Photography ©Avery Pearson

Mix Master: Ray Mendea

Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, Inn of the Anasazi

by Nicole Pearson

We’re sitting under traditional Santa Fe style vigas at a spade-shaped wooden table softly illuminated by recessed ceiling lights. We’re in the dining room of the Inn of the Anasazi, at the agave tasting table, ready to begin a custom tequila tasting. Four long-stemmed flutes are set before us. Four handcrafted tequila bottles appear in a row, front and center. The more refined the tequila, the more the detail in the bottle’s design. The last of the four contains a tequila favored by country artist George Strait, who liked it so much he became an investor in Código Tequila.  The hotel purchased a barrel of it, which they draw from for their tastings.

Tequila expert Ray Mendea’s smile is contagious, and his love for tequila is evident even before he begins his presentation. Mendea familiarizes us with tequila, the origin of its name, planting and harvesting techniques, and how the harvesting process changes the taste profile. Most importantly, he wants guests to leave with an openness to adventure and exploration. “Don’t be fooled by the prices,” he advises. “Each agave-producing region in Mexico has a culture, a tradition, a story. All of them produce great products. The goal is to explore.”

A tequila tasting at Inn of the Anasazi
Photography ©Avery Pearson
A tequila tasting at Inn of the Anasazi
Photography ©Avery Pearson

Each of the hotel’s tequila tastings is custom and last about an hour and a half. Price points range from $35–$185 per person, depending on the quality (age) of the tequilas. All tastings include a food course. Our custom tasting included:

  • Casamigos Tequila: crisp with a clean start, notes of vanilla and a powerful finish.
  • Clase Azul Reposado Tequila: more-complex woody, slightly fruity, and more subtle hints of molasses and butterscotch. It is created by ultra-premium craft tequila makers from the Jalisco region. Each handcrafted bottle displays the story of the agave plant’s lifecycle; floral lines move up to the agave plant ready to harvest, complete with a bell to signify the joy of a drink, or the completion of the cycle.
  • Herradura Ultra: a charcoal-filtered agave, void of color and with a clean finish, this tequila is ultra-smooth with a hint of sweetness.
  • Código (private brand): a copper-toned tequila, aged 5–6 years, that lingers on the tongue and offers dynamic notes.
Nicole Pearson

Originally from Lawrence, Kansas, Nicole came with her fiancé back to his hometown of Santa Fe after college. They have one son. Nicole has years of experience editing academic manuscripts for publication. She holds multiple degrees, including a BS in speech, language and hearing, and two master’s degrees in education. She loves hiking, camping, reading, collecting bronze sculptures, early mornings and any opportunity to watch live sporting events.


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