Don Mateo de la Sierra
...is the brand of the Vieyra family from Pino Bonito, Morelia in Michoacan, which has been producing Mezcal since 1840. Emilio Vieyra Vargas is a 6th generation Mezcal distiller, succeeding his father Jose Emilio Vieyra Rangel, who died in 2018. His wife Delia Vargas Vieyra, mother of Emilio Jr and matriarch of the family, also has an important role in the viñata, as the distilleries are known locally. She is a well-known cocinera tradicional (chef) in the region and sets the recipe for Don Mateo's Pechuga, which is distilled with turkey, venison, iguana and hare. Accordingly, she appears as maestra mezcalera and author on this product. The name Don Mateo comes from Emilio's great-grandfather Mateo Rangel, who was the third master distiller of the family and whose portrait appears on the label.
The Barranca del Agua distillery of the Vieyras is located about an hour's drive from Michoacan's capital Morelia in conifer-rich evergreen mixed forest. Traditionally, the agave species cupreata (Chino), inaequidens (Alto) and americana (Manso, formerly Cenizo) are distilled there, before from wild stocks, today also from breeding. In this process, young plants are grown from seed and planted in their natural habitat.
Don Mateo produces with two typical regional techniques: The spontaneous fermentation in earth pits, which are enclosed with oak beams. And a pot still with internal condensation made of copper and wooden staves, locally known as alambique filipino. In this process, instead of two or three, five “cuts”, fractions of the distilled spirit are separated: flor (70-58% vol.), mezcal floreado (58-53%), mezcalito (53-44%), fuertes (44-20%) and colas (20 and less).
The water for the preparation of his mash is taken from a spring 200 meters away in the forest. Emilio stores the fresh distillates in an underground room in glass jars for stabilization. His Mezcals are slightly lighter and less smoky compared to those from Oaxaca.
Don Mateo is part of the Bat Friendly project. Here, 5% of all agaves in a plantation are always allowed to flower, pollinated by bats that feed on the agave's nectar. The plant can then be reproduced from genetically diverse seeds. This ensures the survival of the endangered Mexican Flowering Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) as well as the genetic diversity of the agaves. In general, the Vieyras operate without chemicals, neither in agriculture nor in the distillery.
Mezcal Don Matero in SHOP
Mezcal Don Mateo on the Web:
K&L about the Pechuga by Delia Vargas
Life&Thyme with detailed article and great pictures about Don Mateo and the Vieyras
Image & Sound
Imagefilm from and about Don Mateo (span./ 6 min.)
Short feature about the distillery, interview with Emilio (span./ 9 min.)
Video interview with Delia Vargas about women in the mezcal world (span./ 6 min.)