Mexico and Tequila (June 30, 2010)

From Laredo, Texas, we crossed into Mexico (after a brief farewell visit with our friends at US Customs and Border Patrol), where we drove straight to Monterrey (no hanging out in border towns these days...). Monterrey is a very nice city with well designed system of parks, museums, and cultural buildings. There was clearly a significant amount of urban planning that went into Monterrey- most of it in the 1970s judging by the dominance of the concrete monolith in architecture.

(Central Monterrey, with park in the foreground and mountains in the background)

Then we passed through Zacatecas (a nice town with a good colonial core) before spending the night in Guadalajara. Then came the highlight of our time in Mexico: a visit to Tequila country. While we probably should have done more planning, we really just happened to head to the town of Atotonilco el Alto on whim. Atotonilco is the town where aged tequila was invented and is one of two main tequila producing towns in Mexico- the other being the town of Tequila.

After some driving around we were lucky enough to end up at the distillery of 7 Leguas tequila. We ended up at 7 Leguas because it was the easiest to find, but it was a fortuitous choice. Though we hadn’t made a tour appointment, we ended up with a private tour of the distillery with Arturo Valle, the head chemist for the company. The tour consisted of visiting both of 7 Leguas factories, one of which produces tequila the old fashioned way, including using burros to crush the agave plants, and the other of which is a more modern plant.

(The agave plants before being pressed the old fashioned way)

In contrast to our tour at the Maker’s Mark factory (which was a lot of fun), this was not a half hour canned tour with a script and a professional tour guide. At 7 Leguas we got an hour and a half tour from people who’s main job is to make great tequila and whom only give tours on occasion. And we got to see every step of the tequila making process- from tasting the agave plants to sticking our noses in the vat of tequila straight out of the still. It was fantastic!

Aside from the tour itself, which was very informative, we got to have a tasting with Arturo who led us step-by-step through 7 Leguas various kinds of tequila, describing the process, the tastes, and the chemical reactions that create those tastes. Then we got meet the owner of 7 Leguas, Juan Fernando Gonazalez, who gave us some of the brand and family history: the company was started by his father, who was a great Pancho Villa admirer. 7 Leguas, which means 7 leagues in English, was name of Pancho Villa’s favorite horse. After that Juan’s assistant, Berta, hooked us up with some 7 Leguas hats, shirts, and tequila samples. Then we got to sign a tequila barrel to commemorate our visit (much cooler than a guestbook):

In all, we had a fantastic time at 7 Leguas, where we learned a lot about the tequila making process, got the royal treatment from the incredibly nice team at 7 Leguas, and got to enjoy a great tequila (don’t worry we took some bottles to go)! A big thank you to Juan, Arturo, and Berta for a great experience.

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