A s a margarita enthusiast traveling
in Mexico just after the millennium New Year, I had no choice
but to make a pilgrimage to the town of Tequila. I'd kept
my alcoholic fervor at bay for several months, but once in
Guadalajara, my waiting was at an end. Bryan and I hopped
on a bus with the header TEQUILA and were on our way.
We knew we were nearing our destination as fragrant agave
fields appeared, stretching toward distant hills. As we rolled
by a flowered hacienda with the moniker "Herradura,"
I was ready to prematurely disembark, but Bryan urged patience.
As the bus entered the village of Tequila, I was glad he had.
Tequila itself is a
lovely town. We passed an old cathedral to reach a brightly painted
plaza housing trees replete with orange, yellow and pink blossoms.
In any other town, I'd have paused to enjoy the shade with a book
or an ice cream, but this was Tequila; I was on a mission. When we
stumbled across Calle Jose Cuervo (Jose Cuervo Street), my mission
We followed Jose Cuervo
Street to the distillery, where we each paid $2 U.S. for a ticket,
the proceeds of which support community programs in Tequila. With
the inevitable "taste test" neatly rationalized, even justified, we
joined the 2 p.m. English tour.
Our sweet guide, Anita,
donned a pink hard hat and led our group through the distillery and
the various stages of tequila production. We saw the heart of the
agave, or "pi`F1a" (agave looks like the top of an enlarged
pineapple), drained of its potentially potent liquid. We sweated by
the fermentation vats, and marveled at the huge oak barrels storing
the precious elixir. Anita explained that the longer the aging, the
smoother (and more expensive) the tequila. Then she led us across
the street to a small table reminiscent of Lucy's "The Doctor is
In" booth and politely asked us which Cuervo product we'd like to
sample first. Collectively, the group smiled.
I started at the top,
with 1800. Not only does this liquid gold spend two years aging,
but it contains 100 percent agave, the other major indicator of
quality. (By law, tequila has to contain at least 51 percent agave;
tequilas with the minimum amount are diluted with distilled sugar
cane juice.) I sipped my cup happily and was extracted from my
reverie by the sound of laughter.
The group was making
introductions and laughing at anything and everything. The fact
that "Jose Cuervo" translates into "Joe Crow" seemed hilarious, for
some reason, and as we continued to sample the local wares, the
bougainvillea started to shimmer. Everything was so pleasant that
we decided to head with an American foursome to the Sauza
To our chagrin, Sauza
tours had been cancelled for the day to film a commercial. As
consolation, it was suggested we go to the Sauza tasting room and
drink for free. We were instantly consoled. The tasting area was no
mere booth but a garden with wandering minstrels softly strumming
As we soaked up the
atmosphere and a number of Commemorativo and sodas with our new
friends, we learned they, too, had been on a pilgrimage they'd
driven a van all the way from Utah to Tequila. And like us, not one
of them was disappointed.