By Mark Clarin and Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards
Autumn is just around the corner, but in the vineyard a new season has already begun! Harvest has started here at McGrail Vineyards and we want to share this new chapter with you all. We asked McGrail Winemaker Mark Clarin to share his thoughts on our 2020 vintage to give our friends and patrons an idea of what can be expected of our newest vintage!
The vintage has been almost picture perfect this year. We had adequate rainfall, along with an early budbreak. The weather through bloom was dry and mild. No mess, no stress, as they say. Summer has been moderately warm, up until the end of August, and then bam–heatwave, thunder and lightning, fire, smoke and more heat! This is definitely going to be an interesting harvest season. There is no telling how the apocalypse will affect the wines. After 41 crushes, I keep telling anyone who will listen that every vintage is different, though some are more memorable than others.
We kicked off our vintage on August 22nd this year, as we harvested Sauvignon Blanc from our Lucky 8 Vineyard. It was a smoke-filled day and everyone wore masks during the processing. The masks were doing double duty as we are trying to protect from COVID-19, as well as the smoke.
We followed up with Chardonnay on the 8th of September. The trend is an early harvest so far and I anticipate it to continue. We are getting ready to pick Malbec and Merlot for Rose and we will be about 25% through picking this year.
Yields so far have been good and the fruit quality is excellent! The juice tastes great and I hope the finished ferments will be just as good. In general, we are picking about a week or so earlier than last year. If all goes well, I’ll be on vacation mid-October.
-Mark Clarin, Winemaker
A new season means new tunes.
Jump into the new season with our sounds of harvest…
It’s summertime, which means most people are drinking crisp, chilled white wines. Accordingly, I’ve been coming up with more recipes for white wine pairings. This pairing suggestion came from Heather McGrail, who loves to recommend healthier versions to classic meals. Using just a bit of butter, a lean protein like shrimp, and veggies as an alternative to starch, I’d say this pairing is a bit more healthy than most. Not only is it delectable, it’s also wonderful paired with our McGrail Family Chardonnay!
Makes 3 servings.
¾ lb. fresh uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails on
1 cup water
½ cup milk
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup uncooked couscous
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp. dry white wine
2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 ½ cups zucchini noodles
3 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
In a medium bowl, soak shrimp for 6-12 hours in a mixture of water, milk, and apple cider vinegar to reduce fishy taste and smell. Dump liquid and rinse shrimp well before using.
Make couscous as directed. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Once hot, add butter and garlic. Brown garlic in butter-oil mixture.
Add shrimp to pan and season well with salt and pepper. Add white wine, lemon juice, cayenne, and zucchini noodles and cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked through, stirring constantly.
Add more salt and pepper to pan as necessary. Sprinkle parsley leaves over pan and stir well.
Spoon most of the excess sauce from shrimp and noodle pan and stir into couscous.
Serve couscous with shrimp and zucchini noodles alongside some McGrail Family Chardonnay. Enjoy!
Please let us know if you end up making this zesty pairing at home. We’d love to hear from you!
It’s the time of the year when your friends, neighbors, and coworkers all seem to have an overabundance of some sort of delicious, fresh produce from their home garden. This past week I had pluots, figs, tomatoes, and zucchini shared with me. Since stone fruit is so good in pies, is super seasonal, and I had more than I would probably eat normally, a pie seemed like the best use for these tasty treats. With a bottle of our new and bold, but jammy Malbec filled with notes of plum and blackberry, I opted for this sweet summertime pairing.
Pluot-Blackberry Amaretto Pie
Makes 8 servings.
2 frozen pie crusts (between 9 and 11 oz. each)
½ vanilla bean
¾ cup granulated white sugar, divided
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
9 oz. ripe blackberries
3 large, ripe pluots, pits removed, chopped into ½” pieces
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. amaretto (I used Disaronno)
Extra sugar to sprinkle on top of pie crust.
Remove pie crusts from freezer and allow to defrost completely.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut vanilla bean down the middle. Use a spoon to scoop vanilla beans out of shell into a medium bowl. Add ½ cup sugar. Take vanilla bean and rub inside with sugar to work the remaining tiny vanilla beans out of the shell. Stir vanilla beans and sugar, so they are evenly dispersed (vanilla beans will clump together).
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to sugar and vanilla mixture. Stir well.
In a large bowl, combine blackberries, chopped pluots, lemon juice, and amaretto. Stir.
Add sugar mixture to fruit mixture and fold together well.
Oil a 9” glass pie pan. Place one pie crust in pan. Pour pie filling into crust. Use extra pie crust to create a lattice over the filling or another classic pie crust design.
Bake pie at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake pie for 15 minutes. Sprinkle pie with sugar and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until baked completely.
Allow pie to cool for about 45 minutes or longer before serving. Enjoy with a glass of McGrail Malbec.
Please let us know if you make this warm, jammy pairing! We’d love to hear from you.
I am a huge fan of the delicious summer veggies that come with living in California and the tail end of summer seems to give us the cream of the crop (pun intended). Having easy access to what is arguably the best corn in the world here in the east Bay Area, I’m going to eat it at nearly every chance I get. A hearty, chunky corn chowder is one of my all-time favorite dishes and it’s even more excellent alongside our yummy McGrail Family Chardonnay. This chowder is filling, but so fresh and flavorful. I can’t get enough. I hope you enjoy this tasty summertime treat as much as I do!
For those who are vegan or vegetarian, I have included substitution suggestions for this recipe below.
Hearty Gourmet Corn Chowder
Makes about 8 servings.
4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 7 oz.)
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp. minced garlic
¼ cup cornmeal
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
Kernels cut from 8 ears fresh corn (approx. 3.5 lbs. or 9 cups), cleaned with husks and silks removed (I used 6 yellow ears and 2 white ears)
4 medium-large red potatoes (about 1.25 lbs.), cut into ½” pieces
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. fresh thyme
½ tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
½ tsp. dry oregano
½ tsp. dry basil
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup skim milk
Optional: Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese and chopped fresh chives
Make it vegan by cutting out bacon, subbing butter for vegan butter or olive oil, subbing chicken broth for vegetable broth, and subbing skim milk for unsweetened plain almond milk.Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top for an added cheesy flavor.
In a large, thick-bottomed pot, cook bacon over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, or until crispy. Remove cooked bacon from pot and place on a paper-towel-covered plate.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to pot with bacon grease and allow to melt.
Brown onion and garlic in butter.
Whisk corn meal into butter for about 1 minute. Continue whisking while adding in chicken broth and water. Increase heat to medium and continue stirring while soup comes to a boil.
Once at a boil, stir corn kernels, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper into broth mix. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 (or until potatoes are soft), stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf from pot. In a blender, liquify 2 ½ cups soup, then pour back into pot. Add milk. Stir well.
Serve chowder with an optional sprinkling of freshly grated cheddar cheese and chopped chives and a bottle of McGrail Family Chardonnay. Cheers!
Please let us know if you end up making this pairing! We’d love to hear from you.
Malbec, which is the favorite varietal of our Winemaker’s mother, is typically an easy drinking, jammy wine. Being a producer of heavy, tannic Cabernets, our Malbec is naturally bigger and bolder than the typical Malbec. The large body on this Bordeaux varietal makes it excellent for pairing with heavy cheeses and red meats. A favorite of our winemaker, blue cheese burgers make a seriously scrumptious suitor for our Malbec.
Black & Blue Cheese Burgers
Makes 3 burgers.
1 lb. organic ground burger (I used 85% lean ground beef)
1 ⅔ tbsp. worcestershire sauce, divided
2 tbsp. minced garlic, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ tbsp. whole grain dijon mustard
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced into ⅓” rounds
2 tbsp. red wine
4 oz. baby bella mushrooms
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
3 oz. organic blue cheese crumbles
3 ciabatta rolls (3 oz. each)
6 pieces romaine lettuce leaves, cut into 5” pieces
1 large tomato, sliced into ½” pieces
Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.
In a medium bowl, combine ground beef, worcestershire sauce, 1 ½ tbsp. minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Use clean hands to work seasonings into beef and shape three burger patties. Smother patties with mustard.
Heat grill on medium (about 350-400 degrees F).
In the small skillet, sautee onion rounds until slightly browned. Add red wine and baby bella mushrooms. Sautee until wine has evaporated and mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, remaining worcestershire sauce, remaining minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, to create a special sauce.
On the heated grill, grill your patties for 2-3 minutes, flip them, grill for another 2-3 minutes. Repeat. Before the last few minutes of grilling, sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on top of patties. Put cut ciabatta rolls face down on grill and remove at the same time as you remove the patties.
Plate your ciabatta rolls and drizzle with special sauce. Place patties, romaine slices, tomato slices, and a spoonful of sauteed onions and mushrooms on rolls.
Serve blue cheese burgers with blistered shishito peppers and a glass of McGrail Malbec. Enjoy!
Please let us know if you make these yummy burgers! We’d love to hear from you.
Since portobello mushroom burgers always seem to be our go-to vegetarian pairing suggestions for our big, bold estate-grown Cabernets, I thought it was time I finally created a recipe to pair with our wines. I chose not to add a bun or any kind of bread to this burger, because like our Patriot Cab, I wanted this dish to be as savory and as flavorful as possible and I think sometimes starch can detract from that. While I am someone who generally prefers meat to a veggie alternative, this mushroom burger wasn’t just some alternative; it was incredible. I loved this big juicy, hearty mushroom so much, I can’t wait until the next time I get to make it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
1 large organic heirloom tomato, sliced into ½” pieces
5 oz. arugula
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Rinse portobello mushrooms under cold water. Use a wet paper towel or clean dish towel to gently clean the tops of the mushrooms. Cut stems from bottom of mushrooms. Using a spoon, gently scoop the gills from the underside of the mushrooms in an outside-to-inside motion. Rinse mushrooms again. Place mushrooms on a paper towel and allow them to dry.
In a gallon-sized Ziploc, combine balsamic vinegar reduction, 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil, worcestershire sauce, olive juice, rosemary leaves, garlic, oregano, pepper, and salt. Once mushrooms are dry, place them in marinade in Ziploc bag. Shake bag to coat mushrooms thoroughly. Allow mushrooms to marinate for about 30 minutes.
Heat grill on medium heat (until it reaches 350-400 degrees F).
In the heated skillet, sautee onion rounds until browned. Add 2 tbsp. red wine. Continue cooking until wine has evaporated. Remove onions from heat and put aside.
Remove mushrooms from marinade and place on grill. Grill mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes. Flip and add sliced gouda. Grill for another 3-4 minutes.
While mushrooms are grilling, pour the marinade into your heated saucepan, add 2 tbsp. red wine, and simmer on medium heat until marinade has reduced and thickened slightly (about 5 minutes), stirring continuously.
To plate your burgers, place a handful of arugula on each plate. Add grilled mushrooms and top with tomatoes and grilled onions. Drizzle with marinade reduction.
Serve bunless portobello burgers with a glass or bottle of McGrail Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy!
Please let us know if you make this delightful veggie pairing! We’d love to hear from you.