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Solento Organic Tequila is based in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Cheers! North County Columns Food & Wine

Cheers! North County: Slow down and have a tequila

Recently, I virtually met up with acclaimed local surf filmmaker, artist and entrepreneur Taylor Steele to talk about his newest endeavor, Solento Organic Tequila, based right out of Encinitas. I was a bit nervous. Anyone who knows me in the real world knows I’m not a tequila person.

Point of fact, I had not had even a drop of tequila since August 1999. I’m not going to get into the story as to why, but for context, on a fateful evening in the fall of the last millennium, I went on a first date. There was tequila there. I didn’t know the rules of the game. I don’t know where the bagels came from or how I got home, and I did not get a second date. Since then, I’ve kept a wide berth from the devil’s water.

However, in the spirit of expanding my horizons and out of respect for my interviewee, I decided it was time to give the agave-based spirit a second chance, but only with a little advice from Taylor.

Local surf filmmaker, artist and entrepreneur Taylor Steele is the founder of Solento Tequila. Courtesy photo

“I’d recommend … just adding an ice cube to it, and let it rest in there for a couple of beats, and then just slowly sip it,” he said.

It sounded manageable, even reasonable. I dropped an ice cube into a glass. I dumped in a perfectly measured single shot of Solento Reposado Tequila and gave it a moment to breathe.

My lips were filled with apprehension during those first sips. There was that distinctive agave smell that I associated with the memories, or lack thereof, from that night so long ago. I’d slowly raise the glass, just letting the golden liquor kiss my lips before quickly setting it back down, and waiting for some sort of physical manifestation that had been building over 20 years to reject the flavors outright, but something more interesting happened.

I started tasting all these different flavors. There was a sweetness like clover honey or caramel, and a hint of citrus and sugar that all finished with a sweet peppery kick, leaving a pleasant warmth on my tongue and in my throat.

I finished the shot and found myself pouring another while reading about tequila, which originated in a town of the same name in the Jaliscan Highlands of the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco.

I learned that only when distilled in Jalisco or a few select Mexican municipalities can tequila be considered tequila, and unlike mezcal, which is also made from agave, tequila is only made from blue agave. The particular Solento tequila I was drinking had been distilled in Amititan, Jalisco, then aged for nine months in oak barrels.

In the days since that first reintroduction, I’ve had this tequila on ice. I’ve had it neat. I’ve had it in a margarita, and each time I’ve been left with a soft buzziness as I let myself mellow out and take a moment to remind myself that nothing is ever set in stone.

My life philosophies and my taste buds are continually evolving, and that is all right. My past experiences may just be moments from the past instead of insurmountable boulders meant to block my path. Maybe it’s time to revisit some other liquors I’ve left on the sidelines. Does anyone know any good gins?

Find Solento Tequila cocktail recipes here!

Be sure to check out the upcoming episode of the Cheers! North County podcast featuring my full conversation with Taylor Steele, which comes out Friday, Oct. 23. We’ll talk about launching a tequila brand right as the pandemic hit, why he moved back home to North County, and why his brand celebrates the slow moments in-between moments.

In North County, you can find Solento Tequila at Seaside Market, Lazy Acres Encinitas and Harvest Ranch Market. Don’t forget to follow Cheers! North County on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Got an interesting story about your drinking adventures? Reach out! I want to hear it.