When you have run through the most important decisions about Super Bowl Sunday – where to watch, what to eat, who to sit with – you get down to the nitty gritty of choosing your refreshing beverages. And naturally, historically, automatically, perhaps genetically, you think, “Beer.”
But I ask you, why not wine? Wine is versatile, it’s crowd-friendly, it’s cheap if you purchase smartly. Given the setting of this year’s Super Bowl – Dallas, the home of great barbecue – wine makes a whole lot of sense.
For your starting wine lineup, playing against a fearsome front four of chips, dips, cured meats and cheeses, I’m advising you to go with bubbles. Whether Spanish cava, Australian fizz, California bubbly, French Champagne or Italian Prosecco, bubbles are going to jump-start the party and provide a perfect counterpoint to any and all salty foods.
Assuming that the wine is not the center of attention, cheap bubbly will do just fine. Keep it dry (brut) and avoid the sweet junk that sells for under $8 a bottle. At that price, you are far better off with beer.
Here are some excellent sparklers, most of them done in the Champagne method (that is, re-fermented in the individual bottle), at prices that Champagne can’t match.
Woodbridge NV Brut, $10. A sparkling addition to the Woodbridge line is this just slightly off-dry brut made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes. Though not méthode champenoise, it is well-made, with smallish bubbles and no carbonated roughness.
Korbel 2008 Brut, $16. I don’t agree with Korbel’s use of the word Champagne on their label (it reads California Champagne, but in truth it’s California sparkling wine, and not real Champagne). The blend is a little odd (chardonnay, sangiovese and French colombard), but the flavor is good, the method of manufacture is traditional, the grapes are grown organically, and for the first time, the wine is vintage-dated.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Blanc de Blancs, $12. Nice package, yeasty, with a pretty toasted coconut flavor that spices up the fruit. Primarily chardonnay, with no perceptible residual sugar.
Domaine Ste. Michelle NV Blanc de Noirs, $12. Though excessively foamy, once it settles down this wine has a pretty pale copper shade, and a hint of strawberry and cherry in the fruit flavor. It’s dry and delicate, with a clean, persistent finish.
Also: Piper Sonoma NV Brut, $15, one of the best-made California sparklers; Rotari Talento Brut, $10; Marques de Gelida 2006 Cava, $13.
Bubbles downed, it’s time to move on to the main course. If your halftime show has barbecue on the center stage, you will want a burly red to match the fireworks.
Try a peppery syrah or red blend: Kenwood 2008 Red Blend ($8), Blacksmith Syrah ($14), Cameron Hughes Lot 177 Syrah ($15), Kendall-Jackson 2007 Summation ($14) or Pedroncelli 2007 Petite Sirah ($15).
Washington wineries have been releasing a treasure chest of blended reds at sub-$20 prices, and many of these are essentially the same wines as the $30 or $40 offerings.
Here’s a list of can’t-miss Washington reds:
• William Church 2008 Bishop’s Blend Red, $20. The best ever, seductive and smoky, with sweet fruit and toasty barrel spices.
• Barrister NV Rough Justice Red, $20. This wine rocks; it has fruit power, punch and presence.
• Saviah Cellars 2008 The Jack, $18. Mostly merlot, full-bodied and forward.
• DiStefano 2006 Domenica Red, $20. A Bordeaux blend with seductive aromas of mocha, cedar and toast.
• Thurston Wolfe 2008 Dr. Wolfe’s Family Red, $16. A full-bodied, rustic, ripe, red blend.
Also: Rulo Syrca, $15; Tamarack Firehouse Red, $15; Helix by Reininger Pomatia Red, $15; JM Cellars Bramble Bump Red, $20; Januik 2007 Red, $18; Novelty Hill 2007 Royal Slope Red, $18; L’Ecole No. 41 2008 Recess Red, $17; Gifford Hirlinger 2007 Stateline Red, $16; Waterbrook 2007 Mélange Noir, $15; Syncline 2009 Subduction Red, $18; The Ghost of 413 2007 Red, $15; Mark Ryan 2008 The Vincent Board Track Racer, $20; Cuillin Hills 2008 Riff-Raft, $19; Portteus Bistro Red, $10; Goose Ridge 2008 g3 Red, $18; Basel Cellars 2007 Claret, $18; Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude Red, $20; McCrea Non Sequitur Red, $20; Stevens 2008 Yes Oui Si Red, $18; Robert Karl 2008 Claret, $20; Chinook Yakima Valley Red Blend XII, $15; Trust Cellars 2009 TATT Red, $17; Arbor Crest NV Cliff House Red, $14.
On a real tight budget? Go with a three-liter box wine. Each box holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine and comes with a handy pouring spout.
Best of show is the Bota Box 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel ($19 – that’s less than $5/bottle). In general, Bota Box does a terrific job with its three-liter lineup, which also includes vintage-dated malbec, merlot and shiraz.
Other good three-liter options are the Boho Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel ($18) and the Black Box Merlot ($20).
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