“It’s another tequila sunrise, stirrin’ slowly across the sky…this old world looks the same.”
Not anymore! Our April 15th event marked what members of the Cincinnati Chaîne hope is the last virtual event of the seemingly endless “COVID era” and the rise of a socialization sun. We are ready to meet in person—with all due precautions—for our May 16th induction gathering.
Our tequila tasting experience was masterfully orchestrated by Echanson Mary Horn. The presentation featured Lance Gildner, founder of Two Sons Imports near Dayton, OH, and Don Alberto Becherano, owner of Cavas de Don Max distillery and maker of Cantera Negra Tequila.
The story of how these two men met during a fishing trip to Los Cabos is the stuff of legends. Mr. Gildner and a few close friends entered a fishing tournament and snagged a record-shattering 318-pound yellowfin tuna. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, Gildner’s entourage wound up in a local Mexican bar. “We were stunned by the outrageously good tequila.” When Gildner asked where he could buy the tequila, the bar owner told him that it was a closely held secret.
Over the next nine years, Gildner hunted (with some frustration) for the identity of the incredible spirit. Finally, in 2015, a friend who lived in Los Cabos uncovered the secret. Gildner dashed off to Mexico to meet with the family who owned the distillery. As they say, long story short, Gildner became the sole U.S. importer of these exquisite tequilas.
By that point in the evening, we were more than ready to try the selection of tequilas. Don Alberto Becherano, owner of the Cavas de Don Max Distillery and maker of the Contera Negra brand, led members through a tasting of three hand-crafted ultra-premium tequilas.
While all tequila is made from the blue agave plant, the legal requirement is 51% from that source. Stepping up the quality of the product, all Cantera Negra tequilas are made from 100% blue agave plants gown in rich volcanic rock in Jalisco, Mexico. The plants mature 8-10 years before harvest.
Just like a fine wine, the terroir of this area of Jalisco is key to the unique character of Becherano’s tequila. The name Contera Negra actually means “quarry rock.” The tequilas are aged up to five times industry standards, either in hand-crafted oak barrels from the family cooperage or in Kentucky bourbon barrels.
The tequila tasting included a clear, citrusy Silver (not aged in barrel); a Reposado which is aged in barrels for one year; and finally an Añejo which is aged for 30-36 months. This author and his wife, along with other members, were astounded at how wonderful these offerings were to sip throughout the presentation.
The tequila selection was expertly paired with cuisine by Renee Schuler, Chef Rôtisseur, of Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts. Chef Schuler began her career at The Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan and perfected her chef skills by working in notable restaurant meccas such Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grille Catering Company, Daniel Boulud’s Feast and Fêtes, Indian-influenced Tabla Restaurant, and the French-Mediterranean restaurant Picholine. She came back to Ohio to be the Executive Chef at the Murphin Ridge Inn, but found her true calling in 2005 when she established Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts Catering.
Chef Schuler provided two menus for this Mondiale tasting, one with meat and one vegetarian. The Silver tequila was paired with either Shrimp and Lobster Escovitch or Tostadas with Avocado and Red Chili Jackfruit, as well as a green salad with jicama, mango, tomatoes, queso fresca, and roasted jalapeño vinaigrette. The Reposado tequila was perfectly paired with Truffle Mushroom and Goat Cheese Empañadas, and a choice of Short Ribs with Pico de Gallo or Poblano Relleno served on Smashed Plantains. Grilled Spring Vegetables accompanied both meals. The evening was brought to a crescendo with Tres Leches Cake and Chocolate Chile Truffles served with the Cantera Negra Añejo tequila.
As a parting gift from Gildner and Becherano, the duo gave members Cantera Negra Café Coffee Liqueur, also made from 100% blue agave, and showed us how to make a killer Tequila Espresso Martini.
Heaps of praise went to our presenters as well as Echanson Horn and Bailli George Elliott for an outstanding virtual event. (A number of people were overheard planning their own tequila tasting events using Cantera Negra and, of course, catering from Renee Schuler.) What a great way to welcome the sunrise we have been waiting for all these dreary months!
Graig Smith, Vice Chargé de Presse