Until I sat down across from Ruben Aceves in New York City a year ago to sample a glass of Herradura tequila, the brand he represents, I assumed the typical Mexican hacienda was just like the ones I had seen in Western movies — a ranch with a grand farmhouse, probably one with a rambling porch out front.
Aceves grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and knows a lot about the sprawling Jalisco countryside that lies between mountain ranges northwest of the city. The land out there is known primarily for one thing — growing hundreds of acres of spiky agave plants and turning them into that delightful concoction that helps Jimmy Buffet and a lot of other folks hang on: tequila.
With a smile, Aceves explained to me the requirements once necessary for a Mexican farm to be a certifiable hacienda. It had to be walled-in to give security, have enough land and resources to be self-sufficient, provide housing inside for its full-time workers and, of course, have its own chapel, a Roman Catholic one. In fact, he said, Herradura has been making tequila since 1870 in such a fortress — Hacienda de San José del Refugio — in the little town of Amatatán.
“It’s the last hacienda where tequila is still being made,” Aceves said proudly. “Come down and visit us.” Earlier this summer I did.