A few weeks ago, we released a new article detailing the packing needs for camping with kids (What's in the Backpack?). We thought it was well researched and exceptionally thorough. Then, within days of proudly posting our labor of love, a wonderful Twitter follower kindly pointed out an obvious omission to our extensive packing list. Wine. We mentioned pots and pans, journals and pencils, hats and bug spray... even a star chart. However, read the list forward and backward, print the PDF, share it with friends (definitely share it with friends) and you will still not find that most treasured four-letter word in a parent's evening vernacular. Wine. With our oversight exposed, and the centennial of the National Park Service looming, we decided to release this pairing guide for classy consumption in our nation's treasured lands. Whether you are a parent looking to take the edge off a day that saw hiking sticks turn into lightsabers against siblings, or a solo trekker wanting to compliment your surroundings with our expert recommendations; we've got you covered.
1. Great Smoky Mountains
Wine: Franciscan Merlot
After a day spent meandering through a lush oak forest, unwind with a glass of Franciscan Merlot. The hints of smokey, toasted oak will awaken the rustic charm sensors on your tastebuds, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the wilderness experience. The approachability of merlot lends itself to widespread popularity, even among novice oenophiles, creating an excellent pairing with the country's most visited national park. Couple your glass with a delicate serving of roasted turkey as you admire your dinner's more fortunate wild cousins roaming free throughout the park.
Wine: Snoqualmie Riesling
Fruity and fun, sweet with hints of spice. Essentially, Snoqualmie Riesling is south Florida. When you explore the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, your nightcap (or midday-cap— we don't judge) needs to be refreshing. Your senses are heightened from paddling through the only area in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist. You have done battle with an army of mosquitos and, while you didn't exactly win, you did live to tell the tale. You have contemplated how long it will take the Atlantic Ocean to finish the job of swallowing the entirety of Florida, Mickey Mouse and all. After a day like this, you don't want something oaky and complex. You need hints of honey and smooth sipping. Pair your wine with chunks of bland, chewy gator meat. The sweet zest of riesling will mask the non-flavor of your insipid dish and a day's worth of fear of being eaten alive will fade as you reclaim your place at the top of the food chain.
3. Grand Canyon
Wine: Martinelli's Certified Organic Sparkling Cider
With not a trace of alcohol, you will thank us in the morning when you consume Martinelli's Certified Organic Sparkling Cider and manage to not stagger off the edge of the South Rim. After a day of hiking the canyon, uncork (poetically speaking, of course, because there is not actually a cork) your bottle of cider and enjoy the refreshing zing of juicy carbonation. Pair your beverage with a plate of fried rattlesnake and soak up the ambiance of your rugged surroundings. Tip: Don't skimp for the cheaper, non-organic cider. If you are foregoing the buzz, you might as well feel high class.
4. Death Valley
Wine: Da Vinci Pinot Grigio
Another desert park. Logically, you realize that you should omit the wine in favor of an extra water bottle. In reality, though, you just hiked through Death Valley and damn it, you deserve a drink. The heat didn't kill you and neither did the rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widows. You admired color against the monotone at Artist's Palette, you reenacted the Jakku scenes of Star Wars VII at the Mesquite Flat Dunes and you stood at the lowest point in North America, only a (long) stone's throw from the highest peak in the continental U.S. And, did we mention, you managed to NOT die?! Accomplishments abound. You don't want to risk dehydration with excessive alcohol consumption, so drink responsibly with Da Vinci Pinot Grigio (only 11% abv). Its flavors of tropical fruit will create an oasis on your tongue as you relax in an endless sea of arid desolation. Pair your drink with a gallon of water and a big, juicy slice of watermelon (the desert variety).
Wine: Iron Horse Brut X Sparkling Wine
Don't fight the cliché. You are at Yellowstone— one of the most recognizable names in the National Park Service and, simultaneously, one of the most badass locations on earth. You have hot springs bubbling out of the ground (including one aptly named "Mr. Bubbles"), geysers blowing their contents at sometimes regular intervals and a supervolcano of mythic proportions lurking below the surface. This calls for a nice, big glass of Iron Horse Brut X Sparkling Wine. The bubbling sensation brings you into harmony with your simmering surroundings and the name alone inspires your inner ruggedness as you explore this home to grizzlies and even a supposed "zone of death." Pair your bubbly with a spicy elk burger, baked beans, and a heaping slice of apple crisp for good measure. You're a cowboy now.
Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but just in case there is confusion, we are going to say it anyway. This article is obviously tongue-in-cheek. Always exercise extreme caution in national parks and consume responsibly. Check restrictions at each park before bringing any alcoholic beverages. Most parks allow alcohol in designated camping and picnic areas. There are dangers inherent to park environments and quick rescues are not always possible. Drinking to excess in these situations (especially with children present) is a recipe for disaster. Obey the rules, use common sense, drink only in moderation and enjoy our treasured parks!