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Tag: recipes

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!

DIY Wine Crafts

DIY Luxurious Five-Ingredient Rosé Face Mask

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

Who doesn’t like to treat themselves every once in a while? Pour a glass of our 2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé and keep reading.

Whether you do or don’t have a sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, it’s always important to shower yourself with affection. Like Justin Bieber, I’m a firm believer in loving yourself. After all, you are the most important person in your own life, and really, you can’t love someone else full-heartedly if you don’t love yourself first. Taking a moment for yourself every once in awhile is imperative in being able to truly appreciate life.

I’ve created a simple recipe for a nourishing face mask you can do at home with just what’s in your pantry or fridge. I’ve exclusively chosen ingredients that have antibacterial, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties. Not only will this make your skin feel super soft and smooth, it smells and feels incredibly luxurious, AND it requires just a tiny bit of Rosé, so you can have the rest for yourself!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Pour yourself a glass of our 2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé if you haven’t already.
  2. Warm the honey so it’s a little runny. I put it in a small microwaveable dish and microwaved it for just ten seconds to get the perfect consistency.
  3. Combine the Rosé, honey, yogurt, sugar, and essential grapefruit oil. Mix well. It will be a little watery.
  4. Stick the face mask mixture in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Steam your face by wetting a folded wash cloth and sticking it the microwave for 30 seconds, then holding it on your face for 2-4 minutes. Make sure the wash cloth isn’t too hot before putting it on your face.
  6. Pull the mask out of the refrigerator and use clean fingers to apply liberally to your face, taking care to not to get the mask in your mouth or eyes.
  7. Allow the mask to dry on your face, 5-7 minutes.
  8. Rinse your face well.
  9. Enjoy the rest of your Kylie Ryan Rosé!
Food and Wine Pairings

Win Over Your Guests with These Super Bowl Appetizer…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Whether you’re rooting for the San Francisco 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs, or even if you’re just watching the game for the multi-million dollar commercials, every American knows the most important part of any good Super Bowl party is the food and the drinks. Is the game a total dud? Well, at least you have something delicious to snack on. Is your team destined for defeat? Luckily, you’ve got some yummy wine to sip on. Even if the commercials are the best you’ve ever seen and your team is headed toward victory, having an excellent spread at your Super Bowl party makes you the real winner. We’ve got three incredible pairings for your Super Bowl party that everyone will enjoy!

Jim McGrail (second from the right) with his buddies, hanging out at the winery.

The Super Bowl has always been a huge deal for the McGrail family. This is especially true for the late Jim McGrail. Historically, we have always been closed on Super Bowl Sunday, because Jim liked to invite all of his friends to the winery to watch the game on the big screen T.V. As an avid football fan, he loved any excuse for a party with great food and wine.

Enjoy these easy, but killer Super Bowl appetizer recipes paired with some of our favorite McGrail wines!


Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms Paired with the 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay

Makes 18 to 24 stuffed mushrooms; 1-2 stuffed mushrooms per serving, depending on size and number of mushrooms in a pack.

I know not everyone at your party is going to eat meat, but I also know that a plain ol’ veggie platter can get really boring, really fast for our herbivorous friends. These Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms are sure to please your plant-eating pals, and even your meat-eating mates will love this healthy option, too!

Serve these with our 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay for a touchdown of a pairing! This full-bodied, barrel-fermented Chardonnay perfectly complements the buttery texture and creaminess of these delectable, bite-sized morsels.

Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms.

If you’re thinking you’re not going to make these, because not everyone likes mushrooms, or because of the mushroom flavor or texture, don’t doubt these delightful delicacies! Admittedly, I really wasn’t expecting these to be as amazing as they were. When I made these and fed them to our tasting room staff, they were blown away, not only by the flavor, but also by how surprisingly pleasant and crispy the texture was.

Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms with our 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. organic whole Crimini mushrooms
  • 8 oz. fresh prepared pesto (I used Trader Joe’s Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup unsalted, roasted pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (replace with nutritional yeast or another dairy-free alternative to make the recipe vegan)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Remove stems from mushrooms and mince.
  3. Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized pan. Sautée onion, garlic, and mushroom stems in olive oil until slightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Brush mushroom tops with remaining olive oil. Spoon and spread prepared pesto onto insides of mushrooms. Bake mushrooms upside down (pesto side up) at 350˚F for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have become a slightly darker shade of brown.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.
  6. Stuff the insides of the mushrooms with sauteed garlic, onion, and mushroom stems. There should be at least a little bit of room left inside the mushrooms when you are finished.
  7. In a medium sized bowl, combine the chopped pistachios, grated Parmesan, panko bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
  8. Stuff mushrooms with Parmesan and panko mixture. Push the mixture into the mushroom using the back of a spoon, then evenly distributed the remaining mixture over the tops of the mushrooms. It’s okay if the mixture is overflowing from the mushrooms.
  9. Bake stuffed mushrooms at 400˚ for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the stuffing has reached desired crispiness.
  10. Enjoy these noshes with a bit of of our 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay.

Marinara & Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with the 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon

Serves about 20.

Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Italian food? Not only is it comforting and delicious, but with such wholesome and versatile ingredients, it’s also pretty difficult to make Italian food that just doesn’t taste good. I can say with great confidence that at least 95% of Americans like toasted garlic bread, spaghetti and meatballs, and lasagna, which is why I created the ultimate Super Bowl app: Marinara and Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread.

Marinara and Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with a bed of organic basil as a garnish.
Marinara and Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with our 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pair this appetizer with our 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon and you’ll have a match made in hors d’oeuvre heaven! This Cabernet is super fruit-forward and big enough to not be overpowered by an ultra delectable appetizer. It is also extremely drinkable and has gorgeous acidity, which is why this wine pairs so well with meatballs in tomato sauce. I also chose this wine because it has a red foiled label, the perfect color for 49ers fans and Chiefs fans alike!

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz. organic French baguette(s)
  • 4 tbsp. roasted garlic & herb butter spread
  • 1 cup yellow onion, minced
  • 4 oz. sliced Crimini mushrooms, minced
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 20 oz. frozen party size mini meatballs (about 42 meatballs)
  • 26 oz. roasted garlic marinara sauce
  • 16 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
  • toothpicks

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the broiler to high. Line a large sheet pan with foil
  2. Slice baguette(s) into 3/4 to 1 inch slices. Spread the roasted garlic and herb butter on the sliced bread liberally. Broil the buttered slices on high for 3 minutes or until desired toastiness is reached.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Sautée onion, garlic, and mushrooms in olive oil until slightly browned. Add frozen meatballs and marinara sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until meatballs are warmed thoroughly, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spread the ricotta on the toasted bread slices.
  5. Spoon each meatball with a little bit of sauce onto each slice of toast. Secure with a toothpick.
  6. Enjoy with a glass of C. Tarantino Cabernet!
Marinara and Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with a bed of organic basil as a garnish.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites with Sriracha Horseradish Dipping Sauce and the 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

Serves about 8, with 2 bites per serving.

If there are any foods that are sure to please a Super Bowl party crowd, it’s bacon, steak, or some combination of steak and bacon. You obviously can’t go wrong with anything bacon-wrapped, but the steak really adds that superfluous extra layer of juicy American glutton that every Super Bowl party needs. I think the general agreeability of this appetizer speaks for itself, but just to add a little extra flavor, try the bacon-wrapped steak with our Terrapin Ridge Sriracha Horseradish dipping sauce.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites.

A big, manly app requires a big, manly wine, which is why I have paired it with our 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine does have some fruit and acidity, but it was primarily built with velvety tannins and balanced structure. A buttery Filet Mignon is big and bold enough for this wine, but just soft and silky enough to complement it. With another red foiled label, this wine is also great to bring along as a hostess or host gift, no matter if you are a 49ers fan or a Chiefs fan!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. filet mignon or beef tenderloin
  • 12 oz. uncured apple smoked bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • cracked rainbow peppercorn
  • pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 4.5 oz. Terrapin Ridge Sriracha Horseradish dipping sauce
  • toothpicks

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Over medium heat, cook sliced bacon in a large pan until bacon is cooked thoroughly, but not crispy.
  3. Cut steak into small, bite-sized pieces. In a medium bowl, combine steak, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap bacon slices around steak pieces, secure with a toothpick, and evenly distribute on lined baking sheet.
  5. Cook bacon-wrapped steak for 8 to 12 minutes or until desired crispiness (for bacon) or done-ness (for steak) is reached.
  6. Pour Terrapin Ridge Sriracha Horseradish dipping sauce into a small dish for dipping.
  7. Enjoy with a glass (or two) of our Austin James Cabernet.
Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites with Sriracha Horseradish Dipping Sauce and 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, but more importantly, I know you will enjoy these wines! If there are certain kinds of pairings you would like to see in the future, don’t be afraid to let us know.

Go niners!