Hooray! Football’s back. And with it, that much-loved all-American institution, the tailgate party.
Thirteen years into the 21st century, the parking lot gatherings have become exhibitions of hedonistic sophistication we never dreamed of in the last century when I wore a freshman beanie.
Last season, after many years, I returned for a game at my alma mater, Michigan State University, and was stunned at how elaborate tailgate parties have become.
Whole square miles of sun-shade tents with folding tables, leather-clad recliners, flat-screen TVs, $1,000 Weber grills towed behind muscular pickup trucks – and the smell of grilling steaks, burgers, brats and pots of habanero-laced chili wafting over the campus. Parties so hearty I doubt some of the revelers made it to the game.
So here’s my annual plea: This late in history, are you really going to paint your face in school colors, shriek, “We will, we will rock you,” make questionable gestures with foam fingers … and drink wimpy light beer? I don’t think so.
What you need is wine. Hearty, flavorful wine. Whites and reds and, yes, rosés that you will, of course, drink responsibly since you do have to remember the words to your Alma Mater after the game – oh, and drive home.
So here’s my annual list of wines suited to football tailgate parties.
For grilled red meats, powerful red wines such as petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and such.
For grilled brats and roasted whole pig (yes, I saw that on a grill at Michigan State), powerful, aromatic dry whites such as gewürztraminer or chardonnay.
For grilled chicken and turkey drumsticks, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or rosé.
For grilled veggies – onions, eggplant, even cabbage and carrots – powerful dry rosé or herbal sauvignon blanc.
Finally, maybe a bottle of bubbly to toast your victory … or ease the pain of that melancholy but sometimes-unavoidable post-game vow: “Wait’ll next year!”
• Multivintage Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling Wine, Anderson Valley (60 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir): lots of lively bubbles, light and bright, with aromas and flavors of ripe pears and cloves; $23.
• 2012 Helfrich Gewurztraminer, Vin d’Alsace: dry and intensely fruity, with aromas and flavors of lychees and lemons; $15.
• 2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County: big, hearty and spicy, with flavors of plums and mocha; $18.
• 2011 Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: hearty, spicy black raspberry and cinnamon flavors, full-bodied, long finish; $20.
• 2009 Highflyer “Centerline” Red Blend, Napa Valley (53 percent syrah, 36 percent petite sirah, 8 percent zinfandel, 3 percent grenache): big, hearty and powerful, with rich cherry and cocoa flavors, firm tannins; $20.
• 2010 La Rochelle Rosé of Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands: light salmon color, aromas and flavors of strawberries and melons, very dry; $24.
• 2011 McManis Petite Sirah, Calif.: deep dark color, powerful and full-bodied, aromas and flavors of black plums and black coffee; $11.
• 2011 Rodney Strong Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill: toasty oak aromas, intense, ripe pineapple and lemon flavors, hint of minerals, long finish; $22.
• 2011 William Hardy Shiraz, South Australia: hearty but soft, with aromas and flavors of black plums and dark chocolate; $18.
• 2012 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile: floral aromas, light, crisp lemon-lime flavors; $10.
Fred Tasker has retired from the Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.