Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wines for the Super Bowl

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Given that the next big game will be held outside of San Francisco, drinking California wines would only be appropriate. Since the weather is likely to be divine, as it mostly is in California in the winter, a touch of sparkling might pair well with going to the game (or watching it on TV). That could be an austere Champagne or a fizzy Prosecco.

California is home to so many lovely Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay-based varietals as well. Many of the state's Rhone blends and roses are superb as well, such as the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare rose is a blend of primarily Grenache and Mourvedre.

Sometimes it is fun to taste friends blind at halftime with a lineup of semi-known varietals. I once played around with a dozen fruit-forward and sublimely tannic Cape Blends from South Africa during the Super Bowl a few years ago in New York, but this could be done with Napa Cabernet Sauvignons, Coastal Red blends, Monterey Pinots or inventive whites.

The key is just to get each guest to bring a wine, within the theme, and then cover it up with silver foil or a Mylar bag (and put numbers on them with a big black marker). Everyone can taste and compare notes during commercials and if you are the host you can keep the cheat sheet at the ready and give hints if you like. Their real identity can also be a fun point of post-game discussion if your friends' team doesn't win.

Pairing Wines with Super bowl Foods
So everyone loves fried chicken. Even in San Francisco, which is reported to be one of the country's healthiest cities, we eat it by the bucket if it is suitably crispy. This kind of rich, intense fried food needs a wine with good acidity. So a sparkling wine or a cool-climate white, such as a German Riesling or Loire Valley white would pair beautifully.

Guacamole, even if it's home made, will need a richer, more intense wine. However it should be something not too tannic. A Bogle vineyards Merlot or even a lighter-bodied Pinot Noir, such as Heron--and those from many other regions in Italy--would do the trick. If you have the budget, those Russian River and Sonoma Coast Pinots would work beautifully as well.

If you want to do Taco Salad, a favorite in my family all-year round, you will need a more robust red. Something with a handful of tannins and a higher alcohol structure, such a the Broadside Margarita Vineyard Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon or a Zinfandel, will be compatible with the meat and spice of those taco chips. Big reds from the slightly hotter Sierra Foothills or Amador County will usually be a fit.

It you are putting that meat on the grill, think of pairing it with intense, high-alcohol reds that will step up to the sweetness in BBQ sauce or catsup on that burger. They can be simple, fruity and affordable: particularly if you are drinking them in a backyard. The Sobon Estate "Fiddletown," Zinfandel has long been one of my favorites for its richness and length. It has enough tannines to get out there with some of the most tender BBQ ribs or pulled pork in town. Enjoy that game!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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