samples of their line of tequilas.  The lunch was fresh and very good.  It complimented the tequilas very well.  We all thanked Herradura and took a visited the gift shop before it was time to head to Puerto Vallarta for 4 more days to recover from all the fun.

We left Herradura with a huge smile!  What a great way to end our discovery of Tequila.  I know that I have a greater appreciation of Tequila and even found some new favorites, but it is time to go lay on the beach with a Paloma and get some sun and relax. 

Please remember that everyone is always welcome to join us on our trips. 

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