Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Mexican Food Mystery

Last week we got an order from El Jardin in Santa Cruz:


They wanted to bring in some local wines to add to their new venture in Santa Cruz. I've had a rant about the wine lists at Mexican restaurants for awhile that I've been meaning to write and this prompted me to do it.

I know when most people think Mexican food it's really Tex-Mex they are thinking of, and El Jardin would fall into that Tex-Mex/Cali-Mex category. What really got me ranting though was the high end places that have started to appear in the wake of the popularity of Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill and Topolobambo. We've tried a few in San Jose and of course I'll look at the wine list.

My first reaction is always WTF???? Chile???? Argentina???? Wines from those countries dominate the lists. Chile and Argentina have in common with Mexico the fact they were both once part of the Spanish Empire. So was Guam. Why no wine from Guam on the list?

California was once PART of Mexico. Over 50% of the people who work in the wine industry in California are first or second generation Mexicans! Don't you think California might just have a little more in common with Mexico and Mexican food than a country of Italian and German immigrants 4000 miles away (Argentina)!

Does Chile sound more Spanish, and thus more Mexican? More Spanish than say Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Santa Rita, Los Carneros, or Paso Robles?

In a time where everyone is thinking more about 'get local', what can be more local than Cali-Mex food with California wine?


Clementina said...

Hmm, does make sense. But did you know that Mexico has its own wine county in Baja California?
"A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate"

Paul Romero said...

I've never had a Baja wine, but would love to try them.

I think there are all kinds of wines that go well with Mole Sauces in particular.

Dave said...

I completely agree; one of my common rants is how little local wine there is in local restaurants.

Unfortunately when it comes to reds in the sub-$15 price range Argentina and Chile are beating us hands down for quality.

Thankfully there are exceptions, like Varner's Foxglove label. I just wish there were more of them.

Wes Barton said...

Most restaurant lists suck. Same with their storage, glassware, service, mark-up, etc. There's plenty to rant about.

Not sure I'd want Chinese wine at a Chinese restaurant or an Indian wine, well, ever. I'm more concerned about wines that go with the food. The worst thing for spicy is harsh oak. One of the most magical pairings I've had was a (masterfully made by me) jalapeno laden pizza with a Chilean Merlot that had velvety sort tannins. So, if it works, I don't care where it comes from...

But, I don't ever want to see boring mass produced generic plonk on a list. That just says they don't give a crap. A well crafted list should not only go well with the food, but excite the customer, be an extra reason for coming back. There are plenty of local wines here that can do all that. Kudos to El Jardin!

Paul Romero said...

I thought I'd put up the list from Frontera Grill/Topolobambo since I mentioned it.