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. This cheesy summer squash casserole has become a go-to recipe for my family because it’s so easy to make!
1-2 cups shredded cheese blend (medium cheddar, Jarlsberg, and even a lite blend are fine), separated
1-1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, separated
3/4-1 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)
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and cook until soft and browned.
Add sliced zucchini and squash. Season with pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, until soft.
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).
Evenly spread cooked zucchini and squash on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on top.
Prepare your macaroni and cheese as directed on package.
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.
Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling inside and the top is crispy and browned.
Although all our wines are delicious on their own, a heavy, tannic Cabernet isn’t always the most appealing on any 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, 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 won’t be left feeling rough the next day from using the cheap store-bought stuff.
These summertime 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.
I chose to use watermelon, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and lime in this cocktail because those are some of the most noticeable notes found in the wine and 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 up to you, but either way, I promise you will find this drink delectable! This summertime sangria is sure to keep you cool!
2 cups watermelon
2/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup strawberries, stems removed, chopped
3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted, stems removed
1 cup raspberries
12 oz. sparkling water, lemon flavored or unflavored
1 cup vodka, huckleberry (44° North) or California citrus (St. George) flavor
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
In a food processor or blender, combine watermelon, lime juice, strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Blend until smooth.
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).
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.
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!
1 green apple, seeded, chopped
2 honeycrisp apples, seeded, chopped
1 navel orange, sliced into half rounds
2 blood oranges, sliced into half rounds
1 pink grapefruit, sliced into half rounds
1/4 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)
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.
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.
I hope I’ve inspired you to chill out with this yummy McGrail summertime sangria 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!
Our Colton’s Cabernet is special. It’s set apart from our other Cabs because it’s an old-world-style Cab and the grapes come from our Lucky 8 Vineyard. What’s unique about this property is a gargantuan eucalyptus tree on the adjacent property, which lends these grapes serious herbal characteristics. Though herbal notes were very strong in our first vintage of Colton’s Cab, each vintage following has been farmed more meticulously, reducing the amount of mint and eucalyptus we get from these grapes. Unlike our estate-grown Cabernets, it’s been aged for 18 months, rather than the 30 months our Cab Reserve, Patriot, Good Life, and James Vincent spend in oak, resulting in a wine that is less tannic and more approachable. Lastly, the clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, clone 30, is 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 incredibly smooth, with muted herbal hints, making it perfect to pair with herb braised short ribs.
Herb Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Creamy Polenta
Makes about 4 servings.
For the short ribs:
3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Pepper to taste
1 large red onion
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced
3 cups red wine
2 sprigs 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
For the short ribs:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove all racks from oven except for one and place it in the lower third of oven.
Brush short rubs with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
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.
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.
Add red wine and bring to a simmer.
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.
Allow meat to rest in covered pan for twenty minutes prior to serving.
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.
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.
If you’ve ever been to Italy, or almost anywhere in Europe for that matter, you’ve probably at least seen an Aperol spritz or have maybe even 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.
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
3 oz. Aperol (can be found at almost any grocery or specialty liquor store)
Fill a wine glass about half way with ice, or with about five large ice cubes.
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.
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!
Grazing boards (a fancy name for large charcuterie boards) are one of the easiest culinary trends at the moment. Not only can anyone make them, they are gorgeous and delicious, and also all the rage on Instagram. They’re perfect in almost any setting–lounging around the pool, avoiding small talk at a party, or at home, just because you want a snack. Since I’ve been in charge of overseeing several McGrail winery events, I’ve also been the creator of nearly every cheeseboard or crudité platter our winery events have seen. That’s a lot of charcuterie for one girl to make! With this experience, I’d say I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to make a respectable grazing board. I’ve come up with some easy-to-follow steps, which are listed below, to make your own Insta-worthy grazing board at home.
Find a pretty plate, platter, board, or tray to use. It can be old or it can be new, but it should be pretty. Make sure it’s the right size. How many people will be enjoying your masterpiece? Make sure it’s clean. Wash it if you need to.
Consider your main components–cheese, meat, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, nuts, crackers, olives, dried fruits, dips, jams, herbs, etc. Try to choose ingredients that are colorful. Rainbow carrots, mini heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, and various colorful fruits are some of my favorite munchies to use. When you choose ingredients that are naturally colorful, your board will be both more visually appealing and more nutritious.
Also think about how your guests will be eating each component–with their hands, with a toothpick, etc. Will they need mini tongs to pick up each piece? Will they need somewhere to dispose of toothpicks or rinds? Will you be providing snack plates or napkins? Your guests will likely need something to cut the cheese wedges with. Make sure you have one knife available for each type of cheese that needs to be cut.
Start by placing your larger pieces on the board first. Larger, stickier items, like cheese wedges should be placed around the outer edges of the board. This is helpful for keeping smaller snacks, like nuts or berries, from falling off the sides of your board. Dips, jams, and sauces in small bowls or saucers should also be placed on the board first, but should go in the center of the board to reduce risk of falling off. Hummus is always great to have with veggies.
Separate similar colors and similar ingredients. Separating your colors will up the “wow” factor of your board, because it makes it appear more colorful. If you have red cherries and strawberries, put one on one side of the board and one on the opposite side of the board. Although certain components should be separated, do not just simply put a handful of each thing on the board. The placement should look organic, not careless. Some placements should be triangular, some should be long and skinny, and some should be funky.
Make the board as full as possible. The more you have on the board, the prettier it will be! It will need to be fuller in the center and more sparse on the edges. You can use other fixings as support for smaller ingredients. Stack your blueberries as high as you can. It’s okay if they’re overflowing onto a cheese wedge.
Get creative with your components. Each part doesn’t just have to be one ingredient. One thing I like to do is chop up apples, squeeze lemon over them, drizzle honey on top, and sprinkle a bit of blue cheese over the honey. Or, cut some mozzarella into small pieces, add a dollop of pesto or a basil leaf and a mini tomato, and stick a toothpick through it for a mini caprese salad.
Cut up fruits or veggies that have seeds or pits or that would be cumbersome to eat whole. Bell peppers should be seeded and sliced into sticks, because just straight up eating a whole bell pepper would feel ridiculous and messy. Watermelons and oranges should be sliced, with the skins left on to make eating them easier. Don’t forget some fruits, like apples and pears should be squeezed with lemon once sliced and seeded to keep them from turning brown!
Create patterns or artwork by manipulating certain ingredients. Salami can be folded into quarters and bunched together for a unique look. The tips of strawberries can be cut and worked to look like roses. Make it interesting to look at and to eat.
Lastly, add some fun herbs or edible flowers as a garnish. This can contribute some serious pop to the board. A few sprigs of rosemary is a lovely and easy way to class up the board.
Though nearly every wine can be enjoyed with a grazing board, not every grazing board should be enjoyed with every wine. It’s a rule in the wine world that most food can be enjoyed with sparkling wine due to its versatility, which is why I have chosen to pair our Gracie Brut with an equally stunning grazing board.
Based on my experience, here are foods I recommend using on a grazing board to enjoy alongside Gracie:
Mozarella, tomato, and pesto bites
Herb focaccia bread
Balsamic basil Triscuit crackers
Granny smith apple
I hope I’ve inspired you to create your own fun, summertime grazing boards at home! Please let us know if you do. We’d love to hear from you!
This week we were super excited to be providing all of our SIP Club members with herbs from the Calhoun family ranch (my family’s ranch) here in Livermore! A lot of these herbs are wild, but can be found literally on the side of the road or near local creek beds. If you’ve ever had a Coyote Smash at Range Life, you’ve probably already had these herbs unknowingly, as my aunt Nancy is the one who sells them to Range Life for this specific cocktail, as well as for other uses, I’m sure. We included them with this week’s SIP package, so members could create an herbs de Provence seasoning to make one of the following recipes to pair with the Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon at home!
To create this seasoning, you will need the following fresh ingredients:
1-2 bay laurel leaves (Laurus nobilis)
1-3 stems of rosemary
1-4 stems of fennel
1-5 stems of sagebrush (Artemisia californica)
1-2 leaves of common sage
2 sprigs of Portuguese lavender
French lavender sprigs and flowers
If you have any of the following fresh herbs or seeds at home, please feel free to add them to your bag of herbs to dry and ultimately use in your herbs de Provence seasoning:
Italian parsley leaves
Summer savory leaves
If you have any of the aforementioned herbs or seeds at home that have already been dried, they may be added to the dry seasoning, as well.
Before preparing your herbs to dry, we highly encourage you to wash them, but to take extra care when doing so.
Bay leaves: These are heartier plants than the other herbs and can just be rinsed with water or washed by using a produce wash to clean them.
Lavender: When washing the lavender sprigs and flowers, take extra care to not lose the buds, as these are the most important part of the flower. If the buds do fall off the sprigs, make sure to hold onto them. We recommend removing the stems and using a mesh strainer to wash the flowers and/or buds. Wash the lavender flowers or buds by running them through water.
The remaining herbs are somewhat fragile and special care should be taken when washing them. They can be washed by rinsing them under cold water. It’s important to try not to crush the herbs when washing them, as this can cause them to lose their flavor.
If possible, remove the stems of the rosemary, mint, fennel, bay leaves, common sage, oregano, sagebrush, and pineapple sage, after washing and before allowing them to dry, as this will allow the leaves to dry out faster.
Once your herbs have been washed, they should be prepared to dry. Put your herbs in a new, paper bag with holes or in a clean, plastic bin with holes in it and place them in a warm, dry area of your home.
Once your herbs are dry or almost dry, you will prepare them to use in your herbs de Provence seasoning.
You will use:
1-3 bay leaves (we recommend using a smaller portion of bay leaves because they can be very pungent and overpower some of the other herbs)
All rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage leaves
All lavender buds
The exact portion of each herb you use doesn’t really matter, unless you’d like to replicate your recipe later. Play around with each herb and see which you find most appealing to your palate, then add more of that to your herbs de Provence.
Remove the stems of the bay leaves, rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, lavender sprigs, oregano sprigs, mint sprigs, and pineapple sage sprigs. Dispose of the stems.
Put the remaining bay leaves in an airtight container to use for future cooking. Use within a year for maximum flavor.
Grind the bay leaves as fine as you possibly can. These leaves are very stiff and can be unpleasant to ingest when they are not finely ground.
If you do not own a grinder, use clean, dry hands to crunch up the leaves into small pieces. You may want to remove the spines of the leaves, as these tend to be the stiffest parts.
Next, grind the rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, chives, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage. Mix well with the ground bay leaves.
Mix lavender buds with your herb mixture.
Store your herbs de Provence seasoning in an airtight container in a warm, dry area of your home. Use within six months for maximal flavor.
Here are three delicious ways to enjoy your herbs de Provence seasoning at home:
Herbs de Provence Seasoned-Steak and McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon
1 tbsp. herbs de Provence
2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 16 oz. rib eye or New York steaks
In a small bowl, combine herbs de Provence, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, minced garlic, and olive oil. Mix well to create a paste.
Rub each steak evenly on both sides with the seasoning mixture.
Allow steaks to sit with seasoning for 30 minutes or until they reach room temperature.
Pre-heat grill on medium-high.
Grill steaks for about five to six minutes on each side for a medium-rare doneness. Grill for longer if you prefer a medium or well-done steak.
Enjoy steak with a bottle of McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon!
Fresh Vegan Herb Mushroom Tomato Pasta
8 oz. uncooked pasta (linguine, spaghetti, or angel hair)
4 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced into small pieces
8 oz. fresh mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
1 tbsp. McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon
4 oz. vegan mozzarella (Miyoko’s VeganMozz is preferable)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions
Heat olive oil or vegan butter over medium heat. Brown minced garlic in vegan butter.
Add mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs de Provence. Continue to cook over medium heat.
Add red wine and allow it to cook long enough to evaporate.
When mushrooms and tomatoes have been cooked through, add VeganMozz and allow to melt slightly.
In a large pasta bowl, add pasta, mushroom and tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and mix well.
Enjoy this pasta with a deliciously balanced McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon, like our Austin James.
Herbs de Provence Bread Dipping Oil
2 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. freshly cracked pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
Bread for dipping
Heat ½ tbsp. olive oil in a small frying pan. Brown minced garlic.
In a small bowl, combine browned garlic, herbs de Provence, parmesan, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, aged balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Mix well.
Use any kind of fresh bread to enjoy with dip, just don’t forget your glass of Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon!
We’ve shown you how innovative we can be with wine cocktails and wine pairings at home during the shelter-in-place. Before the shelter-in-place is over, we want to see your most innovative way to enjoy McGrail wine at home, by pairing it with the most creative meal, or by producing the most interestingly scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail! Beginning April 15th, 2020 through May 15th, 2020, we would like you to post photos of our wine on Instagram while tuning into your most resourceful self!
Choose a McGrail wine and pair it with the most curiously delicious meal, using ingredients that are completely unexpected, but somehow combine to create a perfectly balanced pairing with the wine. Prefer an impressive cocktail to a tasty pairing? Instead of designing a great meal to go with our wine, utilize your favorite McGrail wine to conceive the most scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail imaginable! You read that correctly. We’re looking to award two of our most inventive patrons who can either come up with an incredible, Chopped-style wine and food pairing OR a visionary wine-based beverage. Extra points will be given to those who post a photo that is both alluring and aesthetically pleasing. Entries must also include a recipe for the pairing dish or cocktail. Each of these imaginative winners will be awarded a $50 gift card to the McGrail tasting room or online shop!
To enter, simply post a photo of your originative McGrail wine pairing or cocktail to a PUBLIC Instagram account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #SIPMcGrailInnovation, and make sure to TAG and FOLLOW @mcgrail_vineyards. Don’t forget to include a recipe!
Photos must be posted on Instagram through a public account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #McGrailInstagramInnovation AND tagging @mcgrail_vineyards.
Must be following @mcgrail_vineyards on Instagram for entry to be valid.
Must include detailed recipe for wine cocktail and/or wine pairing dish. Recipes may be included in the Instagram photo caption or may be sent via direct message to @McGrail_Vineyards account.
Must be 21 years of age or older to enter.
Posts may not:
Encourage excessive consumption of wine and/or alcohol
Encourage underage consumption of wine and/or alcohol
Include people under the age of 21
Encourage/include illegal activities of any kind
Make false claims about wine
State that there are any health benefits attached to the consumption of wine
Make lewd or obscene statements or include lewd or obscene comments
By using the hashtag #SIPMcGrailInnovation and/or entering the contest, you are giving us permission to use your photo
Winning photos will be announced at 4pm on Friday, May 29th. Happy innovating and good luck!
We look forward to seeing what you all come up with!
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)
Through my mixology research, I’ve discovered one of the ingredients that can be found in a vast assortment of cocktails is simple syrup. Made using equal parts water and sugar, it really is simple. Although sometimes simple is best, simple usually isn’t flavorful or interesting, which is why I decided to make some herb and floral-infused simple syrups with what I have at home and base each cocktail around these flavors.
Before you turn around and decide you don’t want to make these cocktails because the simple syrups are too much work, let me tell you, they’re NOT. It took me less than ten minutes to make each simple syrup. Every one of these recipes can easily be doubled or tripled to produce more and these tasty syrups are so versatile, they can also be used in coffee, tea, lemonade, and really any other beverage, not just cocktails.
If you don’t have all the ingredients to make them right now, ask your neighbors! I would be honored to give up some of my ginormous rosemary plant to someone who just needed a delicious cocktail to get through another day of shelter-in-place.
Lavender-Infused and Rosemary-Infused Simple Syrups
I first became acquainted with lavender simple syrup during my wine cocktail project at SSU and I fell in love immediately. I know floral flavors aren’t for everyone, but OMG, this stuff is special. Not only is lavender revered for its healing and medicinal properties, it also combats anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I think everyone could use a little bit of some relaxing lavender in their lives right now. I was excited to find my French and English lavender in bloom this past week, so I decided to dry a bunch of it. If you’ve never dried a bunch of lavender before, here‘s a quick how-to from HGTV. If you don’t have French or English lavender at home, dried buds can be purchased online through Amazon or Cost Plus World Market.
Another herb I tend to have a ton of in my garden is rosemary. I love the way it smells and tastes, especially when it’s fresh. Although it’s normally used in savory foods, it’s pretty versatile and can also be used in sweet drinks.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. dried lavender buds or 1/4 to 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
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.
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.
Enjoy in your Gracie Sparkling Brut cocktails or in coffee or tea. Store in the refrigerator and discard if not used within 30 days.
Rose Petal-Infused and Mint-Infused Simple Syrups
Though it isn’t really the season for roses to be in bloom, I was happy to find one of my rose bushes blooming this past week. Since this variety of rose is quite fragrant, I thought I could use some to make a simple syrup. I also chose to use some fresh mint to infuse into another simple syrup because it’s always plentiful in my garden. Since the rose petals and mint leaves aren’t as potent as the other herbs and flowers I used, these simple syrups were made a bit differently.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup rose petals of a fragrant variety or fresh mint leaves, packed
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy in your Gracie Sparkling Brut cocktails or in coffee or tea. Store in the refrigerator and discard if not used within 30 days.
Gracie Sparkling Brut Cocktails
Now for the fun part–the cocktails! I’ve based four cocktails around each of the aforementioned simple syrups I made. Albeit each cocktail is unique and interesting, all contain one very important ingredient: McGrail’s Gracie Sparkling Brut. This wine was made from a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, using methode champenoise. It is dry, bubbly, and delicious, and with a lower percentage of alcohol than our other wines, it is great to use in cocktails!
Blueberry Lavender French 75
Okay, so obviously I have a thing for lavender-lemon drinks. I really loved the lavender-lemon wine cocktail I had created before, but I also want to change it up a bit for the sake of Gracie Sparkling. French 75s are one of my favorite cocktails, as they typically contain lemon, sugar, gin, and champagne–all tasty things. I’ve combined the lavender-lemon idea and the French 75, added some blueberries, and decided on botanical gin to coincide with the floral flavors of lavender. I love this drink.
About 15 organic blueberries
1 oz. lavender simple syrup
1 oz. botanical gin (I used St. George Botanivore, but I’ve heard Sidewinder Spirits has a killer botanical gin, too. Both distilleries are local.)
In a shaker, muddle blueberries. Add lavender simple syrup, gin, lemon juice, and ice. Shake well.
Over a small-to-medium-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out blueberry pulp and ice.
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.
In a shaker, combine rosemary simple syrup, vodka, grapefruit juice, and ice. Shake well.
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.
Slice of fresh or candied ginger and/or a sprig of fresh mint for a garnish
In a shaker, muddle blackberries. Add mint simple syrup, rum, lime juice, and ice. Shake well.
Over a medium-to-large-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out blackberry pulp and ice.
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.
A rose petal and/or an organic raspberry for a garnish
In a shaker, muddle raspberries. Add rose simple syrup, vodka, and ice. Shake well.
Over a small-to-medium-sized cocktail glass, use a mesh strainer to sift out raspberry pulp and ice.
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!
There’s something so special about Italian food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it impossible to dislike Italian food. The ingredients are so, incredibly wholesome and versatile. Italian dishes are just plain comforting and delicious.
Vintage after vintage, our C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon continues to be one of my absolute favorite wines we produce. I can always count on it being fruit-forward and drinkable as soon as it’s released. My favorite vintage was the 2013 and despite being so drinkable when it was released, this wine is aging beautifully. I’d say the 2017 vintage is quite similar to the 2013. Consistently, the C. Tarantino Cab has gorgeous acidity, which makes it the absolute perfect wine to pair with Italian dishes. I’m not sure if it’s the soil the grapes are grown in, if it’s the grape clone (337, which is different from what we have on our estate and our Lucky 8 Vineyard), or if it’s even the way the sun hits the vines in the summertime, but something about this wine is simply magical.
If you were lucky enough to receive this fabulous wine in your most recent club shipment, whip it out and try this pairing for yourself. We are a few bottles shy of selling out of the 2017 vintage of this Cab, so if you want to try this pairing, don’t wait. Get a bottle now. I promise you won’t be disappointed by this pairing!
Have you ever tried something that is so extraordinarily flavorful that you just can’t get enough of it? This is how I feel about McGrail wine… and chimichurri sauce. Accordingly, this pairing has a TON of flavor.
What Is Chimichurri?
Wondering what the heck chimichurri is? Basically, it’s an herb-based sauce made primarily using raw or uncooked ingredients. It can be red (chimichurri rojo) or green (chimichurrri verde), depending on what kind of herbs are used. It pretty much always contains garlic, parsley, oregano, and vinegar, but there are countless variations of this scrumptious sauce.
No one seems to be totally sure about chimichurri’s origin. Some believe it derived from the Basque region’s “tximitxurri” sauce, as the pronunciations are very similar, though the ingredients are not. Others think it was loosely based off of Sicily’s salmoriglio sauce, as both typically contain parsley, oregano, and garlic. Since the English always seemed to stick their head in everyone’s business back in the day, there are some people who insist it was called “Jimmy’s curry,” “Jimmy Curry,” or even “Jimmy McCurry,” after an English lad who joined in the fight for Argentina’s independence, and some who believe it was the result of an English prisoner asking for condiments to season his meat, after England’s attempt to invade Argentina failed. There are many myths as to where chimichurri sauce came from exactly, but at this point in its history, it is most commonly found in Argentine or Uruguayan cuisine.
A Jó Élet, “The Good Life”
“A jó élet” is a Hungarian phrase, which roughly translates to “the good life” in English. This bottle of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is aged for nearly 30 months in 100% brand new Hungarian oak barrels. These barrels are sourced from two different coopers, both of whom use tight grain oak from the Zempelén Forest. This wine demonstrates a classic Cabernet Sauvignon bouquet of dark cherry, cassis, and vanilla, but also offers the notes of baking spice and bold tannins that you would expect from a wine that has been aged for over two years in brand new Hungarian oak. The Good Life is rich and full-bodied with notes of leather, herbs, and white pepper, which makes this the perfect wine to pair with a chimichurri rib eye steak. When you pair this wine with this dish, there is no doubt you’re living the good life.
I hope you’re excited to try this recipe at home, because I seriously can’t wait to make this pairing again! This is probably my favorite food and wine pairing so far.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk all rib eye marinade ingredients together, except for the salt, pepper, and rib eye.
Place the rib eye in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and add the marinade to the bag. Make sure the meat is completely covered by the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours, depending on how thick the meat is (longer if the meat is thicker).
When ready to place the rib eye in the skillet, liberally season it with salt and pepper.
To make the chimichurri sauce:
In a food processor, add all chimichurri sauce ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Store chimichurri sauce leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last several days without browning.
To prepare the sides:
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil.
Add the fingerling potatoes and boil until soft, about 15 minutes.
Strain the potatoes and set aside.
To cook the rib eye and sides:
In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add garlic cloves and halved shallots. Cook until slightly browned.
Add sliced crimini mushrooms. Cook mushrooms with the garlic and shallots, stirring occasionally, until they become soft.
Using a spatula, move the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots to one side of the pan. Add the rib eye steaks and about half of the marinade in the ziploc bag. Add the fingerling potatoes over the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots, and stir, so they are evenly covered in marinade. Add the optional sprigs of rosemary or thyme.
For medium-rare steak, cook the steaks for about six minutes on each side, flipping after about three minutes (twelve minutes total, four intervals of three minutes). Add about 3-5 minutes to total cooking time if you like your meat well done.
Once cooked to desired done-ness, plate the steaks and vegetables. Spoon the chimichurri sauce over the steaks.