Enchiladas - A Tex-Mex Tradition (with Texas Wine?)

Pairings for Tex-Mex: Texas Wine…Why? Cause Locavore Meets Locapour

Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) Food & Wine’s executive wine editor blogged Moday about pairing wines with Tex-Mex food. See: Pairings for Tex-Mex: Wine Not (http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2012/03/05/drinks-with-tex-mex-wine-not/)

Ray featured exclusively non-Texas wines as his Tex-Mex food and wine pairings. Why bother featuring Texas wines? Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state, but most of his readership cannot get Texas wines since over 95% are sold in Texas and not distributed elsewhere. They’d have to travel all the way down to Texas to find them. A recent economic impact study on the Texas wine industry showed that 1,363,000 people visit Texas wineries annually and generate $379.5 million a year in wine-tourism. While Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state, this is nearly as much as the wine-tourism spending in the second largest wine producing state, Washington.

Another reason to feature Texas wines with local Tex-Mex dishes is that, here in Texas, it’s a classic case of Locavore meets Locapour (i.e. locals food paired with local wines).

Here’s my Texas wine collection for Ray’s featured Tex-Mex food selections:

Quesadillas (the realm of pure cheese: chile con queso, etc.)…Ray said: “Go for white, but something with both substantial body as well as firm acidity” and went with an unoaked California Chardonnay ($20).

My Texas wine selection is Duchman Family Winery Vermentino ($14). It’s a crisp wine from a sun-loving Texas High Plains grape that packs an amazing amount of citrus and stone fruit flavors. You can savor this Texas wine and save six bucks, too.

Enchiladas (it’s a dish covered with salsa – ranchera (red) or verde (green) and an ocean of melted cheese)…Ray said, “For chicken enchiladas with a verde sauce, go with a crisp white, like Albariño from Spain ($13) and for beef enchiladas with red sauce, choose a juicy red Zinfandel ($15).”

My Texas choices for chicken enchiladas are to either stay with Albariño, but spend your dollars closer to home with an Albariño from Becker Vineyards or McPherson Cellars. Both are new offerings and are not yet listed on their websites. You will have to spend about $5 more, but just think of locavore meeting a locapour and it will be worth every cent of it.

However, for beef enchiladas, from personal experience, I’d go totally off the “red varietal ranch” and aim for a new frontier of semi-sweet Sister Creek Vineyards Muscat Canelli ($12). As an alternative, I’d go with Haak Vineyards Semi Sweet Blanc Du Bois ($12). This latter wine is made from a white hybrid grape (grown right on the Texas Gulf Coast of all places) that can kick the butt of many classic vinifera grown in Texas. There, I’ve already made up three of the five dollars I lost going with the Texas Albariño.

The Muscat and the Blanc Du Bois are surprising but guaranteed pleasers for just about any Tex-Mex creation. They allow you to throw on as many jalapenos or spoonsful of red or green salsa you want and still be able to savor a fine wine experience. If you are still unconvinced with a sweet white wine with spicy red meat dishes, the Sister Creek Muscat also has a few bubbles of carbonation in it, to boot.

Classic Crispy Tacos or Chalupas (There’s meat served with lettuce, mild cheese, a crunchy fried shell, and maybe a little pico de gallo – a fresh salsa). Ray chose a medium-bodied red, Pinot Noir. His Raintree for $10 is indeed a find at that price. Well, Texas Pinot Noir, well I just won’t try to go there. Texas just sure as hell ain’t Burgundy, thank you very much!

For my pairing, I chose a medium bodied red wine, but a Texas red blend made from an unconventional combo of a French varietal and a Spanish varietal. It is Pilot Knob Franco Rojo, a blend of Tempranillo and Merlot that offers up just the right hints of spice overlaying red fruits to match beautifully with the tacos. It’s weight and aromatics are comparable with that of a California Pinot Noir, but with a more rustic edge.

Fajitas or tacos al carbon (protein, smoke with a little char)…Ray said: “Generally speaking, for meat dishes with few trimmings, a red with reasonably substantial tannins is a fine idea”, and he ended up with a Malbec from Argentina in the range of $12-15.

For my pairing, I will go with a blend of Spanish varietals commonly found in the Rioja region, but in this case both grown and savored here in Texas. It’s McPherson Cellars La Herencia ($11) is a blend of Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Carignan and Syrah with a graceful smokiness and a pleasant tannic punch of new American oak  that provides a worthy partnership for grilled meats.

Ray, I hope you are a good sport and understand that I don’t mean any disrespect for your non-wine selections. But, if I have to go true Texas Tex-Mex (as our friend Robb Walsh does at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe does just down the street from me – in “The Hood”) and also want a true locapour experience and gotta have my Texas wine on the table, too. For now, I’m glad that El Real has take-out so that I can bring it back to the house and pop a bottle of my favorite Texas wine. Maybe in the near future, he will feature a Texas wine or two.

Cheers and hope that you can sit in on our Sunday Texas wine panel (The Wines Of Texas Are Upon You) at the upcoming Austin Food and Wine Festival in April.

— — — — —

In the midst of Ray’s TexMex food and wine pairings he gave my new book, The Wineslinger Chronicles, and Robb’s Tex-Mex Cookbook a shout out. Ray said:

“I would be remiss if I didn’t add two important references to this rundown. Those who want to cook should check out Robb Walsh’s excellent The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos; those who want to drink (wine, that is) ought to take a gander at Russell Kane’s authoritative and engagingly readable The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine.”

Thanks for the mention! See you in Austin.

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.