Champagne and caviar … at a tailgate occasion? An knowledgeable wine-maker shares methods to improve your pre-game snacks.

Your tailgate party doesn’t have to be all burgers and brats. Get expert tips for upgrading those pre-game snacks. (Photo: Getty Creative)

Autumn’s dips in temperature and color-changing leaves can only mean one thing: it’s football season. Just as important as cheering on your favorite team is serving your guests delicious and inspired foods. Bored with brats and burgers? From elegant charcuterie boards to truffle chips and creamy brie, changing the pace of your next tailgate is surprisingly easy. Introducing tried-and-true wine and food pairing ideas can instantly elevate your gathering and help you score a touchdown in the kitchen.

Claire Weinkauf, co-founder of Picayune Cellars, one of Napa’s most enchanting wineries and tasting rooms, is from France. The wine drinker (and maker) hails from the land of volcanoes and fabulous cheese — Auvergne — a region in central France full of history. Her vino-fueled journey includes earning a wine degree and harvesting grapes throughout France.

Her now award-winning boutique winery offers affordable wines that are accessible to any palate (and price point) and show off the drinkability, purity and intensity of California fruit. They also happen to pair excellently with many fall favorites — hot dogs and loaded nachos included.

But Weinkauf says wine can also be the jumping off point to a more elegant tailgate party menu.

Champagne and caviar are perfect for tailgating

“Champagne and caviar is a classic pairing that can certainly elevate a tailgate this fall,” she tells Yahoo Life, suggesting a wine with a similar flavor profile to Picayune’s Grand Cru blanc de noirs Champagne: a bubbly sourced directly from the French villages of Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois and Aÿ. Its notes of hazelnut, almond and dry fig bring a welcomed layer of freshness that pairs well with buttery, often rich caviar.

Embrace savory flavors — like truffles and fish — this fall

“Pinot Noir and truffle chips, as well as smoked trout dip and Chardonnay, are great pairings and tailgate upgrades as well,” says Weinkauf. While caviar can be a bit pricey, these options won’t break the bank and are an affordable (and easy) way to make small upgrades to your game day feast.

Another easy way to bring the boujee to what could be an otherwise mundane day for your palate? Invest in quality cheeses. She says there are a few that work perfectly with the season. “Anything with truffles is perfect for fall, especially a sottocenere (a creamy cow’s milk cheese that contains truffles) from Italy,” Weinkauf adds. “A triple cream Brie with fig jam is also hard to beat this time of year.”

Tailgate-ready wine and cheese pairings

“Sottocenere, with its truffles, will pair well with a Pinot Noir’s earthiness,” she says. “Pinot Noir is a more delicate wine, which is good for this particular cheese”

Claire Weinkauf, co-founder and wine-maker at Picayune Cellars, says Pinot Noir, Champagne and Cabernet make excellent additions to a fall tailgate. (Photo: Picayune Cellars)Claire Weinkauf, co-founder and wine-maker at Picayune Cellars, says Pinot Noir, Champagne and Cabernet make excellent additions to a fall tailgate. (Photo: Picayune Cellars)

Claire Weinkauf, co-founder and wine-maker at Picayune Cellars, says Pinot Noir, Champagne and Cabernet make excellent additions to a fall tailgate. (Photo: Picayune Cellars)

“For the Brie, I would pair with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend, such as Picayune’s Padlock,” Weinkauf continues. “The richness of the cream with almonds and mushroom notes is a good contrast and complement to the bright dark fruit and tannins from the Cabernet.”

Padlock is the winery’s signature offering, a Napa Valley blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other Bordeaux varietals. Weinkauf describes it as an affordable and approachable wine that can be an everyday sipper.

“If you prefer a lighter style of wine, Pinot Noir (such as Picayune’s 2020 Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast) is a great option this time of year,” Weinkauf shares. “A full-bodied yet approachable Cabernet blend is also perfect for those chillier fall evenings.” Weinkauf believes Picayune’s 2020 Pinot Noir maintains the balance between the intensity of the California-sourced fruit while being true to wine’s French roots.

Charcuterie board additions for your next tailgate

A solid charcuterie board can be a surefire winner on game day or a key dish to have in your arsenal for any entertaining event. While the classics are always a must, like quality meats and cheeses, Weinkauf has a few other suggestions. “Castelvetrano olives, Marcona almonds, pepper jelly jam, fig jam, Dijon mustard and cornichons are great additions to elevate your cheese and charcuterie board,” she says, adding that your favorite crunchy and flavorful cracker is also a must-have.

If you’re looking to get a little more advanced in the kitchen and go beyond cheeses and chips, Weinkauf has some suggestions on the ultimate food and wine pairings for fall. “Mushroom risotto or a smoked duck with Pinot Noir are must-try pairings,” she says.

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