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Tequila is like wine

Finding gold at Patron's Corner

Arette extra añejo — an old-school tequila at Patron’s Corner.
Arette extra añejo — an old-school tequila at Patron’s Corner.

The Easter Bunny slipped a bottle of Fortaleza reposado tequila into the bright blue English watering can that doubled as my wife’s Easter basket this year. He deigned to plunk a bottle of Casa Noble into the flimsy plastic affair that served as my basket, because he is kind, and because he judges the heart and not the exterior trappings. And my heart loves tequila. Once, Santa managed to cram a bottle of Corzo into my stocking, despite its broad, angular bottle.

photo

Did Andrew Wyeth ever go to Mexico?

All three of those tequilas are on the shelf at Patron’s Corner, a restaurant at the corner of 4th and J downtown, but I’ve never ordered any of them. I first discovered the place the end of a mildly frustrating date with the wife; a police car had blocked my old Prius into its spot, and the officers appeared to be gathering material for a biography of the deeply drunk transient who had caught their attention. We found ourselves with time to kill, so we wandered away from the crush of Fifth and found the Corner. The wife liked the painting on the back wall: a wooden cart carrying a freshly harvested agave. It reminded her of Andrew Wyeth’s Cider Barrel.

The place was quieter than it deserved to be, but that was okay, because it gave owner/operator Paul Garduno time to chat and make suggestions. Garduno, a 20-year veteran of the San Diego restaurant scene, began by asking what I usually drink. I mentioned the Corzo. I also allowed as how I’ll sometimes splurge on something older than reposado. He nudged me in the direction of the Arette extra añejo — a personal favorite for the money. “I nitpick the tequilas I carry,” he said. “It’s like when I go to Sonoma and find a wine I’ve never heard of that is not $300 a bottle, but is comparable to one that is. That’s like finding gold.”

Carefully curated tequilas at Patron's Corner

Before tasting, a consideration. After Patron exploded the tequila market in the United States, other makers started eyeing the big new customer base up north. “But most Americans have a different palate from Mexicans. They like it creamier instead of rougher. They’re used to bourbons, they like vanilla notes, things on the sweeter side. Tequila makers started experimenting — charring the oak, using bourbon or wine barrels to age the tequilas, using French oak instead of Mexican or American.” They went further, fermenting the agave at warmer temperatures, “which gives a little sweetness. Tequila is like wine — all these factors change the flavor profile.”

The Arette was not an experimental tequila. “It’s very traditional; a little more dry than most people like in this market. Eighty percent of people who try this side by side with, say, the Don Abraham, are going to like the Don Abraham, and most of them are not Mexican.” Sipping each, I could see why. The Abraham was floral where the Arette was nutty, pure where the Arette was complicated. I thought of sherry. Garduno thought of tasting flights. I concurred.

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Arette extra añejo — an old-school tequila at Patron’s Corner.
Arette extra añejo — an old-school tequila at Patron’s Corner.

The Easter Bunny slipped a bottle of Fortaleza reposado tequila into the bright blue English watering can that doubled as my wife’s Easter basket this year. He deigned to plunk a bottle of Casa Noble into the flimsy plastic affair that served as my basket, because he is kind, and because he judges the heart and not the exterior trappings. And my heart loves tequila. Once, Santa managed to cram a bottle of Corzo into my stocking, despite its broad, angular bottle.

photo

Did Andrew Wyeth ever go to Mexico?

All three of those tequilas are on the shelf at Patron’s Corner, a restaurant at the corner of 4th and J downtown, but I’ve never ordered any of them. I first discovered the place the end of a mildly frustrating date with the wife; a police car had blocked my old Prius into its spot, and the officers appeared to be gathering material for a biography of the deeply drunk transient who had caught their attention. We found ourselves with time to kill, so we wandered away from the crush of Fifth and found the Corner. The wife liked the painting on the back wall: a wooden cart carrying a freshly harvested agave. It reminded her of Andrew Wyeth’s Cider Barrel.

The place was quieter than it deserved to be, but that was okay, because it gave owner/operator Paul Garduno time to chat and make suggestions. Garduno, a 20-year veteran of the San Diego restaurant scene, began by asking what I usually drink. I mentioned the Corzo. I also allowed as how I’ll sometimes splurge on something older than reposado. He nudged me in the direction of the Arette extra añejo — a personal favorite for the money. “I nitpick the tequilas I carry,” he said. “It’s like when I go to Sonoma and find a wine I’ve never heard of that is not $300 a bottle, but is comparable to one that is. That’s like finding gold.”

Carefully curated tequilas at Patron's Corner

Before tasting, a consideration. After Patron exploded the tequila market in the United States, other makers started eyeing the big new customer base up north. “But most Americans have a different palate from Mexicans. They like it creamier instead of rougher. They’re used to bourbons, they like vanilla notes, things on the sweeter side. Tequila makers started experimenting — charring the oak, using bourbon or wine barrels to age the tequilas, using French oak instead of Mexican or American.” They went further, fermenting the agave at warmer temperatures, “which gives a little sweetness. Tequila is like wine — all these factors change the flavor profile.”

The Arette was not an experimental tequila. “It’s very traditional; a little more dry than most people like in this market. Eighty percent of people who try this side by side with, say, the Don Abraham, are going to like the Don Abraham, and most of them are not Mexican.” Sipping each, I could see why. The Abraham was floral where the Arette was nutty, pure where the Arette was complicated. I thought of sherry. Garduno thought of tasting flights. I concurred.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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