My Fast Food & Wine Pairing Experience: Pancheros

After reading an article recently about pairing fast food options with wine, I decided to try my own version to see if it was even worth attempting to pair in my opinion.  I decided that I would like to try the concept of fast food pairing with some of my favorite carry-out options.  I want to test a spicy Chinese dish with a Rose, a local fried chicken joint with a barrel fermented Chardonnay, a local pizzeria pairing as well as a burger pairing from the local dive bar that dishes out some fabulous, juicy burgers and hand-cut fries.  My first experiment was with one of my go-to lunch/dinner on the run stops, Pancheros.

One evening I stopped at Pancheros Mexican Grill and bought a steak and carnita burrito with chips and salsa for dinner.  For those of you unfamiliar with Pancheros, it is similar to a Chipotle.  They make their own homemade tortillas and press them fresh when you order and load up the burrito with your choice of proteins and fresh vegetables (along with the typical rice and beans). In a word, delicious. On my drive home, I decided that I would try to pair it with a red wine that I had at home.  Upon finding a Tempranillo on my shelf, I decided to go for it. The Tempranillo was from Spain, the burrito derives from Mexico.  They speak Spanish in both countries.  That seemed like enough reason for me to pair them.  In all seriousness, I thought the flavors from this wine would compliment the pulled pork in my burrito.  This pairing did not fail me.  The particular wine I purchased was fairly weak in intensity, but the savory spice flavors in the wine married with the acidity of the pico de gallo and chips as well as the fresh veggies and meat in the burrito.  I would definitely put this combo together again!

Alamos Red Blend


Red Blend (Malbec, Bonarda and Tempranillo)


(Mendoza, Argentina)

On Bottle/Website:

* Displays deep, ripe flavors of blackberry and plum with layers of brown spice

* Vineyards lie in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, with intense sunlight and pure snowmelt water

* Embody the richness of this rugged, remote region

* 13.5% ABV

My Notes:

* Appearance:  clear, day bright, medium intensity, ruby/garnet, purple rim, medium plus viscosity

* Nose: sound, clean, medium intensity, aroma/youthful, dark berries, blackberry, brown baking spice

* Palate:  dry, medium bodied, confirms nose, medium plus alcohol, medium intensity, medium complexity, medium length

When I purchased this wine I was on my way to a friend’s house to enjoy a rigatoni dish filled with fresh garden vegetables.  I wanted to pick up a Malbec from Argentina to pair with this meal.  I recognized the Alamos bottle from a review I had recently read and struggled with the choice of the red blend or full Malbec.  Although I do not put a large amount of stock in wine ratings, as everyone’s tastes are subjective, the sign about this particular red blend getting a high rating from Wine Enthusiast did sway my decision.  It was a slightly older vintage than the Malbec, while also having Malbec as the primary grape varietal, so I thought I would take a risk.

I am glad that I purchased this bottle because we were both very pleased with the smooth, slightly spicy taste.  We had a difficult time pinpointing the actual spices, even after clearing out her spice cabinet and comparing the aroma in the wine with the smells of the different spices.  It was a great refresher in one of the tasting exercises I have completed about olfactory acuity.  Ringing in at just above ten dollars, I will certainly purchase this wine again in the near future.  It paired very well with the tomato, basil and other vegetables in our dish.

Tasting Exercise: Barrel Presence

My goal while learning about different wines is to become proficient in all of the aspects of tasting.  There are a plethora of tasting exercises that can be completed to help accomplish this goal.  This week I will be focusing on learning about barrel presence in wine.

* Pour a Chardonnay with no oak (AOP Chablis from a producer known to utilize stainless steel or older oak) versus a Chardonnay with oak (Premier or Grand Cru Puligny-Montrachet from a producer known to utilize oak).

* Taste side by side, knowing which one is which.  Describe any notes that remind you of smells related to oak in wine: cinnamon, vanilla, cedar, coconut, dill, etc.)

*Blind taste the two wines in a “Lazy Susan” fashion five times.  Repeat five days in a row.

* Repeat the same exercise with other grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Syrah, etc.

Manyana Tempranillo






On Bottle/Website:

* 12.5% alcohol

* Vines planted over 2,000 years ago by the Romans

* Juicy classic saturated with wild black fruits, cherries and a hint of savory spices

* Perfect with all kinds of meat and veggies

* Pairs well with the classic regional dish of olives and salted almonds

My Notes:

Appearance- clear, bright, purple, low concentration, rim variation (lighter purple on the edges), low viscosity

Nose- clean, weak intensity, young, black cherry, blackberry, plum, cinnamon, unidentified spices, red rose

Palate- dry, light bodied, confirms nose, much less fruit in the taste than on the nose, more dark flowery and spices on palate, medium alcohol, medium minus acidity, low tannin, short finish, low complexity

On its own, this wine did nothing to impress me.  It was not a bad wine, it just didn’t offer much in terms of flavor.  It was very weak in intensity, which has its time and place.  Paired with a steak and carnita burrito and some chips and salsa, though, this wine was a great accompaniment.  It was light enough to not overpower the flavors of the fresh, acidic vegetables.  The wine also had light fruit flavors that melded well with the steak and pulled pork.

I also drank it the next night with spaghetti squash and a ground turkey spaghetti sauce with zucchini and yellow squash.  The Tempranillo was a good match for this dish as well. I will not purchase this wine simply as a drinking wine, but it has its place with the right meal.  And ringing in at under $10, it is certainly at an everyday drinking price point.

La Rioja Alta S.A. Cosecha

La Rioja Alta S.A.

Cosecha Gran Reserva 904


(Rioja, Spain)


On Bottle/Website:

* Sour edge berries and plum nose, prune, dried fig, vanilla, church wood, earthy and baking spices

* Light/medium body, light tannins, smooth texture, fresh acidity

* 12.5% ABV

* 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano

My Notes:

Appearance: clear, bright, medium high intensity, garnet, orange at rim, medium plus viscosity

Nose: sound/clean, high intensity, bouquet/aged, raisin, dried fruits, dried cherry, fig, date, dried dill, dried cumin

Palate: dry, medium bodied, confirms nose, soy, iodine, briny, medium high tannins, medium plus alcohol, medium plus acidity, high complexity, medium plus finish