Sombra Mezcal

Agave aficionados are expanding their horizons, thanks in no small part to three gringos: Master sommelier Richard Betts, contemporary art collector Dennis Scholl, and wine-producer Charles Bieler (Three Thieves Winery in Sonoma, Calif). The trio came together last year to breathe new life into the centuries-old tradition of mezcal making. The result is Sombra ($50), a micro-batch distillate that preserves 400-year-old distillation methods, with the agave piñas (hearts) roasted in an earthen fire pit, and then crushed with a horse-drawn circular stone. After a wild yeast fermentation, the mash is distilled in small batches. Instead of the Blue Weber agave used in tequila, the 45 percent ABV Somba mezcal is made from organically farmed espadin agave from the high Sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico, lending it clean yet complex flavors of citrus, spice, and smoke. Launched in December 2008, Somba is distributed in limited quantities and key markets nationally. (www.sombraoaxaca.com)

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