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Drink Wine at Your Super Bowl Party

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While both football and wine have punts (the wine one is the dimple on your bottle's bottom), they might not seem to have a whole lot else in common. Wine just doesn't seem enough smashmouth for our national game of violence, let alone as burp-worthy as beer. That said, many former NFL players and coaches have gone the winemaker route once they retired. Mike Ditka had his Kick Ass Red (what else would he call it?), Dick Vermeil makes a Jean-Louis Vermeil Napa Cabernet that sells for over $250 a bottle (now that's one clever coach), and Terry Hoage followed up his 13-year career as a defensive back by starting a vineyard in Paso Robles (in 2008 he was named one of the Top New California Wine Producers by Wine Spectator).

So why not live a little and pull that trick play by serving wine at your Super Bowl party? One of the secrets is finding something big; while the wine trends might be heading toward restraint of late, there are still plenty of open field tackle grape takedowns out there. While people are cheering a devastating blindsided sack, they might not also want to extol the brilliant rose petal nose on the pinot noir. Instead, celebrate teamwork, a football hallmark, and go for blends, particularly ones made with more unusual grapes. Tell everyone that Carignan, say, is the grinder of the wine cellar, and they'll appreciate what they're drinking even more. Plus such rustic wines stand a better chance of standing up to the great Super Bowl groaning board of things like nachos and chili and barbecued meats.

You also want to watch what you spend, because the game goes on and on to justify its high advertising prices. Unless you're sure you will win your football pool, you might not want to serve up something that would fit the bill, like a $30 a bottle of Mark Herold Collide, despite its perfect football name. It's a fine blend of mostly Petite Sirah and Tempranillo, so hearty as all get-out (go look at that name again), but that's one reason Herrold is just releasing his 2009s -- to give the wine time to mellow out.

It's a much better deal to scoop your big dipper into Ursa Vineyards Major Red from the Sierra Foothills. Again, for the Super Bowl, you don't need wines from the major growing areas -- convince people a choice like Ursa is like rooting for the guy from the small college. At $8 a bottle it packs a bear of a punch, a hodgepodge of merlot, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, and syrah, which proves both that teamwork can bring anything together for the win and that you can drink four major red wines at once, which must make you as tough as a linebacker.

Moving up the price ladder, consider a zinfandel, known for its strength and depth, like any team that can make it to the big game. A fine one at just about $20 is the 2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Old Vine Sonoma Valley, and it will make everyone go bam-bam with its dark fruits and pepper and spice rack. What's more, the Bedrock Vineyard itself was founded in 1854 by Generals Joe Hooker and William Tecumseh Sherman -- Sherman's infamous March to the Sea might be thought of as the first sustained football drive, in some twisted way. (Or I just prepared you for some broadcaster hyperbole.)

Finally there's that carignan-based blend, another $20ish bottle, the 2012 Neyers Sage Canyon California Red Wine. We're talking own-rooted 135-year-old vines; now that's old school. (There's also Grenache, mourvedre, and syrah in the blend, the current Rhone grape favorites, so you can to be of-the-moment and traditional all at once.) Wine Spectator called it "An impressive red that's rich, dense, focused and layered, with tiers of vibrant red berry, pomegranate, black licorice, spice, road tar and cedar, ending with dry, gripping tannins," which makes it sounds perfect to tackle your tastebuds.

And given there's a week off before the Super Bowl, you have time to taste test first. Consider it practice.

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