Treasure Hunt: A Dusty Cuervo Afternoon in the SF East Bay

Yesterday I received a cryptic email from a tequila buddy.  He doesn’t write me often, but when he DOES it’s ALWAYS good news.  This email was no exception.

Seems he’d been in my area over the past weekend and had found some fertile treasure stores.  You know the kind I like:  bored clerk who’ll let you stand and stare at the shelves behind him for HOURS, crowded dusty shelves with one-off bottles of many different brands, TV set going in corner so he leaves you alone even LONGER.  These stores had all of that!  I jumped in the car and hurried over to the first “Treasure” shop searching desperately for what I’d been told was laying in wait: multiple wooden collector’s boxes filled with individual bottles of Cuervo’s famed “Reserva de la Familia” anejo.  This juice is extremely limited in production and distribution, and even when new it retailed for $100.  On the collector’s market some vintages go for as much as 15 times that or more!

I strode into the corner shop and was immediately drawn to the topmost shelf – way above the clerk’s head.

-Note: How do these guys EVER hope to retrieve super-high treasure bottles when all they have behind the counter is a rickety stool?  All of this tequila drinking has made me just a bit less nimble on a shaky stool so I always defer to the “help” when attempting to locate some top shelf treasure.

Sure enough there were 14 wooden collector boxes of the rare and esteemed Cuervo “Reserva” from the ’01 bottling year!  I asked the indifferent clerk to hustle up to the top shelf and pull me down a box – HEARTBREAK!  All 14 of the boxes were EMPTY!  They were being used for display only.  Damn!  I did a quick scan though the other tequilas in the shop and I saw nothing of interest.  I backed away a few steps to give one last scan before heading out, when I saw ONE unboxed BOTTLE of the “Reserva” sitting in a crowded grouping of cheap tequilas!  Score!  I nabbed the bottle with gusto and lovingly turned it over and over in my hands.  Then I had him pull me down one of the empty boxes to house my treasure.  I negotiated a good price on the devious premise that the juice had been sitting on the shelf unboxed so long, “I’m sure it’s gone sour” I told him.  “But I’ll take it off your hands because I’ve never tried it”, I lied.

I hustled out of the shop with a great feeling of success.  But this hunt promised OTHER treasure as well!  I checked my map and turned the car around.  I had to shut off the radio.  I needed complete silence to contemplate the “booty” I had just procured, and to mentally anticipate the possibility that I may yet find another treasure in the next store.  I pulled into the next parking lot and locked the car.

At this stop I was looking for a different Cuervo product, this time I hunted their elusive “anejo” hand-blown bottle featuring a reusable cork “dongle” that hangs from the neck of the bottle.  I scanned the shelves in sweaty anticipation, but I found nothing.  I looked again and still nothing.  Then I spied the bottle tucked away at the end of a shelf just as it made its way to a tight angle at the wall corner.  Score!  But wait, there was ANOTHER bottle behind that one — and the promise of something still farther behind.  I played it ‘cool” asking the clerk to show me the bottle.  He took it down and started to blow the 1/4 inch thick dust from it.  “NO”, I pleaded.  “Leave that dust on there, it’s a great conversation piece”.  Hahahha.  He looked at me with a broad smile, but I could tell he thought I was from another planet.  And I am — when it comes to dusty treasure bottles, friends!

I asked how many other bottles of the Cuervo anejo he had.  “Lots”, was his reply.  I started to kind of quiver, and my eyesight went jangly.  This happens to me regularly on a hunt when I can sense I’m about to “bag” some big game. I worked through the adrenaline rush and asked again exactly how many bottles we were talking about.  This is rare juice for sure, but could my wallet handle the girth of this treasure?  He looked at me and smiled even wider, “We have about 15 or 20 bottles in the back!”

Now my mind was racing; what would I pay for 10 of these?  Could I afford all 20?  I’ll never see this juice again – and yet I’d recently found 1 in a dusty shop not far from my home.  OHHHHHHHHHHHHwwwww… I wish I were a Billionaire.. I need a better job.  What will my wife say?  Can I sneak these bottles into the garage without her knowing?  Is my teen daughter getting suspicious of Daddy’s drinking?  Am I a good role model?  Hey, it’s my Hobby! Back off, conscience – I’m a good guy.  I DESERVE this treasure.  It’s a treat for all the nice things I do for my friends and family.  I’m getting fat.  I have to start dieting if I’m going to drink this much.  I wonder what’s for dinner at home, it’s getting late..

My brain was cluttered with a THOUSAND fleeting thoughts as I stammered out, “I’ll take 10 of ‘em!”  Suddenly three more clerk/friends appeared from the back room and started speaking quickly in their native Yemenese language.  They LOVED me.  They started climbing all over the shelves searching for errant bottles of Cuervo anejo – but also ANY old bottle that had a peeling label.  “Is dis a tequila?” they asked as I was brought all manner of liquors ranging from Greek MEXTACA to Midori liqueur.  I chuckled to see them all up on ladders at various heights working their way through the stacks of forgotten bottles looking for the elusive 10!  They looked like worker bees buzzing around the Hive King—the TEQUILA WHISPERER!

They finally corralled all of the remaining bottles from the shelves and the back room.  A total of 11 bottles in all.  “So, you want all eleven?”, they asked with great pride in their discovery process.  I thought hard for a minute, and then answered with a calm that was a bit surprising to me, “No, I’ll just take 10.  Let’s leave the last one for some other lucky hunter”.

What I Was Listening To On The Hunt:

“Seminole Bingo” – David Lindley

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“One Cup Of Coffee” – Glen Glenn

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(click photos to enlarge)

10 Responses to “Treasure Hunt: A Dusty Cuervo Afternoon in the SF East Bay”

  1. castle December 8, 2009 at 7:34 pm #

    I want one of those Anejos! How much did you pay? Can I go there and get the last one? How much for the RDF? How can you tell what year it is if it’s out of the box?
    Don’t make me email you, you, you Billy Lipster!

  2. Lippy December 9, 2009 at 12:08 am #

    Hey castle!
    I never reveal my final sale price, but if you go there you can definitely try to make a deal with the Yemenese owners. They’re good guys.

    The JCRF bottles have a hand-written date on the bottom “skirt” label along the bottom of the bottle. Check out my pic above. The last 2 digits of the handwritten numbers reveal the date of vintage. In my case they read, “01″.

  3. SL' Castro December 10, 2009 at 12:45 am #

    These are great!!! I’ve only gotten thru a few of these so far and I plan on reading them all by the end of the night!!!!

  4. Lippy December 10, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    Glad you’re getting into the “Whisperer” mentality, SL! Join us for a LIVE show on Thursdays. It’s really quite a singular event!

  5. atotonilco77 June 19, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    just picked up a bottle of the jose cuervo anejo 4 days ago they had 3 or 4 bottles if i remember correctly but just got one if anyone from the los angeles area wanna get some let me know

  6. admin June 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    Great Find, ‘77!
    Treasure Hunters: ‘77 hangs out on my FB fan page and during the LIVE show. If you live in the L.A. area, hit him up for the location of these treasures. They’re WORTH the drive!

  7. Del Moss May 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I found this site while trying to Google “dongle” bottles. Is that what’s in these pictures?
    Thank.

  8. Lippy May 20, 2012 at 9:24 am #

    Yep. These are the Cuervo anejo “Dongle” bottles, Del. I was the guy who NAMED them “Dongle” bottles. I hope to see you at a live show soon!

  9. Mark June 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    I’m in the Bay Area, and looking for a couple of bottles of the Cuervo Anejo ‘Dongle”. Does anyone have any for sale or know where I can find any? None on Ebay right now….
    Thanks,
    Mark.

  10. Lippy June 17, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Hey Mark.. Sorry — I believe “dongle” bottles in the Bay Area are LONG GONE.

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