Tequila tasting 101 with Casa Dragones’ Bertha Gonzalez Nieves

Dish will never forget where we were when Oprah Winfrey signed off the nation’s airwaves forever. We were in a luxury suite at the St. Regis hotel in Buckhead, enjoying a one-on-one tequila tasting with the First Lady of Tequila, Casa Dragones CEO Bertha Gonzalez Nieves. We’d like to think we were following Dr. Winfrey’s (a tequila connoisseur herself) commencement address to the letter: “Everybody has a calling. It’s your job in life to find it.”
Gonzalez Nieves has definitely found her calling and it involves transforming Mexico’s finest blue agave plants into some of the most spectacular sipping tequila found on earth.
Gonzalez Nieves and former MTV co-founder and Time/Warner executive Bob Pittman introduced the luxury liquor to the United States in 2009 and already count legendary record producer and FOB (Friend of Oprah) Quincy Jones among its celebrity sippers.
With each hand-signed, small batch bottle running around $275 each, this is not tequila to be wizzed up in a blender with sugary margarita mix or banged back in a shot glass. Casa Dragones’ inaugural batch was only 1,000 cases for both Mexico and the U.S. markets. The company has now doubled that production but Casa Dragones’ volume will always remain in the thousands, Gonzalez Nieves said. Each batch nets about 3,500 bottles.
“There are many ways to drink tequila and I wouldn’t label any of them incorrect,” Gonzalez Nieves graciously told us. “But tequila has many faces. We produce one that is for sipping and savoring.”
To best enjoy Casa Dragones, Gonzalez Nieves recommends a tulip-shaped glass shorter than a champagne flute and longer than a cordial glass. As soon as she poured the room temperature clear sparkling silky liquid into the glass, one thing became apparent: the blend of blanco and extra anejo has legs for days.
Gonzalez Nieves also advises sippers to take the time to poke your nose into the bottom half of glass, then the center and finally at the top so you can fully enjoy the product’s sweet, spicy and woody notes. The first sip prepares your palette. We detected hints of vanilla, floral and citrus aromas with a smidge of spice and pear. Clearly absent is any alcohol burn common with most tequilas. In short, Casa Dragones redefines the word smooth.
Chefs, including Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York are already fans and encourage pairing Casa Dragones with food. On Wednesday night at The Quinones Room at Bacchanalia, chef/owner Anne Quatrano did precisely that for 60 guests of Gonzalez Nieves.
Unlike most agave plant pushers, Casa Dragones only produces a single variety of tequila. “For small producers like us, we really don’t want to be distracted with anything else,” explained Gonzalez Nieves. “This is what we do and we want to do it well. We want to put all of our meticulous attention to detail into one product.”
Local retailers stocking Casa Dragones include Tower and Green’s while Holeman and Finch are already selling it by the glass.  While she was in town, Gonzalez Nieves was lucky enough to partake of the eatery’s famed 10 o’clock burger this week. Would the Mexico City businesswoman suggest pairing the late-night treat with a glass of Casa Dragones?
“Let’s go find out!” she said playfully. “We encourage you to experiment with Casa Dragones and to not be intimidated. It’s important to have fun.”
We’re quite sure even Oprah would toast to that.