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Wine Club


Wine at Home

Fast Food and McGrail Wine Pairings

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

With a global pandemic and a shelter-in-place order came economic recession and unprecedented job loss in the United States. As a result, what became a necessity for American people was comfort and frugality. Said need for comfort and frugality can be satiated in many forms, but food usually tends to be the most favorable for many Americans, myself included. The reality that many people living in the United States have lost their jobs as the result of a global pandemic was our team’s inspiration for this series of fast food/takeout pairings that are as delightfully delicious as they are inexpensive.

The idea that good wine has to be paired with fancy food is, quite frankly, crap. Even the cheapest, greasiest fast food can be perfectly complemented by a great glass of vino. Please allow me to walk you through one of my favorite projects yet.

FAQs, Answered

Did you eat all this fast food on your own?

I can imagine how someone might be concerned with my health after this project, as this is clearly a lot of fast food for one person to consume. Please rest assured this project took place over several weeks and I did not consume a single item featured here on my own, nor do I eat fast food regularly. I almost always brought the remaining bites to the winery to hear our team’s take on the pairings.

Did all the pairings work?

For transparency, I’ve included some pairings at the end that just didn’t work. Expecting a food item to pair with a wine is like playing an educated guessing game. You can use the rules of pairing to make your choices, but not all pairings will work out the way you might hope. Even when you’ve encountered a pairing failure, you’re left with a bottle of delicious wine and something greasy to eat. Things could be a lot worse.

Now for the Pairings…

Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon & Wendy’s Baconator

Fast Food & Wine

Like I mentioned before, I don’t eat fast food all that much, so when I asked for the Western bacon cheeseburger at the Wendy’s drive-thru, I could tell there was some confusion surrounding my order. I suppose I meant to pair this wine with Carl’s Jr.’s ~famous~ Western Bacon Cheeseburger, but luckily, Wendy’s Baconator barbecue cheeseburger stepped in and filled its shoes. This BBQ bacon cheeseburger-Cabernet combo is quite the catch. The burger has enough fat and flavor to not be overtaken by the tannins of this smooth, but bold wine. It doesn’t get more patriotic than this duo. I mean, seriously, what’s more American than a BBQ bacon cheeseburger from a fast food joint?

McGrail Family Chardonnay & KFC’s Famous Bowl

You’re probably wondering what the heck a Famous Bowl is comprised of. That’s fair. I didn’t know either. A Famous Bowl is a few scoops of KFC’s mashed potatoes, a spoonful of gravy, a healthy amount of corn, some shredded cheese, and little crispy pieces of chicken. The Chardonnay meshes well with both the seasonings in the chicken breading and the chicken itself, as well as with the buttery corn and the cheesiness on top. I was surprised at how effortlessly the Chardonnay and the Famous Bowl worked together.

Gracie Sparkling Brut & Jack in the Box Curly Fries

Fast Food & Wine

For some reason I feel like food from Jack in the Box is always just slightly greasier and crispier than food from other fast food places, not that it’s a bad thing. What I love about these curly fries is that the shape is super fun, but they’re also coated in some kind of magical seasoning that makes them tastier than the average fry. It’s not difficult to get behind this magically flavorful pairing.

McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard & Wienerschnitzel’s Chili Beef Dog on a Pretzel Bun

Fast Food & Wine

The meatiness of the combination of the all-beef frank and delicious Wienerschnitzel chili stands up to the boldness of this big, Cabernet lover’s Merlot. Everything is better on a pretzel bun and a chili beef dog is no exception. Somehow the complete amalgamation of this fast and easy take on an American classic complements the acidity and tannins in this French-oak-aged wine. The combo is smooth and just friggin’ tasty.

A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon -OR- Sláinte Red Blend & McDonald’s Big Mac

Fast Food & Wine

There were two things that really surprised me about McDonald’s Big Mac. First, I couldn’t actually believe how perfectly fluffy the bun was with the little sesame seeds so neatly sprinkled on top. It was like something from a commercial. Secondly, I couldn’t believe that people actually willingly eat these things. It was the world’s okay-est hamburger. Nevertheless, it’s still a hamburger, which means it will probably pair well with a nice red wine. Luckily, our Good Life Cab and Sláinte Red Blend took care of the job and actually enhance the burger. If you’re a fan of the Big Mac, I’m sorry. Still, check this pairing out for yourself.

Kylie Ryan Rosé & KFC’s Popcorn Chicken with Finger Lickin’ Good Sauce

Fast Food & Wine

I know what you’re thinking. Any restaurant that dares use the phrase “finger lickin’ good” is majorly cringey. This pairing worked and it worked best with the unfortunately named sauce (not pictured), as it offered a bit of creaminess, a bit of spice, and a bit of acidity that balanced out those same flavors in this delicious wine. When I had our team try this pairing, they had a hard time figuring out just what the sauce was all about. Cris said it was like a honey mustard sauce and Joy said it was reminiscent of a thousand island dressing. With no description for the sauce on KFC’s website, the true identity of the foul-named sauce remains a mystery. What we do know about it is that it pairs well with our Rosé and I guess that’s all that really matters.

C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon & Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza

Fast Food & Wine

One of the things I love most about our C. Tarantino Cabernet is its gorgeous acidity. A wine that is as smooth and drinkable as this Cab deserves to be paired with a dish that is just as lovely. Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza really fit the bill for me. The fried tortillas, creamy refried beans, T. Bell’s mild sauce, the melted cheese, and those teeny, tiny tomatoes create a perfect pairing that simply balances the gorgeous acidity in the wine.

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve -OR- James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon & Foster’s Freeze’s Texas Toast Cheeseburger

Fast Food & Wine

Prior to this project, I think it had been a decade or so since the last time I had been to Foster’s Freeze. In all honesty, I didn’t even remember them having anything other than ice cream, so this sandwich was a surprise in itself. I was excited to try this burger because Texas toast is always good. The burger alone wasn’t as great as I had hoped, but I was surprised at how well it paired with these wines. The sandwich was big, buttery and toasty, which allowed it to work with these Cabs. I couldn’t pick a favorite between the Cab Reserve and the James Vincent with the burger, so I’m recommending both. Each wine does a great job of making the sandwich taste better.

McGrail Family Chardonnay & McDonald’s Apple Pie

Fast Food & Wine

Did you know McDonald’s has an apple pie? Not many people do. This warm, gooey, classic American pastry pairs effortlessly with our crisp, fruit-forward Chardonnay. The cinnamon, apple, and sweet vanilla in the pie matches each of those same notes in the wine. It’s a match made in apple heaven.

Colton’s Cabernet -OR- McGrail Malbec & In N Out Double-Double Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions

Fast Food & Wine

I wasn’t really sure what wine would work best with California’s favorite burger, so I tried more than one. The mixture of creaminess of the spread sauce and the cheese with the acid in the tomato and grilled onions made me think a big, bold Cab might not be the perfect match for this choice cheeseburger. It turns out our old-world-style Colton’s Cabernet and our Malbec are proper companions for the burger, so I’ve recommended both to go alongside it.

Fast Food & Wine

Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon & Taco Bell’s Beefy Fritos Burrito

Fast Food & Wine

As any of our staff will tell you, Taco Bell is a favorite at McGrail. It’s the cuisine we most commonly crave and are quick to devour on crazy Saturday afternoons at the winery. Like the regular bean and cheese burrito, a staple in the diet of most McGrailians, the Beefy Fritos Burrito also contains the creamy refried beans and cheese and yummy mild sauce. Unlike the regular burrito, this one contains salty, crunchy Fritos chips and the ever-tasty, but undistinguishable Taco Bell beef. The saltiness, boldness, and acid of this burrito tap into all the best parts of our Austin James Cabernet, making it a truly terrific Taco Bell pairing.

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve & Habit Burger’s Garden Burger

Fast Food & Wine

I really wasn’t sure what wine would work with this burger, but I knew I wanted to include at least one vegan/vegetarian burger. The plant-based patty was surprisingly bold enough to stand up to our Cab Reserve. The burger was actually really good and I was glad to find that this pairing worked as well as it did.

Kylie Ryan Rosé & Popeyes Cajun Fries

Anyone who knows anything about Cajun food knows that it is generally well seasoned and sometimes a little bit spicy; these fries refuse to be left out of this generalization. Like Jack in the Box’s curly fries, these Cajun fries are seasoned to perfection. The flavorful crunch on the outside is met with soft, luscious potato goodness on the inside. The creamy vanilla and slight effervescence in the Rosé tame the bite from seasoning and complements the starch from the potato very nicely.

McGrail Family Chardonnay & KFC’s Mac & Cheese

Fast Food & Wine

I’m someone who really loves mac and cheese. It might actually be one of my favorite foods, so I had pretty high hopes for this stuff. By itself, KFC’s mac and cheese was just alright. I think my standards may be more heavily weighted on cheesiness than they are on creaminess, and this dish definitely had more of the latter. It could’ve even just had an off day. I don’t know. However, I’m glad to say it paired just right with our Charlie Rae Chardonnay, 100% of which goes through malolactic fermentation, making it super creamy and buttery. Each matches the other’s elite level of creaminess, which is why this works so well.

Shamus Patrick Red Blend -OR- Malbec & Jack in the Box Tacos

Other than the shredded lettuce and orange-colored oil that permeates through both the shell of the taco and the sleeve in which it comes, I don’t think anyone really knows what the heck is inside a Jack in the Box taco. I guess it doesn’t really matter what you’re eating when you’re devouring these greasy beasts at 2am after a night out. Perhaps this is the question that swiftly and steadily envelops my mind when I’m eating one of these beloved tacos sans four G&Ts. Anyway, it’s hard to hate on these tacos, even when you are stone-cold sober. Our Shamus Patrick Bordeaux style Red Blend is medium-bodied with beautiful acidity that complements whatever it is these tacos are made of. Our super drinkable Malbec works just as well, but is not pictured here. Yum.

Gracie Sparkling Brut & McDonald’s French Fries

McDonald’s has the best French fries. Don’t @ me. They’re crispy, crunchy, salty, and just perfectly greasy. The starch in the potatoes meshes well with the yeast in the method de champenoise Sparkling Brut. Though it’s simple and maybe boring to some, this pairing is easy, classic, and it just works.

Sláinte Red Blend -OR- A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon & Foster’s Freeze’s Chili Burger with Cheese

As I mentioned before, I don’t think I had been to Foster’s Freeze in ten years prior to this project, so I was excited to try try this burger. I chose this chili burger because I figured it would be a safe bet—I think it’s really difficult to make bad chili and because as long as a chili is mild, the acidity will always work with the acidity in a good red wine. And of course I had to add cheese, because you can’t have chili without cheese, or at least I can’t. Anyway, this burger was actually pretty darn tasty and it seemed to really pair best with both our Sláinte Red Blend and our A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon (not pictured).

Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc & Wienerschnitzel’s Jalapeño Poppers

One of the most common pairing rules says that crisp blush wines and white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, can and should be paired with spicy foods. Ten percent of our Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in neutral oak barrels, which lends this wine a creamy mouthfeel; this helps to tone down the spiciness from the jalapeño and meets the creaminess of the mozzarella inside these fried poppers. This is just a really nice partnership.

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon -OR- McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon & Habit Burger’s Char Burger

I actually think this was the first time I’ve ever had a Habit Burger burger and I’ve got to say this flame-grilled burger was perfection. I think the fact the burger was charred gave it a certain toasty-ness that allowed it to stand up to our big, delicious Cabs. Again, I couldn’t choose which one worked better, so I’m going to suggest pairing it with either the James Vincent Cabernet or the McGrail Cabernet Reserve. This was a really just well-rounded, classic pairing.

Charlie Rae Chardonnay & Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich

Remember a few months ago when these spicy chicken sandwiches were all the craze? Like, people would be queued up for hours just to get their hands on one of these babies. Honestly, it was probably worth it. These sandwiches are incredible. The buns are so soft, buttery, and toasty. The chicken is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. The spicy mayonnaise and pickles tie the sandwich together and it all tastes even better with our delightfully buttery Charlie Rae Chardonnay. This might be one of my favorite pairings ever.

What Didn’t Work:

Sláinte Red Blend & a Wienerschnitzel Corn Dog

I chose to try this pairing because I had read somewhere that corn dogs can be paired with a Grenache or lighter-bodied red wine. Even though Sláinte is our most delicate red wine, the flavors ultimately just clashed. When I brought the leftovers to the winery, our Assistant Winemaker suggested pairing the corn dog with a Chardonnay, which was definitely a more suitable pairing. I can also imagine the corn dog being great with our Gracie Sparkling Brut.

McGrail Malbec & Habit Burger’s Tri Tip Sandwich

I really wanted this one to work, but for some reason it just didn’t. I think this was not a compatible pairing because there was a creamy sort of sauce on the sandwich and a semi-sweet teriyaki sauce on the meat that didn’t agree with the Malbec. We also tried it with the Sláinte Red Blend and it was slightly better than with the Malbec, but I think some foods just aren’t good for pairing with wine. Still, I will say this was my first time trying this sandwich and it was SO GOOD. The ciabatta bread was buttered and crispy, the meat was super tender and moist, and the flavors of the entire sandwich combined perfectly. And, of course, the Malbec will forever be one of my favorites.

That’s All, Folks!

As always, please let us know if you try any of these pairings, if you come up with your own McGrail wine and fast food pairings. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

All Wine and Food Pairing Recipes

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? Simply choose your favorite McGrail wine and follow one of our recommended pairing recipes linked below! These are all wine and food pairing recipes we’ve created.

A Jó Élet, “The Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon

A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon & Spiced Mexican Chocolate Almond Popcorn

Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites with Sriracha Horseradish Dipping Sauce and the 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon
Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon & Smoked Paprika BBQ Bacon Popcorn

C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon

Marinara & Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with the 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon
C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon & Sun-Dried Tomato Parmesan Popcorn

Charlie Rae Chardonnay

2018 Charlie Rae Chardonnay and d’Anjou Pear White Balsamic and Butter Popcorn
Charlie Rae Chardonnay & Salted Caramel & Butterscotch Popcorn

Colton’s Cabernet Sauvignon

Colton’s Cabernet & Herbs de Provence Asiago Popcorn

Gracie Sparkling Brut

Gracie Sparkling Brut & Orange Lavender Vanilla Honey Popcorn

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon & Dark Chocolate Coconut Cashew Popcorn

Kylie Ryan Rosé

2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé with Shrimp and Citrus Ceviche in Endive Spears
Kylie Ryan Rosé & Classic Kettle Corn

Malbec, Lucky 8 Vineyard

McGrail Malbec & Dark Chocolate Berry Popcorn

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve & Black Pepper BellaVitano Popcorn

McGrail Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon

McGrail Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon & Savory Sharp Cheddar Mustard Onion Thyme Popcorn

McGrail Clone 15 Cabernet Sauvignon

McGrail Clone 15 Cabernet Sauvignon & Pomegranate Balsamic Aged Gouda Popcorn

McGrail Family Chardonnay

Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms Paired with the 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay
McGrail Family Chardonnay & Asian-Inspired Vegan “Chicken” Ramen Popcorn

McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard

McGrail Merlot & Truffle Sharp Cheddar Parmesan Popcorn

Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage Skewers, Grilled Balsamic Parmesan Artichokes, & Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes & Rosemary Rib Eye & 2016 Patriot Cabernet
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage Skewers, Grilled Balsamic Parmesan Artichokes, & Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes & Rosemary Rib Eye & 2016 Patriot Cabernet
Cheeseburger Tacos & 2016 Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon
Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon & Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Toasted Hazelnut Popcorn

Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Tequila Lime Tacos & 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc
Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc & Hot Chili Lime Street Corn Popcorn

Shamus Patrick Red Blend

2016 Shamus Patrick and Prosciutto Apple Balsamic Flatbread 
Shamus Patrick Red Blend & Taco Popcorn

Sláinte Red Blend

Sweet Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Mango-Apple Tacos & 2017 Slainte Red Blend
Slainte Red Blend & Peanut Butter, Chocolate, & Potato Chip Popcorn

Timeless Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Cocktails

Red, White, & Rosé Summertime Sangria

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Although all our wines are delicious on their own, a heavy, tannic Cabernet isn’t always the most appealing on any of the many 100°+ days we have here in the Livermore Valley. An easy way to enjoy a red wine on an unbearably hot summer day is to make sangria with it (sorry, Mark)!

That’s not to say just any of our wines should be used to make sangria, because that would be a blatant disrespect of the hard work our winemaking team has put into our beautiful, award-winning wines. In the most respectful, deliberate manner possible, I’ve created some delightful sangria recipes that complement the most prominent notes of three of our most affordable wines, all of which are priced at under $40! Due to the affordability of these wines, you won’t feel like you’ve just wasted a topnotch bottle on what’s basically a fancy, adult fruit punch, but you also won’t be left feeling rough the next day from using the cheap store-bought stuff.

These summertime sangria recipes are fun, fruity, easy-to-drink, and always refreshing! Please let us know if you enjoy one of these delicious cocktails on a scorching summer day. We look forward to hearing from you!

Watermelon Strawberry Rosé Sparkler

What I love most about our Rosé is its unexpectedly round mouthfeel, its subtle effervescence, and the implied sweetness you get from the notes of strawberry, watermelon, citrus, and vanilla in this wine. It’s like candy in a glass, without containing any residual sugar.

I chose to use watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and lime in this cocktail because those are some of the most noticeable notes found in the wine and complement it really well. I also used some sparkling water, because bubbles are undeniably enjoyable. The flavored vodkas I’ve recommended further enhance the flavors in this cocktail, as well, though each are very different from one another. Like the Rosé, the huckleberry vodka tastes just like candy, though it contains no sugar, while the St. George California citrus-flavored vodka plays into those crisp, lemon-lime notes. The choice is up to you, but either way, I promise you will find this drink delectable! This summertime sangria is sure to keep you cool!


  • 2 cups watermelon
  • 2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup strawberries, stems removed, chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted, stems removed
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 12 oz. sparkling water, lemon flavored or unflavored
  • 750 mL bottle 2019 McGrail Kylie Ryan Rosé
  • 1 cup vodka, huckleberry (44° North) or California citrus (St. George) flavor
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar


  1. In a food processor or blender, combine watermelon, lime juice, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Blend until smooth.
  2. Using a mesh strainer, strain seeds and pulp out of fruit puree (this will take a long time, but I promise it’s worth it).
  3. In a large pitcher, combine 2019 McGrail Kylie Ryan Rosé, flavored vodka, sugar, and strained fruit puree. Whisk well. Consume within four days of making.
  4. Enjoy your sangria in a wine or cocktail glass over ice and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Salud!
summertime sangria kylie ryan rose

Citrus Sauvignon Blanc Summertime Sangria

summertime sangria Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Citrus, which is easily one of the most vibrant fruit flavors is also one of the most refreshing, in my opinion. Because there are so many lovely citrus notes in our Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc, I figured it would be the best to accompany this wine. You can also find notes of green apple in this crisp, white wine, which is another classic sangria ingredient. Departing from tradition, I added Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur, which I prefer to other citrus liquers, because it’s high quality and a 375 mL bottle costs about $7 at Trader Joe’s. Simply put, this white sangria is inexpensive and easy to make, thirst-quenching, and perfect for a hot day!


  • 1 green apple, seeded, chopped
  • 2 honeycrisp apples, seeded, chopped
  • 1 navel orange, sliced into half rounds
  • 2 blood oranges, sliced into half rounds
  • 1 pink grapefruit, sliced into half rounds
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup orange liquer (I used Patrón Orange Liqueur)
  • 750 mL bottle 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc
  • 12 oz. sparkling water, grapefruit flavored
summertime sangria


  1. Add all fruit to a large pitcher.
  2. Add lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, orange juice, sugar, and orange liqueur. Whisk until sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc and sparkling water. Stir well.
  4. Allow to sit for at least 2-3 hours to maximize the permeation of the fruit flavors in the sangria. Consume within four days of making.
  5. Enjoy in a wine or cocktail glass over ice and add fruit from pitcher to garnish!

Summery Sláinte Sangria

Last, but not least, I’ve gone slightly classic with this Sláinte sangria, using lemons, limes, oranges, and apples. However, the addition of the ginger beer (or ale) gives this sangria a splash of spice and some bubbles. Unlike classic Spanish sangria, this sangria includes our Sláinte Red Blend, which is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and two Portuguese varietals, not the lighter-bodied Garnacha or Sangiovese you might find in traditional sangria. The addition of organic brown sugar and brown rum give this drink almost a tropical feel, but it’s still heavy on the classic citrus notes. This sangria is great for red wine lovers who might not want to sip on a bold Cab on one of the hottest days of the year.

summertime sangria


  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 green apple
  • 2 tbsp. organic turbinado cane sugar
  • 750 mL bottle Sláinte Red Blend
  • 1/2 cup dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 12 oz. ginger beer or ginger ale
  • 1 cinnamon stick


  1. Slice lemon, lime, and oranges in 1/4″ rounds. Remove core from apple and chop into 1/2″ cubes.
  2. In a pitcher, add fruit, brown sugar, Sláinte Red Blend, rum, and orange juice. Stir well.
  3. Add ginger beer and cinnamon stick. Allow to sit in the refrigerator between 4 and 24 hours to allow drink to absorb fruit flavors.
  4. Serve over ice in a wine glass with your fruit of choice as a garnish.

I hope I’ve inspired you to chill out with this yummy McGrail summertime sangria at home! Please let us know if you do make any of these drinks and if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Herb Braised Short Ribs, Polenta, & Colton’s Cabernet

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

Our Colton’s Cabernet is special. It’s set apart from our other Cabs because it’s an old-world-style Cab and the grapes come from our Lucky 8 Vineyard. What’s unique about this property is a gargantuan eucalyptus tree on the adjacent property, which lends these grapes serious herbal characteristics. Though herbal notes were very strong in our first vintage of Colton’s Cab, each vintage following has been farmed more meticulously, reducing the amount of mint and eucalyptus we get from these grapes. Unlike our estate-grown Cabernets, it’s been aged for 18 months, rather than the 30 months our Cab Reserve, Patriot, Good Life, and James Vincent spend in oak, resulting in a wine that is less tannic and more approachable. Lastly, the clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, clone 30, is different from the clones 8 and 15 that are planted on our estate.

Still, the 2018 vintage of Colton’s Cabernet is unexpectedly big, but incredibly smooth, with muted herbal hints, making it perfect to pair with herb braised short ribs.

Herb Braised Short Ribs

Herb Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Creamy Polenta

Makes about 4 servings.


For the short ribs:

  • 3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh sagebrush
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 2 bay laurel leaves
  • Optional: Extra sagebrush or rosemary sprigs to garnish

For the polenta:

  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pepper to taste
Herb Braised Short Ribs


For the short ribs:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove all racks from oven except for one and place it in the lower third of oven.
  2. Brush short rubs with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add each short rib, leaving space between them. Sear each short rib, allowing them to really brown. Turn short ribs on each side, until all sides are browned, about fifteen minutes in total.
  4. Once short ribs have been seared, turn the heat to medium, add onion and garlic around short ribs, and cook until soft, about five minutes.
  5. Add red wine and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add herbs, cover, and place in oven. Braise short ribs in oven until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about two to two and a half hours.
  7. Allow meat to rest in covered pan for twenty minutes prior to serving.
  8. Rest the meat. When the meat is done, rest in a covered pan for 20 minutes before serving. Serve by gently tugging the chunks of meat away from the bone and spooning the saucy onions over top.
  9. Serve in a bowl or on plate with the creamy polenta, garnish with an extra herb sprig, and pair with our 2018 Colton’s Cabernet Sauvignon!
Herb Braised Short Ribs

For the polenta:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring salt and 4 cups water to a boil. Slowly and steadily add polenta or cornmeal, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk 2 minutes after all polenta has been added. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Add butter, cheese, and one of the minced garlic cloves, then season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Serve in a bowl or on plate with the braised short ribs, garnish with an extra herb sprig, and pair with our 2018 Colton’s Cabernet Sauvignon!

I hope I’ve inspired you to grab your Dutch oven and make this tasty pairing at home! Please let us know if you do make these short ribs and if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine Cocktails

A Virtual Trip to Italy via Sparkling Citrus Aperitivos

If you’ve ever been to Italy, or almost anywhere in Europe for that matter, you’ve probably at least seen an Aperol spritz or have maybe even enjoyed one yourself. If you haven’t, you’re probably wondering what the heck an Aperol spritz is. It’s the drink of summertime in Northern Italy and much of Austria. Plainly, it is some combination of Aperol, soda, Brut wine, orange slices, and ice.

Aperol: Italian Aperitivo and Amaro

Aperol is a bittersweet, orange, classic Italian aperitivo. Aperitivos, or apéritifs in French, are dry, light, and bittersweet drinks that are usually slightly alcoholic and served prior to dinner, in order to “open up the palate” or stimulate one’s appetite before a large meal. In Northern Italy, if Aperol is not served as the aperitivo, then usually a dry vermouth, a dry wine, or Campari (akin to Aperol, it’s a bittersweet, orange classic Italian aperitivo, but with a higher alcohol content) is served in its place. Alongside aperitivos, small, dry, finger-food snacks, such as green olives, nuts, cheese, prosciutto, salami, chips, or crackers are typically served. In Europe, people tend to eat much slower than Americans do and leisurely enjoy their time at the table, before, during, and after dinner, which is why aperitivos are such an important facet of European culture. Even digestivos, or drinks to be enjoyed post-supper, exist! If you’ve ever had an Amaro, a bitter, herbal, citrus, and/or floral Italian liquer made from brandy, it’s most likely you have sipped on a digestif; however, Aperol and Campari, which are aperitivos, are actually considered Amaro.

Austrian Spritz

The term “spritz” is not Italian, but rather comes from Italy’s northern neighbor, Austria. Between the years 1805 and 1866, Austria actually possessed what is now much of Northern Italy, though the two countries still share a border today. Because Austrians found Italy’s acidic white wine unpalatable, they would often “spritzen” up their wine with a splash of sparkling water or soda, which is how the term “spritz” was coined. Just like in Italy, you can order an Aperol spritz nearly anywhere in Austria, albeit it’s less likely to be served with the same pre-dinner snacks you’ll find in Italy.

Brut Sparkling Wine

Since I’ve discussed the first two ingredients of an Aperol spritz, I will finish with the most important ingredient of an Aperol spritz–the sparkling wine! Sparkling wine, has many names around the world, depending on the country and region in which it’s produced, what grape varieties are used to produce it, and the amount of residual sugar, or lack thereof, in the wine. Most Italian sparkling wine is called Prosecco. While Prosecco is sometimes associated with being sweet, it can also be dry or somewhere in-between sweet and dry. There are four basic categories to indicate how sweet it is: brut, extra-dry, dry, and demi-sec. Because there’s already a considerable amount of sugar in Aperol, the type of Prosecco that is traditionally used in an Aperol spritz is Brut–the driest. Our Gracie Sparkling is also a Brut, which is why it works so well in an Aperol spritz!

An Italian-Inspired Playlist

One of the things I love about an Aperol spritz is that it can make you feel like you’re sitting on a piazza on Lake Como, with wisteria growing overhead and a nice cool breeze blowing through… until you realize you’re stuck at home in a global pandemic. What I’m trying to say is those initial first sips are always spectacularly refreshing. To lengthen that first-sip feeling, I’ve created a “Virtual Euro Trip” playlist, so that Lake Como fantasy can last just a moment longer.

Aperol Spritz with Gracie Sparkling Brut

  • Ice
  • 3 oz. Aperol (can be found at almost any grocery or specialty liquor store)
  • 3 oz. Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • 1 oz. unflavored sparkling water or soda
  • 1-2 orange slices, for garnish
  1. Fill a wine glass about half way with ice, or with about five large ice cubes.
  2. Measure out Aperol and dump into glass. Pour an equal amount Gracie Sparking Brut into glass (you will have to eyeball this part; it’s a lot more difficult to measure, because it’s bubbly). Top with a splash of sparkling water.
  3. Add 1-2 halved orange slices inside glass for garnish. Enjoy on a warm summer day with our “Virtual Trip to Italy” playlist!

I hope I’ve inspired you to enjoy this breezy Italian classic cocktail at home! Please let us know if you make any of these dishes. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Tri Tip and 2015 McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Merlot, which is our Winemaker Mark Clarin’s favorite varietal, is the Bordeaux brother of Cabernet Sauvignon, but is often forgotten about and inexplicably doesn’t seem to have as great of a reputation as Cab. Since it’s Mark’s favorite varietal, Mark has made our Merlot liked he would make any of our Cabernets–big and delicious! This Merlot drinks like a Cab, but still has the Merlot characteristics that you can’t get from a Cabernet. Having been aged in a combination of new and experienced French oak, our Merlot has those rich, silky smooth tannins you’d expect from a gorgeous French oak barrel and is still big enough to stand up to a steak dinner. This wine tastes like luxury to me, but is still humble enough to be enjoyed on spring day, in both its price point and its drinkability.

I love our Merlot with a lean, but flavorful tri tip that can easily be thrown on the grill. Using a savory rub, work some spice and umami into your meat so the mouthfeel matches that of our Merlot. Enjoy it with an easy tomato, avocado, and corn salad, soft, buttery potatoes, and our 2015 McGrail Merlot for a full-on tasty summertime meal!

Easy Grilled Tri Tip

Makes about 8 servings.


  • 2 lbs. tri tip, silver skin removed
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 3 tbsp. meat rub of choice (I used Five Marys Spice Seasoning Rub)


  1. Season tri tip with rub of choice and allow to sit for at least one hour. Work rub into meat.
  2. Heat grill on high. Liberally season tri tip with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Sear tri tip on each side for 6-8 minutes. Lower heat to low and flip meat over. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. Meat will be ready when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat has reached 130 degrees F. Allow meat to rest for 10-20 minutes, then slice against the grain.
  4. Store remaining tri tip in an airtight container for up to one week after preparing.
  5. Enjoy with a bottle of 2015 McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard!
Wine at Home

Simple Grazing Boards & Gracie Sparkling Brut

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Grazing boards (a fancy name for large charcuterie boards) are one of the easiest culinary trends at the moment. Not only can anyone make them, they are gorgeous and delicious, and also all the rage on Instagram. They’re perfect in almost any setting–lounging around the pool, avoiding small talk at a party, or at home, just because you want a snack. Since I’ve been in charge of overseeing several McGrail winery events, I’ve also been the creator of nearly every cheeseboard or crudité platter our winery events have seen. That’s a lot of charcuterie for one girl to make! With this experience, I’d say I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to make a respectable grazing board. I’ve come up with some easy-to-follow steps, which are listed below, to make your own Insta-worthy grazing board at home.

  1. Find a pretty plate, platter, board, or tray to use. It can be old or it can be new, but it should be pretty. Make sure it’s the right size. How many people will be enjoying your masterpiece? Make sure it’s clean. Wash it if you need to.
  2. Consider your main components–cheese, meat, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, nuts, crackers, olives, dried fruits, dips, jams, herbs, etc. Try to choose ingredients that are colorful. Rainbow carrots, mini heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, and various colorful fruits are some of my favorite munchies to use. When you choose ingredients that are naturally colorful, your board will be both more visually appealing and more nutritious.
  3. Also think about how your guests will be eating each component–with their hands, with a toothpick, etc. Will they need mini tongs to pick up each piece? Will they need somewhere to dispose of toothpicks or rinds? Will you be providing snack plates or napkins? Your guests will likely need something to cut the cheese wedges with. Make sure you have one knife available for each type of cheese that needs to be cut.
  4. Start by placing your larger pieces on the board first. Larger, stickier items, like cheese wedges should be placed around the outer edges of the board. This is helpful for keeping smaller snacks, like nuts or berries, from falling off the sides of your board. Dips, jams, and sauces in small bowls or saucers should also be placed on the board first, but should go in the center of the board to reduce risk of falling off. Hummus is always great to have with veggies.
  5. Separate similar colors and similar ingredients. Separating your colors will up the “wow” factor of your board, because it makes it appear more colorful. If you have red cherries and strawberries, put one on one side of the board and one on the opposite side of the board. Although certain components should be separated, do not just simply put a handful of each thing on the board. The placement should look organic, not careless. Some placements should be triangular, some should be long and skinny, and some should be funky.
  6. Make the board as full as possible. The more you have on the board, the prettier it will be! It will need to be fuller in the center and more sparse on the edges. You can use other fixings as support for smaller ingredients. Stack your blueberries as high as you can. It’s okay if they’re overflowing onto a cheese wedge.
  7. Get creative with your components. Each part doesn’t just have to be one ingredient. One thing I like to do is chop up apples, squeeze lemon over them, drizzle honey on top, and sprinkle a bit of blue cheese over the honey. Or, cut some mozzarella into small pieces, add a dollop of pesto or a basil leaf and a mini tomato, and stick a toothpick through it for a mini caprese salad.
  8. Cut up fruits or veggies that have seeds or pits or that would be cumbersome to eat whole. Bell peppers should be seeded and sliced into sticks, because just straight up eating a whole bell pepper would feel ridiculous and messy. Watermelons and oranges should be sliced, with the skins left on to make eating them easier. Don’t forget some fruits, like apples and pears should be squeezed with lemon once sliced and seeded to keep them from turning brown!
  9. Create patterns or artwork by manipulating certain ingredients. Salami can be folded into quarters and bunched together for a unique look. The tips of strawberries can be cut and worked to look like roses. Make it interesting to look at and to eat.
  10. Lastly, add some fun herbs or edible flowers as a garnish. This can contribute some serious pop to the board. A few sprigs of rosemary is a lovely and easy way to class up the board.
  11. Enjoy with some Gracie Sparkling Brut!

Though nearly every wine can be enjoyed with a grazing board, not every grazing board should be enjoyed with every wine. It’s a rule in the wine world that most food can be enjoyed with sparkling wine due to its versatility, which is why I have chosen to pair our Gracie Brut with an equally stunning grazing board.

Based on my experience, here are foods I recommend using on a grazing board to enjoy alongside Gracie:

  • Jarlsberg cheese
  • Asiago cheese
  • Mozarella, tomato, and pesto bites
  • Pita crackers
  • Bruschetta
  • Herb focaccia bread
  • Balsamic basil Triscuit crackers
  • Pistachios
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Honeycrisp apple
  • Granny smith apple
  • Dried apricots

I hope I’ve inspired you to create your own fun, summertime grazing boards at home! Please let us know if you do. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Garlic Balsamic Pork Tenderloin & 2016 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Garlic Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Makes about 8 servings.


  • 2 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 lbs. pork tenderloin
  • 2 tbsp. honey mustard
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. red wine
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed


  1. Rub the pork tenderloin with the herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Coat seasoned pork with mustard.
  2. Turn broiler on high. Place tenderloin on wire rack, about 5 inches from broiler, with a baking pan below it to catch any drippings. Broil the tenderloin for about 5 minutes on all 4 sides, or until tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
  3. Once cooked through, remove tenderloin from oven, place in a pan, and cover with foil. Tenderloin will continue cooking, so leave it covered for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove foil and thinly slice pork.
  5. Make the garlic balsamic sauce while the pork is cooking.
  6. Heat a medium sauce pan on medium. Brown minced garlic in hot oil. Add chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and red wine. Stirring occasionally, allow sauce to come to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Allow sauce to simmer until it has boiled down into almost less than half and has thickened.
  7. Once pork has been cooked and sliced and sauce has been prepared pour the sauce over the pork and allow to sit for at least ten minutes before enjoying. Save some sauce to enjoy over potatoes or rice.
  8. Enjoy this delicious dish with a glass of 2016 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine at Home

Tri Tip Blue Cheese Salad & 2016 James Vincent…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Tri Tip and Blue Cheese Salad

Makes 4 servings of salad.


  • 2 lbs. tri tip, silver skin removed
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 3 tbsp. meat rub of choice (I used Five Marys Spice Seasoning Rub)
  • 2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 corn cobs, husks and silks removed, kernels cut from cob
  • 1 large haas avocado, pitted and cubed
  • 1 oz. parmesan crisp croutons
  • 8 oz. mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 tbsp. crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. Sonomic balsamic red wine reduction
  • 2 oz. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence


  1. Season tri tip with rub of choice and allow to sit for at least one hour. Work rub into meat.
  2. Heat grill on high. Liberally season tri tip with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Sear tri tip on each side for 6-8 minutes. Lower heat to low and flip meat over. Cook for 8-10 minutes on each side. Meat will be ready when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat has reached 130 degrees F. Allow meat to rest for 10-20 minutes, then slice against the grain.
  4. On four salad plates, evenly divide romaine lettuce, corn kernels, avocado, croutons, tomatoes, and blue cheese. Add about 4 ounces tri tip on top of each salad.
  5. In a small bowl, combine shallot, Sonomic balsamic red wine reduction, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. Stir well, then drizzle over each salad.
  6. Store remaining tri tip in an airtight container for up to one week after preparing.
  7. Enjoy this flavorful salad with a glass of our 2016 James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine at Home

Herb Focaccia & Linguica Flatbread & Sláinte Red Blend

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

One thing the McGrail team has always discussed tasting great with our Sláinte Red Blend is pork sausage. Since I usually don’t really care for pork sausage, it has been a challenge for me to find the energy to actually take the time to make the pairing. Having grown up in a Portuguese family, linguica has always been a staple in my family’s breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Maybe I forgot that linguica is pork sausage, but it is certainly one of the more palatable foods of the Portuguese cuisine, which I think is why I’ve taken a liking to it. If you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying fresh-off-the grill linguica, it’s greasy, meaty, and a little sweet and spicy. I chose it as the main star of this dish, because while I think it’s great on its own, it’s also delicious with other acidic foods, like tomatoes or onions. I added cheese to balance out the acidity and an herb focaccia to complement the slight herbal notes in the nose of our Sláinte Red Blend. To further the Portuguese theme of this pairing, I think it’s important to mention this wine is composed of two Portuguese varietals and Cabernet Sauvignon. This really is a most excellent pairing!

Herb Focaccia & Linguica Flatbread

Makes about 16 servings.


  • 16 oz. fresh herb focaccia bread
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 22 oz. linguica sausage (I recommend Silva’s or Lockeford sausages, both are founded in Northern California), sliced
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 12 garlic cloves, quartered
  • 6 oz. white mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 10 oz. mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 oz. fresh ciliegine whole milk fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
  • 4 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme


  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Take your focaccia bread and rub 2 tablespoons olive oil all over it.
  3. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes or until bread becomes slightly brown.
  4. In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium and cook linguica slices until just heated through.
  5. In a small frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium-low and cook shallots, garlic, and mushrooms until they become soft.
  6. Evenly disperse the tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, linguica, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, and thyme sprigs over the top of the focaccia bread.
  7. Cook the focaccia flatbread in the oven at 450 degrees F for 10 to 20 minutes, or until desired crispiness is achieved.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of our Sláinte Red Blend!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this perfectly balanced pairing at home! Please let us know if you do make any of these plates and if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!