Tequila Pairing Challenge with Tequila Don Fulano

…At The Patio in San Diego

By Ryan Kelley

 patioTequila pairing dinners are always an adventure. Like fine wine, tequila has a way of inspiring and challenging chefs to marry just the right food to match the myriad and often complex flavors inherent in well-made, artisanal tequila. So when my friend Tequilier Mario Marquez invited me to join him and renowned chef Andrew Spurgin to judge a tequila pairing competition between both locations of The Patio in San Diego, I was all in.don_fulano_bottles2

Chefs at each of the restaurant’s two locations were given the challenge to prepare a five-course dinner with the five different expressions of Don Fulano tequila.

Day 1: The Patio on Lamont

Day1_Restaurant

 

In a large yet cozy room at The Patio’s Pacific Beach location on Lamont Street, General Manager Chris Simmons welcomed tasters and the judging panel and then introduced Chef de Cuisine Andre Fuentes.

As the first course was delivered, Don Fulano Brand Ambassador Sergio Mendoza told guests about Don Fulano—distilled at La Tequileña in the Tequila valley in small batches from 100% estate-grown agave from the highlands of Jalisco.

Day1_Course1Most notable about Chef Fuentes’ menu was that it strayed from the typical Mexican flavors normally paired with tequila.

The first course was a fried green tomato with herb-whipped goat cheese, watermelon and cucumber salad and watercress paired with Don Fulano Suave. The fried green tomato had a tendency to overwhelm the delicate and complex flavors of a blanco, but the watermelon and cucumber brought out the herbal and earthier flavors.

 

Day1_Course2It was a solid start, but then the evening took an unexpected twist.

At most tequila pairing dinners, courses will be paired with a vertical flight of tequila. That is, the first course is paired with blanco, the second with reposado, third with añejo, etc. Instead, Chef Fuentes served his second course, a chilled honeydew soup with pistachio gremolata, snow crab and lemon vinaigrette with Don Fulano añejo, which is a floral yet sweet and intense tequila aged for three years in French oak.

Pairing the sweet soup brought out the sweetness of the añejo—fine for a dessert course but a little odd this early in the evening. Interestingly, when I went back to sipping the blanco with this course, I found it to be a much better marriage.

Day1_Course3The highlight of the evening was the third course: fried soft shell crab cooked to perfection with a grilled corn puree, smoked pork belly and cantaloupe relish paired with Don Fulano resposado.

The hearty dish stood up to the well-balanced reposado, which offers a fruity, delicately herbal flavor up front and ends with richer flavors of caramel and maple. The freshness and fruitiness of the relish and corn puree brought out the sweet agave and herbal flavors, while the heartier fried crab opened the palate to the richness from the barrel.

Day1_Course4This was a true winner, and was the highest-scored plate by all three judges.

The fourth course, agave-glazed smoked duck breast paired with Don Fulano 5-year Imperial was unfortunately overpowered by the complex flavors of the extra añejo, but the evening ended on a high note with a watermelon-basil sorbet that brought out the fresh flavor of the sweet, intense Don Fulano Fuerte, a 100-proof blanco.

 

Day 2: The Patio on Goldfinch

Day2_Course1The second evening featured Executive Chef John Medall’s five course menu at The Patio on Goldfinch in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. Medall’s menu offered more traditional Mexican flavors, but was still creative and full of unexpected accents.

The first surprise came with the first course, a simple yet elegant watermelon and jicama salad dressed with agave honey, cilantro, cotija and pine nuts. Fellow judge, Chef Andrew Spurgin, hit it right on the mark when he described the dish as “honest.”

The fresh, flavorful salad complimented notes of grapefruit in the blanco and opened up the herbal aspect of the tequila without an overpowering sweetness.

Day2_Course2This was the first highlight of the evening. It even gave me chills!

The second course, a cantaloupe and mango gazpacho, was tasty but its richness and sweetness overpowered Don Fulano reposado.

The second highlight of the evening, and my favorite dish and pairing across both nights was tequila-braised pork carnitas wrapped in a house made tortilla and topped with salsa verde, served with Mexican rice and spicy pinto beans and paired with Don Fulano añejo.

Day2_Course3It was a robust dish worthy of the bold flavors in the añejo. The flavors of the dish heightened the agave-heavy entry of the añejo and accentuated the wonderful wood notes in the tequila’s finish.

Also notable was that the dish showcased Medall’s philosophy of using even “unusable portions” of his ingredients: watermelon rind leftover from the first course was smashed into the tortilla dough to give it a beautiful color and a mild, sweet flavor that added to the complexity of the dish and tequila pairing.

Day2_Course4The third course proved hard to follow, and the fourth course, a Puerto Nuevo-style lobster, came out a bit overcooked—likely due to difficulty choreographing and timing such an ambitious plate for so many guests. It’s pairing with Don Fulano Imperial was rather “ho-hum,” but I found that pairing the Imperial with the course’s side of roasted corn was a surprisingly good marriage of food and tequila, and this helped salvage the course and bump up the score a bit.

The pairing challenge came to a close with a tasty melon granita made from watermelon, cantaloupe and casaba complemented by the 100-proof aromatic and intense Don Fulano Fuerte. It was a solid way to end the night and the 2-day challenge.

And The Winner Is…

When the scores were tallied, the judging panel selected Chef Medall’s menu from The Patio on Goldfinch as the winner.

***

montalvo

 

The Patio on Goldfinch plans to hold another five-course tequila pairing dinner on Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 5:30p.m. with Tequila Montalvo. For reservations and details, click here or contact the restaurant, located on 4020 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103, at (619) 501-5090.

 

Day1_GroupShot
Writer Ryan Kelley and friends enjoying all five of Don Fulano Tequila’s offerings.

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Suerte Blanco Tequila Review & Tasting Notes

Suerte Blanco
Suerte Blanco
Highlands sweetness with a down-to-earth complexity.

The Spanish word “Suerte” translates to “luck.” The bottles of all three Suerte expressions are decorated with a marketing-friendly rabbit designed by a tattoo artist in a native Mexican (Aztec/Mayan) style. It’s accompanied by a Partida/spirit bird-style origin story. This time, tequila was discovered by a farmer’s wife who saw a rabbit getting tipsy on fermented agave. It makes for an attractive package, and the rabbit is a fitting mascot, as this tequila has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Suerte BlancoBasic Stats
NOM: 1530 (Tequilera Simbolo, S.A. de C.V.)
Region: Highlands
Oven: Brick
Extraction: Tahona
Distillation: Stainless steel pot stills, double-distilled
Proof: 80 (40% abv)
Price: $30 to $36
Availability: Throughout Colorado, with possible expansion to both coasts soon.
Website: drinksuerte.com

Tasting and Mixing Notes
The blanco is rested in stainless steel tanks for two months prior to bottling. Sweet highlands baked agave is pronounced on the aroma and the flavor. This is definitely a plus for this reviewer, as I prefer my blancos to be fairly aggressive on the agave (highlands or lowlands). There are very nice, lingering notes of melon, grass, and mint on the nose. These aromas make it inside the bottle, too, with added flavors of pear, grass and a nice vegetal finish.

My one minor gripe with this blanco is that the sweetness and grass may be a little too pronounced, especially after being exposed to air for 15 or 20 minutes. The more subtle notes that give this blanco more complexity get less pronounced. (You have to catch this rabbit quickly!) Interestingly, I found that mixing Suerte blanco into a margarita not only retains the complexity I got with the first taste, but the sweet and grassy flavors are kept at bay in addition to bringing very lovely fruit and herbal notes to a traditional margarita.

Ryan’s Tequila Matchmaker Rating
Aroma – 23/25
Flavor – 24/30
Finish – 21/25
Value – 8/10
Drink again? – Yes
Recommend – Yes
Total Score – 86

So how does this rabbit age? While the reposado and añejo expressions are solid representations of highlands tequilas, and pleasant enough to sip, I didn’t find them as unique and interesting as the blanco, the clear winner in the Suerte lineup.

Also on Tequila Aficionado: Sipping off the Cuff with Suerte Tequila

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My Quest for a Universal Frozen Margarita Recipe

frozen margarita, tequila, ryan kelley
By Ryan Kelley | 07.24.12

Over the last month I’ve been developing and testing a recipe for frozen margaritas. I just published my findings at Examiner.com. Cocktails are what the Examiner readers want, especially today—Happy National Tequila Day! But for you, my fellow tequila-sippers and adventurous explorers of agave spirits, I thought you might like to know a few other things I learned in my month-long quest for a versatile frozen margarita recipe.

1) There is actually science behind our love of sweetened citrus juice. Lemonade (and anything with a similar combination of citrus juice and sugar) has stress-reducing and relaxing properties from both the citrus juice and glucose. Add the power of tequila to this, and it’s no wonder the margarita (frozen or otherwise) is the perfect antidote to the stress of modern American life.

2) Ditch the cheap triple sec. While Cointreau or Combier actually adds subtle flavors to a margarita, cheap triple sec just adds sugar and a flat tart flavor that tends to get lost when combined with fresh ingredients. (I like my margaritas to be agave-forward, so I tend to save the fancy orange-flavored liqueurs for cocktails where they can really shine.)

3) Don’t be afraid to put a favorite sipper into a margarita. I did my experiments (for the sake of cost and because I find it to be a decent base tequila for a house full of margarita-craving guests) using Kirkland Silver Tequila, which I bought for about $20 at Costco. But I also experimented with a few of my favorite sippers and some different ages. Just as these finely crafted tequilas offer you complex and unique flavors when you sip, these same characteristics shine through brilliantly in the frozen margaritas. Your tequila-loving friends will appreciate sharing this discovery (it is also a fun game to see if they can guess what tequila you used). One of my favorites was using Casa Noble Reposado in a frozen mango margarita—it was definitely a divine moment.

4) Sparkling lemonade/limeade adds pizzazz. I was hesitant to include this ingredient in the final recipe, but it was such a big hit, even though you don’t have to add very much. My theory is that the bubbles give it a lighter, more exciting texture that people find even more refreshing. I also think the carbonation may assist in a faster delivery of the effects of alcohol and sugar in the body and mind. I preferred to use sparkling lemonade and used the Trader Joe’s brand. I did not attempt any other similar or more widely available sparklers, but I suppose if you have rarely-used workout equipment or old appliances littering your front lawn, Sprite or its generic equivalent will probably be an acceptable substitution for you and your guests.

5) Feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged. My research and published findings are admittedly nonscientific and are in part biased, intended to spread the gospel and espouse the benefits of 100% agave tequila—even in a frozen margarita. I’m very curious for feedback from friends, brand reps, aficionados, mixologists, and the general public. Did you like it; did you hate it; can you offer suggested improvements; was there a fruit (or combination of fruits) that you really enjoy; etc.? If so, help us all on a journey of discovery by leaving a comment here or in the original article.

casa noble blanco, tequila, tequila aficionadocasa noble reposado, tequila, tequila aficionadocasa noble anejo, tequila, tequila aficionado

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A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay 2011

Highlights from A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay event in San Francisco and the Tequila Rocks! competition, sponsored by Casa Noble.

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Winning Cocktail Recipes from Tequila Rocks

By Ryan Kelley | 05.09.11

On April 17, 2011, fourteen of the Bay Area’s best mixologists competing in the Tequila Rocks cocktail competition, sponsored by Casa Noble Tequila, at A Taste of Tequila and Tamales by the Bay, an annual benefit event for Benchmark Institute. Each contestant had five minutes to mix an original cocktail using Casa Noble tequila (blanco, reposado, or añejo) as the base ingredient. Tequila Aficionado Senior Editor Ryan Kelley joined H. Joseph Ehrmann (owner/barman Elixir in San Francisco) and Virginia Miller (Bay Area food and drink writer) on the judging panel to select the top three cocktails. The event was hosted by Tres Executive Beverage Director Ashley Miller.

The winning cocktail recipes are posted below. The prize for first place included a bottle of Casa Noble Single Barrel Anejo, two Casa Noble engraved Riedel tequila glasses, and an engraved Tequila Rocks pitcher. (Read Ryan’s blog entry detailing his experience as a judge, including more information on this “a-maize-ing” event.)

First Place:
Council of Four

Brian Means (Bartender at Chow)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Casa Noble Reposado tequila
  • 0.5 oz. Amontillado sherry
  • 0.5 oz. St. Germain liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. lemongrass syrup
  • 2 dashes lemon bitters
  • garnish: dehydrated Meyer lemon wheels with edible flowers stuck onto it by agave nectar

Directions:

  1. Add cracked ice, shake and strain into a coupe glass.
  2. Garnish and serve.

Second Place:
Hernan’s Hermanos

Michael Callahan (Bartender at Azul)


Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. Casa Noble Blanco tequila
  • 1 oz. Txakolina Spanish wine
  • 0.25 oz. St. Germain
  • 2 drops celery bitters
  • 3 drops lime bitters
  • garnish: mezcal-infused dehydrated apple crisp
  1. Directions:
  2. Combine all ingredients.
  3. Stir and strain into coup.
  4. Garnish with mezcal-infused dehydrated green apple crisp and serve.

Third Place:
The Garden Elixir

Jay Crabb (Bar Manager, Walnut Creek Yacht Club)


Ingredients:

  • 8 cilantro leaves
  • 4 thin radish slices
  • tiny pinch of salt
  • 1.5 oz. home-made carrot syrup (chopped carrots in 2 parts water to 1 part sugar ratio syrup)
  • 0.5 oz. Cocchi Aperitivo Americano
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 healthy dashes celery bitters
  • 1.75 oz. Casa Noble Reposado tequila
  • splash of seltzer water
  • garnish: very thin jicama spirals, 1 cilantro sprig, thin radish slice
  • dust with Picositos seasoning

Directions:

  1. Muddle cilantro leaves and radish slices in bottom of a mixing glass with a tiny pinch of salt.
  2. Add carrot syrup, Cocchi, lime juice, celery bitters and tequila and shake well with ice.
  3. Top with a splash of seltzer water.
  4. Garnish with jicama spirals, cilantro sprig, and radish slice.
  5. Dust with spicy/sweet/sour Picositos seasoning and serve.

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Tamales, Tequila, and Casa Noble Tequila Rocks! Cocktail Competition

By Ryan Kelley | 05.09.11

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!

Mix the wining cocktails at home! The first, second, and third place Tequila Rocks cocktail recipes can be found here!

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Hecho Dares to Pair Tequila and Sushi in San Francisco

By Ryan Kelley | 04.28.11
Highly Recommended

The pairing of tequila and sushi is a relatively new concept, but not without precedent. It was pioneered by establishments such as Sushi-Teq in Boston, Richard Sandoval’s Zengo chain, the New York and Las Vegas Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grills and Nick-San in Los Cabos and Mexico City. The trend continues to grow in San Francisco with the opening of Hecho, restauranteur Joseph Manzare’s (part owner of Tres, formerly Tres Agaves) latest venture and the first sushi-tequila bar on the West Coast.

In a space adjacent – and connected to – the Galleria Park Hotel in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, Hecho serves up a variety of small plates, sushi rolls, nigiri sushi, grilled meat and vegetable skewers, as well as a few other seafood and meat dishes alongside a wide selection of tequila and sake. Hecho’s interior is beautiful, dominated by light woods accented by colors from Japanese posters and other images. At first glance it looks like your typical, casual but high-quality sushi joint. And then you notice the tequila bar, where Gilberto Mendoza is ready to greet you and pour you a glass of one of the 80+ tequilas displayed prominently on the back wall. It’s a modest collection compared with the Bay Area’s Mexican-centric tequila bars, but what Hecho lacks in volume is made up for by the well-thought-out represenation characterized by a diversity of terroir and flavor. Most of the popular 100% agave brands have a space on the wall: Herradura, Partida, Siete Leguas, Patron, Corralejo, Casa Noble, and a handful of others. They share shelf space with a few lesser-known brands, like Tres Agaves and Pueblo Viejo, the restaurant’s house tequila.

Mendoza comes to Hecho by way of Tres Agaves, where he worked for four years prior. His passion for tequila is infectious, and he loves to share his knowledge and experience with guests in between pours. It’s strictly the basics when it comes to cocktails. Hecho makes a well-balanced margarita that’s made with tequila, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice, as well as traditional interpretations of the paloma and the tequila sunrise.

The tequila bar flows seamlessly into the sushi bar, which sports a several foot long clear glass case filled with bright-colored pieces of fish. It took me a moment to wrap my head around this juxtaposition, and makes it clear that Hecho will be destroying boundaries and redefining traditional food and spirit pairing. There are also redefined boundaries for patrons; seats are available at the tequila bar,the sushi bar, at tables downstairs as well as upstairs. There’s a private room for groups and meetings, and you can even sit at a bar in the kitchen, overlooking the activity on the first floor and at the tequila and sushi bars.

The sushi offerings reflect a traditional, simple Tokyo-style menu with nigiri sushi (small clump of rice with a piece of fish on top) and makimono rolls (filling of rice and fish rolled into dried seaweed). We sampled the tuna roll, a roll with chopped yellowtail and scallion, and the sea bass nigiri. All were simple and attractive, and the taste was exquisite and remarkably fresh, as if the fish just jumped onto the table.

There are no fancy, western-style rolls at Hecho. California, Philadelphia, Dynamite, or similar rolls filled with cream cheese, tempura, smoked salmon, etc. are nowhere to be found. The Hecho roll is a notable exception, a truly inspired, original “inside-out roll” (rice and toasted sesame seeds are on the outside, with the seaweed and fish on the inside) created by Executive Chef Masaki Sasaki. It is just as beautiful on the palate as it is on the plate. Do not visit Hecho without giving it a try.

For those who shy away from sushi, there are the Yakimono (grilled) items that include a variety of meat (chicken, beef, pork), vegetable (asparagus, mushroom, okra, yam), and seafood (scallop, yellowtail, tuna) skewers. The meats we sampled were tender, flavorful and fully-cooked, and the vegetables maintain a fresh crunch while still benefiting from the few minutes on the hot grill.

Tequila paired surprisingly well with everything, but only after  we decided upon the right combination. Nigiri and makimono rolls paired best with blanco tequila – the house blanco (Pueblo Viejo) is a solid choice, but the variety of flavors offered on the sushi menu beg for exploring other brands. We tried reposado tequila with the sushi, but it had a tendency to overpower the subtlely of flavor inherent in sushi. Instead, the reposados are best reserved for the grilled items. A good guideline is that the whiter the meat/vegetable, the younger the tequila.

Prices at Hecho are affordable but not cheap – you’re in Downtown San Francisco and you pay for that. Fortunately, the quality of food is extremely good. Hecho has some of the best, most fresh-tasting sushi you will ever experience. The service was also incredibly strong, especially for a restaurant that has only been open for a few weeks. Our server, Maile (pronounced Miley), provided top-notch, friendly service and she was knowledgeable about the food and tequila selections, although her specialty happens to be sake.

The diverse tequila selection, unique and high-quality food, and superb service all add up to a strong recommendation. Hecho is an innovative addition to the ever-expanding world of tequila bars, and it will be exciting to see this one thrive and grow.

Hecho
185 Sutter St. (at Kearny St.)
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: (415) 835-6400
Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Yelp | Google Maps
Menu: No official menu is available online, but here’s a complete overview of the food menu as of April 2011 from Grub Street San Francisco.
Items sampled (April 16, 2011):

Tequila and Cocktails

Hecho Margarita (Pueblo Viejo blanco, agave nectar, lime juice) – $10 /cocktail
Pueblo Viejo blanco – $8 /glass
Pueblo Viejo reposado – $10 /glass

Sushi (Nigiri and Makimono rolls)

Tekka (tuna roll) – $7 /roll
Suzuki (sea bass) – $3 /piece
Negi Hamachi (Chopped Yellowtail and scallion roll) – $7 /roll

Yakimono (Grilled items)

Shishito (Japanese peppers) – $3 /plate of 6 peppers
Maguro maki (Hecho roll) – $8 /roll
Momo (Chicken thigh skewer) – $6 /skewer
Wagyu (Beef skewer) – market price

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Don Pilar Tequila Blanco

don pilar tequila blanco
By Ryan Kelley | 04.15.11
Highly Recommended

Overview

  • NOM 1443 – Grupo Industrial Tequilero de los Altos de Jalisco, S.A. de C.V.
  • Agave comes from ranches owned by Jose Pilar Contreras (“Don Pilar”) near the town of San Jose de Gracia in the highlands of Jalisco.
  • Cooked in autoclaves for 24 hours; left to cool for an additional 24 hours.
  • Fermented using the “Mozart method” (baroque music played during 7 to 10-day fermentation process).
  • Affordably priced at $28-$33 a bottle.
  • Kosher certified.
  • Tasted April 2011 using a Riedel tequila glass.

Tasting NotesDon Pilar Tequila Blanco

Sitting in my Riedel glass, Don Pilar blanco seems to sparkle. The body seems slightly thicker than other tequilas. Closing my eyes to assess the aroma, I am instantly transported to a tropical island, as pineapple and subtle mango dominate the nose. It’s backed with a lightly floral baked agave and offers just a hint of peppercorn. Matching the refreshing scent, this blanco is clean and crisp on the palate. It has a slightly oily entry that coats the tongue evenly with sweet, subtle agave flavor. If someone were to ask me what a highlands tequila tastes like, Don Pilar Blanco is a great example: fruity and floral. Unlike some highlands tequilas, however, it isn’t too sweet. The sweetness isn’t tempered by bitterness, but is instead grounded with some nice earthy tones, specifically green bell pepper. Don Pilar Blanco boasts a wonderfully creamy finish with an orange zest aftertaste.

Cocktail Note and Recipe: While Don Pilar Blanco is a perfect sipper for blanco fans – it’s crisp character just begs to be sipped on a hot day – the affordable price point and full body makes it an excellent blanco for cocktails. (You had better not pollute this tequila with anything but fresh, natural ingredients!) The flavors of Don Pilar inspired me to create this  (it doesn’t have a name, I just call it my Don Pilar Margarita):

  1. Twist a small strip of orange peel over a martini glass and drop it inside the glass.
  2. Combine all other ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.
  3. Give it a good 10 shakes – not too hard or fast unless you want your cocktail watery – and strain into the glass.

Rating: 9.0 – Highly Recommended

More about Tequila Don Pilar

Taking a different path than most tequila brands, Tequila Don Pilar was until recently only available as an affordable añejo. It quickly became a well-respected and popular brand, especially in Northern California (where the añejo can be found in area Costco stores for $28.99, elsewhere for $35-$45.) Don Pilar, a former field worker turned restraunteur and entrepreneur, takes a hands-on approach to his tequila, supervising harvesting and production. A portrait of Don Pilar at his current age appears on the añejo bottles, and a young portrait appears on the new blanco.

The tequila is truly a family business. Don Pilar’s son, Juan, is the brand ambassador for the tequila. He tells me that the agave all comes from his father’s ranches near the town of San Jose de Gracia, which Juan tells me “is in the highlands [of Jalisco], 6,000 feet above sea level, in the middle of the ‘Golden Triangle’ of tequila production—between the towns of Arandas, Atotonilco and Tepatitlan.” Each agave used in the tequila is hand-selected. “It must be 8-to-10 years old,” says Juan. “Young or diseased plants are not used. We also take the extra step of removing the plant’s bitter roots – cogollos.”

Another distinguishing factor about Don Pilar is that it is fermented using the “Mozart Method,” a technique based upon the research of Dr. Masaru Emoto, a Japanese scientist who focuses on the healing qualities of water. Juan explains that in the Mozart Method, “Baroque music, specifically Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons,’ is played during the fermentation process to optimize the sugar conversion. The basic theory or rationale is that yeast, being a living organism, reacts to audio stimuli, and the fermentation process improves even more so with a highly-cultured, sophisticated work of art like the ‘Four Seasons.'”

Visit Don Pilar on the web or connect with the brand on Facebook and Twitter.

If you can’t find Don Pilar Blanco in your area, it is also available for purchase online.

Disclosure statement:This item was solicited for review. Products are reviewed with objectivity and professionalism wherever and however they were acquired.

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Tequila 29 Two Nine Blanco

tequila 29 blanco
By Ryan Kelley | 03.21.11
Highly Recommended

Overview

  • NOM 1499 – Casa Tequilera de Arandas, S.A. de C.V. in the highlands of Arandas. (This distillery is also home to Mejor Tequila, Jurado Tequila, and 3 Amigos Tequila.)
  • ABV is 38% (76 proof) but will be sold in the U.S. at 40% (80 proof).
  • Agave is grown in Arandas and owned by the brand. The brand does not buy agave from multiple sources or other regions.
  • Tasted March 2011 using a Riedel tequila glass.

Tasting NotesTequila 29

Clean and clear in the glass with a medium body. It has a great grassy smell that is a nice lead-in to the sweet smell of cooked agave. There are very faint scents of bell pepper, citrus, and peppercorn. The juice is thin and slightly oily on entry with a strong citrus and honey character. There’s a little dance of lemongrass followed by buttery, grassy-agave that’s accented with a slight bitterness. It has a decent finish – creamy and grassy, with strong citrus (grapefruit-like) aftertaste.

Cocktail Note: Tequila 29 is a terrific mixer, but be careful not to hide the grassy character with too many mixers. This is a very margarita-friendly tequila, but also perfectly acceptable as a sipper.

Rating: 8.0 – Highly Recommended

More about Tequila 29 Two Nine

Tequila 29 Two Nine is, according to their Facebook page, the work of young Mexican entrepreneurs who want to deliver “the new face of a modern, cosmopolitan, elegant and youthful Mexico,” and “give the world a better image of Mexico.” The name is supposed to evoke the word “tonight,” but with so many other tequilas with numbers (901, 1942, 1921, etc.), the association is somewhat of a stretch. Nevertheless, there is a modern highlands flavor here combined with elegance in style and taste that carries over into the brand logo, marketing, and wine-like bottle shape.

Brand owner Alberto Rubio admits, “We don’t claim that we have the years and decades of experience and family tradition, not at all.” To make up for this, Rubio and his colleagues turned to one of the industry’s leading tasting experts, Tequila Master and Sommelier Ana María Romero to develop the right flavor and aroma for their brand. Rubio adds, “We have a different perspective; we want to show something different, original and new for all the people that have a young spirit.” Perhaps it is not a coincidence that there is no añejo in this lineup?

The brand’s slogan is, “We Want to Change the Rules of the Game.” Sold exclusively in Mexico (Cancun, Monterrey, Aguascalientes, Guadalajara and Los Cabos) as of publication, but seeking distribution in the U.S., we can’t say Tequila 29 is a game-changer yet. The brand is generating a lot of buzz via the Internet. “We strongly believe in the power of social media such as Twitter and Facebook,” Rubio says, and the brands goal is to build and maintain a solid relationship with costumers and tequila aficionados until it can expand throughout North America and Europe.

Connect with Tequila 29 Two Nine on Twitter and Facebook. More information can also be found online at www.casaxplendor.com.

Disclosure statement: This item was solicited for review. Products are reviewed with objectivity and professionalism wherever and however they were acquired.

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Tequila 29 Two Nine Reposado

tequila 29 reposadoBy Ryan Kelley | 03.21.11
Highly Recommended

Overview

  • NOM 1499 – Casa Tequilera de Arandas, S.A. de C.V. in the highlands of Arandas. (This distillery is also home to Mejor Tequila, Jurado Tequila, and 3 Amigos Tequila.)
  • ABV is 38% (76 proof) but will be sold in the U.S. at 40% (80 proof).
  • Agave is grown in Arandas and owned by the brand. The brand does not buy agave from multiple sources or other regions.
  • Aged for eight months in half-toasted French white oak casks from Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
  • Tasted March 2011 using a Riedel tequila glass.

Tasting Notes

Tequila 29 Two Nine reposado is a wonderful hue – like deep golden foil – it even seems to shine. There’s a wonderful consistency of aroma between the blanco and reposado; you can really detect that grassy and sweet agave aroma noted in the blanco, but in the reposado there are well-balanced scents of butter, vanilla, and light caramel. There is a hint of wood in the nose as well, making the overall aroma reminiscent of mild maple syrup. Like the blanco, the reposado is thin upon entry. The oak is a little aggressive at first sip, but it soon gives way to a full, but not strong, flavor of vanilla-accented agave. It reserves its finest moment for the finish, which is strikingly warm (considering the ABV/proof) and has a long aftertaste with battling citrus, butter, and honey.

Rating: 8.5 – Highly Recommended

Tequila 29 More about Tequila 29 Two Nine

Tequila 29 Two Nine is, according to their Facebook page, the work of young Mexican entrepreneurs who want to deliver “the new face of a modern, cosmopolitan, elegant and youthful Mexico,” and “give the world a better image of Mexico.” The name is supposed to evoke the word “tonight,” but with so many other tequilas with numbers (901, 1942, 1921, etc.), the association is somewhat of a stretch. Nevertheless, there is a modern highlands flavor here combined with elegance in style and taste that carries over into the brand logo, marketing, and wine-like bottle shape.

Brand owner Alberto Rubio admits, “We don’t claim that we have the years and decades of experience and family tradition, not at all.” To make up for this, Rubio and his colleagues turned to one of the industry’s leading tasting experts, Tequila Master and Sommelier Ana María Romero to develop the right flavor and aroma for their brand. Rubio adds, “We have a different perspective; we want to show something different, original and new for all the people that have a young spirit.” Perhaps it is not a coincidence that there is no añejo in this lineup?

The brand’s slogan is, “We Want to Change the Rules of the Game.” Sold exclusively in Mexico (Cancun, Monterrey, Aguascalientes, Guadalajara and Los Cabos) as of publication, but seeking distribution in the U.S., we can’t say Tequila 29 is a game-changer yet. The brand is generating a lot of buzz via the Internet. “We strongly believe in the power of social media such as Twitter and Facebook,” Rubio says, and the brands goal is to build and maintain a solid relationship with costumers and tequila aficionados until it can expand throughout North America and Europe.

Connect with Tequila 29 Two Nine on Twitter and Facebook. More information can also be found online at www.casaxplendor.com.

Disclosure statement: This item was solicited for review. Products are reviewed with objectivity and professionalism wherever and however they were acquired.

Never miss and article or review again – Subscribe now!

* indicates required

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View previous newsletters.