When I discovered the Tequila Trail was an easy day trip from Guadalajara I knew I had to visit. I began researching how to visit Tequila on a budget. Aside from the obvious allure of drinking in the afternoon, I was excited to learn more about Jalisco’s top export.
I arrived at the Zapopan bus terminal and approached the Tequila Plus counter. The moment I purchased my ticket a man pointed excitedly to a bus ready to depart. I ran toward it and boarded, delighted that no time was wasted in the waiting game. However, it was Saturday, and I was late, which meant my journey would be spent standing. Given the ride was only an hour, and I still had a lovely view, I didn’t mind.
As we entered the countryside rows of bold blue agave unfolded in the afternoon sun. The distinct hue of Tequila’s cash crop and rugged beauty of the distant mountains sparked an excitement for the day ahead. As the roadside stands selling hats, tequila, and pottery became abundant, I knew we were getting close.
Upon arrival in Tequila I circled the main plaza, picked up a map, and began to investigate my options for touring the distilleries. I arrived at Casa Sauza and navigated the lush garden toward the tienda for more information. The two hour tour included a trip to the distillery, the agave fields, tequila tasting, and a margarita for 150 pesos(~$10 USD). I took a few moments to take advantage of the free wifi and research the rates of a few other distilleries in the area. From what I discovered, Sauza had the best deal for the price. I decided to sign up for the next tour.
The first stop was the distillery where our incredibly informative guide began explaining the classifications of tequila and the aging process. Each person was provided a sample of an extra añejo tequila and instructed how to properly taste it. We allowed the four year old elixir to coat our palate, mix with the air, and descend. It left a bouquet of flavors on our tongues, fire in our throats, and warmth in our bodies.
After leaving the barrel room we made our way to where the piña were processed. The sound of piña resonated as they traveled up the conveyor belts, marking the first phase of production. Our guide explained the operation over the hum of machinery and informed us of Sauza’s concerted efforts to limit waste.
The next stop was the distillation room where pipes labeled ‘tequila’ descended from gigantic tanks emphasizing the vast production. Our guide carefully explained the distillation as we enjoyed a taste of Tres Generaciones, Sauza’s triple distilled tequila.
The arduous work of a Jimador was demonstrated as our guide trimmed the long spiky projections from the blue agave. The piña that remains weigh an average of 40-80 pounds. As each of us struggled to lift a single piña, we were enlightened on just how much physical labor goes into processing the blue agave. A typical day for a Jimador involves harvesting and transporting a truckload of piña under the relentless Jalisco sun.
When I returned to Casa Sauza I sat in the garden, enjoying my complimentary guava margarita, and pondering my new found appreciation for the labor required to make tequila. I also took a moment to revel in fact that for $20 I was able to have an adventure, learn a bit more about tequila, and enjoy an afternoon buzz.
*If you intend on returning to Guadalajara, buy your round trip bus tickets with Tequila Plus instead of purchasing tickets each way. It will save you ten percent.
*If you have a larger budget, here are a few other options for visiting Tequila:
Tequila Trail will pick you up and drop you off in Guadalajara so you don’t have to worry about arriving at the bus terminal. For an additional $20 this may be a worthwhile option.