With the 96th season of National League Football well underway, it’s time to go that extra yard—and we don’t mean on the field. Makeshift picnics in stadium parking lots have grown into a national pastime, and while you may not be ready to invest in an SUV in team colors featuring a side-mounted grill, you can still stock up on wine and food perfect for a pre-coin toss party with class.
For an early afternoon game, opt for brunch munches, like bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Egg dishes should include Spanish omelets, but stay away from quiche. As the temperature drops, hearty foods such as stew, chili, grilled burgers and hot dogs are crowd-pleasers. And for the main ingredient—ahem, ahem, the wine—here are some ways to score:
Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut NV, Champagne, France; $75, 93 points. This Champagne is bone dry, with notes of citrus and jasmine, and a sharp mineral focus. Save a bottle or two for the victory party, but start off your tailgate feast with a Champagne toast served with egg dishes, bagels, or chicken salad.
Domaine Chandon Brut Classic NV, California; $18, 90 points. Celebrate with an American sparkler! In classic Champagne style, this is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, hailing from California. Flavors of apple and pear mingle with vanilla and brioche. Wonderful with sushi, baked eggs or turkey subs.
Lapostolle 2013 Casa Grand Selection Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile; $13, 84 points. Creamy in the mouth, with notes of orange blossom, lemon curd and a light oak finish, this Chilean Chardonnay is a great match for fried chicken or pasta salad.
Sokol Blosser Evolution NV, 18th Edition, Oregon; $15, 91 points. A blend of nine grapes and more than one vintage, Evolution is slightly off-dry with nice aromatic floral and spice notes. It pairs really well with cold Asian noodles, turkey sandwiches, or any spicy food.
Feudi di San Gregorio 2014 Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Italy; $17, 88 points. A crisp white wine with green apple, tropical fruit and strong mineral flavors, this Southern Italian white goes with much more than pizza and pasta. It’s a natural with seafood, so enjoy it with sushi or salad Niçoise.
Buitenverwachting 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia, South Africa; $12, 87 points. A textbook example of Sauvignon Blanc, tasting of lime, fig and fresh-cut green herbs, with accents of minerality. Its brightness is a nice complement to dumplings, turkey chili or grilled fish.
Château Tanunda 2007 Grand Barossa Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia; $19, 86 points. Shiraz is many people’s go-to barbecue wine. This full-flavored Aussie red is rich with cherries, wild raspberries and black pepper and spice, and works well with chili, ribs, burgers or grilled Portobello mushrooms.
Doubleback 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington; $99, 93 points. A bit of a splurge for a tailgate party, Doubleback is the brainchild of former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe and his winemaker buddy Chris Figgins. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Petit Verdot blended in, this robust red will more than hold up to anything fresh off the grill, from a juicy burger to a flame-kissed skirt steak.
Dinastia Vivanco 2009 Crianza, Rioja, Spain; $20, 88 points. A lusty Tempranillo tasting of red raspberries, vanilla, anise and a hint of tobacco, Dinastia Vivanco is a natural alongside kebabs—either beef, pork or shrimp—as well as burgers, ribs or stew.
Jeff Gordon 2011 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California; $50, 90 points. When you’re battling the traffic after the game, you’re going to wish you were on a racetrack, not in a parking lot! The famed race car driver’s Pinot Noir has a classic Pinot profile, with flavors of red cherry, chocolate and vanilla spice. It is an ideal accompaniment to turkey drumsticks, fried chicken or sliced hanger steak.