Our popular perception of a Super Bowl party may be defined by television commercials — adrenaline-driven salt licks such as pretzels, chips and dips that we shove mindlessly into our maws with lots of low-carb light beers that promise not to weigh us down. Platters of wings, bowls of chili — casual foods that don’t require a formal place setting and can be eaten without taking our eyes off the big screen. And more beer.
How about a more wine-appropriate Super Bowl party? Not to be stuffy or geeky about America’s biggest annual sporting event, but some of us do prefer vino. So I asked three former National Football League stars who are now in the wine business how they plan to watch this year’s big game.
Charles Woodson, the Hall of Fame cornerback who played 18 seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers, won a Super Bowl ring in 2011 with Green Bay. He now has his own line of California wines fittingly called Intercept. He sees Super Bowl parties going upscale because — well, boys with toys.
“We’re seeing sports become more of a culinary event than ever before,” Woodson says. “People have been stepping up their home-grilling game with these high-tech wood-fired grills, so I think you’ll see them really elevate their viewing parties. And with that, hopefully, comes more of a shift into wine.” So look for grilled or smoked meats on the game plan.
Woodson says he likes to dig into a creamy, cheesy spinach-artichoke dip, washed down with a buttery chardonnay. Beef sliders, cocktail meatballs and charcuterie call for reds before the game gets really serious.
“I’ll probably start the first half with a few glasses of cabernet sauvignon, then enjoy some bourbon,” he says. “I’m more interested in savoring and enjoying what I’m eating and drinking, and there’s definitely room for that in sports.”
When Will Blackmon was growing up in Rhode Island, he didn’t want to party during the Super Bowl. “I just wanted to watch the game,” he recalls. But when he got to the show with the New York Giants in 2012, “it was an amazing experience,” he recalls, especially when the Giants won. Now he appreciates the hype.
Today, Blackmon curates private cellars for professional athletes as the Wine MVP. (He credits Woodson for igniting his love of wine when both played for the Packers.) With society struggling to return to normal from pandemic restrictions, he has been organizing in-person wine tastings and parties, including a few lined up in Beverly Hills, Calif., in the week before the Feb. 13 Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
For the menu, Blackmon would start with a sparkling wine to help fuel the festive game day mood. Then he looks to his New England roots. “I’m a lobster guy, so for me a lobster roll is the way to go,” he says. He likes his rolls simple — “just lobster, a roll and butter. That goes so well with chardonnay.” He likes the Robert Mondavi Winery 2018 Chardonnay from Napa Valley. “And if you take your lobster roll with mayonnaise and scallions, that’s okay, and the chardonnay will work with that, too,” he says.
If your competitive juices extend to burgers, Blackmon recommends Gordon Ramsay’s recipe with 15 percent brisket in the grind. And because the Super Bowl is all about winning a ring, he suggests Double Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon from Schrader Cellars.
Pro tip: Blackmon is on to something, even if you can’t get your hands on the Double Diamond for your watch party. Los Angeles Rams fans can find game-themed local wines from Santa Barbara County or Paso Robles, or perhaps even Sonoma County’s Two Shepherds winery. Cincinnati Bengals fans may have to work a little harder — Ohio makes some delicious wines, especially from the Grand River Valley northeast of Cleveland, but these are difficult to find outside the region. And with Snoop Dogg performing in the halftime show, having some Snoop Cali red or rosé from the 19 Crimes brand on hand would certainly be appropriate.
Drew Bledsoe, who quarterbacked 14 seasons for the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys, returned to his hometown of Walla Walla, Wash., in the Columbia Valley, to start Bledsoe Wine Estates, including the high-end Doubleback line. Bledsoe keeps his Super Bowl parties casual. He opens his Family Wine, which comes in 1-liter bottles. “More wine is always better,” he says. (Pro tip: Go for larger formats, such as the Really Good Box Wine Paso Robles Cabernet, just released.) “And we always have soda water on hand, in case someone gets excited and spills some wine,” he adds. (Another pro tip!)
As for the menu, Bledsoe goes for casual and gooey. “My wife makes a seven-layer dip that’s always a hit, and I have a Crockpot queso recipe that is delicious as long as you don’t look at the ingredients.”
Come game day, when all the Beverly Hills parties are done, Blackmon wants to keep it simple, too. “I just want to stay in my sweats and watch the game with my family,” he says. And let there be wings — lemon-pepper for his daughter, Jade, 7, and honey-barbecue for his son, Ryder, 11. And for Dad, a variety, as long as there’s some chardonnay on hand.
More Super Bowl recipes from Voraciously: