Last week I attended a dinner at Tres Agaves in San Francisco with Gabriel and Guillermo Gonzalez of Chinaco Tequila. Tres Agaves is hosting monthly distillers' dinners with a different tequila brand each time.
Chinaco is a special tequila brand for a couple reasons. First, it is the only distillery located in Tamaulipas. Until the 1970's, all agave for tequila had to come from the state of Jalisco. Then the area was expanded to allow for more agave, and currently includes Jalisco and areas of four bordering states, plus part of Tamaulipas apart from the rest.
The other reason it's special is because it is cited as the first premium tequila on the US market. In the early 1980's Robert Denton began importing Chinaco and selling it as a high-end product as opposed to the rough spirit it was known as historically. (Some good historical information can be found here and here.)
The distillery closed in the late 1980's and reopened in the early 1990's by the founder's four sons, including Gabriel and Guillermo who were at the dinner. Interestingly, in the past two years the agave for the tequila has been sourced from Atotonilco in the highlands region (Don Julio, Siete Leguas) instead of from Tamaulipas. I'd like to learn more about this- highland agave is much prized but it seems odd to truck in a bunch of it to another agave growing region.
The barrels for Chinaco are also unusual in that they're first used for bourbon, then they're used for scotch whisky before they're shipped to Mexico for use in tequila. Thus they're likely pretty inert, imparting less wood (caramel, vanilla, butterscotch) notes to the tequila than the average barrels.
All in all, an interesting dinner with an educational aspect- and not bad in price, either. $75 includes many margaritas, a tasting of the night's range of tequilas, a three-course dinner, and tax and tip. Dinners are on the third Thursday of the month. The schedule for next month should be on the website soon.
Update: Here is the upcoming schedule:
December: Don Julio
April: 7 Leguas