Born amongst the sunbaked hills of the Berryessa, the rain shadow of the Napa Mountains, where rust red dirt is juxtaposed against azure skies echoing the hues of the cerulean Agave rows below, the magical juices contained within our Blue Agave tequiliana plants will ultimately find their way into a bottle which may end up on your table, in your hands, and lovingly shared with your friends and loved ones.
The Aztec claim it was a gift from the gods. Further refined by the
Conquistadors, and perfected by the Mestizo, Agave spirits have a long,
colorful, and storied past and are steeped in Mesoamerican tradition.
Now it is time to make Old Mexico’s
present day California part of that story.
We introduce to you our offering in this
endeavor. The Blue Agave plants of
Rancho Tequilana from Winters,
And no, this is not Mexico. It is Old Mexico. The Mexico that is now known by a different name- California. And the spirits produced from our magic plants can not be known as “tequila", nor “mescal," both dominions reserved by governmental decree for the benefit
of various geographically defined growing
regions of the very same plant within the
current day political boundaries of Mexico.
No, our plants will yield simultaneously
something entirely different yet profoundly
the same. Like a sibling who moved away
and pioneered their own course elsewhere,
yet who carries the same family DNA. It is
a marriage between place and product.
The place is California and the product is the distillate of The Blue Weber Agave, or Agave tequilana, it’s scientific latin name.
California Agave Spirits are born.
And like this part of Old Mexico now being
called California yet the mountains, beaches
and rivers all remain the same, the distilled
product of our Blue Agave is not "tequila,"
nor "mescal" but to the nose and tongue,
they are also one in the same. Shakespeare
said it most eloquently in his adage; "A rose
by any other name would smell as sweet,"
likewise, California Agave Spirits not only
taste as “sweet" as its bottled twin to the
south, but have local roots- quite literally.
And that makes it sweeter.
It is our goal at Rancho Tequiliana to help popularize the growing of this most wondrous dry adapted plant within our water challenged state for the purpose of creating a unique California terroir for the spirits
derived from the Blue Agave and
other Agave species that are
conducive to the process. Our
hope is that someday California’s
Agave Spirits will have its day in
the sun going head to head with
its most well known southern
sibling, tequila from the
centered in the state of Jalisco,
just like on May 24th, 1976 when
Napa Valley wines beat out the best French wines on their own turf in France, judged by their most distinguished French tasters. This day changed the global wine industry forever and came to be known as The Judgement of Paris. We hope California Agave Spirits will someday have a similar day. Possibly, "The Judgement of Jalisco?"
The Blue Agave is an ideal dry farmed crop for hotter, inland locations that remain relatively
frost free. The Blue Agave can tolerate brief temperatures down to the mid twenties with
little or no damage and such damage, if any,
will purely be cosmetic. Freeze damage on
the outer leaves will simply slow the plant’s
growth down due to reduced photosynthetic
activity of the burned portion of foliage. What
does this mean for potential growing areas?
Although Blue Agave will grow and survive just
about anywhere in California that reliably
stays above 25 degrees, the best areas to grow
it in California commercially in large scale
because of lower land values, prevalence of poorer and often rocky soils that Agaves love yet precludes more traditional crops, and best climate are the foothill slopes on all sides of California’s Great Central Valley from 200’-1500’ elevations above the prevailing frost line.
This climate zone is locally known as Zone 9 on the Sunset climate designation map which is more precise than the more general USDA Plant Hardiness Map in which it is coincidently also designated as a zone 9. This is the zone where citrus thrives and over 200,000 acres are commercially planted to the subtropical crop. This is also a dry zone dominated by the extremely drought tolerant Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii. And like the Blue Oak, the Blue Agave can grow in this zone with no
supplemental water above normal
rainfall. However, watering and
fertilization of the plants will shorten
crop cycle time from 10-15 years down
to 5-8 years and dramatically increase
yield but possibly at the expense of
intensity of flavor. Just as when grapes
are dry farmed the yield is reduced but
tannins and flavors are much more highly concentrated producing a far superior product.
For hobby farming, Blue Agave can be grown anywhere in California
below 1500' elevation in full sun conditions where extreme low
temperatures stay above 25 degrees. And as such this gorgeous
plant can be directly integrated into residential landscapes amongst
ornamental plantings as well en masse in background low profile areas where something aesthetically pleasing is desired but where
using water thirsty plants is just not
justified. Someday we at Rancho
Tequilana envision a cottage industry
of small scale producers forming cooperatives that will
come out and harvest the Agave Pinas when mature, and
distill them into Agave Spirts and pay the landowner to do
so. Imagine having a beautiful Blue Agave hillside for 5-10
years then converting it into some cash and a unique liquid
byproduct to share with friends. Small Agave plantations are a way to utilize surplus land that would otherwise remain fallow and rather use it to create beauty and utility with very little inputs.
Blue Agave tequilana fields are low
maintenance, water thrifty, and gorgeous.
Rancho Tequiliana can assist in assessing and
advising you on the creation of your Agave
plantation via consultation as well as supply
plants to get you started. Please don’t
hesitate to call or even stay on property at our
VRBO and wander the Rancho while sipping
some Agave spirits. We recommend doing so
Gracias and Salud!
Images courtesy of Wikmedia Commons and contributors Jean Souleth, Ruben Montes, Mexico en Fotos, Hispanoamerikano, and Thomassin Michael.