On August 16, the second annual Tequila Harvest will be whetting liquor lovers’ palates with the chance to sample more than 50 types of fermented agave nectar. The event—which also features food, mariachi music, models dressed as Miss Blanca, Miss Reposada, Miss Añejo, and Miss Extra Añejo, and discounted taxi rides to get home safely—was founded by UCSB grads Ernesto Rodriguez and Albert Martinez, who run an events and importing company called Agave Avenue. Rodriguez recently spoke with us about the harvest.
Why’d you start the Tequila Harvest? We wanted to do a tequila festival where we educated the people, not only to have people come to get drunk, but for people to come and sample quality mescals and tequilas, and learn the difference between blancos, reposados, and añejos. Being products of Mexico—both our parents are from Mexico—tequila was something we wanted to work with and also import into the U.S.
What’s wrong with the mainstream perception of tequila? People say “to-kill-you,” like it’s going to make you sick. That’s the biggest misconception, that tequila is a drink to get drunk. What they don’t understand is that it takes eight to 10 years to grow an agave plant, then it’s put in a French oak barrel. It’s very similar to wine, with different flavors and variations depending on the aging.
Is the image changing? Yes. In a way, that’s why we started our business. Over the last five years, tequila sales have grown 46 percent. There’s a lot of tequilas out there, and a lot are really expensive. People now are recognizing the taste, the quality, the differences in flavor, and they’re willing to pay that extra amount to have really good tequila. Some bottles are like $200.
Who’ll be at your event?
We’re going for Latino young professionals and also the Anglo community of professionals—middle-class people between the ages of 25 and 50 who have disposable income and want to learn about different producers, cultures, food, and music, people who are open-minded about things and like exploring. And from 4-6 p.m., we are inviting restaurant, hotel, and bar owners who sell tequila for an industry tasting.
What are you excited about this year?
We will have over 20 tequila and mescal labels, and each will do a minimum of three bottles, so there’s going to be over 50 expressions of tequila for you to sample.
The Santa Barbara Tequila Harvest is on Tuesday, August 16, from 6:30-9 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. Tickets are $45 in advance, or $55 at the door. See agaveavenue.com for more info.