Many of today’s local Mexican restaurants are nothing like the ones baby boomers and gen-xers grew up with. Modern Mexican cuisine can be sophisticated and very wine friendly, and the wine lists from three notable Orange County restaurants reflect this compatibility.
Taco María in Costa Mesa has a compact wine list that includes 27 worldwide options. You can mix and match any of the 14 wines offered by the glass, or opt to follow the staff’s lead and choose the suggested wine pairings menu ($26) that accompanies the four-course prix fixe dinner. The wine list offers some excellent food-friendly options including a pinot gris from Eola Hills in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an albariño from Paco & Lola in Rias Baixas, Spain, and a rosé from Jean-Luc Colombo in Cornas, France.
Anepalco’s Cafe in Orange has a more extensive wine list (41 wines, 12 by the glass) classified by varietal and accompanied by concise descriptors of the style and character of each. This is the only Orange County restaurant I know of that has wines from Baja California, including top producers such as L.A. Cetto, Bodegos Santo Tomas, and Alximia. There are several familiar domestic names as well, including Piper Sonoma, Rancho Sisquoc, Cakebread, and Hess. Twenty bottles are priced at $40 or less, making wine a good option for Anepalco’s French-inspired Mexican food.
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen in Orange has the largest and most eclectic wine list among this trio. Many producers are unfamiliar to all but the most wine knowledgeable, but the staff is well trained to assist. The 83 wines by the glass range from $8 to $14 (dessert wines, $14 to $25), and the 112 total wines span every corner of the world including California, Oregon, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Republic of Macedonia, and South Africa. Twenty-nine are priced under $50. When I dine at Gabbi’s, I usually choose one of the hearty syrahs from California or France, or the blaufränkish from Austria.