Category: Wine Cocktails

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 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 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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. dried lavender buds or 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup rose petals of a fragrant variety or fresh mint leaves, packed
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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
DIRECTIONS:
  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.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 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
DIRECTIONS:
  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!