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Carl Hudson
June 15, 2024 | Carl Hudson

Taste of Texas: Toast to Tacos

A pairing event is scheduled in the Texas Wine Collective Event Center on Sunday, 30-June-2024, with sessions at 12:30 and 2:30 pm. Attendees will be able to taste a range of wines from the TWC portfolio specifically paired with different styles of tacos, one of the most popular comfort foods in Texas. The taco food bites to accompany the wines will be created by TWC operations manager Amber Saidler and prepared by Chef Marshall and the TWC Cork and Fork Food Truck staff.

Check the website to make your reservations: www.texaswinecollective.com. Please join us!

Reservations and prepayment are required.


Proposed Menu:

Crispy Pan-Fried Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce

Lost Oak Winery Reserve Roussanne 2022 TX High Plains AVA

Texas Wine Collective Albarino 2023 TX High Plains AVA (by McPherson Cellars)


Carne Asada Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Brennan Vineyards Graciano 2019 Texas

Abacela Winery Graciano 2019 Umpqua Valley AVA Oregon


Chocolate Cheesecake Tacos with Dark Cherries

McPherson Cellars Texas Wanderer Red 2022 TX High Plains AVA

Lost Oak Winery Mourvèdre 2022 Texas High Plains AVA


The taco as we know it today is a blend of ancient Mexican recipes and a range of international influences that have refined and re-defined this popular comfort food. As an introduction to today’s event, let’s take a look at the history of tacos. Where did tacos originate and what changed to create the tasty versions we know today?

Tacos are thought to have come from Mexico, long before the Spanish arrived. Those tacos did not contain lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, avocado, etc. Ancient inhabitants of Mexico made soft, flat corn tortillas and filled them with whatever was available - fish, fire roasted or stewed meats, roasted vegetables or plant roots, and chiles. This provided a staple meal with vital nutrients and energy.

One of the oldest mentions of the term taco comes from an 1836 cookbook in which the author describes the preparation of a strip of roasted pork loin rolled into the shape of a “taco de tortilla.” Some food historians speculate that the concept for a taco wasn’t originally associated with food, but rather came from Mexican silver miners in the 18th century. These miners wrapped gunpowder in paper to form something that looked like a “taquito” which was inserted into cracks and holes in the rocks before detonation. This makes etymological sense as the word taco in Spanish can also mean a wedge or plug, and that would relate back to the miners’ “gunpowder taquitos.”

Tortillas filled with fish, cheaper cuts of meat, or beans were one of the most common foods for these miners and other working-class folks. So, it is likely the miners wrapped their meal in a corn tortilla that looked a lot like their gunpowder taquitos. Around this time tacos became a popular street food and were often advertised as miners’ tacos, or “tacos de minero.“ These were not the stuffed, hard-shell concoctions we know today, but they did offer a filling, often spicy, and affordable meal.

It should be noted that use of the term taco was based on regional influence, specifically from Mexico City and surrounding areas. Other regional names existed, like burrito in northern areas as well as codzito (coçito) in Yucatán and Quintana Roo. Due to the cultural influence of Mexico City, the term taco became the default while other terms either fell by the wayside or evolved to mean something else.


Lost Oak Winery Reserve Roussanne 2022 Texas High Plains AVA

This richly flavored white is a blend of Roussanne 83% from Six Harts Vineyard, Tokio, Terry/Yoakum County, and Chardonel 17% Chardonel from JLor Vineyard, Burleson, Johnson County. Machine harvested fruit was pressed and fermented cold in SS tanks. The cuvées were aged 9 months in 1 year old French oak barrels (40%), neutral oak barrels (55%), and stainless steel tank (5%); blended and bottled @ 14% ABV, 0% RS (dry). Winemakers Jim Evans and Angela Chapman enjoy working with Roussanne as evidenced by this reserve bottling with attractive aromas of vanilla spice and buttered toast that are highlights of oak aging. Roussanne grape skins have a reddish-brown hue when ripe and the grape name derives from the French word roux meaning rusty or russet color. Flavors include dried apple, vanilla, ginger, with notes of sage and lavender. This pairs well with bacon spinach artichoke dip, grilled swordfish, cheese enchiladas with avocado cream sauce, crème brulée dessert, and carries plenty of texture and flavor to pair with Crispy Pan-Fried Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce.


Texas Wine Collective Albarino 2023 Texas High Plains AVA (by McPherson Cellars)

Kim McPherson and Spenser Igo produced this 100% Albarino with grapes sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards (probably Lost Draw Vineyards near Brownfield). The fruit was mechanically harvested at 22.2oBrix, pressed, juice fermented cool at 56oF for 25 days, aged in SS tank (4 mo?), and bottled @ 12.4% ABV, 0.5% RS (essentially dry). The team at McPherson Cellars focused on capturing that late spring/early summer vibe with a citrus driven nose of kumquats, key lime, and preserved lemon that turns to under-ripe peach and wildflower honey on the palate. The wine is delicate, floral, and irresistibly thirst-quenching – garden or pool party ready. Pair this with pan-sautéed tilapia or trout, turkey club sandwiches, spring pastas, especially with English peas, mint, and morels, and enjoy a glass after spring gardening. This Texas version of Albarino should be a good match for Crispy Pan-Fried Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Lime Sauce.


It is believed the primary introduction of The Taco to the United States came in the early 1900s when Mexican migrants brought their version with them to work on railroads, farms, and other jobs. Tacos are a common form of antojitos, or Mexican street food, which have spread around the world. Tacos quickly became popular in many major cities. Female tamal vendors in Los Angeles and “chili queens” in San Antonio served tortillas filled with meat or beans along with bowls of chili. One can only imagine what Americans unfamiliar with such spicy foods must have thought when they first tried these street tacos.

By the 1920’s, the food that Mexican immigrants brought with them began to fuse with American ingredients that offered more familiar, more subtle flavors. Ground beef and chicken, cheddar cheese, cool lettuce, tomatoes, and avocados became standard fillings. In short, the taco was becoming a Mexican-American fusion.

Hard-shell tacos were developed in the United States. The pre-fried U-shaped taco shell we love didn’t come into existence until the 1930s-40s. It has been reported that various Mexican restaurants invented this idea to expedite the taco-making process. The hard-shell or crispy taco was first mentioned in a cookbook in 1949. Previously, taco ingredients were cooked to order and used to fill soft corn or flour tortillas. The pre-made crunchy shell made it easier to mass-produce tacos and the American fast-food chain Taco Bell certainly took this idea and ran with it. Soon crisp-fried corn tortillas filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, and sometimes beans, tomato, onion, salsa, sour cream, and avocado or guacamole became available in many restaurants, fast-food chains, and roadside stands. These hard-shell tacos are sometimes called in Spanish tacos dorados (golden tacos), a name they share with taquitos that are fried to a golden color.

Food historians note that by the late 1930s companies began to sell appliances used to cook hard-shell tortillas for making tacos. The first patents for such appliances were filed in the 1940s. The use of these appliances in producing hard-shell tacos became especially prevalent in California and Texas.

In the mid-1950s, Glen Bell opened Taco Tia in San Bernardino, CA, and began selling a simplified version of hard-shell tacos modeled after those served in several neighboring Mexican restaurants. Bell expanded his operations in southern California with restaurants called El Taco. He eventually sold the El Taco restaurants to a partner and opened the first Taco Bell in 1962 (Downey, CA). Kermit Becky, a former Los Angeles police officer, bought the first Taco Bell franchise in 1964 and located it in Torrance, CA. The company grew rapidly, and by 1967, the 100th Taco Bell opened in Anaheim. In 1968, the first franchise east of the Mississippi River opened in Springfield, OH. Doesn’t it seem like there is a Taco Bell restaurant around almost every corner?

Related to the hard-shell tortilla, puffy tacos were probably created at Henry’s Puffy Tacos in San Antonio around 1978. Uncooked corn tortillas (flattened balls of masa dough) are quickly fried in hot oil until they expand and become "puffy," leaving a center vacancy in the same way a sopapilla gets puffy. Fillings used are similar to hard-shell versions and puffy tacos have now spread far and wide.


Brennan Vineyards Graciano 2019 Texas

This blend features Graciano 79%, Carménère 13%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 8%. The grapes were machine harvested, destemmed, crushed, fermented in stainless steel tanks or macrobins, and the wine was aged in mostly used American and French oak barrels for 16 months. This is a delightful version of the grape often grown alongside Tempranillo in Spain and blended to enhance color, flavor, and tannins.  It certainly showcases the potential of this grape variety in the Lone Star State. Aromas of black cherry and black raspberry carry into similar flavors with notes of vanilla spice, sweet tobacco, suede leather, and chalky road dust. This bold red seems to call out for grilled meat or sausages and should pair well with today’s Carne Asada Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa.


Abacela Winery Graciano 2019 Umpqua Valley AVA Oregon

The fruit for this 100% Graciano was machine harvested from Abacela estate’s Fault Line Vineyard, destemmed, sorted, crushed, and fermented in SS tanks. The wine was aged 18 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels and bottled at 13.8% ABV. Dark garnet in color, the wine opens with aromas of black cherry and plum plus some floral notes. The texture of the wine is sleek and silky with flavors of black currant, blackberry, and notes of mocha and soft baking spices that lead to a lush finish with velvety tannins and hints of black tea and fresh tobacco. Graciano is a wonderful partner for Tempranillo, adding color, texture, and flavor to blends. It works well on its own and Texas winemakers are growing fond of the variety. This wine makes a great pairing with grilled, roasted, or BBQ’d meats and poultry, and should be a delicious match with most tacos.


The word "taco" is actually quite new and represents a relatively modern invention that appears to be less than 100 years old. It has always been interesting, certainly to me, that so many different Mexican food items can be derived from a similar set of ingredients. For example, consider the following variations that can use meat/seafood, beans, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, avocado, etc.:

Taco - corn or flour tortilla folded over ingredients

Burrito - larger flour tortilla filled with ingredients and rolled and wrapped rather than folded

Taquito/Flauta - tortilla filled with ingredients, rolled tightly and fried

Quesadilla - large tortilla filled with ingredients, folded, pan-grilled

Chalupa/Tostada - flat tortilla topped with ingredients and pan toasted

Tacodilla - melted cheese between two folded tortillas, resembling a quesadilla.

And there are many Mexican-influenced dishes where the diner can, on their own, add a range of ingredients to tortillas that are served alongside the meal, such as fajitas, carne asada, carnitas, pollo asado, and others.

Nowadays, you can find tacos practically everywhere, from your local street food stand to many family style or gourmet restaurants. Each place has a different experience to offer, whether it’s a more authentic Mexican style or a Mexican-inspired fusion meal. As the 21st Century began there appeared a trend in many Mexican restaurants of turning away from Americanized, fusion ingredients to those offering a more realistic taste of Mexico. Instead of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, etc., soft corn tortillas filled with more authentically flavored meats, cilantro, radish slices, grilled onions and a wide assortment of hot sauces are found on menus.

Dessert tacos represent an even wider range for tacos. It seems that finishing a meal with something sweet is an important part of the dining experience. Tacos filled with fruit, dulce de leche, chocolate, s’mores, banana split, ice cream and toppings, or tropical pina colada ingredients, and other sweet concoctions make for delicious dessert bites. Today we offer a creative chocolate cheesecake taco with cherrries to enjoy with two lighter-styled, delicious Texas red wines.


McPherson Cellars Texas Wanderer Red 2022 TX High Plains AVA

This red blend is inspired by Randy Booher who is a part of our Texas Wine Collective team. Randy works with Kim McPherson to create wines under the Wanderer label as part of the TWC portfolio. This red is a blend of Mourvèdre 61%, Cinsault 15%, Grenache 14%, Syrah 6%, and Petite Sirah 4%. Sounds like the McPherson Cellars crew had fun with this one. The fruit was sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards, fermented separately, aged (avg 8 mo?), selected cuvées were then blended and bottled @ 13.5% ABV, 0.2% RS (dry). This ruby colored wine has aromas of cherry, cardamom, red plum, and lilac floral notes. The flavors include tart cherry, raspberry, and wild strawberry with notes of white peppercorn and sweet tobacco. The finish is smooth with moderate tannins and hints of espresso and milk chocolate. With these characteristics, we are excited to pair this wine with a Chocolate Cheesecake Taco and Dark Cherries.


Lost Oak Winery Mourvèdre 2022 TX High Plains AVA

Mourvèdre, also known as Mataró or Monastrell, is a red grape variety commonly grown in France and Spain. It does well in warm to hot climates with lots of sunlight, thus making it a good addition to Texas winemaking. Although most famous for blending with Grenache and Syrah to create GSM wines, Mourvèdre can produce quality varietal bottlings. This 100% Mourvèdre was sourced from Texas High Plains vineyards, where mechanically harvested fruit was destemmed, crushed, fermented in SS tank, aged in mostly used American and French oak barrels for 14 months, and bottled at 13.8% ABV, 0% RS (dry). Ruby in color, this Mourvèdre opens with gentle floral notes backed by aromas of spicy cardamom, tart cherry, blackberry, white peppercorn, and tobacco. The flavors follow with black cherry, raspberry, ripe cranberry, and plum fruit with some earthy, woody, black tea notes. The finish offers medium tannins with hints of baking spice, espresso, and dark cocoa powder that linger on the palate.


In addition to hard shell or soft tacos loaded with fresh tomato, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and the authentic flavor of cilantro, experiments with various delicious meats are upgrading the dining experience. Ranging beyond the more common ground beef, shredded chicken or pork, and seafood, such as white fish or shrimp, a wider range of meats are being used, like lamb Gyro, chicken schwarma, barbecued beef, pulled pork, smoked chicken or turkey, and Korean bulgogi, just to mention a few.

There are many interesting and different food items from around the world that have similar shape and function to the taco. There are Chinese and Korean egg rolls or potstickers, more properly called mandu, that can certainly resemble tacos. Mediterranean restaurants often serve lamb gyro or chicken schwarma folded into a soft pita bread pocket that looks a lot like a taco. Classic pirogies have a shape and concept similar to tacos. These filled dumplings, containing various meat and vegetable options, probably originated in China and came to eastern Europe via trade exchanges. Like tacos, chefs are having fun creating new versions of pirogies. An empanada is a turnover filled with meat, cheese, tomato, corn, or other ingredients commonly enjoyed in many Spanish-speaking countries, including South America, the Philippines, and Caribbean nations. They are made by folding dough over a filling, then either baking or frying. In Europe there are crepes and blintzes that resemble a taco. Finally, does a cheese and meat-filled Italian manicotti shell covered with sauce remind you of a taco?

The future of tacos looks bright. Confident chefs are exploring options for more delicious fusion tacos with influences from around the world. This cultural exchange can only deepen America’s appreciation for Mexico’s ancient taco.

There are many non-traditional variations of tacos. So-called soft-shell tacos use tortillas that are cooked – usually grilled or steamed – to be softer and then filled. These are most often served folded and not rolled like a burrito. Breakfast tacos come in many variations filled with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, beans, etc., and use soft shell tortillas most often rolled rather than folded. Some claim these were first created in Austin, but others strongly argue that San Antonio is the home of breakfast tacos.

Indian or Navajo tacos are made using flour-based frybread instead of tortillas. They are commonly eaten at pow-wows, festivals, and other gatherings by and for indigenous people in the United States and Canada. Navajo tradition indicates frybread came into use in the 1860s when the government forced the tribe to relocate on reservation land that would not support their traditional crop of maize or corn.


So, to close, let me encourage you to support Texas grape growers and winemakers by opening your favorite Texas wines when enjoying tacos. And remember to suggest to your restaurant servers and hosts that many Texas wines pair wonderfully with tacos and many other types of Tex Mex cuisine.

Let us all drink well, my friends.


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