Cultivating Agave: A Path to Sustainable Tequila and Mezcal Production in California

From field to glass, we explore the potential of sustainable spirits.

The vibrant culture and flavors of Mexico took center stage in Sacramento, California, this week as residents enjoyed an afternoon dedicated to the sensory delights of agave-based spirits. However, the spotlight of this event centered on the exploration of the quality and taste of agave plants grown right in California.

Dr. Samuel Sandoval, a professor and extension specialist at UC Davis, led the charge in showcasing the diverse agave species that flourish in California’s climate. From tequila to mezcal, the event celebrated these agave-based spirits, offering attendees a taste of the Golden State’s agave potential.

Sandoval and a team of scientists from UC Davis, the University of California Riverside, and Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma Chapingo embarked on a pioneering investigation to assess the viability of commercially growing nine different agave species native to California. These varieties thrive in counties such as San Diego, Imperial, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino, making them naturally adapted to the region’s climate.

One of the key findings of their research is the climate resilience of California’s agave varieties. Unlike imported species that might struggle to adapt, these native agave plants have thrived for centuries in California’s unique environmental conditions.

As part of their mission, the scientists introduced a comprehensive guidelines document aimed at assisting those interested in growing agave responsibly in California. This resource covers essential aspects such as species selection, cultivation practices, and environmental considerations. It seeks to honor the ancestral history of agave, which has been deeply intertwined with indigenous cultures for thousands of years.

The researchers believe that agave has the potential to become a significant crop in California, thanks to its resilience in the face of extreme weather conditions. To support this vision, they are developing various products and resources, including the guidelines document, to empower growers and enthusiasts.