Chef-owner Terry Moore sells a lot of tequila at his restaurant, the Coyote Bar & Grill at the River Pine’s Resort near Graeagle. Patrón Silver is the best selling tequila from the 80 that he offers so when he was invited to tour the famed tequila maker distillery in Mexico this past winter, he did.
A local restaurant owner boasts the largest selection of tequila in the area, so when it comes time to vacation, where does he go? Tequila, Mexico!
At least he did last year. Prior travels have taken Terry Moore, the chef-owner of the Coyote Bar and Grill, to other parts of Mexico and across South
America and Europe. With each trip, his new experiences inspire the cuisine that he serves at his popular restaurant on the grounds of the River Pines
Resort in Blairsden.
The state of Jalisco, where the city of Tequila is located, is becoming to Mexico what the Napa Valley is to California. A tourism-based economy is building
up around visits to agave fields and tours of tequila distilleries — both large and small.
But there is one distillery in particular that intrigued Moore — Hacienda Patrón in the city of Jalisco.
According to an article in the November 2018 edition of Travel & Leisure magazine not many people know what lies behind its gates because it’s typically
“only open to people in the industry.”
But Moore had a standing invitation to visit because though he offers 80 different tequilas, what’s the bestseller?
“Patrón Silver,” Moore says without hesitation.
In addition to Patrón, Moore visited five other distilleries, including Cuervo and Sauza, but Patrón was his favorite and the first on his three-week trip
to the region.
Moore flew from Reno to Guadalajara and Patrón took it from there.
Behind the gates
The day began early when a car arrived for the drive to Hacienda Patrón, an impressive stucco structure located behind two guarded gates.
Once there, Patrón’s president greeted Moore and invited him to breakfast in the dining room with other guests who had gathered for the day’s events.
After breakfast, the van transported the group to the agave fields where the seven-year process of producing tequila begins.
“I planted an agave plant and they gave me a brass ring with my name on it to put on the plant,” Moore said. When asked if he would ever be able to
sample the tequila made from his plant, he quipped, “In seven years.”
A professional photographer followed the group as they moved from planting to harvesting to the distillery.
The process begins in the fields. A jimador, a worker who harvests the plant, uses a coa, a tool with a circular blade at the end of a pole. The tool
is used to hack off the bitter leaves of the agave plant, which reveals the core or the piña as it’s called because it resembles a large pineapple.
The piñas are loaded onto carts pulled by burros and taken to the distillery.
Moore and the group followed and watched as the piñaswere cut in half and then into wedges to be placed in the brick ovens where they would smoke/steam
for a minimum of 78 hours.
Once cooked, the cores would be put into a crushing wheel to create agave pulp that is then sent to fermenting vats where yeast is added. “It’s a closely
guarded secret,” Moore said of this part of the process, “and the yeast is constantly being monitored for mutations.”
Moore would observe the basic process at other distilleries, but while many of the steps would be the same, they would be less automated than at Patrón.
For example, bottles are filled via a conveyor belt at Patrón, while they are still hand filled at other establishments, such as Codigo. “They
use old red wine bottles from Napa,” Moore said of Codigo, “which makes a blush tequila.”
The tour at Patrón concluded with a visit to the tasting room and then on to a late lunch on the balcony overlooking the grounds of the hacienda.
The town of Tequila
Moore spent two weeks of his trip at the Hotel Solar de las Ánimas in Tequila. The hacienda-style hotel overlooks the town’s plaza with a view of an
18th century church. It boasts an ornate lobby and rooftop deck with a pool and bar that became a daily draw for Moore at the end of the day.
In his travels, Moore prefers to get off the beaten path and frequent the spots that locals do. And it was the same in Tequila, where one day he found
himself invited to join in on a wedding celebration in process.
He also discovered a popular tasting room — La Cata — that boasts some 200 tequilas from48 distillers. While Moore enjoyed trying various
tequilas, true to his chef’s roots, he found the “tamales amazing.”
Moore graduated from St. Mary’s College with a double major in political science and history so perhaps it’s no surprise that one of his favorite finds
in Tequila was a three-story mural in a government building dedicated to the goddess Tequila.
Moore opened the Coyote Bar & Grill 21 years ago. His website describes it as “a restaurant created by a man who loves to eat and has a passion
Born and raised in Napa, Moore worked at a winery in high school and continued in the industry after graduating from college. It was a natural for
him to transition into cuisine.
His restaurant serves traditional Mexican faire along with black Angus steaks, seafood dishes, pastas, dinner salads, vegetarian options and more.
The menu reflects his travels with influences from the Southwest, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and other countries.
Looking ahead to next year, Moore is already planning his winter travel, which might include a trip to Oaxaca in Mexico, known for mescal production.
While tequila must be made from blue agave and come from the state of Jalisco, mescal can be made from any type of agave and anywhere in Mexico.
“It’s a little more intense, a little smokier,” Moore said, and offers four choices at his restaurant. “If someone says that they drank tequila with
a worm in it, it wasn’t tequila,” he adds. “It was mescal.”
There’s also a chance that next winter will find him in Sardinia, but no matter the destination, some of what he experiences will find its way back
home and on to his menu.