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Photo: Alina Mendoza,

When it comes to tacos, Southern California can’t be beat. From street corner food trucks, to that go-to shop with a generic sounding name and unflattering fluorescent lighting, and fancier establishments elevating a casual favorite, San Diego boasts what seems to be an endless number of tasty options.

To help wash it all down, an ice cold beer seem like the natural selection.

However, what if I told you that wine is as good of a pairing for tacos as beer? As a taco enthusiast and self-proclaimed dark beer gal, this subject is unfamiliar. On the other hand, the San Diego-based experts I spoke with below make it their job to navigate the world of wine pairings, and they’ve got the rundown for uncorking the best grapes to match your taco habit.

Tammy Hoops, owner and sommelier of The Flight Path wine bar and bistro downtown explains, “With so many varietals and styles [of wine] to choose from, there are always great options to pair with all types of food…even tacos.”

“Like the present state of the wine world, tacos are versatile,” adds Derek Bacciocco, sommelier at LJ Crafted Wines in Bird Rock, a wine bar whose patent-pending technology allows wines to be poured directly from the oak in which they were aged.

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Photo: Alina Mendoza,


“Like the present state of the wine world, tacos are versatile.”


Hoops looks to South America for pairing charred meats, like carne asada. “Malbec from Argentina is a natural pairing,” she explains. “Look to South American wines for incredible values.”

“My preference is Napa Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Bacciocco. “I would recommend grabbing a growler of our 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that just won 92 points and a gold level award at a recent international wine competition.”


Regarding the grilled fish taco, Bacciocco recommends a full-bodied spicy Pinot Grigio from the Northeast of Italy. Body, I’ve learned refers to how heavy a wine feels in your mouth.

On the other hand, a battered fish taco is best paired with Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain.

Hoops likes Cava too, though she recommends pairing it with a vegetarian taco. “You can never go wrong with a dry sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco.”


With carnitas tacos, Hoops and Bacciocco agree that Spanish wines are the way to go. Hoops opts for a soft red like a Spanish garnacha to complement the saltiness of the pork. Alternately, Bacciocco says that the tannin structure – a characteristic of wine that gives it a tart mouthfeel – of a Tempranillo from Rioja, along with its savory and smoky notes holds up well against grilled meats.

For a fun taco night at home, pick up a growler from LJ Crafted Wines. Their growlers are filled with more wine than the typical bottle (33% more in fact) and their wine club includes 20% off additional refills and cork-sealed bottles after committing to the wine of the month.

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Wine, straight from the barrel at LJ Crafted Wines


“With so many varietals and styles [of wine] to choose from, there are always great options to pair with all types of food…even tacos.”


Prefer to dine out? There are a number of restaurants from Downtown to North County that offer a sizeable wine list to pair with their taco menu items. Downtown at The Headquarters, Puesto serves wines from South America, the buzzy Valle de Guadalupe and more. Wines from the Valle are poured from the tap, thanks to a direct partnership with the region’s select vintners and importers.

Lucien Conner, “Jefe” at Puesto recommends Lechuza’s Rosé with their Tamarindo Shrimp or Grilled Striped Bass taco.  Or, try a Madera 5 Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend with their Chicken Al Pastor taco, which comes with crispy melted cheese and is topped with pineapple habanero pico.

In La Jolla, Galaxy Taco also serves wines from Valle de Guadalupe and South America. Inland Tavern in San Marcos, which serves interesting takes on the taco offers a number of wines from California.

The next time you look to the keg, consider the barrel. However, generally speaking Bacciocco and Hoops both advise to stay away from fortified or overly sweet wines, like Moscato d’Asti.

Photos by: Alina Mendoza, ARoseTravels

Words by: Ligaya Malones, The Curious Passport