Tag: wine grapes

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!

Vineyard Related

Time to Burn

By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards & Winery

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

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

Vineyard Related

FEBRUARY 2020: Vineyard Dormancy, Maintenance, & Weather

Sunshine and our recently pruned estate vines.

By Laina Carter and Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards

February was an incredibly busy month in the vineyards, but unseasonably so, as our vines are currently dormant and February tends to be a pretty uneventful month for our vineyards. There are countless facets to grape growing and external factors affecting grapevines that no year and no season are ever the same.


Dormancy & Pruning

Grapevines, like most perennials, undergo a dormancy stage, which is essentially a hibernation period for these plants. The vines have stored all of their nutrients in their roots, leaving the once vivacious, fruitful shoots dry and void of leaves and fruit. Dormancy allows grapevines to tolerate winter weather and gives them time to prepare for budbreak in the spring. Like hibernating animals, the vines are waiting for warmer temperatures before once again using the energy they have stored up to become active and begin growing again.

The most critical vineyard practice that occurs during dormancy is pruning. For us, pruning usually happens around February, when the vines are completely bare and nearing the end of their dormancy. This year, we began pruning our estate vines at the end of January and continued with our Lucky 8 Vineyard through the beginning of February.

Our recently pruned estate vines.

Each year, we prune last year’s growth back to the cordon. Our vineyards are currently pruned to two bud spur positions. These positions are kept approximately a fist apart along the cordon in order to keep the new shoot growth separated for later when the fruit sets.

A vineyard worker pruning our estate vines.

Pruning is important because it gives us the ability to determine the number and position of shoots on the vine, and will therefore determine cluster count and quality of wine. The reason we prune back is to control consistency in production and to make sure we can still walk down the rows and properly manage the vineyard. There are many tasks throughout the growing season that require hand manipulation. Since grapevines are vines, they seem to have a mind of their own and want to grow in wild directions. Our trellis allows us to control the vines so that we can manage yields and quality.


Vineyard Re-Development

Our winemaker Mark planting new vines at our Lucky 8 property in 2018.

Our estate vineyard was originally planted in 1999 and is now at the end of its ideal productive life. We have sixteen and a half acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and it has, and still continues, to serve us well. At some point, the need to replant is fast-approaching, so we are taking out a section of approximately three acres this year to be replanted again in 2022. Since we have our new Lucky 8 vineyard coming into full production, it affords us the opportunity to re-develop our estate vineyard.

The area at the front of our property where we have removed nearly three acres of vines.
A pile of vines that have been pulled from the area at the front of our property where we have removed nearly three acres of vines.

It takes about three years for new plantings to come into full production. It’s about a five-year process when you have to remove a vineyard, because you want to leave the ground fallow for a year. If we have to remove all 16.7 acres at once, we would lose production for five years. By doing it in small quantities, we will still be able to produce our cherished Patriot, James Vincent, A Jó Élet “the Good Life,” and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon through the re-development phase. This February we began our vineyard re-development by removing about three acres of Cabernet vines at the front of our estate property. It will take up to ten years for us to replant the whole vineyard and up to twenty years to get back into full production.


Vineyard Drought

Our recently pruned vines at Lucky 8.

We are currently at the beginning of March, 2020 and we haven’t seen significant rainfall since early January, which is quite a bit different from what the last few winters we’ve experienced. December was fairly wet and we were on course to having a “normal” winter when the new year decided to change all that. We tried a little irrigating this past week to trick the vines into thinking it’s still winter. The windy weather has really dried things out and the hills are turning brown, which is very unusual for this time of year. We’re hoping this month brings rain again and more importantly, a decent snow-pack in the Sierra mountains, but time will tell. Until then, we will continue to irrigate as needed.


Unseasonably Warm Temperatures

On February 26th in 2018, there was snow on Mt. Diablo and snow on Mt. Hamilton, which is wildly different from the weather we experienced on the same day this year, with sunshine and a high of 76˚F.

The view from our estate property of snow on Mount Diablo on February 26th, 2018.
A bud in our estate vineyard in April of 2019.

Although we have had some warm late winters in years past, these temperatures can be of concern for grape growers. Air temperatures of 50°F are the threshold of below which grapevines refuse to grow. This means that enough days with a mean air temperature of 50°F or above could cause budbreak in the vineyards. Since an earlier budbreak during a warm late winter hasn’t really happened for us before, we aren’t too worried; however, an early budbreak could result in damage to the vines if spring frost occurs. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our vines don’t come out of dormancy this week! 


Grape growing is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Vineyard Related

The Importance of Pruning and Vineyard Replacement

By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards

Newly pruned Cabernet Sauvignon vines and trimmings in McGrail’s estate vineyard

The Importance of Pruning

A simple illustration of a vine with two bud spurs

It’s that time of year again in the vineyard, when we prune last year’s growth back to the cordon. Our vineyards are currently pruned to two bud spur positions. These positions are kept approximately a fist apart along the cordon in order to keep the new shoot growth separated for later when the fruit sets.

The reason we prune back is to control consistency in production and to make sure we can still walk down the rows and properly manage the vineyard. There are many tasks throughout the growing season that require hand manipulation. Since grapevines are vines, they seem to have a mind of their own and want to grow in wild directions. Our trellis allows us to control the vines so that we can manage yields and quality.

Newly pruned Cabernet Sauvignon vines on McGrail’s estate
A vineyard worker pruning Cabernet Sauvignon vines on McGrail’s estate

Vineyard Replacement

Our estate vineyard was originally planted in 1999 and is now at the end of its ideal productive life. We have sixteen and a half acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and it has, and still continues, to serve us well. At some point, the need to replant is fast-approaching, so we are taking out a section of approximately three acres this year to be replanted again in 2022. Since we have our new Lucky 8 vineyard coming into full production, it affords us the opportunity to re-develop our estate vineyard. 

McGrail’s estate vineyard in fall of 2019
McGrail’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

It takes about three years for new plantings to come into full production. It’s about a five-year process when you have to remove a vineyard, because you want to leave the ground fallow for a year. If we have to remove all 16.7 acres at once, we would lose production for five years. By doing it in small quantities, we will still be able to produce our cherished Patriot, James Vincent, A Jó Élet “the Good Life,” and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon through the re-development phase. It will take up to ten years for us to replant the whole vineyard and up to 20 years to get back into full production. Grape growing is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

Winemaker Mark Clarin planting new vines at McGrail’s Lucky 8 Vineyard on Tesla Road in Livermore