On the way out of Etzatlan there are hundreds of greenhouse like structures filled with bell peppers. You can't find a single bell pepper in the area to buy to eat. They grow them for export only. These very popular Canadian peppers just don't pack a punch, so the locals aren't into them. They have to keep them protected from the Mexican sun, even in winter.
We took a tour with the Cofradia Tequila Estate. You can see their name etched in the mountainside in agave plants. Interestingly, Tequila is a brand name, named after the town which was an Aztec town originally. It means cutting stone, named for the obsidian in the area. They made tools and weapons out of the obsidian. The name Tequila is only legally used by 5 areas all of which are fairly close to this town. Other agave liquors are Mezcal and Charanda. Most people tend to call them all Tequila, kind of like people call acetominophen pain killers aspirin, cola's coke, and copy machines xerox's. huh.
That's a lot of pineapples!!!
They cook the agave in a wood fired oven to bring out the sugars. They have a cooked heart for us to taste. It is very sweet after it is cooked, but not at all before. Legend has it that the Aztecs used agave for many things from thread to roofing, but it wasn't until one day lightning hit an agave plant that they started to use it as a sweetener. Soon afterward of course, they started to ferment and distill it.
They separate the fiber from the juices of the agave by grinding and pressing it.
The liquid ferments. At the end of the fermenting process it is only 10% alcohol.
They distill it twice. At the end of distilling it is 80% alcohol, or 120 proof, then they have to add water.
They have their own pottery factory in the back. They make all their own specialty bottles as well as a line of dishes. They can put up to 400 pieces in the kiln at a time. The first kiln bakes for 8 hours, then they hand paint it and place it in the second kiln for an additional 12 hours.
The harvesting process is all done manually, these are the tools of the trade. The blades are now made of steel, but back in the day they were all made from obsidian.
They are very proud of their Guiness book of world records bottle of Tequila. It is the largest bottle of alcohol in a blown glass bottle. I don't know much about blown glass....but I am inclined to be very impressed. Imagine blowing a bottle that big?
After distilling, of course comes aging in barrels. They have mango trees growing in this room, up through the ceiling. Apparently they help to keep the humidity just so.
This is Volcan de Tequila. We've driven around all four sides of her now, but it wasn't until our tour that we learned it was an inactive volcano. The last time she erupted was 200,000 years ago, the rich volcanic soil making it ideal for growing blue agave. There are hundreds of varieties of agave, but only the blue agave is used to make Tequila.
On our turtle from Tequila to Roca Azul on the coast of Lake Chapala there were few things of particular interest. This bird was one of them. I have no idea what it is...perhaps one of our bird loving friends can fill us in.
Once again Bertha decided to send us astray. She took us onto this road, which was 12 kilometers (according to Bertha) of these crazy bumpy cobblestone-like tire killing rocks. After 2 kilometers of crawling along we decided to turn around and find another way. Bertha kept insisting this was the only way to go, and that it would take us an hour to get to Roca Azul, so we had to be persistent. It took about 1/2 hour of driving down the highway away from this road before she finally saw it our way and gave us another route. By then we were still only 1/2 hour away from our destination.
There were these green house like structures all along the way, the crops looked like raspberries (Gerry the farmer, can identify them from quite a distance), strawberries, sunflowers, and peas.
Ah....destination Lake Chapala...5 minutes to go. It's been a long day and this was a sight for sore eyes, backs and butts.