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Wine at Home

Bistec Encebollado, Frijoles Cubanos, & 2015 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

One of my favorite types of food, that is surprisingly difficult to find in the Bay Area, is Puerto Rican food. I know of a few great places in Santa Rosa, San Rafael, and San Francisco, but there’s nothing I know of within an hour’s drive that is worth the effort. I have found myself craving my favorite Puerto Rican steak, bean, and rice dishes a lot lately and with the SIP still in effect, I decided I would try making these delicious plates at home. Armed with a lengthy list of ingredients, I set out to the local supermarket in search of what could make or break one of my all-time favorite meals. Though this pairing was certainly more complicated and time consuming than many others, this was well worth the work, as it was one of the most balanced pairings and flavorful meals I’ve made yet! I seriously could not stop praising myself while I enjoying this dinner. I hope you will consider enjoying this pairing at home, too!

Bistec Encebollado

Makes about 4 servings.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. sirloin steak, thinly sliced across the grain in 4-5″ squares
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup organic beef stock
  • 2 large white onions, sliced into rings
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 (0.18 oz.) packet Sazón seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ádobo
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry oregano
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt


  1. In a Ziploc bag, combine steak slices, olive oil, vinegar, beef stock, onions, cilantro, Sazón, garlic, dry oregano, cumin, and salt. Shake the sealed bag to evenly distribute the seasonings over the steak. Put bag in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.
  2. Heat a large pan on medium-low. Remove onions from bag and sautée them until they become soft, not browned. Remove steak slices from bag and cook with onions, until they are cooked through.

Frijoles Cubanos

Makes about 6 servings.


  • 1 lb. dried black beans, rinsed in a strainer
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sofrito (recipe below, in case you can’t find it at the store)
  • 2 smoked pork hocks
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 (0.18 oz.) packet Sazón seasoning
  • 3 1/2 cups organic beef stock
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

I had the misfortune of not being able to find sofrito at the store, but luckily I was able to quickly use some ingredients I had on hand to make this flavorful addition to the beans.


  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper


  1. Slowly add each sofrito ingredient to a food processor and blend together until smooth.
  2. Sofrito can be used in other foods or eaten as a salsa. Store in an air-right container for up to two weeks.


  1. In a large pot, add your cleaned and rinsed dry beans. Cover the beans with water and turn burner on medium heat. Bring to a boil and allow the beans to boil for about 2 minutes.
  2. Remove the beans from heat and allow them to soak for about an hour. Stir occasionally to make sure most beans are still soaking in the water.
  3. Return the beans to medium heat, but do not drain them.
  4. Add sofrito, pork hocks, cumin, oregano, Sazón, beef stock, vinegar, cilantro, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Stir.
  5. Once the beans have reached a boil, lower heat to medium-low. Allow to cook for up to two hours, or until most liquid has disappeared, stirring occasionally. Beans will be ready when they are tender.
  6. Enjoy with the bistec encebollado, white rice, fried plantains, and 2015 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve!

Puerto Rican Steamed Rice

Makes about 8 servings.


  • 2.5 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 cups uncooked medium white calrose rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas


  1. In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, bring the oil, water, and salt to a boil.
  2. Add the rice and boil until almost all water has evaporated. Stir.
  3. Add 3/4 cups water and stir. Lower heat to medium-low. Cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes, or until all water has been cooked out.
  4. Add frozen peas when rice is still very hot and stir.
  5. Enjoy with bistec encebollado, frijoles Cubanos, fried plantains, and our 2015 McGrail Cabernet Reserve!

Savory Fried Plantains

Makes about 8 servings.


  • 2 plantains
  • 4 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp. garlic powder


  1. Heat oil in a medium, deep saucepan on high. Using a candy thermometer, get the temperature of the oil to 400°F. This is the ideal temperature for frying plantains, but 375°F will work too.
  2. Peel plantains and slice them thinly and at a slant. About 1/8” is the best slice thickness to get them crispy.
  3. Slowly add each plantain slice to the hot oil and allow each to brown around the edges. It should take about 20 seconds per slice. Using tongs, remove each plantain slice from the oil when they are ready and place on a paper-towel-covered plate to drain excess oil from plantains.
  4. Sprinkle hot plantains with salt and garlic powder (optional).
  5. Plate and enjoy on their own, with guacamole, or use your remaining sofrito to dip them in. Serve with bistec encebollado, frijoles Cubanos, white rice, and our 2015 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make some of these incredibly flavorful dishes at home! This is one of my personal favorite pairings so far. Please let us know if you make any of these dishes. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Sweet & Savory Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches & Shamus…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Summertime is swiftly approaching and though I’m not totally sure what that means for us in the middle of a pandemic, one thing that is for sure is we can still enjoy our favorite summertime food and wine, just not really with each other!

I used to worship my Crockpot in college, but over the past couple of years I’ve forgotten how magical slow cookers can be. Since I’ve been making and eating most of my meals at home during the shelter-in-place, I’ve become very friendly with my slow cooker again. What I love most about slow cookers is the work in using them is minimal. You literally just throw a bunch of stuff in the pot and forget about it until you’re ready to eat. It’s amazing.

With summer on its way, I’m looking forward to enjoying all the foods that are beginning to come into season. I love delicious barbecue food–grilled corn, fresh watermelon, tasty salads, hamburgers, yummy squash, and everything in between. Combining my adoration for my Crockpot and my appreciation for summertime foods, I came up with a recipe for a sweet and savory slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich that pairs perfectly with our easy-drinking, summertime favorite, Shamus Patrick Red Blend.

Sweet & Savory Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork & Tangy Slaw Sandwiches

Makes about 16 sandwiches.


  • 7.5-8 lbs. pork shoulder or pork butt
  • Garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup sweet Vidalia onion barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1 cup orange juice, divided
  • 1/2 cup mango juice
  • 1 (0.7 oz.) packet dry Italian dressing seasoning 
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into rings 
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 3 tbsp. honey, divided
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I used avocado oil mayonnaise)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded 
  • 1 orange, peeled and cubed
  • 4 apricots, pitted and minced 
  • 2 large haas avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed 
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 3 stems green onions, thinly sliced
  • 16 brioche buns
  • Salted butter 


For the pork:
  1. Remove your pork shoulder or pork butt from packaging and liberally season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  2. Put your pork meat in a large slow cooker and top with 1 cup barbecue sauce, 1/2 cup orange juice, mango juice, Italian dressing seasoning, and yellow onions. Cook in slow cooker on low for 7-8 hours. Add or subtract cooking time depending on weight of pork shoulder or pork butt.
  3. Once the pork has been cooked through, use two forks (one in each hand) to shred the meat. Add remaining barbecue sauce, apricot jam, 1 tablespoon honey, and mix well into meat.
For the slaw: 
  1. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, minced garlic, 1/2 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons honey, and salt and pepper to taste, to create the slaw dressing.
  2. In a large bowl, combine red cabbage, green cabbage, carrots, oranges, mango, avocado, minced red onion, apricots, and green onion. Stir well. Pour slaw dressing over cabbage mixture and stir well. Put prepared slaw in the refrigerator and allow to sit for at least an hour.
For the sandwich:
  1. Cut your brioche buns in half and butter the inside portion of each half. Broil on high with buttered portion facing broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until desired toasty-ness is achieved.
  2. Fill each bun with cooked pork, onions, and slaw.
  3. Enjoy with a side of fresh-cut watermelon or potato salad and a glass (or two) of our Shamus Patrick Red Blend!  

I hope I’ve inspired you to dust off your slow cooker and make this yummy pairing at home! Please let us know if you do make these sandwiches and if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Creamy Polenta and Spicy Shrimp with Charlie Rae Chardonnay


  • Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated cheddar
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. mini heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream


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.

For the shrimp:

  1. Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat and add oil. Add garlic, 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, and half of the green onion slices. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add heirloom tomatoes. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes.
  3. Add shrimp and thyme. Cook until shrimp are entirely pink, stirring, for about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add wine and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in heavy cream and simmer for 2 more minutes. 
  6. Serve shrimp over polenta. Garnish with remaining green onions and red pepper flakes.
  7. Enjoy with a glass of Charlie Rae Chardonnay.
Wine at Home

Cinco de Mayo Wine & Taco Pairings de “Guy…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

If there’s anything American people and Mexican people both love, it’s a celebration that involves good food, drinks, and fun party festivities. Unfortunately, a party isn’t really in the cards for us at the moment, so we’ll mainly focus on the food and drinks. But since we’re on the topic of parties and celebrations, let me tell you a little bit about why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. What I find most fascinating about Cinco de Mayo is that it is more widely celebrated in the United States than it is in Mexico. At a glance, it is a celebration of Zaragoza’s victory over Napoleon III’s French forces on May 5th, 1862 in Puebla, Mexico. There is only one state in Mexico that observes Cinco de Mayo as a federal holiday, and that’s Puebla. Contrary to what a lot of Americans think to be true, Mexico celebrates its independence on September 16th, not on Cinco de Mayo. The battle of Puebla, which occurred on the 5th of May in 1862, is not even considered to be that monumental of a victory, according to much of Mexico. Cinco de Mayo has come to be so widely celebrated in the United States, because it is and has been a way for Mexican Americans to celebrate their heritage. In 1862 when Napoleon was defeated, the people of Puebla and the people of California shared many ties and Mexican Americans in California celebrated Puebla’s victory. 158 years later, we carry on the tradition of celebrating one Mexican city’s defeat of the French. Now that you know the reason we celebrate Cinco de Mayo and why it’s such a big deal in America, we’ll move onto the good stuff–food and drinks!

Like Cinco de Mayo, tacos were believed to have originated around the 1800’s and were also eventually adopted by and are now widely celebrated by Americans. For a food that isn’t actually that old, tacos are certainly popular! Seriously though, what’s not to like about a taco? In their traditional form, tacos almost exclusively contain the most delicious ingredients known to man and aways come nicely wrapped in a cute little tortilla vessel. What I love most about tacos is that you can now find a recipe in which any sort of food has been made into a taco. Grilled carrots? Yep. Cheeseburgers? You know it. Chocolate and ice cream? You bet. Though I will always love traditional Mexican street tacos, I appreciate the culinary innovation in creating any type of taco. One of America’s most beloved food gurus, Guy Fieri, is also an enthusiast of culinary modification.

Guy Fieri, who is a Bay Area native, is known for his fusion dishes and restaurants. When trying to brainstorm wine pairings for Cinco de Mayo, Guy Fieri’s cultural culinary fusion style immediately came to mind, due to the fact Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that celebrates a Mexican city’s victory over French forces and is primarily celebrated in the United States. When I think of Guy Fieri, I am reminded of my time living in Sonoma County, when I almost literally, physically bumped into him at Costco in Santa Rosa once and would dine at his restaurants regularly. Tex Wasabi’s, which was one of Fieri’s restaurants in Santa Rosa, served some of the most amazing Asian and Barbecue fusion plates imaginable and some of the best food I’ve ever had.

In addition to tying the taco and wine pairings to Fieri’s fusion style, I had also been trying to come up with a new, fun video idea for our Assistant Winemaker Cris to star in and Guy Fieri just really fit the bill for both myself and Cris. Soon, I found myself ordering a $6 Fierian wig and flame-covered bowling shirt off Amazon and pulling faux tattoo sleeves out of my Halloween costume boxes. Cris did a magnificent job emulating the Mayor of Flavortown in our video, which was posted on Sunday. I encourage you to take a watch if you haven’t yet!

In order to incorporate the food pairings with the video, I had to come up with some interesting taco recipes to keep it fresh and all tied together. While I cooked most of the food, Cris assisted me with frying the fish for the fish tacos and heating the tortillas. Together, we created tequila lime fish tacos that Cris’s character Surfer Steve would show Guy how to make, a saucy cheeseburger taco to pair with our Patriot Cabernet at “Patriot Pat’s,” and some sweet, slowcooked BBQ chicken and mango-apple tacos, enjoyed by Cris’s elderly Gertrude, who said they brought her as much pleasure as her late husband Winston did before he died in 1985. Admittedly, the characters and storyline are absolutely wacky, but our main goal was to entertain, which we definitely accomplished.

I hope you enjoy these taco and wine pairings and are able to get a chuckle out of our silly video. Cheers and feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Surfer Steve’s Tequila Lime Tacos & 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc


Makes about 8 servings.

For the tacos:

  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. silver tequila
  • 12 oz. cod, cut into 2 1/2″ pieces
  • 16 8″ white corn tortillas
  • Canola oil
  • 8 oz. dry, unseasoned fish fry batter
  • 8 oz. panko bread crumbs

For the dry slaw:

  • 1/2 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup napa cabbage, shredded
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced

For the pico de gallo:

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the cilantro lime aioli:

  • 3 tbsp. silver tequila
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 8 oz. crema Mexicana (Mexican sour cream)
  • ¼ cup skim milk
  • 3 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the Tacos:

  1. In a shallow bowl or a Ziploc bag, combine the cumin, salt , pepper lime juice, and tequila. Stir thoroughly. Place the cod in the bowl or bag and toss to coat. Place in the refrigerator, allowing the fish to marinate for up to an hour.
  2. In a deep frying pan or skillet, heat the canola oil to 350-375 degrees F.
  3. In a shallow dish, combine the dry fish fry and panko bread crumbs. Mix well.
  4. Remove the cod from the marinade and dredge each piece entirely in fish fry and panko mixture.
  5. Slowly, begin adding each piece of cod to the oil, ensuring the pieces stay separated from one another. Fry each piece of cod for 4-5 minutes, or until light golden brown. Using tongs, remove the fish from the oil and place on a paper-towel-covered plate to remove any excess oil.
  6. Warm corn tortillas in a pan, on low heat. Cover warm tortillas with a towel to keep warm.
  7. Stack two tortillas and place 1-2 pieces of the cod on top of each. Top with dry slaw, pico de gallo, and tequila lime aioli.
  8. Serve immediately.

For the dry slaw:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

For the pico de gallo:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together.

For the tequila lime aioli:

  1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together.

Enjoy with a glass of our 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc!

Patriot Pat’s Cheeseburger Tacos & 2016 Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon

Makes about 6 servings.


  • 12 8″ white corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup thousand island dressing
  • 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive or canola oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 lb. grass fed organic ground beef (85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 thick slices extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium-sized red tomato, cut into 1/4″ thick slices
  • 1/4 head iceberg lettuce, cleaned and cut into 6″ around pieces
  • 3 mini Kosher dill pickles, thinly sliced
  • 3 tsp. sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 1/2 haas avocado


  1. Warm corn tortillas on a pan, on low heat. Cover warm tortillas with a towel to keep warm. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine thousand island dressing and ketchup. Mix well. Set aside.
  3. In a medium frying pan, heat oil on medium-low. Add minced onions and grill until lightly browned.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine hamburger meat, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well and shape into 6 small-to-medium-sized patties.
  5. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan on medium. Add patties. Grill each patty halfway to desired doneness and add a slice of cheese on top. Once patties have reached desired doneness, remove from heat.
  6. Stack two warm tortillas together and top with 1-2 pieces iceberg lettuce, a cooked cheeseburger patty, 1-2 tomato slices, a spoonful of grilled onions, several dill pickle slices, thousand-island-ketchup mixture, 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds, and 1/2 haas avocado (optional).
  7. Enjoy this behemoth taco with a glass of our 2016 Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon.

Saoirse’s Sweet Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Mango-Apple Tacos & 2017 Slainte Red Blend

Makes about 8 servings.


For the tacos:

  • 16 8″ white corn tortillas
  • 4 pieces of sweet corn, cooked and cut from cob
  • 8 heaping tbsp. mild shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp. fresh chives, minced

For the chicken:

  • 1 lb. organic chicken breast, boneless and skinless
  • 12 oz. sweet BBQ sauce (I used Sauced’s Pig Candy BBQ Sauce)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 6 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the mango-apple slaw:

  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice
  • 3 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mango juice
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 mango, cubed into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 granny smith apple, cubed into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, cubed into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 cup napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded


For the chicken:

  1. In a medium slowcooker, add raw chicken breast, BBQ sauce, diced onion, garlic, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
  2. Place lid on slowcooker, and ensure no or minimal air is escaping.
  3. If chicken breasts are frozen, turn slowcooker on high and allow to cook for 2-3 hours. If chicken breasts are refrigerator temperature, turn slowcooker on low and allow to cook for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours. Chicken is cooked when breasts have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  4. Chicken should be easy to shred. Shred chicken into 1″ chunks using two forks.

For the mango-apple slaw:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, lime juice, mango juice, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sugar, pepper, salt, and olive oil. Whisk together.
  2. In the same bowl, add mango, apple, cilantro, cabbage, and carrots. Stir well. Allow to sit in refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

For the tacos:

  1. Warm corn tortillas on a pan, on low heat. Cover warm tortillas with a towel to keep warm.
  2. Once the chicken has been cooked thoroughly and you have made the slaw, stack two warm tortillas together on a plate. On top of tortillas, place 2-3 chicken chunks, a spoonful of corn, a heaping tablespoon of shredded cheese, a large spoonful of mango-apple slaw, and one teaspoon chives.
  3. Pair with a glass of our 2017 Slainte Red Blend and enjoy!

We hope you’ll make one of these tacos at home! Please let us know if you do. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Spicy Asian-Inspired Pairings for 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

One of the things I’ve learned about myself in adulthood is I enjoy trying all kinds of food, but I think my favorite kind of food is Asian food. Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Burmese, Japanese, Filipino, Taiwanese, even Asian-fusion–I do not discriminate. Having a boyfriend who lives in San Francisco, I find myself eating top-notch Asian food quite regularly. Nearly all my DoorDash and Caviar history consists of orders from incredible Asian restaurants. My last two meals out before the shelter-in-place was put into effect were dim sum on Clement and ramen in Japantown. With the shelter-in-place and a boyfriend who works in healthcare, my visits to my favorite SF restaurants have come to a complete halt, which is a serious bummer. I miss San Francisco’s food almost just as much as I miss my boyfriend (sorry, Andrew!). That’s not to say Livermore doesn’t have some amazing Asian restaurants, but there are certainly more options and greater variety in the city.

It doesn’t matter the dish’s origin, if the flavors are sweet, tangy, spicy, salty, umami, or if the dish is served hot or cold, one thing that is consistently true about good, authentic Asian food is the ingredients used are always fresh; I think this is one of the reasons I love it so much. Considering the current conditions of grocery stores, given the SIP, it’s not always easy to find fresh ingredients, especially ones that are uncommon in American cuisine. Luckily for me, I live in California, where we do usually have way more fresh produce available than most other states and it’s generally not super difficult to find obscure ingredients at the local supermarket. Using a variety of fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable ingredients, I’ve somewhat filled my craving for Asian-inspired grub, but it seems I’ll forever be pining for my favorite Monterey Boulevard shrimp and veggie sizzling rice soup and dumplings.

When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, ours is unique, but in some ways, it’s also kind of traditional. I say it’s unique, because unlike most single-varietal Sauvignon Blancs, 10% of this wine is barrel-fermented in experienced oak, while the other 90%, like most other wines of this varietal, is fermented in stainless steel. The experienced, neutral oak that this wine touches gives the wine a sort of round mouthfeel and creaminess you might not expect from most Sauvignon Blancs. Still, this wine from our Lucky 8 Vineyard is made from the Musqué clone of Sauvignon Blanc and has those really classic Sauvy B flavors of citrus, melon, gooseberry, white peach, and tropical fruit. It’s pretty tasty alone, but is also excellent paired with food, especially spicy dishes! The creaminess and roundness in the mouthfeel help to tone down the hotness, but at the same time, the gorgeous acid in the back matches that of the spicy food, and the combination of the two is just flawless.

I hope you enjoy these yummy, Asian-inspired pairings with our Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc!

Fluffy Cilantro Lime Rice

Makes about 5 servings.

  • 1 ½ cups dry, uncooked white long-grain basmati rice
  • 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 tsp. pink himalayan sea salt
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 cup cilantro, packed, stems removed, chopped finely
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. Add the rice and garlic. Stir occasionally, until the rice is lightly browned. 
  2. Add the water, sea salt, ½ of lime juice, and lime zest. Bring to a boil. Cover and allow simmer on low for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to open the lid. 
  3. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 
  4. Use a fork to fluff. Add cilantro and remaining lime juice. Stir well. 
  5. Enjoy with cashew sesame chicken skewers, spicy garlic sesame green beans and edamame, and our 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Cashew Sesame Chicken Skewers

Makes about 5 servings

  • 16 oz. raw organic boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp. sesame chili oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp. yuzu ponzu sauce (regular ponzu works fine too)
  • 1 ½ tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tbsp. granulated sugar
  • One small red onion
  • One orange bell pepper
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup toasted cashews, chopped into small pieces
  1. Chop the chicken breast into 1.5” cubes. Put into a plastic Ziploc bag and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, sesame chili oil, sesame oil, yuzu ponzu sauce, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, lime juice, lemon juice, and granulated sugar. Stir until most sugar is dissolved. Dump sauce into plastic ziploc bag with chicken, making sure sauce is covering most of the chicken pieces. Allow chicken to sit in sauce for 1 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat grill on medium. Soak skewers in cold water for at least 20 minutes prior to using them to keep them from burning or catching fire.
  4. Chop red onion and bell pepper into 1.5” pieces. Using 10” or 12” bamboo skewers, stick onion, bell pepper, and chicken pieces through skewers, alternating between each piece. 
  5. Liberally season skewers with pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Grill skewers for about 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
  6. Once cooked and plated, sprinkle skewers with chopped cashews. 
  7. Enjoy with the cilantro lime rice, spicy garlic sesame green beans and edamame, and of course, a glass of our 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc!

Spicy Garlic Sesame Green Beans and Edamame

Makes about 5 servings. 

  • ½ tsp. sesame chili oil (use ¼ tsp. to make less spicy)
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • One small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 5 oz. edamame, shelled
  • 12 oz. cleaned and trimmed green beans, steamed
  • 2 tsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. yuzu ponzu sauce (regular ponzu sauce works just fine, I just wanted more citrus flavor)
  • 2 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  1. In a large frying pan, heat sesame chili oil and sesame oil on medium heat. Add sliced shallot and minced garlic. Sautée until lightly browned.
  2. Add minced ginger, shelled edamame, steamed green beans, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, ponzu sauce, and soy sauce. Stirring occasionally, sautée until sauces have cooked down somewhat and edamame are cooked through. 
  3. Add sesame seeds and stir.
  4. Enjoy with the cilantro lime rice, cashew sesame chicken skewers, and a glass of our delicious 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc!

I hope I’ve inspired you to take make some of these delicious pairings 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!

Wine at Home

Herbs de Provence Seasoning for Austin James Wine and…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

This week we were super excited to be providing all of our SIP Club members with herbs from the Calhoun family ranch (my family’s ranch) here in Livermore! A lot of these herbs are wild, but can be found literally on the side of the road or near local creek beds. If you’ve ever had a Coyote Smash at Range Life, you’ve probably already had these herbs unknowingly, as my aunt Nancy is the one who sells them to Range Life for this specific cocktail, as well as for other uses, I’m sure. We included them with this week’s SIP package, so members could create an herbs de Provence seasoning to make one of the following recipes to pair with the Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon at home! 

To create this seasoning, you will need the following fresh ingredients:

  • 1-2 bay laurel leaves (Laurus nobilis)
  • 1-3 stems of rosemary
  • 1-4 stems of fennel
  • 1-5 stems of sagebrush (Artemisia californica)
  • 1-2 leaves of common sage
  • 1-3 chives
  • 2 sprigs of Portuguese lavender
  • French lavender sprigs and flowers
  • Oregano sprigs
  • Mint sprigs

If you have any of the following fresh herbs or seeds at home, please feel free to add them to your bag of herbs to dry and ultimately use in your herbs de Provence seasoning:

  • Italian parsley leaves
  • Thyme leaves
  • Basil leaves
  • Summer savory leaves
  • Fennel seeds
  • Celery seeds
  • Tarragon leaves
  • Chervil leaves

If you have any of the aforementioned herbs or seeds at home that have already been dried, they may be added to the dry seasoning, as well.

Before preparing your herbs to dry, we highly encourage you to wash them, but to take extra care when doing so. 

  • Bay leaves: These are heartier plants than the other herbs and can just be rinsed with water or washed by using a produce wash to clean them.
  • Lavender: When washing the lavender sprigs and flowers, take extra care to not lose the buds, as these are the most important part of the flower. If the buds do fall off the sprigs, make sure to hold onto them. We recommend removing the stems and using a mesh strainer to wash the flowers and/or buds. Wash the lavender flowers or buds by running them through water.
  • The remaining herbs are somewhat fragile and special care should be taken when washing them. They can be washed by rinsing them under cold water. It’s important to try not to crush the herbs when washing them, as this can cause them to lose their flavor.

If possible, remove the stems of the rosemary, mint, fennel, bay leaves, common sage, oregano, sagebrush, and pineapple sage, after washing and before allowing them to dry, as this will allow the leaves to dry out faster.

Once your herbs have been washed, they should be prepared to dry. Put your herbs in a new, paper bag with holes or in a clean, plastic bin with holes in it and place them in a warm, dry area of your home. 

Once your herbs are dry or almost dry, you will prepare them to use in your herbs de Provence seasoning. 

You will use:

  • 1-3 bay leaves (we recommend using a smaller portion of bay leaves because they can be very pungent and overpower some of the other herbs)
  • All rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage leaves
  • All chives
  • All lavender buds

The exact portion of each herb you use doesn’t really matter, unless you’d like to replicate your recipe later. Play around with each herb and see which you find most appealing to your palate, then add more of that to your herbs de Provence.

Remove the stems of the bay leaves, rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, lavender sprigs, oregano sprigs, mint sprigs, and pineapple sage sprigs. Dispose of the stems. 

  • Put the remaining bay leaves in an airtight container to use for future cooking. Use within a year for maximum flavor.

Grind the bay leaves as fine as you possibly can. These leaves are very stiff and can be unpleasant to ingest when they are not finely ground.

  • If you do not own a grinder, use clean, dry hands to crunch up the leaves into small pieces. You may want to remove the spines of the leaves, as these tend to be the stiffest parts.

Next, grind the rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, chives, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage. Mix well with the ground bay leaves. 

Mix lavender buds with your herb mixture.

Store your herbs de Provence seasoning in an airtight container in a warm, dry area of your home. Use within six months for maximal flavor.

Here are three delicious ways to enjoy your herbs de Provence seasoning at home:

Herbs de Provence Seasoned-Steak and McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon


  • 1 tbsp. herbs de Provence
  • 2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 16 oz. rib eye or New York steaks


  1. In a small bowl, combine herbs de Provence, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, minced garlic, and olive oil. Mix well to create a paste.
  2. Rub each steak evenly on both sides with the seasoning mixture. 
  3. Allow steaks to sit with seasoning for 30 minutes or until they reach room temperature. 
  4. Pre-heat grill on medium-high.
  5. Grill steaks for about five to six minutes on each side for a medium-rare doneness. Grill for longer if you prefer a medium or well-done steak.
  6. Enjoy steak with a bottle of McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon!

Fresh Vegan Herb Mushroom Tomato Pasta


  • 8 oz. uncooked pasta (linguine, spaghetti, or angel hair)
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced into small pieces
  • 8 oz. fresh mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • 1 tbsp. McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • 4 oz. vegan mozzarella (Miyoko’s VeganMozz is preferable)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions
  2. Heat olive oil or vegan butter over medium heat. Brown minced garlic in vegan butter. 
  3. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs de Provence. Continue to cook over medium heat. 
  4. Add red wine and allow it to cook long enough to evaporate.
  5. When mushrooms and tomatoes have been cooked through, add VeganMozz and allow to melt slightly.
  6. In a large pasta bowl, add pasta, mushroom and tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and mix well.
  7. Enjoy this pasta with a deliciously balanced McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon, like our Austin James.

Herbs de Provence Bread Dipping Oil


  • 2 ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
  • 1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ tsp. freshly cracked pepper
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
  • Bread for dipping


  1. Heat ½ tbsp. olive oil in a small frying pan. Brown minced garlic.
  2. In a small bowl, combine browned garlic, herbs de Provence, parmesan, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, aged balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Mix well.
  3. Use any kind of fresh bread to enjoy with dip, just don’t forget your glass of Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon!

Wine at Home

McGrail Shelter-in-Place Innovative Instagram Photo Contest


We’ve shown you how innovative we can be with wine cocktails and wine pairings at home during the shelter-in-place. Before the shelter-in-place is over, we want to see your most innovative way to enjoy McGrail wine at home, by pairing it with the most creative meal, or by producing the most interestingly scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail! Beginning April 15th, 2020 through May 15th, 2020, we would like you to post photos of our wine on Instagram while tuning into your most resourceful self! 

Choose a McGrail wine and pair it with the most curiously delicious meal, using ingredients that are completely unexpected, but somehow combine to create a perfectly balanced pairing with the wine. Prefer an impressive cocktail to a tasty pairing? Instead of designing a great meal to go with our wine, utilize your favorite McGrail wine to conceive the most scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail imaginable! You read that correctly. We’re looking to award two of our most inventive patrons who can either come up with an incredible, Chopped-style wine and food pairing OR a visionary wine-based beverage. Extra points will be given to those who post a photo that is both alluring and aesthetically pleasing. Entries must also include a recipe for the pairing dish or cocktail. Each of these imaginative winners will be awarded a $50 gift card to the McGrail tasting room or online shop!

To enter, simply post a photo of your originative McGrail wine pairing or cocktail to a PUBLIC Instagram account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #SIPMcGrailInnovation, and make sure to TAG and FOLLOW @mcgrail_vineyards. Don’t forget to include a recipe!


  • Photos must be posted on Instagram through a public account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #McGrailInstagramInnovation AND tagging @mcgrail_vineyards.
  • Must be following @mcgrail_vineyards on Instagram for entry to be valid.
  • Must include detailed recipe for wine cocktail and/or wine pairing dish. Recipes may be included in the Instagram photo caption or may be sent via direct message to @McGrail_Vineyards account.
  • Must be 21 years of age or older to enter.
  • Posts may not:
    • Encourage excessive consumption of wine and/or alcohol
    • Encourage underage consumption of wine and/or alcohol
    • Include people under the age of 21
    • Encourage/include illegal activities of any kind
    • Make false claims about wine
    • State that there are any health benefits attached to the consumption of wine
    • Make lewd or obscene statements or include lewd or obscene comments 
  • By using the hashtag #SIPMcGrailInnovation and/or entering the contest, you are giving us permission to use your photo 

Winning photos will be announced at 4pm on Friday, May 29th. Happy innovating and good luck!

We look forward to seeing what you all come up with!

Vineyard Related

Time to Burn

By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

As we continue with our new shelter in place conditions in this country, there are a few fine folks who are working to ensure the 2020 vintage, and vintages beyond, will be spectacular. We recently removed about three acres of our estate Cabernet Sauvignon and put the vines into piles to dry out. Today is the perfect day to light the piles on fire and send them back to the earth to become part of the circle of life. The ashes will be spread throughout the soil and the rain will replenish the soil.

We will leave the ground fallow for a year. This tradition dates back centuries and we will celebrate the year by frolicking around the fallow ground with flutes and percussive instruments to chase away the soil pests like nematodes. This is how it was in the beginning and this is how it will be (Mark 2020 v. 17). Once we have successfully chased away all the pests, we will put our clothes back on and replant the vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon. Clone TBD.

Wine Cocktails

Sip Chic Gracie Sparkling Cocktails During SIP

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed the shelter-in-place has increased the need for hobbies and has brought out the best of the population’s creativity and resourcefulness, especially when it comes to culinary and mixology creations. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time preparing food and beverages in the past three weeks than I did for the entirety of 2019. With it becoming more dangerous to leave the house and to even go to the grocery store, I’ve got to be innovative with what I already have at home. Still, I know how important it is to support locally owned restaurants and I have been getting take out as much as my budget will permit. With a restricted budget that unfortunately won’t allow me to drink takeaway negronis and eat ahi nachos and rib eye for every meal, I’ve been making do with what I’ve got in my garden, my wine closet, and my pantry.

During my time as a Wine Business Strategies student at Sonoma State University, I was required to participate in a mixology project, in which students designed recipes for wine cocktails that would make the wine seem less stuffy and more sexy. Aside from this being a requirement for my Intro to Wine Business course, the projects would be entered into a competition amongst all course students at both Sonoma State and Texas Tech, judged by several Masters of Wine and other impressive wine industry professionals. For this project, my partner and I agreed on a lavender lemon mimosa cocktail, which was feminine, fragrant, and refreshing. With this recipe, our project was voted into the top three cocktails in our class, but went on to win first place in the competition between all Intro to Wine Business students at SSU and Texas Tech! While the recognition and the $250 cash award were exciting, the best part of this experience for me was learning about mixology. Since doing this project, I have been intrigued by the way wine interacts with other ingredients and how the combination of certain flavors can result in an absolute masterpiece or a total dud.

With lots of time at home and few ingredients to work with, I’ve come up with some completely innovative, yet chic cocktails, incorporating one of my favorite McGrail wines at the moment–the Gracie Sparkling Brut. Using fresh flowers, fruit, and herbs from my garden, a few ingredients from my pantry, and the adult beverages from my liquor cabinet, I’ve found a few delightful ways to complement my favorite bubbles.

Don’t worry if you don’t have any McGrail Gracie Sparkling Brut at home at the moment. We have several ways to get you these bubbles! We are currently offering:

  • Local home delivery at no additional cost for new orders
  • One cent shipping to anywhere in California for new orders
  • Drive-up service at the winery (receive wine without leaving your car)

Simple Syrups

Through my mixology research, I’ve discovered one of the ingredients that can be found in a vast assortment of cocktails is simple syrup. Made using equal parts water and sugar, it really is simple. Although sometimes simple is best, simple usually isn’t flavorful or interesting, which is why I decided to make some herb and floral-infused simple syrups with what I have at home and base each cocktail around these flavors.

Before you turn around and decide you don’t want to make these cocktails because the simple syrups are too much work, let me tell you, they’re NOT. It took me less than ten minutes to make each simple syrup. Every one of these recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to produce more and these tasty syrups are so versatile, they can also be used in coffee, tea, lemonade, and really any other beverage, not just cocktails.

If you don’t have all the ingredients to make them right now, ask your neighbors! I would be honored to give up some of my ginormous rosemary plant to someone who just needed a delicious cocktail to get through another day of shelter-in-place.

Lavender-Infused and Rosemary-Infused Simple Syrups

I first became acquainted with lavender simple syrup during my wine cocktail project at SSU and I fell in love immediately. I know floral flavors aren’t for everyone, but OMG, this stuff is special. Not only is lavender revered for its healing and medicinal properties, it also combats anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I think everyone could use a little bit of some relaxing lavender in their lives right now. I was excited to find my French and English lavender in bloom this past week, so I decided to dry a bunch of it. If you’ve never dried a bunch of lavender before, here‘s a quick how-to from HGTV. If you don’t have French or English lavender at home, dried buds can be purchased online through Amazon or Cost Plus World Market.

Another herb I tend to have a ton of in my garden is rosemary. I love the way it smells and tastes, especially when it’s fresh. Although it’s normally used in savory foods, it’s pretty versatile and can also be used in sweet drinks.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. dried lavender buds or 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  1. In a small saucepan, heat water, sugar, and lavender buds or rosemary leaves over medium, stirring frequently. Allow syrup to boil for two minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Once cool, use a mesh strainer to strain away any excess debris from the syrup. Pour syrup into a container (I used mason jars) to store and place in the refrigerator.
  3. Enjoy in your Gracie Sparkling Brut cocktails or in coffee or tea. Store in the refrigerator and discard if not used within 30 days.

Rose Petal-Infused and Mint-Infused Simple Syrups

Though it isn’t really the season for roses to be in bloom, I was happy to find one of my rose bushes blooming this past week. Since this variety of rose is quite fragrant, I thought I could use some to make a simple syrup. I also chose to use some fresh mint to infuse into another simple syrup because it’s always plentiful in my garden. Since the rose petals and mint leaves aren’t as potent as the other herbs and flowers I used, these simple syrups were made a bit differently.

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup rose petals of a fragrant variety or fresh mint leaves, packed
  1. In a small saucepan, heat water, sugar, and rose petals or mint leaves over medium, stirring frequently. Allow syrup to boil for two minutes, then remove from heat.
  2. Once cool, pour syrup into a container (I used mason jars) to store and place in the refrigerator. Allow the rose petals or mint leaves to sit in the syrup for 12 to 24 hours, in order to maximize the flavor extraction.
  3. Once the rose petals or mint leaves have sat in the syrup for long enough, use a mesh strainer to strain away any excess debris from the syrup.
  4. Enjoy in your Gracie Sparkling Brut cocktails or in coffee or tea. Store in the refrigerator and discard if not used within 30 days.

Gracie Sparkling Brut Cocktails

Now for the fun part–the cocktails! I’ve based four cocktails around each of the aforementioned simple syrups I made. Albeit each cocktail is unique and interesting, all contain one very important ingredient: McGrail’s Gracie Sparkling Brut. This wine was made from a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, using methode champenoise. It is dry, bubbly, and delicious, and with a lower percentage of alcohol than our other wines, it is great to use in cocktails!

Blueberry Lavender French 75

Okay, so obviously I have a thing for lavender-lemon drinks. I really loved the lavender-lemon wine cocktail I had created before, but I also want to change it up a bit for the sake of Gracie Sparkling. French 75s are one of my favorite cocktails, as they typically contain lemon, sugar, gin, and champagne–all tasty things. I’ve combined the lavender-lemon idea and the French 75, added some blueberries, and decided on botanical gin to coincide with the floral flavors of lavender. I love this drink.

  • About 15 organic blueberries
  • 1 oz. lavender simple syrup
  • 1 oz. botanical gin (I used St. George Botanivore, but I’ve heard Sidewinder Spirits has a killer botanical gin, too. Both distilleries are local.)
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • Ice
  • McGrail Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • Sprig of lavender for a garnish
  1. In a shaker, muddle blueberries. Add lavender simple syrup, gin, lemon juice, and ice. Shake well.
  2. Over a small-to-medium-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out blueberry pulp and ice.
  3. Fill the rest of the glass with Gracie Sparkling Brut and garnish with a sprig of lavender. Enjoy!

Rosemary Grapefruit Mimosa

This one was tough. Fresh rosemary can be so potent it overpowers almost anything else you pair it with. At first, I tested out pear puree with the rosemary simple syrup and they tasted nice together, but the rosemary overtook the pear. Fresh grapefruit juice seemed to be pungent enough to match the rosemary simple syrup and the combination of the two is lovely. The rosemary makes this drink unlike any other.

  • 1/2 oz. rosemary simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. vodka
  • 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Ice
  • McGrail Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary for a garnish
  1. In a shaker, combine rosemary simple syrup, vodka, grapefruit juice, and ice. Shake well.
  2. Remove top of shaker and pour into a champagne flute or a small cocktail glass. Fill the rest of the glass with Gracie Sparkling Brut and garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Cheers!

Blackberry Ginger Sparkling Mojito

What’s not to love about a mojito? They’re cool and thirst-quenching, but the same ol’ drink can get tiresome. I added spicy ginger, yummy blackberry, and sparkling wine components to this classic bevvy. YUM.

  • About 10 organic blackberries
  • 1 1/2 oz. mint simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 oz. ginger beer
  • McGrail Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • Slice of fresh or candied ginger and/or a sprig of fresh mint for a garnish
  1. In a shaker, muddle blackberries. Add mint simple syrup, rum, lime juice, and ice. Shake well.
  2. Over a medium-to-large-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out blackberry pulp and ice.
  3. Add the ginger beer, fill the rest of the glass with Gracie Sparkling Brut, and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!
    • OPTIONAL: If you are able to get your hands on fresh ginger, I recommend fresh-squeezing that ginger over this cocktail for a bit of an added health benefit and extra heat.

Rose Petal Raspberry Sparkler

Last, but certainly not least, the rose petal raspberry sparkler is probably the prettiest of all the cocktails, but also the simplest. The color is gorgeous and the flavor combo is both fruity and floral. The sparkling wine adds just the right amount of yeast and the end result is incredible.

  • About 8 organic raspberries
  • 1 1/2 oz. rose simple syrup
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • Ice
  • McGrail Gracie Sparkling Brut
  • A rose petal and/or an organic raspberry for a garnish
  1. In a shaker, muddle raspberries. Add rose simple syrup, vodka, and ice. Shake well.
  2. Over a small-to-medium-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out raspberry pulp and ice.
  3. Fill the rest of the glass with Gracie Sparkling Brut and garnish with a rose petal or an organic raspberry. Cheers!

I know you’re probably ready for a cocktail at this point, but the last thing I wanted to share with you is a playlist of bubbly tunes that never fail to make me feel happy! Enjoy.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take advantage of what you have at home during these difficult times and I hope you enjoy these cocktails! Please let us know if you make any of these cocktails and if you have any feedback. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Shelter-in-Place Worldly Picture & Wine Pairings

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

Feeling bummed out because your months of planning a fabulous trip abroad, across the country, or even in-state were proved unavailing due to the shelter-in-place order? If you’re currently sheltered-in-place, it probably seems like you have a lot of time on your hands. That time doesn’t have to be spent sulking at home. Take a trip without leaving your couch! There are so many great international and national films available with just the push of a button through streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

I’m a huge believer in the idea that wine can be paired with anything. Grab some popcorn, a cozy blanket, and a bottle of McGrail wine, because we’re about to take a (virtual) trip, while drinking delicious wine!

Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these wines at home at the moment. We have several ways to get you some tasty McGrail wine to enjoy with these fantastic flicks! We are currently offering:

  • Local home delivery at no additional cost for new orders
  • One cent shipping to anywhere in California for new orders
  • Drive-up service at the winery (receive wine without leaving your car)

International Movie & Wine Pairings

New Zealand – What We Do in the Shadows (2015) and 2016 A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon

Image courtesy of

Rated R

This vampire mockumentary was directed by and stars New Zealand’s two most well-known movie actors and directors–Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement. You might know Waititi as both the guy who plays Hitler in Jojo Rabbit and the director of the satirical film, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020. He’s also directed and acted in a few more notable movies and series, including Disney Plus’s The Mandalorian, Thor: Ragnarok, and another great New Zealand-based movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. You might recognize Jermaine Clement from the Grammy award-winning comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords, but he also has an extensive brag sheet of voice acting, writing, directing, and producing. Together, these guys created a comedy dream (or rather, nightmare) that is as spooky as it is hilarious. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave this comedic flick a 96% rating and said it is “smarter, fresher, and funnier than a modern vampire movie has any right to be,” and called it “bloody good fun.” FX recently released a show with the same title name, based on this film, because it was that good!

I highly recommend pairing this bold, dark-humored picture with our equally bold and dark 2016 A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon and fresh-out-of-the-oven garlic bread, you know, to keep the vampires away…

Find this film on Amazon Prime Video for just $2.99 to rent or $8.99 to buy.

Watch the trailer here.

Ireland – Waking Ned Devine (1999) and 2017 Sláinte Red Blend

Image courtesy of

Rated PG

When old pals Michael and Jackie discover someone in their teeny Irish village has won the lottery, they embark on a mission to find that person and get a share of their winnings. Upon uncovering the winner, a lad called Ned Devine, has passed from the shock of having won the lottery, they contact the lottery authorities and devise a plan to convince them that Mr. Devine is alive and able to collect his winnings. Rotten Tomatoes said, “A heartwarming comedy with a delightfully light touch, Waking Ned Devine finds feel-good humor in some unexpected — and unexpectedly effective — places.”

To get the full Irish experience, open a bottle of our 2017 Sláinte Red Blend and a bag of Irish crisps (potato chips to us Americans), preferably Tayto’s Cheese and Onion, to enjoy with this wine. American potato chips work fine, too.

Catch Waking Ned Devine on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy.

Watch the trailer here.

Australia – Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and 2018 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Image courtesy of

Rated R

Social outcast Muriel, played by a young Toni Collette, is obsessed with marriage, fitting in, and being accepted, not only by her peers, but also by her local politician father. This was Collette’s fourth-ever acting credit, for which she gained a whole 40 pounds in just seven weeks, in order to truly embody Muriel. The movie has its fair share of both good-humored and tragic moments, as well as feathered 90’s hair and funky 90’s garb, and is an Australian classic. Rotten Tomatoes said, “heartfelt and quirky, though at times broad, Muriel’s Wedding mixes awkward comedy, oddball Australian characters, and a nostalgia-heavy soundtrack.” If you’ve never seen this movie and are in the mood for trying something wistful and new, watch this.

This film is best paired with our 2018 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc, as it’s quite lovely, but has a bit of a bite to it (from the acidity), kind of like Muriel does. Enjoy with a side of Fairy Bread (white bread with margarine and sprinkles, or hundreds-and-thousands as they’re called in Oz), a disgustingly popular Australian snack in the 1990’s.

Find Muriel’s Wedding on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 to rent or just $5.99 to buy.

Watch the trailer here.

China – The Farewell (2019) and Gracie Sparkling Brut

Image courtesy of

Rated PG

Billi, a 30-year-old Chinese-American, and her adorably sweet grandmother, whom she refers to as Nai Nai, have always had a close relationship, despite the fact Nai Nai lives in China. When visiting her parents, Billi is told Nai Nai, her father’s mother, is dying of lung cancer and has just three months left to live. Given the news, Billi’s father’s family plans to gather from all over the world to see Nai Nai one last time, under the pretense that Billi’s cousin is getting married, as no one, including Nai Nai’s doctors, has told her she’s dying. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave the movie a 98% rating and said it “deftly captures complicated family dynamics with a poignant, well-acted drama that marries cultural specificity with universally relatable themes.” This film demonstrates what it truly means to be a family, but it doesn’t end the way you think it might. With a perfect balance of both tragedy and comedy, The Farewell will make you laugh out loud, but it will also make you weep.

Enjoy a bottle of our Gracie Sparkling Brut and take out dim sum from your favorite Chinese restaurant or grocery store as you watch this heartfelt film. That’s what Nai Nai would want you to do.

Watch The Farewell for free on Amazon Prime Video

Watch the preview here.

England – About Time (2013) and 2017 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

Image courtesy of

Rated R

This movie, starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, follows the romance between Tim and Mary, who first meet on a blind date through a pitch black dining experience in London. Though this sounds like the most genuinely interesting way to meet someone, this isn’t the most intriguing thing about the couple, as Tim has a huge secret: he can travel back in time. This romantic comedy was not at all what I expected it to be, as it twists and turns, unapologetically touching on heartache and true, unconditional love. Nevertheless, the English screenwriter of this film is Richard Curtis, who also did rom-com classics Love Actually, Notting Hill, and the later mentioned Four Weddings and a Funeral. You are guaranteed to fall in love with both the relationship between McAdams’s and Gleeson’s characters and the relationship between Tim and his father (played by Bill Nighy). You are also guaranteed a good, healthy cry. Rotten Tomatoes said “Beautifully filmed and unabashedly sincere, About Time finds director Richard Curtis at his most sentimental.”

Enjoy this film with our 2017 Austin James Cabernet, a robust, but a velvety and romantic wine and something slightly dark, slightly sweet, but satisfying (akin to this film), like dark chocolate peanut butter cups with sea salt.

Catch this movie on Netflix.

Watch the preview here.

South Korea – Parasite (2019) and 2016 James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon

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Rated R

If you haven’t seen this film yet, you’re missing out. Korean director Bong Joon-ho nearly swept the 2020 Academy Awards with Parasite and it won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Parasite follows an impoverished, but resourceful Kim family through their means of infiltrating the home and the lives of the wealthy Park family. Due to it being classified as both a comedy and a thriller, and because of its truly alluring aesthetics, you won’t be able to stop watching this film. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave Parasite a rating of 99% and said “An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.”

It is only fitting to enjoy Parasite with a bottle of our 2016 James Vincent Cabernet, a dark and mysterious wine, but also our top-of-the-line, award-winning Cabernet. Cook up a bowl of hot ram-don, this film’s most noteworthy dish, to enjoy, as well.

Rent this film for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video or buy it for $14.99.

Watch the preview here.

Solvang and Central Coast, California – Sideways (2004) and 2016 McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard

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Rated R

An essential watch for wine lovers, Sideways captures the essence of the true California wine snob. Published writer Miles is kind of a depressed mess, but one that possesses a deep enthusiasm and respect for wine. With just days remaining before the wedding of his friend Jack, Miles takes his soon-to-be-wed pal on a last fling trip through Solvang and the Central Coast wine country of California. Along the way, they meet beautiful lady friends, Stephanie and Maya, both of whom are blissfully unaware that Jack is only a few days away from being a married man. The trip quickly turns sour when Miles lets Jack’s secret slip to Maya. Sideways flaunts a talented cast, consisting of Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen. Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a score of 97% and said “Charming, thoughtful, and often funny, Sideways is a decidedly mature road trip comedy full of excellent performances.”

You can’t watch Sideways without a glass of wine, but due to the way this film influenced wine drinkers’ perception of the varietal, you have to watch it with Merlot in your glass. Because we are a Cab house, our Merlot is built like a Cab, but still has Merlot’s classic characteristics, which is why we think even Paul Giamatti’s character would be happy to drink our take on this ill-famed varietal. Pair this film with our 2016 McGrail Merlot from Picazo Vineyard and a classic wine country charcuterie plate with the works–olives, salami, grapes, nuts, carrot or bell pepper sticks, a baguette, and wedges of stinky cheese.

Catch Sideways on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video ($3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy).

Watch the preview for Sideways here.

Other Notable International Films

Czech Republic – Jojo Rabbit (2019)

Rated PG-13

Surprisingly, a movie that was meant to be set in Nazi Germany, was actually filmed in Prague. Like most WWII films, Jojo Rabbit has its painfully solemn scenes, but being a satire, this movie is mostly laughs. With it taking place at the end of the war, you get to see the Nazis defeated, which makes it that much better. The cast is composed of mainly A-list actors and with Taika Waititi as the director, you won’t be disappointed. Rotten Tomatoes said “Jojo Rabbit‘s blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste — but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.” Buy it for $19.99 or rent it for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video.

England – Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Rated R

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a brilliantly dark-humored English film, starring several A-list actors of the 1990’s, including Andie McDowell and Hugh Grant. The movie was directed by seasoned English Director Mike Newell, who also directed several other well-known films, like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Mona Lisa Smile. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave this comedy a 96% rating. Rent this movie for $2.99 or buy it for $14.99 on Amazon Prime Video.

France – La Vie en Rose (2007)

Rated PG-13

This French film was the first movie in which an Academy Award for Best Actress was awarded for a French-language role. Marion Cotillard portrays brothel-born, charismatic entertainer Edith Piaf in this visually stunning biopic, which puts Piaf’s addictions, relationships, and losses under a microscope. Rotten Tomatoes said “the set design and cinematography are impressive, but the real achievement of La Vie en Rose is Marion Cotillard’s mesmerizing, wholly convincing performance as Edith Piaf.” Rent La Vie en Rose on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy for $7.99.

Germany – Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Rated R

Like Jojo Rabbit, this movie can be categorized as both a comedy and a war film. Director Quentin Tarantino knows how to create excitement organically and make an audience laugh through suspense and gore. He uses an ensemble cast to depict Germany’s occupation of France (even though this was mostly filmed in Potsdam, Germany), as Brad Pitt’s character gathers an army of Jewish soldiers to employ vicious tactics against the Nazis. Rotten Tomatoes said, “a classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining.” Watch Inglourious Basterds on Netflix.

Germany – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Rated R

Yep, the movie containing “Budapest” in the title wasn’t actually filmed in Hungary at all, but rather in Dresden, Germany. The film boasts an amazingly talented cast, with names like Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, and more! Don’t let me tell you how grand this movie is. If you haven’t seen this quirky Wes Anderson film, do yourself a favor and rent it for just $3.99 on Amazon Prime Video. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave it a 91% rating. 

India – Lion (2016)

Rated PG-13

Based on a true story, Lion follows the life of Saroo, a five-year-old boy from a poor Indian family who one day falls asleep on the train and wakes to find he has traveled thousands of miles across India, away from his family. He learns to survive on his own in Kolkata, but is eventually adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, Saroo leaves to find his family, using Google Earth to help him find his way home. Rotten Tomatoes said “Lion‘s undeniably uplifting story and talented cast make it a moving journey that transcends the typical cliches of its genre.” Rent Lion on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy it for just $4.99.

Ireland – P.S. I Love You (2007)

Rated PG-13

I almost never have the guts to turn this movie on when I see it playing on TV, because it never fails to make me cry. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you know it’s an incredible country. This mostly melancholy romantic comedy does a really excellent job of showing off all of Ireland’s most stunning aspects. You can find this tear-jerker on Netflix.

Italy – Murder Mystery (2019)

Rated PG-13

As is to be expected of any Adam Sandler movie, Murder Mystery is slightly hokey, but he and Jennifer Aniston make a great pair. Still, this movie effectively builds up the whodunnit mystery throughout the film and does so in a manner that isn’t blatantly obvious. It also really shows off some of the most magnificent parts of Italy and other European destinations. I am excited to say I was actually staying on Lake Como in the same village, at the same time the last few scenes were being filmed. I even caught a glimpse of Sandler’s stunt double! Find this movie on Netflix.

Italy – Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Rated PG-13

A charming Jewish-Italian man romances a beautiful, but engaged school teacher, who eventually falls in love with and marries her new suitor. The couple have a son, whom they clearly adore more than anything. When Nazis invade Italy, the father and son are taken to a concentration camp and heartbreak follows. The father does all he can to keep his son from realizing the true horrors of WWII by providing comedic relief. Though it is somewhat predictable, the movie uses comedy to be as lovely, but as realistic, as any war film can be. Rotten Tomatoes said Life Is Beautiful “offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.” Rent it on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy for $7.99.

Japan – Isle of Dogs (2018)

Rated PG-13

Being Wes Anderson’s second animated film, Isle of Dogs does a wonderful job of using incredibly detailed stop motion animation to convey sound, movement, texture, depth, and emotion. When Mayor Kobayashi declares all dogs are to be quarantined on Trash Island, one Japanese boy sets out to retrieve his lost dog “Spots” and Trash Island’s residents, both stray and previously owned, assemble to help him. Isle of Dogs is quirky and adorable. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave this film a 90% score. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video–$3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy.

Mexico – Roma (2018)

Rated R

Roma takes place in Mexico City in the 1970’s and follows young caretaker Cleo. Cleo, who cares for four children, is stunned when she finds out the children’s father has run away with his mistress and that Cleo, herself is pregnant. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave it a 95% rating and said “Roma finds writer-director Alfonso Cuarón in complete, enthralling command of his visual craft – and telling the most powerfully personal story of his career.” Watch Roma on Netflix.

New Zealand – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

Rated PG-13

When rebellious Ricky Baker is taken to his most recent foster home, he and his new mum quickly form a bond, though his new dad is not so quick to latch on. Tragedy strikes Ricky’s new family and he runs away into the New Zealand wilderness, only to soon be accompanied by his foster father. Ricky and his new dad become the subjects of a manhunt after getting lost. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, a 96% rating and said it “unites a solid cast, a talented filmmaker, and a poignant, funny, deeply affecting message.” Rent it for $2.99 or buy it for only $6.99 on Amazon Prime Video.

Northern Ireland – Derry Girls (2018-2019)

Not Rated

Though it’s not a movie, Derry Girls, a brilliant British comedy series, is definitely worth mentioning. Set in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in the 1990’s, this show follows the lives of a group of mischievous, misfit Catholic school girls. It offers historical accuracy in touching on the bloody sectarian conflict between the unionists and nationalists, but keeps you laughing through it all. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave it a score of 98% and said it “makes frenetic light of teen life” in its setting. Watch Derry Girls on Netflix, but don’t forget to turn on the captions, as Derry accents are hardly intelligible to the American ear. 

Sweden – The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared (2016)

Rated MA

Notorious and widely-disliked Allan Karlsson has lived a long, remarkable life. On his 101st birthday, Allan is reminded of his time working as a spy, during which he had stolen a soda recipe from the Russian government to give to American President Richard Nixon. He remembers he still has the formula for this highly revered Folksoda hidden somewhere in the world and he, his pet monkey, his dimwit caretaker, and his best pal embark on a journey to find it. Hilarity and frenzy ensue, as details of Karlsson’s wild life emerge through old memories during his new adventures. This movie is most certainly silly, but it also has its sweet and sentimental moments. I don’t know how better to describe it than being like a Swedish, geriatric version of The Hangover. Watch it on Netflix.

Notable American Destination Films

Hollywood, California – Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019)

Rated R

Amazon Prime – $9.99 to rent or $19.99 to buy

Napa Valley, California – Bottle Shock (2008)

Rated PG-13

Free on Amazon Prime Video

Napa Valley, California – Wine Country (2019)

Rated R

Available on Netflix

New York, New York – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Rated R

Amazon Prime Video – $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy

New York, New York – You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Rated PG

Amazon Prime Video – $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy

Rhode Island and East Coast, United States – Moonrise Kingdom (2012) 

Rated PG-13 

Amazon Prime Video – $3.99 to rent, $11.99 to buy

Seattle, Washington – Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

Rated PG

Amazon Prime Video – $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy)

What did you think of these wine and movie pairings? Did you try any? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Cheers and enjoy!