On Feb. 7, the NFL’s Super Bowl comes to Santa Clara, Calif.’s Levi’s Stadium, where the Carolina Panthers are the early favorites to beat the Denver Broncos. It’s been a while since California wine country has been this excited for a Super Bowl (at least not since San Francisco took on Baltimore in 2013 … and we celebrated both bay cities with crab recipes).
There will be wine-country Super Bowl parties all over Northern California, and Sonoma County wines will be the official wines of Super Bowl City, a nine-day event in San Francisco leading up to the game, with 50 Sonoma wineries pouring. We’ve put together a list of 22 Sonoma value wines priced at $22 or less, enough for every man on the gridiron, perfect for stocking any get-together. Get our lists of Sonoma whites and reds below.
The last time we plotted a wine-themed Super Bowl party around regional cuisines, we turned to Colorado chef Jennifer Jasinski of Denver restaurants Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Euclid Hall and Stoic & Genuine. She’s still cheering on her Denver Broncos and starring as an "official Lambassador" of the American Lamb Board. As you might guess, for Jasinski, planning a party for Broncos fans means plenty of Colorado lamb, and she gave us a superb recipe for Colorado Lamb Dip Sandwiches with Goat Cheese Rosemary Biscuits and Lamb Jus. Because Colorado is home to so many great dairies, she also threw in her very own Colorado Spinach Dip with Homemade Potato Chips.
North Carolina has plenty of its own foods to please a party’s worth of hungry football fans, starting with barbecue. If you want true eastern North Carolina barbecue, that means pork with a vinegar-based sauce. North Carolina is also the birthplace of Krispy Kreme donuts, Pepsi-Cola and, curiously enough, Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce. But there’s one hometown favorite of Charlotte's that’s as unique as it is simple to please a crowd with: Common Market’s Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich with Bacon.
In Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood neighborhood, Common Market, founded in 2002 by owner Blake Barnes, is as close to a modern-day general store and town square all rolled into one as you’ll find anywhere. “It’s a deli; it’s a wine shop; it’s a grocery store; it’s a toy store; it’s a music venue!” says store manager Gina Stewart. And it’s a gathering place for the entire neighborhood, which comes for the signature pimento cheese—or “Carolina caviar” as locals call it. Common Market's sharp cheddar–based variation, spiked with jalapeños, was created by chef and deli manager Bridget Warner, who’s been making the house recipe for 10 years.
If pimento cheese has never held an appeal for you, don’t be swayed just yet: “I never liked pimento cheese until I made mine!” Warner says. “Store-bought pimento cheeses are terrible. They’re really sweet, and they use American cheese and they taste processed.” Warner’s is a sharp, savory version with an added kick from the pickled jalapeños.
So what do you pair with a pimento cheese-and-bacon sandwich? Warner prefers hers with whiskey, but Common Market wine buyer Van Miller suggests a light, fruity red like a cru Beaujolais or, for beer, an I.P.A. like Charlotte's local Birdsong Brewing Co.’s Jalapeño Pale Ale.
Carolina vs. Denver Super Bowl Party Recipes
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More value wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
CHATEAU ST. JEAN Fumé Blanc Russian River Valley La Petite Etoile Vineyard Single Vineyard 2013 Score: 90 | $22
Intense honeysuckle and orange blossom, with a touch of smoke, swirl around a core of ripe, juicy peach, pear and citrus flavors. Elegant and refreshing. Drink now. 1,000 cases made.—M.W.
KENWOOD Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2014 Score: 89 | $13
Juicy Meyer lemon, orange zest and Bartlett pear flavors are crisp and focused, with a subtle underpinning of chamomile that lingers. Drink now. 70,000 cases made.—M.W.
QUIVIRA Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley 2014 Score: 89 | $15
Vivid and intense, with a tropical note of passion fruit running through the citrus and melon flavors. Floral, spice and lemon verbena details echo on the juicy finish. Drink now. 5,100 cases made.—M.W.
BUEHLER Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2013 Score: 88 | $16
Fresh grass, honeydew, honeysuckle, pear and citrus notes are elegant and graceful, smooth and long. Drink now. 20,000 cases made.—J.L.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA Chardonnay Russian River Valley Director's Cut 2013 Score: 88 | $21
Very intense and vibrant, with a zesty mix of citrus, green apple, lemon-lime and quince, ending with an assertive aftertaste. Drink now. 10,025 cases made.—J.L.
FREI BROTHERS Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley Reserve 2014 Score: 88 | $17
Ripe melon and peach flavors have accents of lemon thyme, passion fruit and lime zest, set on a smooth and juicy body, with good intensity on the finish. Drink now. 16,300 cases made.—M.W.
KUNDE ESTATE Chardonnay Sonoma Valley 2014 Score: 88 | $18
Clean and juicy, centered on tangerine and nectarine flavors that give this lively acidity and touches of peach and apple. Drink now. 27,500 cases made.—J.L.
BALLETTO Pinot Gris Russian River Valley 2013 Score: 87 | $18
Pear and apple flavors find a good balance between rich, ripe flavors and juicy acidity, with dried flower and spice notes echoing on the finish. Drink now. 4,240 cases made.—M.W.
BENZIGER Chardonnay Sonoma County 2013 Score: 87 | $16
Fresh, with a zingy citrus edge to the spicy grapefruit and tangerine flavors. Ends clean and lively. Drink now. 62,491 cases made.—J.L.
FERRARI-CARANO Fumé Blanc Sonoma County 2014 Score: 87 | $14
Citrus and melon flavors are accented by dried floral and hay notes, showing a spicy, juicy side on the finish. Drink now. 85,000 cases made.—M.W.
RODNEY STRONG Sauvignon Blanc Northern Sonoma Charlotte's Home 2014 Score: 87 | $17
Offers tangy grapefruit and lemon flavors accented by aromas of floral and smoke, set on a light and refreshing body. Lime sherbet notes show on the finish. Drink now. 73,500 cases made.—M.W.
AMICI Pinot Noir Sonoma County Olema 2013 Score: 91 | $20
This red offers a lively, refreshing and complex mix of snappy wild berry and raspberry flavors that are firm and vibrant, ending long, clean and complex. Drink now through 2020. 6,000 cases made.—J.L.
DRY CREEK Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Heritage Vines 2014 Score: 90 | $22
Packs in a lot of personality for the price, yet remains balanced and well-structured, offering notes of black raspberry, toasty herb and spicy licorice. Drink now through 2022. 16,198 cases made.—T.F.
MURPHY-GOODE Zinfandel Sonoma County Liar's Dice 2012 Score: 90 | $21
Ripe and plush, this is well made for the style. Cherry pie aromas open to lively flavors of jammy raspberry, cinnamon and toasted spice. A crowd-pleaser. Drink now through 2021. 10,760 cases made.—T.F.
GOLDSCHMIDT Merlot Alexander Valley Chelsea Goldschmidt 2014 Score: 89 | $17
Doesn't scream Merlot but remains sleek and zesty. Fun to drink, with lively notes of black cherry, toasty vanilla and spiced herb. Drink now through 2021. 3,020 cases made.—T.F.
ST. FRANCIS Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vines 2012 Score: 89 | $20
Bursts with aromas of black cherry, spice and sassafras, leading to zesty flavors of raspberry, dried herb and anise. A touch of tannins ramps up the finish. Drink now through 2019. 51,000 cases made.—T.F.
BUENA VISTA The Count Founder's Red Sonoma County 2013 Score: 88 | $20
A kitchen sink blend that has plenty of appeal, offering notes of black cherry, licorice, black pepper and grilled herb. Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Carignane, Cinsault, Valdigue and Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2019. 6,500 cases made.—TF
FOLIE À DEUX Merlot Alexander Valley 2012 Score: 88 | $19
Appealing, with bright black cherry and toasted spice aromas leading to zesty, easygoing flavors. Drink now through 2020. 18,000 cases made.—T.F.
LOUIS M. MARTINI Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2013 Score: 88 | $20
Offers a trim profile of dusty earth, dried berry and cedary oak flavors, complemented by gravelly tannins. Drink now through 2022. 353,000 cases made.—J.L.
CASTLE ROCK Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve 2013 Score: 87 | $18
Fresh and snappy, with taut, vibrant, earth- and spice-laced wild berry flavors. Ends taut and tannic. Drink now. 9,600 cases made.—J.L.
PEDRONCELLI Friends Red Sonoma County 2013 Score: 87 | $12
A zesty blend, with appealing notes of black cherry, grilled herb and lead pencil. Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese. Drink now through 2020. 9,000 cases made.—T.F.
SEBASTIANI Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2012 Score: 87 | $19
Well-centered on a core of dark berry, loamy earth, cedar, lead pencil and dill, with chewy, tobacco-laced tannins that veer toward the dry side on the finish. Drink now through 2020. 61,126 cases made.—J.L.