Football and beer go together like baseball and hotdogs, but what about football and wine? Traditionally, wine has been benched on Sundays. But if you prefer to serve your guests something a step up from a can of suds, a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon on a chilly, fall afternoon can score a touchdown with your friends.
Kim Caffrey, football fanatic and senior wine educator at Beringer Vineyards, shares her winning strategy for scoring big with wine on football Sunday:
Evaluate your Players
First, look at the wines available to you and what each one has to offer. Some traditional favorites are Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is a versatile white wine that combines both citrus and ripe pear flavors with a soft, rounded body and hints of spice that make it a good match-up for a variety of foods. Merlot, a popular pick, has a good fruit pop with silky raspberry and black cherry flavors that make it a great all-purpose player. Cabernet Sauvignon is the linebacker on this team, with a big, bold taste that can stand up to the spicy, rich flavors of football snacks. But don’t forget about “the ringer,” something no one will expect but that is sure to win applause, like the Shiraz-Cabernet from Stone Cellars by Beringer. This team-up of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon has the deep, black fruit flavors of Cabernet combined with a kick of spice and red currant from the Shiraz -- it’ll be a favorite for Sunday afternoons.
Select your lineup
Second, you need to look at the food you will be serving and select wines that will support the team well. The flavors of the food and the wine should interact together, not overpower each other. Don’t worry if you have Buffalo wings and nachos on the menu, there are wines that will still pair nicely. Wines with good fruit flavors, soft tannins, and a medium-weight body are very versatile and can pair with a variety foods. The rich sauce and spiciness of the buffalo wings would play well with something like a Cabernet Sauvignon or the Shiraz-Cabernet mentioned above. I also suggest expanding the menu for a variety of different foods that complement wine. For example, there are lots of fun dips that are delicious and easy, such as a spinach and mushroom puff pastry footballs with a Merlot or a cheesy crab dip with a Chardonnay.
Make the necessary plays
Once you have your wines and foods selected, the last step is the seamless execution of the two for a crowd-pleasing victory. When determining how much wine to buy, figure that there are five glasses to a bottle. For football parties, I recommend easy magnum-sized bottles, which are double the regular size (ten glasses per bottle). Come on, it’s football -- a game where big always means better. And a magnum-size wine bottle is made to last through the game.
Kim Caffrey’s Favorite Football Party Recipes
Spinach & Mushroom Puff Pastry Footballs Pair with Stone Cellars Merlot
Makes 18 appetizers:
1/2 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 ounces fresh Chevre goat cheese
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
3 tablespoon olive oil
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, chopped and drained
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
One package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
One egg, slightly beaten
In large skillet over medium heat, saute onions and shallots in olive oil until slightly tender. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute until very tender (approximately 10 minutes), stirring regularly. Add spinach, crumbled goat cheese, tarragon, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate goat cheese and spinach well. Remove from heat.
On lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry sheet into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Cut into nine 3 inch by 3 inch squares and glaze edges with egg. Place a heaping teaspoon of the mushroom/spinach mixture in center of each square. Fold each square in half diagonally forming a "football" triangle shape. Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, seal edges with a fork and glaze tops with egg. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes in 400 degree oven. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve, or freeze and reheat at 350 F as needed.
Crab and Artichoke Dip Pair with Stone Cellars Chardonnay
1 onion, chopped
1 package of frozen artichoke hearts
2 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup of parmesan
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound of crabmeat
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil an 11-inch gratin or other shallow baking dish.
Cook artichoke hearts according to package instructions, then drain well and finely chop. In a heavy skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add onion and garlic and sauté until soft and golden. Stir in artichokes and transfer mixture to bowl.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour to create a roux, stirring until a light brown hue develops, approximately 3 minutes. Add half-and-half, constantly whisking until it thickens and slightly boils. Reduce heat and simmer, continuing to whisk for about 3 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in artichoke mixture, parmesan, lemon juice, salt, and crabmeat. Place mixture in baking dish and bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Dip can be prepared (but not baked) one day ahead and chilled, covered.