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Posts from the ‘Tastings’ Category

Michoacan mezcal makes quite an impression

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Lately the mezcal world has been swooning for Michoacan. First it became street legal in 2012 joining the states that can legally label their agave distillate mezcal. Lots of people already knew that the local mezcal was fantastic, it just wasn’t reaching far beyond the state’s borders. Then stories started circulating about the cupreata, the wooden stills, and many other novel elements used frequently in the state.

And then we finally got a bottle here in the US through the Fundacion Agaves Silvestres Vinos de Mezcal line and it blew our minds. The production method alone causes fits of the imagination, cupreata isn’t seen anywhere else, then it’s hand mashed in a wooden tub appropriately called a canoe, fermented in stone vats; oh and the still is made out of wood and copper.

Maria Elena Perez's contribution to the Wahaka and Fundacion Agaves Silvestres project.

Maria Elena Perez’s contribution to the Wahaka and Fundacion Agaves Silvestres project.

I figured that Michoacan had to be part of my next Mexican itinerary and that we’d find out more then but others have been faster to the punch. Per our repost of Cristina Potter’s Mexico Cooks! blog she made the trip recently and found a fantastic palenque. A few weeks ago an attendee at our Meet the Karwinskis Mezcal Martes event at Lolo strongly suggested that our next tasting should feature solely Michoacan mezcals. Then out of the blue Ron Kunze, one of our long time fans, correspondents, and fellow travelers popped up with news that he’d just returned from Michoacan with a suitcase full of mezcal that we needed to sample RIGHT… THIS … MINUTE!

Not one to look gift mezcal in the mouth I jumped right in for a miniature survey of the world of Michoacan distilling. We started with the Bruxo Pechuga. Strangely it looks like Bruxo is available in England but not in the United States which means that we’re beholden to shoppers like Ron who are willing to bring a bottle back. This one has a very distinct yellow tint but it’s not as unctuous as some pechugas and quite flavorful without being fruity.

Bruxo Pechuga

Note the yellow tint of the mezcal.

Note the yellow tint of the mezcal.

While tasting the Bruxo we perused a mezcal menu Ron brought back from a restaurant in Morelia that he swore by. It gives a a great sense for the variety and complexity of mezcal production there. 1.5 ounce pours, lots of cupreatas but many more agaves, and a clear sense of centrality to the dining experience.

The mezcal menu from a restaurant in Morelia.

The mezcal menu from a restaurant in Morelia.

Next up the most distinctive bottle of the day, La Perla del Tsitzio Cupreata Enterrado 9 meses which has the most beguilingly fruity, even bubble gum like nose, incredibly full mouth feel, and an incredibly fruity palate. It reminded me of a fruity zinfandel. Per the product description it was buried underground in a glass container for nine months which sounds fantastic, they do that to some wines in the Mediterranean and distillates in the Balkans, but I still haven’t been able to find a convincing explanation of how this method alters the bottle’s contents.  The La Perla site has a description of this method which, while mouth watering, still leaves me a asking questions:

En el mes de octubre se lleva  a cabo el desentierro del mezcal reposado en vidrio bajo tierra durante nueve meses, el primer lote de producción que es el de enero se entierra dejando una muestra fuera cabe señalar que es una producción limitada de 350 litros promedio ya que se somete al reposo únicamente el primer lote de producción  a los nueve meses se desentierra y se lleva a cabo una sesión sensorial comparando olores y sabores del mezcal reposado y el blanco del mismo lote enseguida se brinda una comida con platillos mezcaleros preparados por las cocineras tradicionales disfrutando de un buen ambiente.

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La Perla del Tzitzio

After that we jumped into the land of the unlabeled bottle. Lots of mezcal never makes it into branded bottles and Michoacan is no different. Take this fine, apparently hand blown, blue bottle. Ron told me that the mezcalero said the bottle was almost more expensive than the mezcal inside which, once you get past the beauty of the bottle, is a pretty sad testament to the undervaluation of mezcal in Mexico.

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This next example looks medicinal partially because it came out of a pharmacy so I bet they just bottle it in the most readily available plastic bottles, the same ones that we use for rubbing alcohol. The mezcal within was of the rougher and more alcoholic variety. For once, the bottle did not belie its contents.  To the right you can see an example of a much more normative technique of mezcal bottling. We all have concerns about how rapidly the plastic breaks down but for consumption not too far from the creation date and expedience this definitely does the trick.

2014-07-22 18.47.55Unknown Michoacan mezcal

Last of all we sampled this nicely packaged gift set which contained an amazing little universe of silvestres that are generally hard to find if not impossible in the US, especially the Sierra Negra. None of these were revelatory, all were simply good, reminders of the remarkably high level of production across Mexico. I’m also an admirer of the small bottles wrapped in a single package because it’s a great entry point for anyone like the 95% of mezcal drinkers who only take the occasional sip. And it makes a tremendous gift so take note distributors and brands!2014-07-22 18.48.28

Obviously Michoacan has arrived as a mezcal producer and is gearing up to move into the United States in a big way. Just in recent weeks a few  producers told me that they’re ready to go, just waiting on COMERCAM certification or the final details of their export arrangements before they start shopping their products around. We’ve heard rumors that Bruxo will arrive soon so our fingers are crossed. In the interim we are proud to announce that you’ll have a chance to taste some Michoacan mezcal at our September 14th Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle event so definitely buy your tickets today!

Psst… want to try some mezcal?

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We just announced our initial brand list for the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting, culture, and art extravaganza this coming September 14th. Get your tickets today and check out the line up below.

Participating brands include:

  • Alipus
  • Benesin
  • Fidencio
  • La Niña del Mezcal
  • Mezcal’s Club (El Tinieblo, Sangremal, Jaral de Berrio)
  • Mezcales Gourmet (Forever Oax and Banhez)
  • Mezcal Tosba
  • Mezcal Vago
  • Mezcal Valvodinos
  • Montelobos
  • Wahaka Mezcal

We’ll also be featuring some new mezcal arrivals from the Mexican state of Michoacan along with a couple of other special mezcal surprises.

Restaurants doing the special pairings of mezcal cocktails and bites include:

  • Beretta
  • Colibri
  • El Techo/Lolinda
  • La Urbana
  • Loló Cevicheria
  • Sabrosa
  • Tamarindo

Don Bugito will also be on hand with their delicious insect based treats that are the perfect accompaniment to mezcal.

Mezcal panels and chats will be led by mezcal luminaries including Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera (dubbed the “Indiana Jones of mezcal”), Raza Zaidi of Wahaka Mezcal, Ivan Saldaña of Montelobos, Marco Ochoa of Mezcaloteca, Graciela Angeles Carreño of Real Minero, Cecilia Murrieta of La Niña del Mezcal, John McEvoy the Mezcal PhD, Susan Coss and Max Garrone of Mezcalistas, Jaime Qui of Agave Tips and more.

And finally, guests will be surrounded by a mezcal influenced soundtrack by DJ EKG, mixed media, art and photos by Jhovany Rodriguez Iniesta, Lorena Zertuche, Txutxo Perez, Omar Alonso, Mariana Garcia, Fernando Lopez, Mezcal Cuish, and more.

Mexico in a Bottle is joint Mezcalistas and Agave Tips production.

Don’t delay, get your tickets today!

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle

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We warned you to save the date. Finally we’re ready to announce all the details.


Mexico in a Bottle
Art, Music, Food, Mezcal, Life
Where: Public Works, 161 Erie St, San Francisco, CA, 94103
When: September 14th, 2014
Buy Tickets Today!

 

Mezcal is the embodiment of Mexico. More than just a beverage, it represents more than 500 years of history and culture. Mezcal’s story isn’t just about alcohol; each bottle is a living link to Mexican history, tradition, art, and music. It’s life and death all in a bottle.

Join some of the biggest figures in the mezcal world as we celebrate Mexico’s greatest spirit through tastings, art, music, and a series of exclusive discussions of the hottest topics in the mezcal world.  And to keep that whistle wet, the hottest Mexican restaurants from the Bay Area will pair exclusive bites with magical mezcal cocktails.

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle brings together figures as varied as:

  • Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera, the “Indiana Jones of Mezcal”
  • Raza Zaidi of Wahaka mezcal
  • Ivan Saldaña from Montelobos mezcal
  • Cecilia Murrieta of La Nina del Mezcal
  • Clayton Szczech of Experience Mezcal
  • John McEvoy the Mezcal PhD
  • Max Garrone and Susan Coss of Mezcalistas
  • And many more.

We’ll taste mezcals from a wide variety of brands from some of the biggest in the business to tiny production mezcals not currently available in the US as part of our special tasting series and panel discussions led by Jaime Qiu & Adrian Vazquez of Agave Tips. And, you’ll get a chance to work through horizontal tastings to get a real sense for just how distinct each bottle really is.

Fine cuisine and cocktails from some of the best Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area including:

  • El Techo
  • Lolo
  • La Urbana
  • Colibri
  • Tamarindo
  • And more!

Mixed video by Fernando Lopez, art installations from Mezcal CUISH, Proyecto Palenqueros, Lorena Zertuche, Jhovany Rodriguez, Txutxo Perez and music by DJ EKG.

The Tiny Print

  • The event is 21 and over so bring your ID as we will card anyone who appears younger than 30.
  • We will be tasting high percentage alcohols that mostly range from 45-50% so we recommend that you don’t drive. BART and MUNI both have stops very close to Public Works and taxi rides will get you where you need to go without incident.
When: September 14th, 2014

Time for a visit with Los Abuelos

Photo courtesy of Colores Mari: Original caption "Se llama Félix, es el papá de mi papá y cumple 80 años en mayo... " https://www.flickr.com/photos/nachoeuropa/4252512120/in/photolist-7tMeGu-NZWKd-rkmVs-S5zbq-aaYeXL-aaVrwv-aaYdN3-aaY9Yo-aaVnGt-aaYb9C-cTBWN9-cqJWNL-9ppdgF-qbztt-cSrPFm-cSR4yN-cSrPGw-cSR4y1-cSrPFS-h2dpN-Y5F4w-7AUmPg-7AY9Ro-8yPkXw-8nfUHs-hFdsN7-6AFcq1-4Xbz55-4T6WaF-8cxAjc-5rD6pv-hz1U8-4nwFYw-ngWCY8-6ZEmyh-hz1Tt-hz1Tk-hz1TA-hz1TU-bojdJ7-z8oPt-6hzyy8-6hDJc9-8cxAf4-hFcwhe-2au4a-9vCsYD-351NKq-aR44J2-9qDvBs/

Photo courtesy of Colores Mari on Flickr.

Our next Mezcal Martes tasting at Lolo in San Francisco invites you to “Visit Los Abuelos,” the granddaddy mezcals. Boldly flavored where few venture. Join us on August 12th 6-7:30 we will be tasting the following mezcals for $25.

Del Maguey Minero

El Jolgorio Tepeztate

Mezcal Vago Mexicano

Pierde Almas Tobala

Last time out we met the Karwinskii family, before that the bedrock espadins, this tasting we get back to the broad shouldered mezcals that are widely available bottles for a reason: They are literally bursting with the bold flavors that represent mezcal in the global dictionary of taste. Not that they’re overwhelming, they’re perfect matches for Lolo’s menu and offer great contrasts when tasted alone.

Please RSVP, we look forward to seeing you there!

Meet the Karwinskiis

Agave karwinskii

Agave karwinskii. Photo by Alex Huhn from http://www.mezcaleria.de

Our next Mezcal Martes tasting at Lolo in San Francisco is “Meet the Karwinskiis” on July 8th 6-7:30 we will be tasting 4 mezcals for $25

Wahaka – Madre Cuishe
El Jolgorio – Barril
Pierde Almas – Tobaciche
Del Maguey – Papalome

Last time out we tasted a variety of espadin mezcals, the bedrock agave behind most Oaxacan mezcal. This time we head out into the wild world of silvestres with a side-by-side tasting of four Oaxacan mezcals made from the Agave Karwinskii family which is one of the most common wild agaves found on the market. These bottles reflect the variety of terroir and their makers’ hands and offer great comparison so RSVP, we look forward to seeing you there. San Francisco Weekly just highlighted the event as well.

Join us for Mezcal Martes!

photoIt’s been a while since one of our big tastings but we’ve been busy with private tastings (yes! we definitely do them, just email if you’re interested) and events like our recent pouring at the Mexican Museum so now we’re getting back to the heart and soul of our mezcal evangelism. We’ll host mezcal tastings at Lolo, 6-7:30PM, the second Tuesday (Martes) of June, July, and August. That means our first tasting is this coming Tuesday June, 10th!

Space is limited at the Benito Juarez bar so send us an email of you want to reserve a spot.  The price will be $20 for five, half ounce pours. Susan and I, though I’m missing the first one because I’ll be in NY checking out a few mezcal bars there, will walk you through the variations in the bottles, history, and answer all your questions. This first tasting will focus on the wide variation in the world of the mainstay of mezcal, the espadin. You’re welcome to stay after the tasting to sample more of Lolo’s extensive mezcal collection or to eat.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Max and Susan

What’s happening with Maguey?

Earlier this year we asked mezcal wrangler extraordinaire Erick Rodriguez, aka Erick Almamezcalera, what he thought about the current state of the mezcal world. We’re publishing his comment along with a follow up lower down in this post in anticipation of his West Coast swing which starts tonight in LA and runs into next week. He will be leading tastings of Vino de Mezcal, the super rare (indeed they may already be sold out) line of mezcals from a variety of locations across Mexico imported by the Fundación Agaves Silvestres.

We can’t stress how rare this line of mezcals is and how they communicate just an iota of the world of mezcal out there. It’s a fantastic way to expose yourself. And, yes, the price does reflect the work involved because the distillation runs are very limited. Should you need any conscience cleansers the project was created both to bring you these limited delights and to funnel revenue into a truly worthy project of planting wild agaves outside of the town of Oaxaca in San Dionisio Ocotepec.

The translation comes to us courtesy of Gabriel Baum of ModernLanguages.com.

Per Erick Rodgriguez here’s what’s up with the world of maguey:

The point of view of many people who only know that mezcal comes from one or two states, or alternatively who only know what is happening in this current “boom”. .. If we don’t do something there will be a lack of maguey-mezcal in a not too distant future.

As was foreseen two years ago, the “looting” of maguey raised a level of disquiet among people who may or may not have known that this supposed “looting” (there is really no such thing) had already been going on since the 70′s. There are people, the same as those who exist in all types of Mexican businesses, who pay the mezcal producers for their maguey or for their mezcal at a higher price. This happens and will go on happening because there is no price that is worthy of their mezcal. There were tequilas that were made in Oaxaca from the 70′s onwards, that were marketed this way, here and abroad; for example Tequila Porfidio. From that point onwards there were irregularities, there were no rules or regulations for mezcal let alone anyone who would stand in the way of this development. Because, remember, traditional mezcal was only drunk and marketed within the communities in which it was grown, and elsewhere it was only known as a nasty drink of bad quality, or a poor person’s drink. So the village chiefs bought it or bartered it for their daily needs.

Thanks to the media coverage and to the interest of a few people or brands, it was marketed and distributed in this new “boom.” Some do it openly, others are masked and, as a result, there are a whole lot of people and personalities behind each marketer of mezcal. Nowadays “everyone knows about mezcal” and wants to have a brand, some because of the cachet, some because of fashion.

People! There are a lot of types of maguey in other states, it’s just that Oaxaca has the greatest number of types and varieties in the world. But another problem that we have is that we are using the wild maguey as a draw. People know that maguey is scarce and they want to stockpile all that is left on the mountains and in the valleys before someone else buys it and it acquires more prestige as a mezcal. Many people want to have something that maybe in the not-too-distant future might be a piece of history as in “once there was a maguey called Cuarentero and this Master Mezcalista only has one maguey of this variety left”

There are internal regulations or rules that are followed by each marketer or that say “This maguey is an ‘x’ and we are replanting 2000 new plants so drink it with pleasure because mezcal of this variety will always exist – Are there really such rules? Or are we really saying “Drink this because it is like the last panda bear on the planet and this is your only chance”.

Regulatory centers? People, we know this was badly done right from the beginning in 1994; it’s a matter of wiping them out and starting afresh. It’s a matter, for example, of taking actions with one’s own producers, otherwise it’ll be the same as what happens in every “boom”.

Well, maybe if each time is different, the difference is that the biodiversity of the maguey plants is being lost and won’t be with us for the next “boom” which will take place again in 15 to 25 years. And we don’t know if we’ll know what to do. Significant interests exist behind the scenes and they will continue to be driven by the industry. Taking action with your producers would be a good start. Make them part of the decision-making process and make them feel supported by paying them better so that they don’t have to sell off or squander their maguey.

The latter is what is happening in Durango, lately more than 5 tons of juice are leaving WEEKLY, and the owner was very clear with me: “I would like to have cash jingling in my pocket. If I turn it into mezcal it’s not so good for me and if I sell it as juice they pay me better and I don’t have to wait for them to come or to distribute it. If I store it it’s not good for me either because I haven’t got money for promotions, bottles, labels, transport etc. These days they pay me better for the juice and that’s what we need, money coming in so that we can go on sowing maguey.”

So, what will you do Mezcalista friend? Would you take some real actions? Help spread the category/concept of mezcal or just advertise brand names and drinking places? Where to start? Who’s responsible for all this? Many people who have been organized since the 90s produce almost 4 million magueys a year to cover their demand. Does this tell you something?

Whenever you’d like to discuss and have work groups on the subject… It would be a great pleasure for me to be invited and to take part. If you have any questions or doubts we can discuss them. Personally. I am at your disposal. Erick Almamezcalera.

We chatted really quickly with Erick earlier this week in advance of his tasting tour of the West Coast:

What I’m bringing this time to the USA is the voice and responsibility of master mezcaleros, we want people to be able to identify different types of mezcal and the methods of production that are being used, the types of maguey and where agave distillations are produced in Mexico. We will show that there are three types of mezcal, namely industrialized, artisanal and traditional. We will get to know what is “Mezcal Wine.” (Vino de Mezcal) What to look for? What is there behind each one of the distillations, creating traditional micro-harvests each one of which has the fully named varietals. Our mezcals are a traditional Mexican drink extracted from wild agave and made by master mezcaleros with ancestral knowledge, respecting traditional manufacturing processes and, as a result, offering us soul enriching experiences and unforgettable states of consciousness.

With the responsible consumption of our mezcal you help to keep this thousand year tradition alive, you support the sustainability of more producing communities, you strengthen fair trade and you help avoid the inclusion of industrial structures in the production of this drink.

 

Save the maguey by drinking its distillate

erickrodriguezLots of good information in this article about the plight of the maguey. While that does a good job of framing the issue which we’ve written about as well, you also have an opportunity to support the recovery of wild maguey (also known as agave) species in a more consumerist fashion. The Fundación Agaves Silvestres is working to replant wild maguey populations. It’s a tough effort but it’s one of the more interesting out there. You can support it directly and reward your taste buds by purchasing their Vino de Mezcal series. And wouldn’t you know that it’s your lucky day because Erick Almamezcalera who is intimately involved in that project  is on a swing up the West Coast offering tastings of the series. We’ll have more from him later this week but here are his tour dates:

Mezcal forever

Thursday we poured at the Food & Farm Film Fest opening night after party at Root Division with Francisco Javier Perez representing his line of mezcals. It was quite a diverse list composed of

  • Forever Oax Espadin
  • Forever Oax Espadin con Gusano
  • Forever Oax Reposado: Espadin, Cirial, Barril agaves.
  • Leyenda de Guerrero con Gusano: Espadin abocado con gusano.
  • Felino Reposado: Made from blue agave in Zacatecas. Aged six months in white American oak.

You can find many of them at San Francisco’s La Urbana and Francisco is hitting the distribution pavement so potentially other locations soon. We’ll be sure to clue you into a new line he’s bringing into the country just as soon as it’s street legal. The party was great, lots of interest in mezcal and a fairly informed audience. Oh and the staff was top notch and entertainment in the form of Hanna Rifkin and the Handsomes kept all of us bouncing. With crowds like that you might be able to start believing the hype that mezcal is the next big thing.

Ruta de Mezcal just ran through SF

The cast and crew who served up some delicious mezcals at Tres.

The cast and crew who served up some delicious mezcals at Tres.

We spent a very nice afternoon yesterday at the Ruta de Mezcal tasting in Tres’ back room along with a lot of people we know in and around the industry as well as plenty of new faces. There were fantastic new haircuts, smashing facial hair stylings, new mezcals, cocktails galore, a spit roasted pig, and plenty of other hijinks.

Highlights included

  • El Jolgorio’s SF coming out party: While they’ve been busy making the scene in NY and many other ports of call in North America this was the first time most San Franciscans had a chance to try their line up. Like Vago, El Jolgorio has a wide launch, 10 bottles, and most of them come from silvestres. Their distinctive illustrated labels are quite something.

    Pouring and informing the public.

    Pouring and informing the public.

  • Mezcal Vago is really hitting the scene for the first time. They’ve been on the market for a few months now but it’s the first tasting where we were able to drink their mezcal side by side with everything else. Quite a nice contrast.
  • Tosba had the unreleased Tobala out on their table. Once it’s released definitely track it down. Plus they’re all legit and shit now with Elisandro Gonzalez and David Gallardo of Lolo decked out in monogrammed shirts. Don’t worry, it hasn’t gone to their heads.

    Tosba came with monogrammed shirts.

    Tosba came with monogrammed shirts.

  • Wahaka showed off their tiny bottles which are an ideal commercial format for mezcal. A 750ml bottle can be intimidating but the trio of 200 ml bottles in a box replete with two vaso veladora make for a perfect gift or self contained party. You can find them at K&L.

    For the discerning brief case.

    For the discerning brief case.

  • Cocktails were big: Nearly every brand presented something special along side their straight tasting which tells you tons about how a lot of mezcal is being served. We also heard plenty of bar managers and caterers at the tasting talking about cocktails so that side of the business seems to be on the move.
  • Hidden attractions: While there were few truly new mezcals out on the tables we tasted four (two arroqueños, a lovely herb and spice (yum cardamom), and a new Alipus which are soon to be released and just missed out on another. Suffice to say: If we could speed up the permitting process in Mexico everyone would be in mezcal heaven right now. We’re all just going to have to be patient but that taste of heaven is just around the corner, stay tuned.