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Month: <span>September 2020</span>

Wine Production

A New Season: Harvest 2020

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. We asked Winemaker Mark Clarin to share his thoughts on our 2020 vintage to give our friends an idea of what can be expected of our newest vintage! 

Harvest 2020
Harvest 2020

Harvest 2020 According to Mark Clarin

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

Harvest at McGrail Vineyards
Harvest at McGrail Vineyards

A new season means new tunes.

Jump into the new season with our sounds of harvest…

Harvest at McGrail Vineyards
Harvest at McGrail Vineyards

Here’s Our 2020 Vintage Recap

Tap the link below to read our update on the 2020 vintage.

Wine at Home

Prawns In Lemon White Wine Sauce & Chardonnay

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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!

Prawns In Lemon White Wine Sauce Over Zucchini Noodles & Cous Cous

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
Prawns in lemon white wine sauce


  1. 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.
  2. Make couscous as directed. Set aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Once hot, add butter and garlic. Brown garlic in butter-oil mixture.
  4. Add shrimp to pan and season well with salt and pepper. Stir in white wine, lemon juice, cayenne, and zucchini noodles and cook for about five minutes or until shrimp are cooked through, stirring constantly. 
  5. Add more salt and pepper to pan as necessary. Sprinkle parsley leaves over pan and stir well. 
  6. Spoon most of the excess sauce from shrimp and noodle pan and stir into couscous. 
  7. Serve couscous with shrimp and zucchini noodles alongside some McGrail Family Chardonnay. Enjoy!
Prawns in lemon white wine sauce

Please let us know if you end up making this zesty pairing at home. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Pluot Blackberry Amaretto Pie & McGrail Malbec

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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. Enjoy this delicious mid-summer pluot blackberry amaretto pie with our incredibly inky and fruit-forward Malbec!

Pluot Blackberry Amaretto Pie

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.
Pluot Blackberry Amaretto Pie


  1. Remove pie crusts from freezer and allow to defrost completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. 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).
  4. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to sugar and vanilla mixture. Stir well.
  5. In a large bowl, combine blackberries, chopped pluots, lemon juice, and amaretto. Stir.
  6. Add sugar mixture to fruit mixture and fold together well.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. Allow pie to cool for about 45 minutes or longer before serving. Enjoy with a glass of McGrail Malbec.
Pluot Blackberry Amaretto Pie

Please let us know if you make this warm, jammy pairing! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Hearty Gourmet Corn Chowder & Chardonnay

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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

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
  • 2 tsp. 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
  • ½ tsp. fresh thyme
  • ½ tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 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.


  1. 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.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to pot with bacon grease and allow to melt. 
  3. Brown onion and garlic in butter. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. Remove bay leaf from pot. In a blender, liquify 2 ½ cups soup, then pour back into pot. Add milk. Stir well.
  7. Serve chowder with an optional sprinkling of freshly grated cheddar cheese and chopped chives and a bottle of McGrail Family Chardonnay. Cheers!
Hearty Gourmet Corn Chowder

Please let us know if you end up making this hearty gourmet corn chowder and McGrail Family Chardonnay pairing! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Black and Blue Cheese Burgers and Malbec

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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 and blue cheese burgers

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
  • 2 tsp. 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
black and blue cheese burgers


  1. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. 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.
  3. Heat grill on medium (about 350-400 degrees F).
  4. 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.
  5. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, remaining worcestershire sauce, remaining minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, to create a special sauce.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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.
  8. Serve blue cheese burgers with blistered shishito peppers and a glass of McGrail Malbec. Enjoy!
black and blue cheese burgers

Please let us know if you make these yummy burgers! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Gouda Balsamic Portobello Burgers & Patriot Cab

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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 these big juicy, hearty gouda balsamic portobello burgers so much, I can’t wait until the next time I get to make them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Gouda Balsamic Portobello Burgers

Bun-Less Balsamic Rosemary Gouda Portobello Mushroom Burgers 

Makes 4 servings.


  • 4 large portobello mushrooms (about 3 oz. each)
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar reduction
  • 2 ½ tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • ½ tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. black olive juice
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into ¼” rounds
  • ¼ cup red wine, divided
  • 4 slices of gouda (about 1 oz. each)
  • 1 large organic heirloom tomato, sliced into ½” pieces
  • 5 oz. arugula
Gouda Balsamic Portobello Burgers


  1. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Heat grill on medium heat (until it reaches 350-400 degrees F).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Serve bunless portobello burgers with a glass or bottle of McGrail Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon. Enjoy!
Gouda Balsamic Portobello Burgers

Please let us know if you make this delightful veggie pairing! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

All Wine and Food Pairing Recipes

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? Simply choose your favorite McGrail wine and follow one of our recommended pairing recipes linked below! These are all wine and food pairing recipes we’ve created.

A Jó Élet, “The Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon

A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon & Spiced Mexican Chocolate Almond Popcorn

Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites with Sriracha Horseradish Dipping Sauce and the 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon
Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon & Smoked Paprika BBQ Bacon Popcorn

C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon

Marinara & Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with the 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon
C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon & Sun-Dried Tomato Parmesan Popcorn

Charlie Rae Chardonnay

2018 Charlie Rae Chardonnay and d’Anjou Pear White Balsamic and Butter Popcorn
Charlie Rae Chardonnay & Salted Caramel & Butterscotch Popcorn

Colton’s Cabernet Sauvignon

Colton’s Cabernet & Herbs de Provence Asiago Popcorn

Gracie Sparkling Brut

Gracie Sparkling Brut & Orange Lavender Vanilla Honey Popcorn

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon & Dark Chocolate Coconut Cashew Popcorn

Kylie Ryan Rosé

2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé with Shrimp and Citrus Ceviche in Endive Spears
Kylie Ryan Rosé & Classic Kettle Corn

Malbec, Lucky 8 Vineyard

McGrail Malbec & Dark Chocolate Berry Popcorn

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve & Black Pepper BellaVitano Popcorn

McGrail Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon

McGrail Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon & Savory Sharp Cheddar Mustard Onion Thyme Popcorn

McGrail Clone 15 Cabernet Sauvignon

McGrail Clone 15 Cabernet Sauvignon & Pomegranate Balsamic Aged Gouda Popcorn

McGrail Family Chardonnay

Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms Paired with the 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay
McGrail Family Chardonnay & Asian-Inspired Vegan “Chicken” Ramen Popcorn

McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard

McGrail Merlot & Truffle Sharp Cheddar Parmesan Popcorn

Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage Skewers, Grilled Balsamic Parmesan Artichokes, & Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes & Rosemary Rib Eye & 2016 Patriot Cabernet
Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Cabbage Skewers, Grilled Balsamic Parmesan Artichokes, & Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes & Rosemary Rib Eye & 2016 Patriot Cabernet
Cheeseburger Tacos & 2016 Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon
Patriot Cabernet Sauvignon & Brown Butter Dark Chocolate Toasted Hazelnut Popcorn

Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Tequila Lime Tacos & 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc
Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc & Hot Chili Lime Street Corn Popcorn

Shamus Patrick Red Blend

2016 Shamus Patrick and Prosciutto Apple Balsamic Flatbread 
Shamus Patrick Red Blend & Taco Popcorn

Sláinte Red Blend

Sweet Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Mango-Apple Tacos & 2017 Slainte Red Blend
Slainte Red Blend & Peanut Butter, Chocolate, & Potato Chip Popcorn

Timeless Cabernet Sauvignon