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Food & Wine Festival
La Cava del Tequila
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Don Julio Anejo
by Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars®
New at this year's Food and Wine Festival are the tequila tastings being held at the recently opened La Cava del Tequila, located inside the Mexico pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase.
I attended what I guess was the third of these tastings, on the third day of the festival, Sunday, September 27.
Not much of a tequila drinker, I was interested in learning a little more about this liquor, and so was looking forward to the program. I was also eager to see the new tequila bar, which just opened a month or so ago.
La Cava (The Cave) is on your right after you descend the stairs inside the Mexico pavilion, on the site of a former jewelry shop. It's beautifully decorated, very atmospheric -- dark terra cotta hues and soft lighting lend the space an appropriate cave-like feel. It's apparently already extremely popular, as patrons were crowding the entrance when I went to the podium to let the cast member know I was there for the tasting. (Of course, the sudden downpour that had struck outside could have had something to do with the crowds inside!)
The bar is on your left and behind it is well-stocked with a wide assortment of tequilas. To your right is a small seating area, which can accommodate 30-35 people at regular tables with benches and chairs, or at tall tables with cocktail stools.
Each place was set with three tall glasses, each with a very small amount of tequila -- maybe an ounce, I'd guess. Not much, in any case. There was also rectangular tray in the middle of each table, with lime rinds, cinnamon sticks and coffee beans.
Once everyone was seated, our hostess, Hilda, warmed the crowd up by reciting the popular "tequila drinker's motto": One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila... FLOOR! She then introduced us to the basics of tequila making and tasting. Unfortunately, due to the noise coming from the crowd at the bar, plus the background music, the poor sound system with lots of feedback, and Hilda's heavy accent, we had to strain to hear everything that she had to say. I feel like I missed a lot.
What I did learn, however, was extremely interesting.
There are three types of tequila, and we had a sample of each: blanco, or white, tequila is less than three months old, and therefore is very clear ("white"); reposado or "rested" tequila is aged in oak barrels from two months up to one year, and is slightly yellower in color; anejo, or aged, tequila is allowed to mature in oak barrels from one to three years, or even longer, with a color that is nearly amber.
As she talked about the tequilas, Hilda had us swirl each sample, not unlike one does for wine, to note how it coated the sides of the glass. After we observed the tequilas' color, we were then instructed to smell each sample, first by itself, then along with one of the aromatics on the tray in front of us -- the lime with the white tequila, the cinnamon with the rested, the coffee beans with the aged. We were also told about the various aromas that we should try to detect as we sniffed the tequila from a short distance, and then with our noses in the middle of the glass. I admit that I was surprised at the nuances in the aromas!
Finally, came the moment many seemed to have been awaiting -- the actual tasting! Hilda had us take a very small sip of each tequila in turn, telling us to swirl it around our mouths and let it rest a bit on our palate before swallowing. I tried the first, white tequila, and my mouth immediately burst into flames! At least that's what it felt like -- I think this is what they mean when the say "fire water"! The rested tequila had a much smoother feel to it, and I actually found it quite drinkable, while the aged tequila, which was smoothest of all, had a deeper flavor that I didn't care as much for.
Finally, small samples of food were brought out for us to taste with each of the tequilas -- a ceviche to be paired with the white tequila, a chicken tostada to go along with the rested, and a crab tostada for the aged. Again, it was amazing to note the differences in taste when the tequila was drunk along with a little bite of food. The ceviche nicely calmed the Fire Water, and the tostadas paired well with their respective drinks, too.
The program wrapped up in just under an hour and I came away feeling fairly satisfied and a little better educated about tequila, so I call that a win. I do think they have a few kinks to work out, however.
The biggest issue that they need to address is their system for dealing with the bar patrons. Not only was the noise from the bar distracting, nearly drowning out the program's speaker, but since the bar is simply cordoned off by a rope, it is quite easy for bar patrons to step into the program and occupy any vacant spaces at the tables. (Yes, this happened during my program -- a bar customer was quite pleased with herself at scoring her "freebie" tequila tasting.)
That said, I do think this program is a nice addition to the festival. It's something a little different, plus it's priced right, so I wouldn't mind trying it again.
The Tequila Tastings are being held at 3 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Food and Wine Festival and cost $35 per person (plus tax).