The continuation of Podcast #2, this is Tequila Aficionado Founder, Alex Perez, and CEO, M.A. “Mike” Morales meeting face-to-face for the first time. They met in July of 2006 at a restaurant in California and tasted Siembra Azul, Dos Lunas and Jarro Viejo tequilas. Their conversation spanned everything from established tequila families, drinking from the barrel, traveling to Jalisco, resoling boots and more!
I admit, I have a soft spot for Señor Rio tequila.
A snifter of Señor Rio añejo on the patio.
Sure, it’s produced at the famed La Cofradía distillery (NOM 1137), where its flagship tequila, Casa Noble, grabs all the headlines these days. And the co-founders, Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina have a great love for tequila and a great love story, too. And, yes, it comes in a helluva pretty bottle. But those aren’t my reasons for my affinity to the brand.
It’s their exclusive cigars that pair so well with Señor Rio tequila that bring a smile to my face.
In The Beginning…
Waiting to be lit.
I was first introduced to Señor Rio Cigars when CEO, Jonathan Gach, sent me a pair that were infused with Señor Rio blanco tequila. It was a novel idea at the time since tradition dictates that cigars be paired with wines and darker spirits. Naturally, these were meant to be enjoyed with Señor Rio blanco and its fragrant smoky bouquet and long finish.
The concept of pairing cigars with blanco tequilas compelled me to seek other blanco tequila and cigar combinations that ultimately lead to my recent article in Cigar Advisor.
Completely hooked, I couldn’t wait to spark up these newer versions of Señor Rio Cigars that Jonathan was kind enough to share.
Señor Rio’s presentation dresses up any occasion.
Simply placing the Señor Rio bottles outside on the patio table dresses up any occasion and calls for your fanciest lighter, ashtray and crystal snifters. One whiff of the big, veiny Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and I couldn’t stray from tradition. A snifter of Señor Rio añejo was in order.
From the very start, this stick had all the signs of a handmade gem, lighting beautifully, drawing smoothly and burning evenly with a nice ash. The combination of the Honduran and Dominican filler, along with the Connecticut broadleaf binder made for a tequila lover’s delight.
The hints of leather, wood and nuts courtesy of the wrapper blended nicely with Señor Rio’s initial sweetness. The cigar’s light spiciness (cloves) enhanced the nose and married graciously with the aroma of the añejo. Moreover, the cigar’s easygoing softness didn’t interfere with Señor Rio’s medium-to-long finish imparted by its aging in used French white oak barrels for two years.
With the reposado, however, the pairing was more evenly matched. Aged only six months in used French white oak barrels, it does not have as long a finish as the añejo and this fusion was a duel of the senses. Each commanded my attention with every sip and draw. While at times the añejo seemed to step aside, the pairing with the reposado demanded to be noticed.
Up close and personal with Señor Rio tequila.
Once Señor Rio blanco was served, it was comparing night and day. Everything I had experienced throughout my enjoyment of the cigar was brought to bear with the blanco. It was a Wimbledon tennis match at Centre Court between two distinct athletic styles where your taste buds are the line judge and the crowd cheers with every volley.
The Añejo Way Of Life
Enjoying the Añejo Way Of Life.
You don’t have to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation (or of a tequila brand or online tequila media company, for that matter) to enjoy Señor Rio. The pure elegance of its bottle presentation and the tequila’s flavor profile alone can take you to your happy place, what I call “the añejo way of life.” Coupled with a Señor Rio Cigar, and your trip there will be that much quicker.
Sadly, these puros are not available for retail, yet, and are primarily used at special events and promotions. But, as Jonathan Gach puts it, “I have been a cigar smoker for 37 years and along with tequila, this is another passion of mine.”
On the positive side, Jonathan is contemplating some exciting future plans for Señor Rio that includes the addition of even more enticing tobacco blends to go along with his stellar tequila.
In the meantime, look for Jonathan and Debbie and the whole Señor Rio tequila crew at your nearest cigar bar and liquor store. It’ll be your shortest route to the “añejo way of life.”
Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina, founders of Señor Rio tequila.
Jose Hermosillo, Chairman and CEO, Casa Noble Tequila proudly announced today that music icon Carlos Santana has joined the Board and is now one of the owners of the brand. This new organizational change will allow Santana to be involved in the continued development of the brand which is already recognized as one of the finest handcrafted spirits in the world.
“Santana’s love for the spirit of Casa Noble and his commitment to this new partnership is exciting for everyone involved with our brand,” says Casa Noble CEO Jose Hermosillo. “Santana’s personal philosophy of quality and integrity in the pursuit of perfection is synonymous with the Casa Noble brand of fine ultra premium Tequilas.” “The linkage between Casa Noble & Carlos Santana will create broader recognition that Casa Noble’s triple distilled, organically certified tequila is truly one of the finest ultra premium spirits” says Hermosillo. “We have been exploring this partnership for some time. This is a natural synergy; Casa Noble Tequila is deeply rooted in the pursuit of quality, craftsmanship and tradition. Santana through his life and his music has dedicated himself to those same values which are the key motivators behind this alignment.”.
“We have come together because I love the Tequila,”Carlos Santana said. “Passion, dedication and integrity is what attracted me to Casa Noble Tequila. I feel at home with my new family at Casa Noble. They strive for excellence and don’t take shortcuts. Just like the music of Santana, one note or one drop… they are the same thing. You have to feel each note from your heart. Casa Noble and my family have the same origin— Jalisco, Mexico. My family roots date back to the 1700’s in Jalisco. My father is a Huichol Indian. When I visited the distillery, I immediately felt spiritually connected to the Hermosillo family and Casa Noble. Together we celebrate the gift of life and all of the blessing that come with it. Together we can all make a difference in the world.”
While the details of the deal were not made public, the partnership for Mr. Santana shares ownership in the company and a long-term commitment to the continued growth of Casa Noble and its family of fine ultra premium tequilas. “We anticipate Santana’s fans all over the world will share not only his passion for music but also his passion for Casa Noble Tequila,” said Hermosillo.
A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure to serve on the judging panel for the Tequila Rocks competition at A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay, an “a-maize-ing” event benefitting the Benchmark Institute (a training and performance development organization dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of legal services to low-income communities). The competition, sponsored by Casa Noble Tequila, saw some of the Bay Area’s hottest mixologists face-off to create the best original Casa Noble tequila cocktail. I was privileged to be in the company of co-judges H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner and barman at Elixir in San Francisco, and Bay Area food and drink writer Virginia Miller.
The competition began at 1pm, when four of the 14 contestants took the stage in front of a crowd of thirsty onlookers. Contestants were provided with Casa Noble Tequila – the required base ingredient – but had to arrive with all other ingredients, equipment, and glassware for presentation. In a mere five minutes, each mixologists prepared three drinks – one for each judge. While the panel sampled each cocktail, each contestant prepared a pitcher so the (now drooling) audience could sample each cocktail. An hour later and another group of contestants took the stage.
After four rounds, H., Virginia, and I added up our scores and deliberated for several minutes. With our winners in hand, we took the stage to present the results. In first place was Brian Means, a bartender at Chow, with his “Council of Four.” Means mixed Casa Noble reposado with Amontillado sherry, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, homemade lemongrass syrup and lemon bitters. It was presented in a coupe glass and garnished with dehydrated Meyer lemon wheels and edible flowers stuck onto it by agave nectar. It was a beautiful cocktail in both taste and presentation. Second place was won by Michael Callahan (who recently won the 42Below Cocktail World Cup) with Jay Crabb snagging the third place prize.
One of the primary characteristics I look for in a cocktail is that it showcases the base liquor, complementing the flavor instead of masking it with other ingredients. This is a mistake I taste too often, and I wonder why anyone would use a “top-shelf” liquor in a cocktail if you’re not going to respect the juice? It was good to see that each of the three winners (and most of the contestants) were successful at this, carefully selecting the right flavors to accompany Casa Noble’s rich flavors.
Nearly all the entries incorporated fresh homemade ingredients. This wasn’t too much of a surprise, given the growing popularity of craft cocktails across the country. What I didn’t expect was the creativity of the garnishes – from the inventiveness and beauty of Brian’s floating flowers and Michael’s superb mezcal-infused apple crisps to the fresh and sculpture-like quality of Jay’s Picositos-dusted jicama slices, cilantro sprig and radish slice.
As a whole, the event was spectacular. The setting inside the beautiful three-story Galleria at the San Francisco Design Center was bright and airy, and there was, of course, plenty of tamales and tequila (and mezcal) to sample. Also on-hand were vendors selling crafts and jewelry vendors, cooking demonstrations by Chef Steve Cortez, and several informative presentations from industry insiders (including Tequila Aficionado Executive Editor Mike Morales, Tequila tour guide Clayton Szczech, and Charbay master distiller Marko Karakasevic).
I would like to thank all the contestants, my fellow judges, Tequila Rocks MC Ashley Miller from Tres,
and all the volunteers, vendors, and participants of this successfully event. Finally, I would like to give a huge ‘thank you’ and abrazo fuerte to event organizer Marta Mora, who did an exceptional job in bringing us all together for this annual event. I’m already looking forward to next year!
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We do not purchase all the spirits we review here. Some we receive from the brand owner, some we receive from the distributor, and some we receive through PR companies. Some spirits we purchase ourselves.