Saturday, December 27, 2008
The trip to La Noria was an interesting day—even though the town itself was a bit of a disappointment. It was just a dusty little town with the usual one and two storey houses winding along dirty roads and a rather plain central plaza. The real feature of the trip was our visit to two very different tequila factories. The first one was just a few kilometers from La Noria. We noticed the fields of blue agave as we drove in. This plant is native to Mexico and is the basis for its national drink. The alcohol is fermented from the core of the plant, which takes a number of years to mature. Here's Jamie looking at a pile of the cores.
The first place we visited was Los Osuna where they’ve been making the drink since 1876. The three Osuna brother brothers started it and it’s still making an excellent tequila the old way. Donkeys pull a big stone around and round to crush the cores and there are big underground pits where the mash is fermented. It’s a very distinctive smell; we couldn’t decide if we liked it or hated it. There’s a big old copper still but the rest of the place is all stainless steel and modern technology. The interesting thing about tequila made in this area is that it cannot actually be called tequila. That name is reserved for the drink made only in the state of Jalisco a few hundred kilometers south of here. So this drink is called distillation of agave azul. The fellow at Los Osuna told us that the stuff they make is superior because it is 100% agave, whereas in Jalisco they add cane sugar to it. In any case it tastes very nice. We got to sample the drink and it’s very smooth. Harry bought a bottle for $300 pesos (about $30) for a gift for a friend.
The second place was a very old Hacienda that was built by a family to process tequila at around the same time. To get there you turn off the paved road at a little hand painted sign that says “Hacienda las Moras” and follow a dusty road for about 10 km into the hills. Eventually we came to a gate (open) and a gatehouse (empty) so continued on through some winding roads past signs pointing to La Capilla (the chapel) and Caballeros (horses) until we finally arrived at the hacienda. It’s no longer a tequila factory as it closed some time in the 1930s. It was completely restored (and modernized) about 20 years ago and is now an amazingly private and exclusive hotel, complete with Mexican antiques, fountains and gardens, little casitas, a farm with animals, corrals, huge meeting rooms, dining rooms and a pool with a swim-up bar.
Our neighbour Bob had told us to look for this place and it was so worth it. It turned out that we were the only ones there as a group that had rented the entire place over Christmas had cancelled. We had lunch in the lovely open-air dining room, then a personal tour of the place, finishing with a dip in the pool. Jorge, who took us for the tour, was so gracious that he even allowed us to bring Maggie into the dining room for lunch and presented her with her very own margarita glass of water to drink.
Apparently this place is known and used by many famous people to make videos and have parties and weddings. He said the only names he could tell us were those that had already been reported in the press—including Madonna, Bono and Gloria Estevan (whoever she is!). It is really a beautiful spot and we enjoyed pretending we could afford the $140 per person rate for a while. Although it’s not actually a tequila factory now, but Jorge told us that the owner is planning to restore the old ovens and make a few batches next year and we could still see the blue agave plants scattered about the area as we drove away.