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Chef-owner Terry Moore sells a lot of tequila at his restaurant, the Coyote Bar & Grill at the River Pine’s Resort near Graeagle. Patrón Silver is the best selling tequila from the 80 that he offers so when he was invited to tour the famed tequila maker distillery in Mexico this past winter, he did. Photo by Michael Clawson

Local chef invited behind the gates of Patrón

The goddess of tequila surrounded by the portraits of the founding fathers of several tequila distilleries adorns the three-story façade of a government building in downtown Tequila, Mexico. Photo submitted

A local restaurant owner boasts the largest selection of tequila in the area, so when it comes time to vacation, where does he go? Tequila, Mexico!

At least he did last year. Prior travels have taken Terry Moore, the chef-owner of the Coyote Bar and Grill, to other parts of Mexico and across South America and Europe. With each trip, his new experiences inspire the cuisine that he serves at his popular restaurant on the grounds of the River Pines Resort in Blairsden.

The state of Jalisco, where the city of Tequila is located, is becoming to Mexico what the Napa Valley is to California. A tourism-based economy is building up around visits to agave fields and tours of tequila distilleries — both large and small.

But there is one distillery in particular that intrigued Moore — Hacienda Patrón in the city of Jalisco.

According to an article in the November 2018 edition of Travel & Leisure magazine not many people know what lies behind its gates because it’s typically “only open to people in the industry.”

But Moore had a standing invitation to visit because though he offers 80 different tequilas, what’s the bestseller?

“Patrón Silver,” Moore says without hesitation.

In addition to Patrón, Moore visited five other distilleries, including Cuervo and Sauza, but Patrón was his favorite and the first on his three-week trip to the region.

Moore flew from Reno to Guadalajara and Patrón took it from there.

Behind the gates

The day began early when a car arrived for the drive to Hacienda Patrón, an impressive stucco structure located behind two guarded gates.

Once there, Patrón’s president greeted Moore and invited him to breakfast in the dining room with other guests who had gathered for the day’s events.

After breakfast, the van transported the group to the agave fields where the seven-year process of producing tequila begins.

“I planted an agave plant and they gave me a brass ring with my name on it to put on the plant,” Moore said. When asked if he would ever be able to sample the tequila made from his plant, he quipped, “In seven years.”

Terry Moore, the chef-owner of the Coyote Bar and Grill, plants an agave plant on the grounds of Patron. In seven years he would be able to drink the tequila distilled from that plant. Photo submitted

A professional photographer followed the group as they moved from planting to harvesting to the distillery.

The process begins in the fields. A jimador, a worker who harvests the plant, uses a coa, a tool with a circular blade at the end of a pole. The tool is used to hack off the bitter leaves of the agave plant, which reveals the core or the piña as it’s called because it resembles a large pineapple. The piñas are loaded onto carts pulled by burros and taken to the distillery.

Moore and the group followed and watched as the piñas were cut in half and then into wedges to be placed in the brick ovens where they would smoke/steam for a minimum of 78 hours.

Once cooked, the cores would be put into a crushing wheel to create agave pulp that is then sent to fermenting vats where yeast is added. “It’s a closely guarded secret,” Moore said of this part of the process, “and the yeast is constantly being monitored for mutations.”

Moore would observe the basic process at other distilleries, but while many of the steps would be the same, they would be less automated than at Patrón. For example, bottles are filled via a conveyor belt at Patrón, while they are still hand filled at other establishments, such as Codigo. “They use old red wine bottles from Napa,” Moore said of Codigo, “which makes a blush tequila.”

The tour at Patrón concluded with a visit to the tasting room and then on to a late lunch on the balcony overlooking the grounds of the hacienda.

The town of Tequila

Moore spent two weeks of his trip at the Hotel Solar de las Ánimas in Tequila. The hacienda-style hotel overlooks the town’s plaza with a view of an 18th century church. It boasts an ornate lobby and rooftop deck with a pool and bar that became a daily draw for Moore at the end of the day.

In his travels, Moore prefers to get off the beaten path and frequent the spots that locals do. And it was the same in Tequila, where one day he found himself invited to join in on a wedding celebration in process.

He also discovered a popular tasting room — La Cata — that boasts some 200 tequilas from48 distillers. While Moore enjoyed trying various tequilas, true to his chef’s roots, he found the “tamales amazing.”

Moore graduated from St. Mary’s College with a double major in political science and history so perhaps it’s no surprise that one of his favorite finds in Tequila was a three-story mural in a government building dedicated to the goddess Tequila.

The restaurant

A jimador uses a coa to hack off the bitter leaves of the agave plant, which reveals the core or the piña as it’s called, because it resembles a large pineapple. Photo submitted

Moore opened the Coyote Bar & Grill 21 years ago. His website describes it as “a restaurant created by a man who loves to eat and has a passion for travel.”

Born and raised in Napa, Moore worked at a winery in high school and continued in the industry after graduating from college. It was a natural for him to transition into cuisine.

His restaurant serves traditional Mexican faire along with black Angus steaks, seafood dishes, pastas, dinner salads, vegetarian options and more. The menu reflects his travels with influences from the Southwest, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and other countries.

Looking ahead to next year, Moore is already planning his winter travel, which might include a trip to Oaxaca in Mexico, known for mescal production. While tequila must be made from blue agave and come from the state of Jalisco, mescal can be made from any type of agave and anywhere in Mexico.

“It’s a little more intense, a little smokier,” Moore said, and offers four choices at his restaurant. “If someone says that they drank tequila with a worm in it, it wasn’t tequila,” he adds. “It was mescal.”

There’s also a chance that next winter will find him in Sardinia, but no matter the destination, some of what he experiences will find its way back home and on to his menu.

Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico

Tequila is a town in Mexico’s western state of Jalisco and is known for its production of the popular liquor. Near the foot of the Tequila Volcano, the outskirts of town are dotted with fields of blue agave, the liquor’s main ingredient. The production process can be observed at several distilleries. The Museo Nacional del Tequila and the Museo Los Abuelos feature exhibits on the history of the drink.

The entire state is known for mariachi music and tequila. The capital, Guadalajara, is peppered with colonial plazas and landmarks like the neoclassical Teatro Degollado and regal Guadalajara Cathedral, with its twin gold spires. The neighboring Palacio de Gobierno houses murals by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco.

Seven steps of production
A pile of piñas is ready to be processed. They will be cut in half and then turned into wedges to go into the brick ovens where they smoke/steam for a minimum of 78 hours. Photo submitted








Types of tequila

With close to 1,000 tequila brands, it helps to know the different types. Strict regulations on labeling assist the consumer in determining the type of spirit, where it was produced, and the term it was aged (if any).

The main two types of tequila are split into two categories — 100 percent Blue Agave and Tequila Mixto (Mixed).

Mixto Tequila contains a minimum of 51 percent Blue Agave, and the remaining 49 percent from other sugars (typically cane sugars). The additional products allowed in Mixto Tequilas are caramel color, oak extract flavoring, glycerin and sugar-based syrup.

The label tells which classification it is in, as all tequila that is made from 100 percent Blue Agave will say “Tequila 100 percent de agave” or “Tequila 100 percent puro de agave”. All other Mixto Tequila labels will only read “Tequila.”

Those two categories of Tequila are divided into the following five types of Tequila:

Tequila Silver – Blanco – Plata – White – Platinum is the Blue Agave spirit in its purest form. It is clear and typically un-aged, where the true flavors and the intensity of the agave are present, as well as the natural sweetness. It can be bottled directly after distillation, or stored in stainless steel tanks to settle for up to 4 weeks.

A stone wheel crushes the cooked piñas to create agave pulp that is then sent to fermenting vats. Men with pitchforks help break up the mash. Photo submitted

Tequila Gold – Joven – Oro Gold Tequila is typically a Mixto, where colorants and flavorings have been added. These “young and adulterated” tequilas are less expensive and used in many bars and restaurants for “mixed drinks.”

Tequila Reposado is the first stage of “rested and aged.” The Tequila is aged in wood barrels or storage tanks between 2 months and 11 months. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the taste becomes a good balance between the agave and wood flavors.

Tequila Añejo (extra aged) is aged for at least one year. The distillers are required to age Añejo Tequila in barrels that do not exceed 600 liters. This aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color, and the flavor can become smoother, richer, and more complex.

Tequila Extra Añejo (ultra aged) is any Tequila aged more than three years. Following the same rule as an “Añejo,” the distillers must age the spirit in barrels or containers with a maximum capacity of 600 liters. With this extended amount of aging, the tequila becomes much darker, more of a mahogany color, and is so rich that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from other quality aged spirits.

These descriptions are included in the website tequila.net.

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