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Jessica’s Journey Begins

Jessica’s Journey Begins

By Jessica Arent

Bienvenidos A Guadalajara!

With my itinerary (AKA Dress Code) in hand, and my presentations reviewed for the hundredth time, I arrived in Guadalajara on a very wet and rainy afternoon. Cloud cover obstructed my view on the landing pattern into the airport. Fluent in Spanish, I breezed through customs & immigration, baggage pick up, and found my way out to “Arrivals”.

Greeters en masse. There stood what seemed to be a sea of faces with anticipation, joy, and relief, painted across them as they awaited their parties to emerge from the Baggage Claim.

Men stood there, with every imaginable flower, from Calla Lily’s to Long Stemmed Ecuadoran roses, some single, some in ornate bouquets and arrangements. Women stood with freshly made up faces, and tresses of carefully coiffed hair, and their Sunday best…smiles abundant.

jessica 1Greeting me was Gabriella, the company’s Marketing Director. A long, tall, elegant drink of water, with flowing dark hair to her waist and a lithe frame, I immediately felt “well-travelled-if-not-overdone” and though usually consider myself a stylish woman, I felt frumpy and wilted next to her. Dressed impeccably, she stood there with a sign “Jessica Arent” and a smile to greet me and welcome me to Guadalajara.

The ride to the office seemed to take no time at all, as we hit it off immediately. Telling me a bit about herself, Gabriella, shared with me her family background in the Fashion Industry, her rise in the company under the guidance of her father, her breakout into the Chinese Market, and Introduction into legendary product market launches in both Mexico and China through the family business.  She shared that she was the oldest of ten, and the one upon whom the responsibility was laid when it came to family. She also shared with me how she came to be involved in the team developing this new tequila brand and product we were to spend the next week collaborating on.

As she chattered on, Guadalajara rose up around me, with beautiful architecture, and smart cars everywhere! Guadalajara is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, one of only a handful of states from which Tequila can be made and called “tequila” (but you knew that, right?), and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. Guadalajara is the cultural center of Mexico, known for culture, and arts, Fashion and trends, it is often called “the Paris of Mexico” and is considered the home of mariachi music, of which there are reminders throughout the city.

file5971303346549Lush and green, I noticed lawn and foliage everywhere. Bougainvillea adorned doorway arches and balconies and palm trees lined the streets. Color and vibrancy was abundant, like an energy the city seemed to possess. We passed aromatic taco stands, with patrons lined up on makeshift counter stools pulled up to food carts. As we traveled through the city, the sky clouded and the heavens opened and the smell of the plants opening to take in the fresh rain permeated the air.

Unlike Mexico City, Guadalajara is on an eco-friendly green movement. Instead of gas guzzling trucks and SUV’s like so many other Mexican destinations, I saw bicycles, Vespa’s, smart cars, people walking, skateboards and rollerblades, and everywhere signs to adopt parcels of parks and land to keep them green.

Not knowing much about Guadalajara, beyond the reputation for rich soils and minerals for agriculture, I learned that Guadalajara has a humid subtropical climate that is quite close to a rainforest climate, featuring dry, warm winters and hot, wet summers. Guadalajara’s climate is influenced by its high altitude and the general seasonality of precipitation patterns in western North America. Although the temperature is warm year-round, and known for the “eternal spring”, Guadalajara has very strong seasonal variation in precipitation. The northward movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone brings a great deal of rain in the summer months, whereas for the rest of the year, the climate is rather arid. The extra moisture in the wet months moderates the temperatures, resulting in cooler days and nights during this period. My timing? Wet season. It was perfect. With my hair already responding to the 98 degree heat and the rich humidity and taking on a life and mind of its own, kinking madly, I was grateful for the rain cascading down around us.

Driving through this huge city, I came to understand that Guadalajara is built around 5 primary fountains. Had you ever wondered about the traditional Mexican Villages, towns and Pueblo’s that seem to be built around a central plaza and a fountain?  Those fountains were not for architecture, but had a purpose; just as these 5 fountains of Guadalajara.  Fountains were once wells. It was here you came to fill buckets for home water, baths, and cooking.  Accordingly, the five central fountains served each community’s water needs.  Today the Fountains rise up from beautifully landscaped medians that showcase majestic bronze sculptures telling compelling stories of the city’s rich history.

Unlike many colonial cities that maintain their original town plan, in the 1950s Guadalajara underwent a major project that changed the face of the city. Older buildings were razed to allow for wide avenues with new constructions, underground parking lots, and shopping centers. Fortunately, the most beautiful older buildings were left intact.

Jessica 3I was astounded by this incredible city. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral. With its twin pointed towers and central dome, Gabriella shared that it is the most recognizable landmark on the Guadalajara skyline. The Cathedral is surrounded on all four sides by “plazas, an integral part of all community planning in Mexico, as culturally these are the central meeting places for all socializing in Mexican communities.  “Plaza Guadalajara” faces the cathedral. Its central fountain depicts two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree, the city’s coat of arms. To the south is the “Plaza de Armas” with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts. The adjacent “Government Palace” has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural painted by Jose Clemente Orozco in the interior main staircase. To the north of the Cathedral is the “Rotondo de los Jaliscienses Ilustres”. This green space has a central circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns; the statues surrounding it represent Jalisco’s illustrious sons (and one daughter), people from Jalisco who have made notable contributions in arts, science and politics.

Behind the Cathedral is the large “Plaza de la Liberacion”, deriving the name to commemorate Miguel Hidalgo’s abolishment of slavery. A statue of Miguel Hidalgo holding a broken chain commemorates this historical event. The “Teatro Degollado” is at the far east end of the plaza. Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico performs here in this beautiful neoclassical building dating to 1856, and Gabriella told me to prepare myself, as this was Sunday’s activity and I was in for the cultural spectacle of a lifetime.

Coming around the back of the theater, I saw a fountain depicting the Guadalajara city founders. The “Plaza Tapatio” begins here and stretches over half a mile to the “Hospicio Cabanas”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Everywhere I looked were picturesque arcades and promenades, bubbling fountains, charming restored colonial buildings, modern sculptures, and happy people greeting one another with hugs, kisses, or great big smiles. Baby’s clung to mothers, and children ran around in circles chasing one another.

I tilted my head back against the headrest and breathed deeply, while I listened to Gabriella continue on the points of interest as we wound our way to the offices and the rain began to subside.

All too soon we came upon a tall modern office building, and pulled in to park the car and head on upstairs.

We paused at the door for a moment, as the sounds of gregarious conversation floated out to us. She turned to me and asked “Are you ready to meet everyone?” as an endearing smile spread across her face.  Opening the door the room came to a dead halt in all conversation as we walked in, and a roomful of momentary strangers all turned toward me to welcome me. I say “momentary” because Mexican culture speaks to empathy, and engagement and the art of drawing you in, no matter how shy you thought you might be.

One by one, these gentlemen stepped up to me with an outstretched hand, a smile and a kiss on the cheek in greeting. The impressive 27 year old CEO, the distinguished gentleman who clearly had a fascinating story that spread across his face and came through his smile, that was the COO, and the enigmatic and enthusiastic Tequila Maestro. I realized in short order I was among the elite of the Tequila world in Guadalajara. More distinguished and certainly refined than anyone I had met to date in the industry, the first impression of this team of “Tequileros” was nothing short of impressive. Graciousness and Gentility is what came through from this cast of characters in my Epic Tequila Adventure.

Not long after arriving, I was introduced to the “juice”.  There are no words to adequately describe this product line, other than “Epic”.  Introduced by Jaime Villalobos Sauza, of the famed SAUZA TEQUILA FAMILY and proud 5th generation tequila aficionado, the nondescript “milk bottles” were opened one at a time and poured into tasting flutes. We collectively put our glasses to our noses with each sample, rolled our glasses to inspect “legs” and “crowns” and the Brilliance of the liquid in the glass, and one by one we tilted the glasses to our lips and drew in the liquid. Swilling for five seconds, inhaling deeply and swallowing, with a deep exhale, the notes and complexities of the distillations rose up, one after the other, promising a smooth, soft sipping experience and delivering a luxurious libation experience.

jessica 4

Jessica 5Dinner was soon offered by our personal chef, Josue Bañuelos (Now rated “THE WORLDS GREATEST CHEF” by this writer-I ate really well all week and lost weight!).  As we sat down at the table, I took it all in. High above the cobblestone streets of Guadalajara, the pocket doors pulled all the way back so the soft breeze added to the “Al Fresco” mood. The delicately seared Sea Bass with a caper minieure sauce, fresh grilled asparagus with agave honey, and cilantro carrots plated on immaculate Villeroy and Boch White Bone China, the beautiful, carefully selected Reidel glasses, for the Chillean Chardennau chilled to perfection, all finished with a refreshing homemade Fresh Lemon Ice with red and black raspberries and mint; I began to understand the methodology behind the image of the brand. The first impression spoke volumes and the ideas began to formulate in my mind, like the flavors exploding in my mouth, so too were my pistons exploding with ideas!

 

jessica 2Before I knew it, the evening had passed and I found myself on my way to my hotel to check in and settle in the for the night. I regretted emerging from the car, not yet done with the day, eager to see and learn and taste so much more, and dragged myself up to my room.

Unpacked and comfortably settled in to my room, I took a deep contented breath. I called the front desk and in Spanish asked for the wake-up call. I pulled the drapes on the traffic of Guadalajara, and submerged into the dark folds of the room, the breeze blowing the curtains in the window and sleep coming over me. I closed my eyes, eager for the next day to begin.

Read the continuation of Jessica’s Journey coming soon!

 

jessica ArentJessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing.  Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture.  Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home.  Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.

 


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Jessica’s Journey: The Epic Tequila Tour

Jessica’s Epic Tequila Tour: When you love what you do, you immerse yourself in the experience By Jessica Arent

BIENVENIDOS A GUADALAJARA, JALISCO, MEXICO!

GuadalajaraI am not going to lie, when your living is derived from that which you are passionate about in a culture you call home, it ceases to be a J.O.B and becomes altogether a joy and the adventure of a lifetime. Enter me, and my profession. As much as this writer would like to derive her income from exclusively writing, (isn’t that what all authors aspire to?), I am not on the Top Seller list, so I use my creativity and love of Tequila in other ways. I specialize in Marketing and Branding of Hispanic Products in the United States with an emphasis on Tequila. Of course, living and working in this world presents one with some unique and extraordinary life experiences.

Joining Tequila Aficionado

6_ta_logo_pinasA few months ago, M.A. “Mike” Morales and Lisa Pietsch invited me to join the team at Tequila Aficionado and write a travel based column for their exceptional publication. Initially, I was flattered. Then I was overwrought with anxiety, not knowing what to write about. Didn’t it have to relate to tequila? Shouldn’t it reflect Mexico? Does it have to be a lot of Tequila Talk? Oy Vey!!! What to write? The anxiety was killing me.  This went on for a few weeks, honestly. I had writer’s block.

Opportunity Knocked Rang

Then the phone rang. No, it wasn’t Lisa looking for a submission. No, it wasn’t Mike, prompting my creative ideas. It was a distributor friend and colleague out of Central Valley, California, asking if I would be interested in a new project and product emerging into the market in the near future. univisionWell of course I was! A girl has to eat, right? The long and the short, found me on a plane, headed to Guadalajara, Mexico, for my first time. Okay, I know what you are thinking. “How can you possibly market Hispanic Products and especially Tequila, without having been to Guadalajara, Mexico?!” My answer to this? I was paid in Tequila with my first position in Advertising at Univision Television in that same Central Valley Market my distributor friend called from. That IS little Guadalajara. I have been in and out of innumerable destinations in Mexico for business, and (don’t hate) I know what I am doing.  It isn’t my first “Charreada”!

Enter The Epic Tequila Tour

file0001348262335It’s an “Epic” (hold on to that adjective, you will want to remember it!) experience when your client invites you into their world to feel, touch and experience in every imaginable way, the product. Yes, you read that right. In the “Epic” (there is that word again!!) experience of the concept, development, relationships, price structure, placement, endorsements, and sponsorships, the entire image of a product right down to the ownership and infrastructure of the team, is the BRAND. And this project, was nothing short of “Epic”. The thing is, I am pretty discerning, very particular, and extremely picky about Tequila and branding, so it’s got to be extraordinary for this girl to really get in the game and take on the project. Turns out, this one is “Epic”.

Welcome to Jessica’s Journey

And so, instead of just telling you about it, I thought I would take you on my journey through this particular experience start to finish, through a series of articles, so that you too can feel, touch, smell, taste and experience what I did.  If you read this series and immerse yourselves as I did, I am confident by the time we get to the end of my decadent, inspiring, educational, enlightening Guadalajara experience you will have come to know everyone along the way as I did.  Those who made history in Tequila and created this amazingly beautiful Tequila world we live in. When we’re through, and it’s gotten Off the Cuff with Mike and Alex, and seen Lisa’s kitchen for a taste test or two, I might just tell you who and what to look for hitting the shelves and bars near you! Ready, Set……. BIENVENIDOS A UN “EPIC” TEQUILA EXPERIENCIA!

  Read the next installment of Jessica’s Journey next Monday!

jessica arent, jessica's journey, mexico, tequila, tequila aficionadoAbout Jessica Arent

Jessica Arent has spent her career steeped in the Hispanic culture. Passionate about the Latin culture and experiencing roles that have taken her from television to digital marketing throughout the United States and Mexico, Jessica’s passion for Mexico runs in her blood. An accomplished writer, Mexico is where her heart lives and is the focus of her work and writing.  Specializing in marketing Hispanic based products and services, Jessica will tell you there are few people in the world or places she has traveled, from Asia to Europe and in between, who compare to the Mexican culture.  Building websites such as ALL ABOUT MEXICO and fostering the marketing endeavors of a number of tequila products, to name a few, Jessica sets out to inspire the world around her, one person, one relationship at a time, to know and understand the culture she calls home.  Jessica is a partner at Intermountain Media, LLC, the Communications and Media Director of Terra Energy Resources Corp, and shares other travel and tequila adventures on her blog, Jessica’s Mexico.

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My Adventures in Tequila – Part 1

By Ryan Kelley | 06.02.10

I am a little winded as a group of us walk up a trail that leads to the highest point on Guillermo Sauza’s property in Tequila. I only had to look up at the ancient volcano that dominates the Southern sky to explain my shortness of breath. The town of Tequila is 4,000 feet above sea level, with mineral-rich volcanic soil that contributes to the growth and flavor of the blue agave, the plant tequila is made from.

Ollie, one of Sauza’s dogs, seems to lead the way. She runs several feet in front of us, then stops and turns around to make sure we are still following her, and then continues down the path. We pass “La Mexicana,” the Orendain distillery founded in 1926, to our right. We climb higher and, on the left, see trees with huge, twisted roots that seem to be crawling out of the ground. Finally, there’s just one more steep flight of stairs.

The overlook offers a gorgeous panoramic view of all of Tequila, a small town outside Guadalajara of about 50,000 people surrounded by fields that glow with the turquoise hue of blue agave. The wind blows toward us, and we catch a whiff of the honey-like scent of baked agave. It’s a smell that doesn’t quit while in Tequila; some of the big distilleries, like Cuervo and Sauza, work around the clock. For tequila aficionados – whether you’ve just started sipping or if you’ve sipped for decades – a visit to this magical place is a must.

Having written about tequila for nearly an entire year, it was high time I made the trip. I’m not a fan of planning trips – especially to other countries – so I chose Experience Tequila’s 10-Day Total Jalisco Experience, which includes hotels, most meals, and all travel costs (except airfare) for four days in Tequila, two in Guadalajara (Mexico’s second-largest city) and four days at Costa Alegre on the coast of the state of Jalisco. The itinerary is well-organized with plenty of room to breathe, and our guide, Clayton Szczech, was extremely knowledgeable, thorough, and fluent in Spanish.

We are a small group of six. Clayton likes to keep his tours relatively small so he can give each person attention without being overbearing. I am joined by Lauren and Bill, a well-traveled couple from Portland who recently toured Bourbon country, and Cody and Betsey, a technology librarian and lawyer, respectively, from Minnesota.

It’s not just the smell of agave that screams “tequila;” the hills are marked with large stones that form “Sauza” on one hillside and “La Cofradia” on another. In the middle of the town is a large smokestack that rises as high as the cathedral in the plaza. It is part of La Rojeña, the Cuervo distillery that’s both a tourist attraction but still a working factory. The colorful walls of Cuervo sit in stark contrast to the neighboring Sauza factory, with its bright white walls and high iron gates. Tequila has managed to retain a small-town charm, with family owned and operated shops, restaurants and hotels.

After taking in the view, we hike back down to the Fortaleza distillery, which we had toured earlier, to taste their tequila with the proprietor, Guillermo Erikson Sauza. Guillermo is a fifth-generation member of the Sauza family and honors his family’s tequila heritage by making Tequila Los Abuelos (known as Tequila Fortaleza in the United States) using traditional techniques. Agave grows and matures for seven to eight years (mostly on the estate), after which it is harvested by a jimador who removes the plant from the ground and slices off the leaves. The heart of the agave (piña) looks like a large, green pineapple and is taken back to the distillery and baked in a brick oven (horno). After 33 hours, the piñas are put into a pit where they are crushed by a large stone (tahona) that is hooked up to a tractor. Around it goes, pressing out the juices of the baked agave. The woody fibers (bagazo) are removed from the pit, and the juice is pumped into small wood vats where it ferments naturally for three to four days and then distilled twice in small copper pot stills. Following the second distillation it is either moved into stainless steel tanks for bottling as white (blanco) tequila, or into oak barrels where it rests for six to nine months (reposado, or rested) or just under three years (añejo, or aged). It takes the hard work of eight people to produce Tequila Fortaleza, a stark contrast to the hundreds of people employed by the big-name distilleries.

Our tasting takes place in the cave (cava). This is an actual cave right next to the distillery. It is dimly lit, and it takes a few moments for my eyes to adjust, but I find the rest of my group sitting at a table close to the bar. The only sources of light are from candles and a computer hooked up to a projector. Behind the bar is Guillermo Sauza in a white cowboy hat. His deep voice is gravelly from a sore throat, and he speaks slowly, enunciating each syllable. He reminds me of a Mexican John Wayne. After a brief toast to his guests, which also includes a group of restauranteurs and bartenders from California, Guillermo presents a slideshow of the distillery and family history.

The tequila is excellent. The blanco has a wonderfully sweet and floral bouquet, with a taste that’s fresh and a body full of flavor. The reposado is perfectly balanced and gets a sort of rustic flavor from the barrel – notes of wood, honey, and just a hint of caramel. The añejo is sweet, a great after-dinner choice with strong flavors from the barrel (leather, wood, caramel) and soft notes of smoky, floral agave. Maybe it is the context and romance of tequila done the old way, but we all agree that it has a very authentic flavor. When touring distilleries, we tasted a lot of baked agave, and Fortaleza maintains this flavor throughout the ages – from blanco to añejo.

There is a break in the program and the cave is momentarily silent. I remember that only a few hours earlier I met another patriarch of a tequila producing family. Things are much more modern at the Tres Mujeres distillery, located in Amatitan just outside of Tequila (about 15 minutes by bus). It sits in the center of the valley amidst several acres of agave fields owned by the Partida family, who have been farming and harvesting agave for three generations. Tres Mujeres, like La Fortaleza and many others, uses brick adobe ovens, but they also have an autoclave – a stainless steel steam oven that cooks agave in a short amount of time. The Tres Mujeres brand never uses agave cooked in an autoclave but, like many distilleries, it has contracts to produce other tequila brands and can use it as requested. Stainless steel tanks are used for fermentation as are stainless steel stills for distillation, allowing for a well-controlled environment. La Fortaleza, in contrast, is happy in its inconsistency, as fans battle over which lote (lot or batch) is better than another.

After our tour and tasting are complete, Clayton and I wander over to a room used for bottling. An older man sits at a table separating fabric labels for a Tres Mujeres bottle that comes encased in leather. We come to discover that it is Jesus Partida Melendrez, founder of Tres Mujeres Tequila.

Jesus started Tres Mujeres in the mid ‘90s, having taken an interest in learning more than just the farming of agave. His goal was to produce high quality, 100% blue agave tequila that was available at an affordable price. It took time and effort, but he was successful, and after a decade of production, Tres Mujeres opened their new glass-front facility in 2006. The newer digs include a second-floor patio restaurant, and the family has plans to open a small hotel on the property within the next few years.

Jesus introduced us to his son, Sergio, who manages the distillery’s operations. I was curious to see the old distillery. Bill and Lauren, acting as my photographer (I had made a rookie mistake of forgetting to charge my battery), and I stepped up into his truck, and we were soon at the original Tres Mujeres plant, just a quarter of a mile away. The original distillery is only partially operable, as it suffered a major fire in the summer of 2009 which resulted in a loss of over 80,000 liters of tequila and even caused a temporary shortage in some areas (including Southern California).

Sergio showed us the damage, but it did not seem to concern him much. Instead, he whisked us into a building adjacent to the bottling area and had us taste something he was very proud of. It was a sweet, agave-rich, tequila-flavored liqueur called Teky Ladies. It’s available in Mexico, and he thinks it would do well in the American market. It was a bit sweet but surprisingly full-flavored – something in between agave nectar and tequila. Is there a market for it? I don’t know – maybe in the mixology community – but Lauren and I enjoyed the tasting and the clear passion that Sergio had for his innovative product.

Tres Mujeres and La Fortaleza tell similar, but different, stories. Both exist in a world dominated by large conglomerates, where the bottom line sometimes overshadows the quality of the product. Guillermo Sauza and Jesus Partida Melendrez are still out to make a dollar, but Guillermo has chosen to honor and maintain a traditional, albeit antiquated process (that isn’t cheap for him or the consumer), while Jesus chooses to maintain a quality product at a quality price, employing more modern methods but trying hard to maintain a product of high quality.

After Guillermo’s slideshow in the cave, we return outdoors. It’s dark now, but the dim lights of the distillery and a large, roaring fire illuminate a fiesta complete with tacos, grilled corn, churros, and a guitarist who plays and sings romantic Mexican ballads. With a plate full of food, I sit by the warm fire with Bill and Lauren, stuffing myself with the wonderful flavors of Tequila. The tacos al pastor melt on my tongue and are followed by the best churro I have ever eaten – hot and crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft and fluffy inside – paired wonderfully with Tequila Fortaleza añejo. It is a more than satisfying end to our second day.

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