Tequila isn‘t exactly hard to find in México, but there is decided difference between the umbrella garnished frozen margaritas that proliferate in touristy resort areas, and top-shelf sippers that showcase the unique character of this traditional, agave-based distilled beverage.
Few places provide a better introduction, or experience of the country’s national drink than CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, whose Secretos del Tequila educational program offers guests an opportunity to participate in tastings led by onsite tequila sommelier Audrey Formisano. The tastings include samplers served in Riedel glassware, a history of tequila and its production process, plus a visit to the resort’s cactus garden to watch jimadores harvesting blue agave plants.
The Secretos del Tequila program is one of many upscale amenities at the luxurious 433 room CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. — Photo courtesy of CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Los jimadores (the agave farmers) aren’t merely set dressing. The luxurious 443 room resort, nestled between the Sierra Madre mountains and the beautiful Bay of Banderas, also produces its own proprietary brand of tequila, which is bottled at a nearby distillery. It's produced in five different styles: joven (young), blanco (white), reposado (rested), añejo (aged), and extra añejo (extra aged). Each style has its own flavor notes, as anyone who has attended one of the tastings can attest. The blanco, por ejemplo, is light and elegant, while the joven has hints of caramel, and the barrel-aged reposado and añejo styles offer smooth overtones of vanilla, almonds or chocolate.
Like the jimadores, onsite sommelier Audrey Formisano comes by her title honestly. She attended the University of Tequila (let us all utter a collective sigh as we rue our educational choices), becoming one of the first women in Puerto Vallarta to be certified by the Tequila Regulating Council as a tequilier, or tequila expert (let us utter another collective sigh as we rue our career choices). Her weekly tasting sessions are an eye opener, not just because of the potency of some of the source materials, but because of her encyclopedic knowledge of the history and culture surrounding Jalisco's most famous product.
In addition to its house brand, CasaMagna offers 126 varieties of tequila, with 114 types from over 60 producers available by the glass at the resort’s onsite bars and restaurants. Don’t worry about which ones to sample. Over 80 percent of the resort’s food and beverage staff have taken special tequila training, and are more than happy to share their expertise.
Not surprisingly, CasaMagna has been honored for its ongoing commitment to the national spirit. In 2006, it became the first Puerto Vallarta resort to earn the coveted Agave Oro (Golden Agave), an award given only to properties that offer at least 60 brands of certified authentic tequila, serve at least three dishes with tequila as an ingredient, and employ an onsite tequila expert.
As a service to Puerto Vallarta bound travelers and would-be tequila connoisseurs, CasaMagna's weekly tastings are held on Thursdays and Fridays at 5 p.m. in La Cava, the resort’s private dining room and tequila vault. The Friday sessions are reserved for Marriott Rewards members. All other guests pay a $15 admission fee.
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