Category: Wine at Home

Wine at Home

Spicy Citrus Scallops & Cabbage & Sparkling -OR- Sauvignon…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Can’t choose between our Gracie Sparkling and Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc? That’s okay; neither can I. This dish works with both of these delightfully crisp, refreshing wines. Either combo is godsent on a hot day, which we’ve had plenty of lately. The soft, creamy texture of the scallops tones down the heat of the cayenne and jalapeño, and both are brightened by a splash of citrus. Each of these flavors combine to complement our Gracie and Peyton Paige wines.


Spicy Citrus Scallops & Cabbage Salad

Makes about 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 lb. frozen scallops
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 cup red cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 8 oz. mung bean sprouts
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed tangerine or clementine juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, minced, separated
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder, separated
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 blood oranges, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and sliced thinly
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Soak frozen scallops in a large bowl of water overnight or for up to 24 hours to defrost and minimize fishiness.
  2. Heat olive oil in a griddle or frying pan on high (about 400 degrees F).
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine Napa cabbage, red cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onion. Mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, tangerine juice, lime juice, minced garlic, 3/4 jalapeño, 1/8 tsp. cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste, to create the dressing.
  5. Use a paper towel to pat the scallops dry. Season with salt, pepper, and remaining jalapeño, and cayenne. Allow to sit at room temperature for twenty minutes.
  6. Sear the scallops in the pre-heated griddle for about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Add small spoonfuls of dressing over scallops as they sear for added flavor.
  7. Dress the salad and plate it. Top with avocado, blood orange, and seared scallops.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this delightful summertime dish to enjoy with one of our yummy chilled wines! Please let us know if you do end up enjoying this pairing at home. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Semi-Sweet Summertime Grilled Fruit Spongecake & Gracie Sparkling

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

The versatility of sparkling wine always gets me super excited! It can go with pretty much anything and everything, but it’s also always delicious on its own or in a cocktail. Since we don’t currently have any sweet wines, it’s hard for me to come up with pairings that involve anything even semi-sweet. Berries and spongecake work well with our Gracie Sparkling Brut, because they both contain little sugar. The baked good aspect of the spongecake matches the hint of yeast in the bubbles. And berries with bubbles is always a good idea. I hope you enjoy this treat that is as tasty as it is beautiful with our equally gorgeous Gracie Sparkling!


Grilled Summertime Fruit Skewers, Berry Compote Spongecake, Dreamy Caramel, & Whipped Cream

Makes about 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 6 bamboo skewers, at least 6” long
  • 2 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, washed and separated
  • 8 large strawberries, washed and separated
  • 2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. fresh-ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 5 apricots, washed
  • 6 (1 oz.) spongecakes
  • Caramel sauce
  • Whipped cream
  • Optional: edible flowers for a garnish
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Pre-heat grill on low.
  2. Place bamboo skewers in a shallow bowl and cover with water. Allow skewers to soak in water until you are ready to use them. This prevents them from burning when they are on the grill.
  3. In a small saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups raspberries, three large strawberries, orange juice, lime juice, fresh ginger, and two pinches of sugar to create the berry compote. Heat on medium and use a large spoon to mash the fruit and stir ingredients together.
  4. Once fruit mixture begins bubbling, reduce heat to low and continue to stir occasionally. Allow fruit to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove fruit from heat and allow to cool.
  6. In a shallow bowl, add remaining granulated sugar. Cut the apricots and the remaining strawberries in half. Remove pits from apricots. Dredge your halved strawberries and apricots face-down in sugar.
  7. Place sugared strawberries and apricots face up on a plate. Being careful not to remove any sugar from the fruit, use your wet bamboo sticks to create skewers with alternating apricots and strawberries (I used three pieces of fruit per skewer). You will have a few pieces of fruit left over.
  8. On the grill, place each skewer face-down. Leave the grill open and grill each skewer for about 1-2 minutes, or until sugar has caramelized on fruit.
  9. Place each spongecake on a small plate. Spoon enough berry compote on the spongecake to fill the center of the cake. Top the cake with a drizzle of caramel sauce (optional), a few sprays of whipped cream, and a grilled fruit skewer. Garnish with the remaining fresh raspberries and edible flowers (optional).
  10. Serve with a glass or two of our chilled Gracie Sparkling Brut.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this pretty pairing at home! Please let us know if you try this one out. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Independence Day Patriot Pairings

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

If you don’t fire up the grill on our Day of Independence, are you even American? One of my family’s oldest traditions is our July 4th ritual of throwing steaks, burgers, hot dogs, veggies, and just about anything else grill-able over the massive fire pit grill at my family’s ranch in the Livermore hills, while sipping on some yummy, locally-sourced beverages. Since McGrail’s Patriot Cabernet is the quintessential Independence Day drink, I’ve got some delicious pairings for this wine that can be tossed on the grill this 4th of July!

When asked what makes this wine so special, Heather McGrail said, “Patriot Cabernet is a favorite at McGrail and a tribute to all of those that serve our country and communities. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was first produced in 2009 and was a wine for a cause for the four Oakland Police Officers that lost their lives in the line of duty. Following our first vintage, we have continued to donate a portion of the proceeds to the families of lost heroes from police, fire, and military. Our Patriot Cabernet is produced using 100% new American oak and has beautiful aromas of dark cherry, berry, vanilla, and a hint of cocoa.” Personally, the Patriot is one of my favorite McGrail Cabs because of its rich, velvety mouthfeel and the delightful notes of vanilla, roasted coffee, and sweet campfire s’mores the wine derives from the new American oak it’s aged in. Below are some recipes to enjoy alongside this special Cabernet.


Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage Skewers

Makes about 6 servings, with two skewers per serving.

Having been aged in new oak for thirty months, our Patriot Cabernet can certainly come across as big and tannic for some palates. Pairing tannic wines with foods that contain fat is awesome for those who aren’t overly enthusiastic about that boldness, because the fat in the food combines with certain compounds in our saliva and creates a sort of layer of that fat that tones down the tannins in the wine. This is one of the reasons I love this pairing so much! But also, who doesn’t love bacon?

INGREDIENTS:
  • 12 bamboo skewers, at least 6″ long
  • 12 oz. red cabbage, cut into 12 equally sized squares
  • 1 lb. thick-sliced bacon (about 12 slices), uncooked
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Optional: micro greens for a garnish
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Place bamboo skewers in a shallow bowl, add water and soak skewers for at least 10 minutes to prevent them from burning while on the grill.
  2. Pre-heat your grill on medium-high, or about 400 degrees F.
  3. Take each piece of bacon and wrap it tightly around your red cabbage squares. Use your bamboo skewers to secure the bacon on the cabbage.
  4. Liberally sprinkle salt, pepper, and garlic powder over both sides of each of your cabbage skewers.
  5. Set the cabbage skewers on the grill, reduce heat to low, or about 300 degrees F, and close the lid on the grill.
  6. Cook cabbage skewers on each of four sides for about three minutes (about 12 minutes in total), checking on cabbage about once a minute to ensure bacon fat doesn’t catch fire. Cooking time will vary depending on your grill and the size of each skewer. Skewers will be done when all bacon has been cooked through and cabbage has become soft.
  7. Serve bacon-wrapped cabbage over a bed of micro greens (optional) and with a glass of McGrail Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon!

Grilled Balsamic Parmesan Artichokes

Makes about 4 servings, with 2 artichoke quarters per serving.

Another food I love with our bold Cabernets is a sharp cheese. Freshly grated parmesan is one of those cheeses that can be so great with a big Cab and it can be even further complemented by some classic balsamic vinegar reduction. This hearty grilled artichoke is amazing with the parmesan and balsamic and a glass of the Patriot Cabernet.

INGREDIENTS:
  • Two large whole, organic artichokes
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar reduction
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
DIRECTIONS:
  1. In a large pot or deep pan with a steam basket, bring one inch of water to a boil.
  2. Wash your artichokes well. Cut about 1/2″-1″ off the top of the artichoke and trim the stem to about 1 1/2″. Using a large, serrated knife, cut the artichokes into quarters. Use a spoon to scoop out the furry insides.
  3. Set each quarter into the steam basket and cover. Steam the artichokes for about 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat your grill to medium heat.
  5. Once artichokes have been steamed, sprinkle insides with minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  6. Place each quarter face-down on the grill and grill for about two minutes on each side.
  7. Plate the quarters, face-up. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of McGrail Patriot Cabernet!

Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes & Rosemary Rib Eye

Last, but certainly not least, our Patriot is perfect paired with classic steak and mashed potatoes. This is a tried and true, classic Cabernet pairing that couldn’t be more fitting for America’s day of Independence. Again, I’ve chosen to add parmesan to these potatoes, as it really complements the wine so well.

Makes about 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 lb. rib eye
  • 2 tbsp. steak rub (I used 5 Mary’s)
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, washed and peeled
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
DIRECTIONS:
  1. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
  2. Pre-heat your grill to high heat.
  3. Remove your steaks from the refrigerator and cut into four equal parts. Rub each steak piece liberally with your favorite steak rub. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  4. Cut your peeled potatoes into 2″ cubes. Boil your cubed potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until soft enough to mash.
  5. Use a potato masher to mash your boiled potatoes. Add milk, parmesan, minced garlic, salt, and pepper and stir well.
  6. Season steaks with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then place on the grill. Grill steaks for about 3 minutes on each side, then repeat (for about 6 minutes total per side), or until steaks have reached desired done-ness. Place a sprig of rosemary on top of each steak after the last flip.
  7. Place steaks on a plate and cover. Allow to sit for about five minutes.
  8. In a bowl or small plate, place one large scoop of mashed potatoes and one cut of steak with a sprig of rosemary as a garnish.
  9. Enjoy steak and parmesan mashed potatoes with a glass of McGrail Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make some of these deliciously patriotic dishes for your Independence Day celebration! Please let us know if you do make any of these dishes. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Black Bean Burgers & 2017 Malbec, Lucky 8 Vineyard

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

One of my favorite vegetarian foods is a black bean burger. They can be so filling and flavorful, just like our Malbec! For those of you who don’t know, our Malbec comes from our Lucky 8 Vineyard, which we acquired just a few years ago. We have been quick to update the farming practices used on this property to match the meticulous methods we have used on our estate property for several years now. We named  the vineyard “Lucky 8,” because the McGrails have eight grandchildren. The vineyard is planted with a handful of different varieties and clones of grapes that tend to grow well here in the Livermore Valley. Due to the fact that our Winemaker Mark Clarin’s mother’s favorite wine varietal is Malbec, we chose to plant a few rows of this Bordeaux variety in our Lucky 8 Vineyard, so this wine is affectionately dedicated to Sylvia Clarin. This wine is easy-to-drink, but is also full of flavor and perfectly balanced. It’s also one of just a few single-varietal bottles (aside from Cabernet Sauvignon) we produce here at McGrail Vineyards. This wine is certainly special to us and we think you’ll find it special, as well! 


Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers

Makes about 5 burgers.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz.) can organic black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. 21 seasoning salute
  • 1/4 tsp. ground smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh-cracked pepper
  • 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, packed
  • 1 free range large brown egg
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Five brioche buns
  • Two Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/3″ rounds
  • One Haas avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a food processor, add lime juice, red onion, and black beans. Pulse a few times, or until you can’t see any big chunks of red onion.
  2. Add cayenne, 21 seasoning salute, paprika, cumin, coriander, kosher salt, chipotle chili powder, and pepper. Allow food processor to process this mixture until all the seasoning has been mixed in well.
  3. To the food processor, add cilantro, parsley, egg, and bread crumbs. Again, pulse until you can no longer see any large cilantro or parsley leaves.
  4. Shape your black bean mixture into five 4.5″ patties.
  5. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Set your patties about an inch apart in the oiled pan. Cover the pan and cook your patties for about two minutes, twice on each side (for a total of four minutes per side per patty), or until patties have been cooked all the way through.
  6. Toast your brioche buns upside down on a baking sheet under a low broil for about three or four minutes.
  7. Spread the Thousand Island dressing on your toasted buns, add a cooked black bean burger, tomato slices, and sliced avocado.
  8. Enjoy your black bean burgers with a bottle of delicious 2017 McGrail Malbec!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this tasty vegetarian grub at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Fast Food & 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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

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

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

Cheesy Summer Squash & Mac Casserole & McGrail Family…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

If you’re anything like me, you live for the amazing fruits and veggies that come around during summer, but still, the quarantine hasn’t been great for your summer bod. Not being able to go to the gym and being stuck at home with a stocked fridge and an overflowing wine closet has physically put me more in a winter state than a summer one. Because of this, I’ve included some alternatives to certain ingredients and some optional steps, as to offer healthier versions of this scrumptious summertime supper.


Cheesy Summer Squash, Cauliflower, & Macaroni Casserole

Makes about 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 12 oz. (about 4 cups) zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 oz. steamed cauliflower
  • 12 oz. steamed broccoli
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn kernels
  • 1 1/4 to 2 cups shredded cheese blend (medium cheddar, Jarlsberg, and even a lite blend are fine), separated
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, separated
  • 3/4 to 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, separated
  • Optional: 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 (6 oz.) packages of macaroni and cheese (I used Annie’s organic mac and cheese with 12g protein for a healthier alternative to regular Kraft)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and cook until soft and browned.
  3. Add sliced zucchini and squash. Add pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, until soft.
  4. In a large casserole tray (I used a 9″x13″ tray), break up your steamed cauliflower and broccoli into 1″ chunks. Sprinkle with pepper, cooked corn kernels, 3/4 cup shredded cheese blend (optional), 1/2 cup parmesan (optional), 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (optional), and melted butter (optional).
  5. Evenly spread cooked zucchini and squash on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on top.
  6. Prepare your macaroni and cheese as directed on package.
  7. Evenly spread your prepared macaroni and cheese over the casserole pan. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese blend, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs. Add pepper to taste.
  8. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling inside and the top is crispy and browned.
  9. Enjoy with a slightly chilled bottle of our McGrail Family Chardonnay!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this delicious summertime casserole at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine Cocktails

Red, White, & Rosé Summertime Sangrias

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 one 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–Kylie Ryan Rosé, Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc, and Sláinte Red Blend, 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 definitely won’t be left feeling rough the next day from using the cheap store-bought stuff.

These 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 at all. I chose to use watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and lime in this cocktail because those five fruits are some of the most noticeable notes found in the wine and I think they 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 left up to you, but either way, I promise you will find this drink delectable!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups watermelon
  • 2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup strawberries, stems removed, chopped
  • 1 cup 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

DIRECTIONS:

  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!

Citrus Sauvignon Blanc Summertime Sangria

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!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 green apple, seeded, chopped
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, seeded, chopped
  • 1 navel orange, sliced into half rounds
  • 2 blood oranges, sliced into half rounds
  • 1 pink grapefruit, sliced into half rounds
  • 1/2 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

DIRECTIONS:

  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.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 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

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Slice lemon, lime, and orange 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 these yummy McGrail sangrias 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, Creamy Polenta, & 2018 Colton’s…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

If you’ve ever had our Colton’s Cabernet, you know it’s special. One of the things that sets it apart from our other Cabs is that it’s an old-world-style Cabernet Sauvignon and the grapes used to produce this wine come from our Lucky 8 Vineyard. What’s unique about this property is there is a gargantuan eucalyptus tree on the adjacent property, which lends these grapes some serious herbal characteristics. Though the herbal notes came through like crazy in our first vintage of this Cab, each vintage following has been farmed more meticulously, which has reduced the amount of mint and eucalyptus we get from these grapes. Unlike our estate-grown Cabernets, Colton’s Cab is aged for just 18 months in oak, rather than the 30 months our Cab Reserve, Patriot, Good Life, and James Vincent spend in oak, resulting in a wine that is far less tannic and more approachable just prior to bottling. Lastly, the clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, clone 30, is slightly 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 is incredibly smooth, with some muted herbal hints, which is why this is perfect to pair with some her braised short ribs.

Herb Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Creamy Polenta

Makes about 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

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
  • 1 sprig 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

DIRECTIONS:

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!

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 heard of an Aperol spritz or have 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

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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)

DIRECTIONS:

  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!