Now that Labor Day is behind us and the professional football season is starting, it’s time to think wine! Autumn is not a season devoted exclusively to beer. Yes, beer is a prominent feature for most Saturday and Sunday festivities. And, yes, I have been known to crush my fair share. With the trend towards more healthy living, wine can be a good substitute to the suds. Wineries are now canning the same great juice that goes into a bottle—making it more portable and able to chill down faster.

Here are some “Swiss Army” bottles or cans you can bring to any tailgate party that will accommodate the entire range of football foods.

Anything bubbly.

Sparkling wine goes with almost anything on the tailgate, except for the nuclear wings. The effervescence helps cut through the fatty foods and cleanses the palate to keep you always coming back for more. Lower in alcohol and with just a touch of residual sugar, it can take on some of your spicier foods without completely wrecking your palate. Spanish Cava is always my preferred choice. It is the perfect way to have a Champagne taste on a beer budget.

Look for Codorniu Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserva. Brilliant yellow color with green reflections. Fine, persistent bubbles forming continuous beads. On the nose, it displays citrusy and tropical fruit notes along with more complex aging aromas (toast, brioche) that enrich the range of aromas. On the palate, it is creamy, wide and long-lasting. This is available in both splits and regular bottles.

Stateside, Underwood in Oregon is canning their great bubbles in both white and rosé style. Crisp, clean and refreshing, these are perfect for tailgates since no wine glasses are required. They are also boat friendly!

California Pinot Noir

Bench Label
Bench Label

This crowd-pleaser red wine is juicy and vibrant. It’s the perfect companion to nachos and anything off the grill. Just watch out for the alcohol content. The alcohol will magnify the spicier foods, so lean towards the cooler climates for Pinot Noir, such as Sonoma Coast or Santa Lucia Highlands.

Bench Pinot Noir is a standout for me. Sourced primarily from Sangiacomo Amaral Ranch Vineyard in the Sonomal Coast AVA. This is a wine with a lean, elegant structure and vibrant acidity, reminiscent of Burgundy. It complements rich sauces, roasted meats, and loves to be paired with poultry. Wine glasses are required for this one, unless you are not sharing and drinking straight from the bottle!

Adam Arlen, Sommelier

Adam Arlen: “I am passionate about wine because it is history in a bottle.” Originally from Allentown, PA, he believes you should always branch out and find new things. His goal is to never stop learning and continuing to grow both personally and professionally. A fun fact about him: “I was a nuclear engineer on a submarine in a previous life.”