25 + Martha Garza Vázquez
We are joined by Martha Garza Vazquez the COO of Cuero Viejo Mezcal, produced in the town of Nombre de Dios in the state of Durango, Mexico. Martha shares the history of Cuero Viejo, a vinata and mezcal brand her father dreamed about for over 40yrs and realized in 2015. We learn about the land where the vinata is located and the spectacular environmental beauty and culture that make this region, an official Pueblo Magico.
We discuss the fruit trees endemic to the area as well as the temperature fluctuations throughout the seasons, the natural spring water and volcanic stones found in Nombre de Dios. Cuero Viejo has experimented with a unique approach to bottling their expressions by separating out batches according to the seasons in which they were produced. This allows you to experience how the seasonal changes in the environment can influence the taste of the mezcal.
Martha shares the stories behind her family members and the talented team that make Cuero Viejo possible and how they have integrated the family’s passion for mezcal and hospitality with their new hotel and spa, Urájan de Luna. The spa, called Mezcalli Spa, offers Mezcaloterapia (therapies and treatments using mezcal and byproducts of mezcal) to provide a truly unique experience for guests.
1. Cuero Viejo (old leather): Legado y Mezcal (legacy and mezcal)
Martha: "My father started the Vinata in 2015. Approximately 40 years ago he discovered a local Vinata near to his ranch, and developed a friendship with the Maestro. They would drink mezcal together and talk whenever he passed by on his way to his ranch. For years this friendship continued. My father enjoyed the sensation of being there, however, at that time he had no idea that one day we would have a Vinata of his own. It’s my understanding that this time spent with his friend made him fall in love with mezcal. He got to know it in a deeper way and he learned to respect it. He learned about the hospitality inherent in the sharing mezcal and how pleasant it was to be in the Vinata. This is why he designed our Vinata to be open to the public from the very beginning, where we host and educate guests who want to learn more about mezcal."
2. Martha with her mother, Matha Vazquez
M: "My mother, Martha Vázquez, from whom I have learned the value that comes from loving what you do. She has taught me to fight for what you want. She is always on a par with my father, an equal in all their life projects. She is my teacher of life."
3. Martha with her father, Miguel Garza
M: "Miguel Garza, my visionary and passionate father who always achieves his dreams. He is the one who tastes the mezcal and makes the selection of batches. From him I have learned the value of waiting, just as he does with mezcal, waiting for good things to happen. [In this picture] he is teaching me about the agaves in the field, explaining to me the art of waiting 8 to 10 years to obtain mezcal from our Cenizo agaves. Work, passion and respect are what I have learned from my parents."
4. Paco Camacho, the Maestro Mezcalero of Cuero Viejo.
M: "Paco is super passionate and in love with his work. He enjoys pairing mezcal with with all types of food: strawberries, chocolate, tomatillos, cheeses, etc. He also pairs the food with mezcales that have different ABV's, as well as our seasonal batches, highlighting the differences on the palate with each food. His passion is to make mezcal and to educate people."
5. The Cuero Viejo team
M: "Our team is skilled in traversing the difficult mountain terrain and are experts in selecting the best agave to harvest. They help to prepare the agave piñas and light the oven for the cook."
6.,7. Landscapes from the surrounding region of Nombre de Dios
M: "The Rio Tunal and Rio Nombre de Dios are two important rivers in the area, surrounded by Sabino Trees (a type of cypress tree) with more than 300 years of life. You will always find Sabinos or Ahuehuetes (another name for this type of cypress tree) around the water, its large roots are something magical to see. These rivers flow through Nombre de Dios, it seems like everything is surrounded by water, in many nearby towns you will find natural springs."
8. The Saltito Waterfall (a 50 meter tall waterfall)
M: "The Saltito Waterfall flows into the Mezquital River, in times of rain its strength is impressive. It is located very close to our Vinata and is a popular tourist destination. In times of low rain, it is quite impressive to admire the roots of the trees that are exposed by the low water table."
9. Cenizo (A. durangensis) agave and Sotol in Nombre de Dios
10. The semi-dessert landscape of Nombre de Dios. Here you find mountains, sotol, agaves, mesquite, nopal, yuccas and volcanic stone
11., 12. Transplanting young Cenizo (A. durangensis) agave plants from the nursery to a cultivation field outside where they will continue to grow
14. Young Cenizo (A. durangensis) agaveplants, grown from seed, in the Cuero Viejo nursery
15. Close-up of baby Cenizo (A. durangensis) agaves
16. Harvesting a wild Cenizo (A. durangensis) agave
17. Quiotes from wild Cenizo (A. durangensis) agave
18. Prepared Cenizo (A. durangensis) piñas (the heart of the agave) ready for the horno (oven)
19., 20. Volcanic stones covering the fire act as the heating element for the cook which can last 3-4 days
21. Preparing the fire to receive the volcanic rocks. The fire must get to a certain scale and temperature before they place the rocks on top
22. The piñas are covered with bagazo (a bi-product of distillation)
23. The cooked agave piñas are cut before being crushed by a mule-drawn tahona mill
24. The mash is then placed into 1000 liter wood tinas that are embedded in the ground and left to ferment
25., 26. Filling the copper alembique with the mosto (fermented agave mash)
27., 28. Distillation in progress
29. The copper alembiques are heating by wood burning brick ovens. Fresh cold water is used to keep the condensing coil cool so the alcohol vapors can be collected
30. The tinas are positioned close to the alembiques
33. The three Cuero Viejo expressions currently available in Mexico, Canada and soon parts of Europe. (and hopefully, one day, the USA!)
35. Urajan de Luna hotel and spa where they have developed treatments using mezcal to help with total body relaxation.
35. The temazcal (sweat lodges) at Urajan de Luna
+ All images courtesy of Martha Garza Vazquez
Lorena Terán Ibarra is the director of Copita Project for El Buho Mezcal where she leads the regenerative agriculture and educational programs.
Initiated by the founders of El Buho, the Copita Project seeks to replenish and preserve the balance of the natural environment while planting cultivated and semi-cultivated agaves.