The first port-of-call on our 10-day Mexican Riveria cruise last month was lovely Puerto Vallarta. As an historical aside, this was the town made famous in 1963 as the infamous love nest of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of 'Night of the Iguana'. Big news back then as Taylor left husband #4, Eddie Fisher, to join Burton on the set. The couple eventually bought a house there and the rest is history... Which in this case means a once sleepy, little fishing village is now a major tourist destination overrun with visitors flocking to the Hard Rock Cafe and buying souvenir T-shirts at Senor Frog's. Could this be Loreto in 10 to 15 years?
Sarcasm aside, it is a very pretty place and we did enjoy our visit and tour of a tequila factory in the countryside outside of town. During the tour of Hacienda Dona Engracia we learned the difference between blue and green agave - blue is used to make tequila, while green is simply ornamental. We saw a demonstration of how the root of the blue agave, called the 'pineapple' weighing between 40 and 80 pounds, is first roasted, which releases the sugars, then shredded and put through a press. Then the juice is placed in fermentation tanks and yeast is added to aid in the process. Finally, the fermented product is distilled - according to strict government regulations - either once or several times. Tequila that is distilled only once is considered inferior (as in it will rot out your insides, at least according to our distillery tour guide), while two or three distillations is considered optimum.
Tequila blanco, or silver tequila, is the low-end of the better tequilas, with oro, or gold, tequila next in the lineup due to two months of aging in oak barrels. Reposado tequila – or “rested tequila”- must be aged for up to a year. Tequila añejo is premium tequila and needs to be aged in oak for at least one year; however, many producers age anejo up to three years, resulting in a premium tequila at a very premium price.
We found out how premium that price can be after a tasting of the various tequilas mentioned above - excluding, of course, the inferior type. To be honest, I liked them all and so did George. Although the Reposado was our least favorite as it had an overly smoky flavor that didn't mesh with our perception of how tequila should taste. At about $70 U.S. a bottle, we didn't make a purchase that day. Nor did we actually fall on the floor at any point. Although it looked to be a close call for the lady sitting next to me during the tasting, who kept exclaiming that she never drinks, while knocking back the tequila like a pro!
The rest of our day in Puerto Vallarta was spent wandering through the old section of town near the Malecon, which was just beautiful with sculptures and art on display everywhere we looked. We stopped at an upstairs bar for a cerveza and did some people watching on the streets below. All in all, it was a fine day.
Next up will be our report on La Paz, a bustling city without the tourist trappings of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo.