Hail to the. . . Red Wine? Sips for Tailgating This Fall

My parents used to tailgate in high style at the Strawberry Hill races in Virginia when I was growing up. I remember my mother packing up the station wagon with her sterling silver platters and chafing dishes to lay the prefect tailgate display. There was pea salad, spinach dip in pumpernickel bread, carved watermelons in crystal bowls, Jefferson cups, strawberries and powdered sugar in silver bowls and, of course, a huge Smithfield ham on its massive platter. All would be laid out on the back of the table-clothed tailgate of the Oldsmobile. I remember my sister and I running around and checking out the other tailgate parties along the rope. I also remember Dad and his associates standing around in tweed jackets with patches on the elbows mixing cocktails from shiny silver flasks of whiskey.

I tried to recreate my parent’s flair of entertaining and southern hospitality several years ago for Gold Cup. Silver platters? Check. Strawberries and powdered sugar? Check. Linen table cloths? Check. Flasks of whiskey? No check! This time we packed the SUV with wine.

Be it tailgating at the horse races, Redskins games or your alma mater’s homecoming, wherever there is an outdoor sporting event, there will be wine and food. If it’s your inclination this fall to pack up your car and entertain with style out the back of it too, do it with wines that will please tailgaters and their palates.

First, a couple of rules of thumb for selecting and serving wines for tailgates to make your spread easy and delicious:

  1. Pair simple but flavorful wines with simple foods.

  2. For fancier foods, by all means breakout the champagne. In my opinion, champagne goes with everything.

  3. Food-friendly red wines varietals like Tempranillo or Sangiovese will please a wide range of your tailgaters palates.

  4. Offer a semi-sweet white and a dry white, if you can, for the “I only drink white wine” tailgaters. Here are a couple of recommendations to bring along to the game:

White Burgundy

Big oaky chardonnays don’t always pair well with food. So while you want to make sure you have some whites on hand for your sports fans, serve a lightly oaked, more subtle chardonnay like this white burgundy (French Chardonnay) from Pouilly Fuissé, France: LaBoure-Roi Vallon D’Or 2011.

Riesling or Pinto Gris

Riesling from Washington State that is on the sweeter side is generally liked by many new wine drinkers. So for those new alums returning for Homecoming and tailgating with you at you alma mater, you might consider packing the Pinot Gris or Riesling from Columbia Valley’s Cht. Ste. Michelle. These wines are simple but travel well. Both wines will pair well with spicy barbecue sauces and more complex spicy foods like red pepper hummus and savory dips.

Red Zinfandel

Segehsio Family Vineyard’s Sonoma Valley Zinfandel is a red wine for tailgates involving grilling. With its red fruit and spice flavors, this is a great food wine. It has a good amount of acidity. Acidity in wine compliments fats in meat. With grilled meats remember to choose a wine that has structure but not heavy tannin. Serve with grilled burgers, steaks, and sausages with onions and peppers.

See Seghesio Family Vineyards for more red zinfandels.


Tempranillo is traditionally found in great Riojas from Spain but it is also found as a single varietal wine simply bottled as Tempranillo. Like red zinfandel, its level of acidity and plum/cherry flavors make it very food friendly. This wine will appeal to many different palates. Pair it with ribs and Latin fare like guacamole and chips and salsas. Try Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva.

You could also toast RG3 and the Skins out at your next FedEx Field tailgate with a bottle of Redskins Reserve wine. Bottled to celebrate the team’s 80th anniversary, this Cabernet Sauvignon is a limited edition. It has been spotted in the restaurants at FedEx field as well as Harris Teeter.

So step up your tailgating game and try some of these wines (along with the beer). And remember the most important rule of tailgating with wine: Don’t Forget the Corkscrew! Cheers!★

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Mon, 26 Jun 2017 09:55:36 -0400

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