Super Bowl Sunday is host to a lot of casual parties, many that involve pot lucks or smorgasbords. With such a wide variety of food, the default drink of choice is beer, usually Bud Light. You know, those guys who always run those wacky beer commercials in Super Bowl broadcast breaks? Well, I'm breaking from the pack here and recommending super wines, defined a variety of ways, for the Super Bowl.
• Clayhouse Adobe Pink 2011, Central Coast ($14): A pink wine may not seem too bold and super, but this ain't your father's rose'. Family owned Clayhouse in Paso Robles produces one that's decidedly Rhone style in intent, mainly Mourvedre and Syrah but with a big helping of Cabernet Sauvignon too. It's a pretty pink moving into salmon in color while the aromas are of strawberry and cream with a sprinkling of barrel spices and florals. Concentrated flavors of strawberry jam, raspberry Kool-Aid and watermelon are integrated with hints of cinnamon and clove. Mourvedre is what really gives this rose' some extra oomph, making it gutsy and substantial and an all around good food player.
• Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay 2011, California ($11): Someone at your Super Bowl bash is going to want some Chardonnay; it's still America's favorite varietal. But leave your $40 Santa Maria Valley Chards in the cellar because they'll just get lost in all the action. Now, Robert Mondavi is not what is used to be: no Mondavi family member is still involved in the operation. But that doesn't mean they didn't leave some smart talent behind like the team that crafted this easy going Chardonnay with caramel apple, lemon blossom, peach and pineapple on the nose. The caramel apple and brown sugar flavors are surprisingly up-front and appealing with a supporting cast of pineapple, peach, nectarine and dried apricot. Not deep or complex but multiple flavors explosions on the palate make that easy to forgive. And budget wise, it's a crowd pleaser.
• Hahn Pinot Noir, Monterey 2011 ($12): Sneaking in a little Pinot Noir here may not seem right, but it's on the list because the wine is a super bargain. It's hard to find a decent Pinot Noir under $20 these days, much less one that actually tastes like the grape. This one gets your attention with a snappy and vibrant nose of black cherry, raspberry and hard red candy. It's a light dancer on the palate as the ballet includes red and black fruit compote mingling with more serious baking spice underpinnings of clove and cardamom, from the use of one-third new French oak. It's zippy and zingy with good acidity, making for a very upbeat rendition of the variety that shows off its charms without hesitation. Not necessarily complex, nor intended to be at the price but the fruit is all front and center. Is this the best $12 Pinot Noir in the land? Yes, it just might be and that's a hard-won honor.