Beverages to Enjoy While Tailgating

by Kevin Cahoon, Tastemaker in Residence


Tailgating is a great American institution. Pick a game that features your alma mater or favorite pro team, arrange a meeting spot in a giant, festive parking lot with salty snacks and a variety of meat and seafood that can be grilled and you have set the tone for a great day. The only question that needs to be addressed is what to drink with your fantastic friends and amazing food. 

While it seems beer is the overwhelming choice at most tailgate parties, I think that the right wine or cocktail will be equally enjoyed on a crisp fall afternoon (or morning depending on your game’s start time). The most important points are to keep it simple and reasonably priced. You can find plenty of fantastic wine for less than $15 that will be great with chips and salsa, burgers, sausages, chicken wings. If your tailgate has more lofty culinary aspirations, these easy drinking wines will admirably complement your inspired creations.

Here are a couple of general rules to assist you with picking your wines. Don’t overlook a sparkling wine. The bubbles are festive plus their aromas and flavors are terrific with the diverse food found at your tailgate. When choosing a white wine, look for one on the lighter side with crisp, refreshing fruit tones, juicy acidity and little if any oak aging. If you think all wine should be red, then I would look for bottles that have lots of ripe, vibrant fruit aromas and round, soft tannins. Lastly, I lean towards wines with screwcaps since its no fun to be faced with thirsty friends and realize that you left the corkscrew at home.

Here are some of my suggestions.


NV Raventos I Blanc L’Hereu Cava Spain $17

This is a delightful Cava that spent 15 months on the lees to add complexity and depth. It has a drop dead, gorgeous nose of baked apple, lemon curd and pear. The wine is refreshing with more pear and baked apple fruit tones. The crisp finish leaves you wanting another sip and another bite of that great brat fresh off the grill.


2012 Momo Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand $15

The 2012 Momo has vibrant nose with aromas of crisp green apple and lemon zest. The wine has a juicy, delicious palate with delightful flavors of apple and grapefruit. It will stand up to the hottest chicken wing and sing with grilled shrimp. It’s also really fun with chips and a spicy guacamole. 


Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot # 59 California $11

Chris and Scot Bilbro have been producing this kitchen sink blend for 34 years. The actual blend changes each year but the base is Zinfandel sourced throughout Sonoma County. The wine jumps from the glass with notes of wild raspberry and black cherry fruit that is accented with allspice, white pepper and nutmeg. The wine has lush, fruit flavors of plum and black raspberry that are wrapped by silky tannins. This is at home with burgers, pulled pork or lamb kabobs.

If your tastes lean towards cocktails, I find the following drink to be an excellent revitalizing choice.

The Hollywood

1 ½ Oz. of your favorite Vodka

4 Oz. of Grape Juice

2 Oz. Lemon Lime Soda

1 Lime Wedge

Fill you red Solo cup with ice. Add the vodka and mix with the grape juice. Give this a shake or stir. Add the lemon lime soda and squeeze in the lime.