I grew up with a burrito in one hand and chopsticks in the other. It was just the way it was in ’60’s SoCal and ’70’s Central Cal.; Mexican food was fast and omnipresent and, since my parents were married in Japan after WWII, Japanese food was my comfort food. That early “culinary” experience continues to influence the way I think about food and wine to this day.
Most people in the U.S., if they thought about food and wine at all back then, saw it through a filter of intimidating pretense reserved for special occasions with service rituals and pairing rules. Sommeliers in upscale dining establishments would look down their nose with silver tastevin dangling, impatiently waiting for you to decide which wine you were going to select from the ten-pound leather-bound carte du vin while you attempted to impress your date with the perfect selection to go with her scampi and your duck à l’orange. Then, once you made a choice, you had to nervously pronounce “Puligny Montrachet” with a not-so-perfect French accent. Not much fun and not the way most of us want to eat and drink today.
Tacos go with beer or margaritas. Japanese food goes with beer and saké. It’s traditional but it’s also as restrictive as the tyranny of the fine dining rules. American food is the result of the melting pot. We incorporate ingredients from all parts of the world and our wines are liberated from Old World traditions – which is our strength and our weakness… but that’s another story. This freedom allows us to make unconventional choices. If I want, I can have Pinot Gris with my tacos. It is particularly good with fish tacos. I can also have it with my sushi or ramen. It works, it tastes good, it enhances the experience and it makes everything a little more pleasurable – and that’s all that really matters.