Some partnerships — Michael Jordan & the Chicago Bulls or Wayne Gretzky & the LA Kings — go down in history as the best of the best. While others — Michael Jordan & the Birmingham Barons or Wayne Gretzky & the St. Louis Blues — just weren’t kismet. Though most of us aren’t on the ice, field, or court — we are in the kitchen. And when preparing game-day food and wine pairings, the recipe for epic failure or success can be unexpected.
We’ve been surprised enough by high & low pairings (Champagne & French fries, anyone?) to seek out the sage advice of Evan Goldstein on which wine to pour with our game-day nachos.
Goldstein knows — nay, lives — the high & low lifestyle. He not only passed the notoriously rigorous Master Sommelier exam at the wee age of 26 (the youngest American to pass at that time), but he has been a lifelong sports fan, with season tickets to the San Francisco Giants practically since he was old enough to open his own box of Cracker Jacks.
In September 2022, the Giants honored Goldstein’s deep knowledge of wine and baseball by making him Master Sommelier of the team, a first for any American professional sports team.
Sports and Wine
While, unlike in basketball, where Tony Parker has snapped up Chateau Saint Laurent in southern France, and CJ McCollum has partnered with Adelsheim Vineyard’s Gina Hennen on McCollum Heritage 91, no baseball player has yet to invest in a wine brand. However, Goldstein and the Giants instinctively understand there’s opportunity to connect the passionate communities of wine and sports lovers.
They also understand that the biggest sports fans aren’t likely to partake in wine culture more than they are in the beers and sodas that most associate with game day viewing. Goldstein says he feels energized by the opportunity to reach more potential wine lovers that he’d never normally have access to as an educator and sommelier.
“I’m not quitting my day job as president of Full Circle Wine Solutions, but I see this as an opportunity to meet both players and fans where they are and deliver incredible wine and food experiences that, I hope, will both surprise and inspire them,” he says. “We plan to crawl before we walk, but we have a lot of exciting initiatives planned in the coming year.”
Game-Day Pairings from Evan Goldstein
Goldstein’s palate and paradigm are perfect for creating wine and food pairings that satisfy all, from those just starting their wine journey to experienced oenophiles who demand vintage, Cru and grape intel before sipping.
Read on for Goldein’s game-day food and wine pairings that every fan can root for. Whether you’re watching (or lucky enough to be in the stadium or arena for) the World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, Super Bowl, or NBA Championship, cheers to never having to suffer the indignity of drinking the wrong vino again.
Hot Dogs, Three Ways
It’s not just about the wiener — it’s about what you do with it. Ask yourself what stands out. With a Louisiana dog — sweet pickle relish + chopped green chiles + yellow mustard + pepper sauce — it’s the heat. So a wine with acid to cut richness while taming the heat will be ideal. A chilled Beaujolais Villages, Dolcetto or even a dry (Troken) Riesling will pair beautifully. For a chili dog, you’ll want a rustic rib-sticking red, like Côtes du Rhone or a Spanish Garnacha. But for a simple all-American pairing — a beef frank topped with brown mustard, chopped onions, and a little sauerkraut, a bright, youthful Zinfandel from California beckons.
As with hot dogs, the ideal nacho pairing will vary considerably depending on how fully loaded they are. Indeed, matching the wine should be driven primarily by the add-ons and not by the chips or heatless jalapeños (which have been sadly bred to be free of Scoville units and are all about the pickling). For a basic pairing — think chips with that neon-orange topping we call cheese — you’ll want a wine with some girth and some, but not too many, tannins. The ideal dancing partner here will be Argentine Malbecs and American Merlot, while easier drinking styles of Australian Shiraz are also solid bets.
Ask someone which wine to pair with their steak or prime rib, and everyone has an opinion. Make it a tri-tip sandwich, and they all freeze. In the end, nothing changes just because you put it on a roll! If you are going rarer with your meat, choose a red wine, ideally something in the Cabernet family (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) with a bit of age so the meat’s juiciness can rejuvenate the maturing wine. And if it’s a more well-done piece of meat, opt for a younger, juicer red to fill in what the chef has cooked out. Keep in mind: if you love your horseradish spread, ensure the alcohol level is in check, more in the 13-13.5% ABV neighborhood instead of the more powerful 14-14.5% ABV zone.
As a peanut guy, I am more about the roasted and salted than the boiled version some prefer to order. Whatever your preference, you will want a bright white wine that can cut the richness and echo the salinity that always accompanies the nuts. So, a dry Sherry (fino is ideal), a young Pinot Grigio (try one from Alto Adige) or a youthful and completely unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis would be great). If you want something slightly fuller, go for an Albariño (Spanish or otherwise). An easy and quaffable light dry rosé (Provence all the way) is also a delightful and refreshing option here.
You can go in two directions here. One is to play off the “crack” of the popcorn and have something bubbly and sweet (key takeaway: if the wine is not at least as sweet at the Cracker Jack, it will taste sour). The fizz will be a contrast to the crunch. If you are feeling a bit highfalutin, a Demi-Sec Champagne, but most any Prosecco, will be just fine. However, if you do not like bubbly and would prefer to flavor-layer and mirror the caramel/nutty elements, I would go with a sweet, fortified wine — a Brown or Cream sherry, a Tawny port style (from Portugal, Australia or California), or a sweeter style Madeira (Bual or Malmsey). In a pinch, a late-harvest Zinfandel will be fun, if not a bit edgy, with the more raisin-like wine character adding fruit notes to the popcorn, nuts, and caramel.