The family is now based in Southern California, but the Rios Family members are down in Mexico often working on their ranches. During one of the many visits to Mexico, a ranch hand was overheard yelling to another, “Eres Capaz,” (are you capable?) while pointing to the herd of steer stampeding towards them. The ranch hand responded, “Si, soy Capaz!” (Yes, I am capable!). Over dinner that evening the story and inspirational phrase became family legend and the inspiration for their first Premium Tequila brand, Capaz!
Tequila is a type of spirit made primarily in the areas surrounding the western Mexican state of Jalisco. It is made from the blue agave plant (Agave tequilana azul), which is native to Mexico. Traditional tequila is most often made at a 38–40% alcohol content level (76–80 proof), but there are also several varieties of tequila produced with 43–46% alcohol content level (86–92 proof).
Tequila was first produced in the 16th century near the location of the city of Tequila, Mexico and was not officially established as a city until 1656. The Aztec’s had previously made a type of fermented beverage from the agave plant, which they called octli (later and more popularly called pulque). This was long before the Spanish arrived in 1521. When the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy, they began to distill the agave drink to produce the first North American indigenous distilled spirit.
Some 80 years later, around 1600, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira, began mass-producing tequila at the first factory in the territory of modern-day Jalisco. By 1608, the colonial governor of Nueva Galicia had begun to tax his tequila products.
The tequila that we drink and is most popular today was first mass-produced in the early 1800s in Guadalajara, Mexico.
HOW TEQUILA IS MADE
The process of tequila begins when a blue agave plant is ripe, about 8 to 12 years after it is planted. The leaves are then chopped away from its core by a "jimador" who assesses the plants ripeness. If the plant is harvested too soon, there won't be enough sugars to have any practical use. There is also the possibility of harvesting the plant too late. The plant forms a once-in-a-lifetime stem "quiote" that springs 25 to 40 feet high, so high in the air in fact that the seeds that have grown at the top of the stem can then scatter with the wind and landing on the ground to have new growth. The jimador's task is a crucial one; once he decides that the plant is ready, he wields a special long knife known as a "coa" to clear the core. The cores or piñas (Spanish for pineapple) weight an average of 40 to 70 pounds and can weight up to 200 pounds. The photo shows a ripe agave at age 8 that is ready and in the process of being harvested. The “piña” in the photograph (third to the right) will be visible when all the leaves (pencas) have been cleared.
Piñas are hauled to the distillery where they are cut in half or chopped and put to roast. The starches then turn to sugar as the piñas are steamed. Modern distilleries use huge steam ovens to increase output and save on energy. Roughly speaking, seven kilos (15 lb.) of agave piña are needed to produce one liter (one-quart U.S.) of tequila. Different agaves and processes can produce mezcal with different names throughout Mexico: sotol in Chihuahua, mezcal in Oaxaca, and bacanora in Sonora.
The roasted piñas are shredded, their juices pressed out and placed in fermenting tanks or vats. Few distilleries still use the traditional method to produce tequila. In this method –artesian tequila– take the cores that are crushed with a stone wheel at a grinding mill called "tahona" and the fibers are dumped into the wooden vat to enhance fermentation and provide extra flavor. Once the juices are in the vats yeast is added. Every distiller keeps its own yeast type as a closely guarded secret. During fermenting, the yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.
Juices ferment for 30 to 48 hours then they are distilled twice in traditional copper stills or more modern ones made of stainless steel or in continuous distillation towers. The first distillation produces a low-grade alcohol and the second a fiery colorless liquid that is later blended before being bottled. Alcohol content may be between 70 and 110 Proof. At this moment the liquor is no longer mezcal but tequila.
All types of tequila start with this colorless distilled spirit. Each type will be classified depending on its age.
The brand "tequila" is controlled by the Mexican government. Anybody interested in its production must comply with strict regulations set forth by the Secretary of Economy (formerly Secretary of Industry and Commerce) who has delegated authority upon the Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila) CRT, a private non-profit organization based in Guadalajara. Jalisco is responsible for the regulation, verification, and quality certification of tequila. The Council oversees every aspect of production, from agave cultivation, bottling to labeling in order to guarantee consumers the genuineness of the product.
To ensure that tequila is genuine, it must be produced according to the strict standard NOM-006-SCFI-1994 and must bear the official standard or NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and the Council's monogram "CRT" on the label. Premium Tequila must also have the "100% Agave" markings on the label. Each approved tequila distiller gets its own NOM that ensures that the product complies with the official Denomination of Origin.