Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
I associate fajitas with being outdoors, possibly because the first time I had a fajita was at a rodeo in Texas sometime in the mid-’70s, I fully remember some guy in a cowboy hat behind a stand yelling “Fa-HEE-tas” with great regularity and wondering what the heck they were. Those particular fajitas turned out to be beef, of course; since that time, chicken has made substantial inroads into the realm of the fajita, and, Lord knows, there are probably tofu fajitas, too.
Essentially, you’re picking a wine to go with a mass of wildly different flavors. So you want one that goes with, more or less, anything.
There’s also a general pairing rule of thumb that suggests matching weight with weight - with a delicate piece of sole, pour a lighter wine; with something like a fajita, pour a wine with more heft. It’s a handy guideline, especially when you don’t want to think about nuances of flavor.
With fajitas, following these two guidelines, there are a number of reds out there that would work just fine - Monastrell from Spain, Malbec from Argentina, a Grenache-based red from the South of France - but from California, I’d go for Zinfandel, for instance one of the following:
2009 Alexander Valley Vineyards Temptation Zinfandel ($12)
2010 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel ($12)
2010 Sobon Estate Amador County Old Vines Zinfandel ($13)
2009 Ravenswood Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel ($13)
2010 Quivira Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($22)
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