Jalisco: Day 3 - La Tequileña - Part II
While Enrique Fonseca's distillery, La Tequileña is in the town of Tequila, his agave fields and barrel warehouses are located in the Highlands region, near the village of Atotonilco. After spending the morning touring the distillation side of Enrique's production, we drove the three hours east into the mountains, past the 5,000 foot elevation point, and into the fields of agave known for their incredible terroir.
As we looked over the balcony, into the hillsides of Atotonilco, we felt the cool breeze against our faces; a marked difference from the sweltering heat of the Lowlands and the town of Tequila. It's this temperate climate that helps the agave to ripen more slowly, to create better sugar levels, and to make the most delicate tequila possible. Much like the best wines are often made with mountain fruit, there are many who feel the best tequilas are made with mountain agave.
The cooler breezes of the higher altitude also affect how the tequila matures in barrel; which is why Enrique stores most of his aging stock at his home, rather than at his distillery. He has more than 20,000 barrels of Tequileña spirit in wood; hence, why we were able to choose so many different expressions for our Fuenteseca blend. The fact that he has a cooler warehouse in Atotonilco has a lot to do with why his tequilas can withstand so much time in barrique.
Enrique has much more than just a beautiful home with loads of tequila, however. He raises all kinds of different animals, like cows, pigs, various crops, and one of his biggest passions: roosters! Luis, the son of one of his assistants, loves coming to the hacienda to play with the birds.
Enrique also loves to cook, so he invited us to have dinner on his veranda, overlooking the mountains and his agave fields in the distance. It was absolutely magical and the food was exquisite.
He heated up the grill and threw on fresh-picked green onions from his garden, carne asada, house-made chorizo (from a combination of beef, chicken, and pork), and various other vegetables.
It was all absolutely stupendous. The real surprise was Enrique's cousin, Chava, who lives next door and is an artisanal cheesemaker. When I say "artisinal" I mean that he's won "Best Cheese in Mexico" for three years running. He gets invited to Italy and France each year to judge competitions and lend his advise. He brought a plate of his freshest stuff and we all went wild. It felt like an Anthony Bourdain episode where he's hanging out with someone important, until that person's friend shows up and does something even better. Is there anything this family can't do?!
I've never eaten so much cheese in my life. All of his selections were better than anything I've ever tasted in France; even with all the cheese I've eaten on our trips to Armagnac. As I type this right now, there's an ice chest in my hotel room with four of his best cheeses resting until I can pack them in my carry-on.
As we continued to devour Chava's creations, Enrique got up and came back with two impressive looking tequila bottles. It took me a minute before I realized that one of them was the famed Del Dueño Jerezito -- the now-legendary Oloroso-aged añejo. We sipped it slowly with the cheese, and Chave busted out Cuban cigars. I wish I smoked cigars because it sounded like a good combination. The quality would have been lost on me, however.
We sat and talked for hours until it was time to finally call it a night. Enrique and Chave had plenty of guestrooms for us to use so it was a short walk to our beds; thank goodness.