Mayahuel, the tequila goddess, resides at Casa Magna Marriott Resort in Puerto Vallarta. For six years, some of the finest tequila distilled in Mexico has been bottled exclusively for Casa Magna Marriott. Sold only in Puerto Vallarta at Casa Magna, this tequila is a sublime experience for lovers of the distilled spirit of blue agave.
We recently sat down with Audrey Formisano, the sommelier of Casa Magna Marriott, to learn more of this special tequila and its history. Audrey proved to be a wealth of knowledge and brimmed with enthusiasm for this most Mexican of drinks.
When Dennis Whitelaw, the hotel’s general manager, first came to Casa Magna, he saw hundreds of blue agave plants that were part of the colorful, tropical landscape. As a tequila connoisseur, he realized that the hotel had the principal ingredient for making their own private label tequila. Today, these same plants that lend an authentic Mexican atmosphere to Casa Magna also contribute their hearts, the piñas, to each bottle of Casa Magna tequila.
Casa Magna Marriott is one of only a few hotels in Puerto Vallarta certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, the national regulatory tequila council. For this certification, hotel staff took a course on distilling and serving tequila. The council requires the hotel to follow certain procedures, such as destroying each tequila bottle once emptied to insure that it will never be refilled with an inferior product. Each beautiful hand-blown bottle is only used one time.
Casa Magna bottles five distillations — blanco, joven, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Prices range from 480 pesos to 950 pesos a bottle. If you order a glass of Casa Magna tequila, it will be served in an ouverture tequila glass, made by Riedel for serving fine tequila and approved by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila.
Audrey, the sommelier, hails from France, and speaks with fervor of her mission to educate hotel guests on the unique qualities of tequila, a drink not always associated with moderation or known for an appreciation of its nuances. “We want everyone to know of this wonderful Mexican experience, that this is an elegant drink to be taken seriously.” To accomplish this, she conducts sessions in tequila appreciation at the hotel, either for groups or individuals. Each session is geared to the personal interests of the participants, so there is no set agenda or time duration.
So passionate is she in educating guests at the hotel about tequila, that selling Casa Magna tequila is not her primary goal. “If I can talk to our guests about tequila, how special it is, and they order a label other than ours, I’m happy that they have a new appreciation for tequila.”
Russell, my willing taster, and I were offered a glass of Casa Magna extra añejo. Our new appreciation began with the first sip. Russ and I looked at each other in amazement, realizing this was a drink like no other. Audrey suggested that we were tasting undertones of oak, chocolate, almond and vanilla, a complex, exquisite blend. Russ said the extra añejo reminded him of fine whiskey, and Audrey agreed, explaining that their distillery in the town of Tequila uses casks that were previously used for whiskey. The smoothness reminded me of the finest cognac I have ever had. This was a drink to savor slowly, not to down quickly with a grimace and a lick of salt.
You do not need to be a guest at Casa Magna to enjoy a glass of tequila at their bar or buy a bottle in their deli. And the tequila appreciation class is available to anyone, not just guests at the hotel.
Casa Magna Marriott Resort is located in the Zona Marina Vallarta, north of downtown. For a tequila appreciation class, call Casa Magna at 322-226-0000 after 3 p.m. and ask for Audrey. For an unforgettable tequila drink, show up anytime at their bar. Audrey will help you make a selection.
Tequila was first produced in the sixteenth century near the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco when the Spanish conquistadors ran out of brandy. Pre-hispanic Mexico already had a long history of making pulque, a fermented drink made from the agave plant.
Blue agaves grow for about eight years, until the hearts, known as piñas, are big enough to be harvested and weigh up to 80 pounds, about 36 kilos. The juice of the piñas is pressed and fermented. Several distillations follow, after which it is aged and bottled. Blanco is aged less than two months, extra añejo for a minimum of three years.
True tequila comes only from the state of Jalisco and certain areas of four other Mexican states.