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Published: January 16th 2014
Tuesday, January 14
We were up early and had Jorge drive us at 7:30AM to our pickup location for a trip to Tequila with Rosie of Charter Club Tours.
The van and most of the people had already arrived when we got there. The van left right on time and headed into Guadalajara rush hour traffic. Francisco was our driver and Rosie our tour guide. Going slowly allowed Rosie to point out many different points of interest as we drove through the big city and countryside on our way to Tequila.
Tequila lies in a valley surrounded by cliffs and ridges. The dominant feature on the landscape is the Tequila Volcano: 9,650 feet above sea level.
Our first stop when we arrived in Tequila was a blue agave farm owned by the Jose Cuervo distillery. It is a beautiful location. The fields of Blue Agave seem to go on forever. The Tequila Mountain is on one side of the fields and a gorgeous ridge running for miles is on the other side. The view had us almost spinning in circles trying to take the perfect picture.
Waiting for us in the fields was Ismael Gama. He
is Jose Cuervo’s jimador, lead field man and supervisor of 40 jimadors (the workers of the agave fields). Agave farming is all manual labour, with generations of knowledge used to understand the plant and the necessary timing for planting, trimming and harvesting.
Ismael doesn’t speak English so Rosie translated for him. He started by showing how Agave succulents are separated from the main plant and replanted. He explained that this speeds up the growing process by years compared to planting seeds. Next he showed us how to trim the Agave plant with his razor sharp machete. A few volunteers carefully tried trimming. I noticed that Ismael stood well back while the gringos handled the machete. Eventually the Agave was trimmed to the point that he could switch from the machete to a long handled coa. This looks like a large pizza paddle used for removing pizzas from the oven. It however, is also razor sharp and used to remove the large plant spikes and harvest or remove what is now referred to as a piña (with spikes removed) from the ground . This coa can easily split a huge piña in half. Well, Ismael made it look easy even
though we know it wasn't as easy as it looked. We tasted the centre of the piña and it reminded me of raw white turnip.
Each Jimadore wears a bull’s horn on their belt. In this hollowed out horn they carry a salve that is used to heal cuts while in the fields caused by not only the sharp tools but the spikes of the Agave plant. I have no idea what the other Jimadors wear but Rick and I both noticed that Ismael was wearing sandals as he worked, no safety shoes or boots in sight.
Ismael is internationally famous. His picture is used in Jose Cuervo’s commercials, he has starred in soap operas and he has his own branded hand cream. The cream is what he carries in his bull horn. It is made from Agave sap, lots of wild herbs that grow near the agave, beef fat, Vaseline and rosewater. He passed his bull horn to us so that we could all have a little sample of the cream. At the end of our visit he had the cream available for us to purchase and let us know that it is also available in the
shops of Guadalajara.
After a fun and very educational time in the fields, we climbed back into the van and headed into the town of Tequila where the Jose Cuervo Tequila distillery is located.
The tour began with a movie, yes of course Ismael stars in it. Next we donned hairnets and moved into the plant. Our first tasting was not tequila but crushed piña. It tasted much like sugar cane but much sweeter and juicier.
It didn’t talk long and we were sampling white tequila which was not really a finished product. We walked through the plant and found the processes almost identical to those in a rum factory. When we arrived in the barrel room it was time for more sampling. This time we tasted tequila that had been aged 6 months, 12 months and 18 months. There was definitely a big difference in taste.
After the tour and meeting Pepe, the mascot Raven for the company, we went for a formal tasting. This time we learned how to drink tequila slowly and properly.
Next we moved into the bar area. There we were served perfect Margaritas. Rosie however, had told us earlier
that Mexicans don’t really drink Margaritas, they drink Palomas.
Time for a lunch break and there just happened to be a nice restaurant across the street. Rick and I ordered a type of pork sandwich in a tomato sauce and of course a Paloma.
We had a little time after lunch to roam the town before we had to be back in the van which we did.
Our next stop was another Distillery. This one was a much smaller operation where one man pressed and painted all of the metal labels individually for the bottles by hand. Another man corked each bottle individually. We toured the plant and then headed for more tasting. I couldn’t do it!!! They had Tequila liqueurs chocolate, coffee and other flavours but I was already in need of a cot. I couldn’t handle another sip. In fact, on our way home in the van, I had a little nap and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only with closed eyelids.
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