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Month: October 2020

Wine at Home

Smoky BBQ Slow Cooker Country Style Ribs & Austin…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Our Austin James Cabernet is a three vineyard blend of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate vineyard, the C. Tarantino Vineyard, and our Lucky 8 Vineyard. We created this wine with the hopes of bringing out the best aspects of each vineyard, we combined the three different clones from the three different vineyards. The blend is produced using approximately one third from each vineyard. This bold, carmine wine initially opens with a hint of mintiness, then follows into notes of bright cherry cola, vanilla, cassis, and bright red raspberry. The red fruit on the palate contains undertones of clove and dark chocolate, and is further complemented by notes of red licorice, blackberry, and a bit of tobacco. The smooth, but bold tannins linger for a bit and leave this easy sipping wine ready for another taste. 

One of the most important things to consider when pairing wine with food, especially when the wine is tannic, is that the fat in the food will cut down bold tannins. This is something I find myself contemplating often, as many of our Cabernets can be quite tannic. With that said, this recipe can also be paired with our James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon, another big red wine. The fat in the pork tames the tannins in both of these delicious Cabs!

If you’ve never made country style ribs before, just be forewarned that these are not regular ribs. This meat just literally falls off the bone, especially when it’s been slow cooked. It can be enjoyed like pulled pork on a sandwich with coleslaw, over steamed potatoes or rice, or on a grilled cheese sando. The possibilities are endless.


Smoky BBQ Slow Cooker Country Style Ribs

Makes about 10 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into sixths
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chipotle pepper powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3-3.5 lbs. pork country style ribs
  • 14 oz. BBQ sauce
  • 4 stems green onions, sliced thinly

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium slow cooker, spray the insides with a cooking spray.
  2. Place the sixths of the onion at the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. In a small bowl, combine pepper, salt, paprika, cumin, chipotle powder, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and cinnamon to create a rub for the meat. Mix well.
  4. Liberally rub the meat with the seasonings, covering all sides of the meat.
  5. Place meat in the crockpot, cover, and cook on high for 3-4 hours.
  6. Once cooked through, pull the meat out of the crockpot and taking care not to burn yourself on the hot meat, remove the bones and any fat or grisly chunks from the meat. The meat should fall off the bones easily, but some pieces may be tougher.
  7. Add BBQ sauce and mix to cover the meat in the sauce. Garnish with green onions.
  8. Serve on a bun with coleslaw or over some soft boiled and buttered potatoes with a few glasses of our Austin James Cabernet or James Vincent Cabernet.

Please let us know if you try making this at home! I’d love some feedback and to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Cheese, Herb, & Onion Bavarian Egg Noodles with Chicken…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

I’m a huge proponent of authentic German food, especially during the fall months, and I wanted to share the happy, warm feeling I get from this comfort cuisine with you all. I will admit, this recipe is cheating just a little bit, because I mostly use the easiest packaged dry ingredients where I felt was necessary. I don’t think packaged is necessarily bad, but actually making spaetzle noodles from scratch just sounds like a headache to me. Plus, these ingredients actually come from Germany, so there has to be some level of authenticity to them, right? Anyway, I hope you consider making this tasty Bavarian specialty. It pairs amazingly with our crisp, California-style Charlie Rae Chardonnay!


Cheese, Herb, & Onion Bavarian Egg Noodles & Chicken Apple Sausages

Makes about 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced finely
  • 1 package (3 cups dry) Bechtle Traditional German Egg Noodles Spaetzle (1.1 lbs. or 17.6 oz.)*
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 8 chicken apple sausage links (about 26 oz. or 3 1/4 oz. per link)
  • 3 oz. chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp. Chardonnay
  • 8 oz. Jarlsberg cheese, chopped finely
  • 1 packet dry Maggi Fix & Frisch Kase-Spatzle (35g or 1.23 oz.)*

*The Maggi Fix & Frisch Kase-Spatzle and Bechtle Traditional German Egg Noodles Spaetzle can be found on Amazon or at Cost Plus World Market online or in-store.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium. Add small diced yellow onion and sautée until soft and slightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Prepare dry German egg noodles as directed on package.
  3. While German egg noodles are cooking, heat the remaining olive oil on medium in the large pan. Add sliced medium yellow onion and sautée until soft and slightly browned. Add chicken apple sausages and cook until slightly brown on all sides, turning occasionally. Add mushrooms and Chardonnay and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft and wine has been cooked out.
  4. When noodles are still hot and have been drained, add chopped Jarlsberg cheese and stir well. Add packet dry Maggi Fix & Frisch and sautéed onions. Mix well.
  5. Enjoy the cheese spaetzle and chicken apple sausages with some Terrapin Ridge Pumpkin Honey Mustard (can be found at McGrail) and a glass of McGrail Charlie Rae Chardonnay!

Please let us know if you make this yummy Bavarian staple at home! I’d appreciate feedback and would love to hear from you.

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Balsamic Bacon Brussels Sprouts & McGrail Clone 8 Cabernet…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


Balsamic Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Makes about 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 tbsp. red wine
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar reduction
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large, thick-bottomed pan, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil on medium. Add onion and garlic and sautée until soft.
  2. Add bacon and sautée with onions and garlic until cooked through.
  3. Add Brussels sprouts and allow to soften and brown slightly, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add red wine and stir. Cook until absorbed completely.
  5. Add apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar reduction, and chicken broth. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to cook while covered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Uncover and add mushrooms. Stir. Allow liquid to cook out of Brussels sprouts, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan once plated.
  8. Enjoy with a glass of our Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this warm dish at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Virtual Trivia Night

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

Since it’s ruined plans for pretty much everything there was to look forward to in 2020, I refuse to allow COVID-19 to spoil a good ‘ol get-together; meaning, I don’t let the fact that I can’t physically be with my friends and family get me down. Zoom happy hours were all the rage for a while and though many businesses have begun reopening, including the winery, I know there are so many of us who don’t always feel completely comfortable stepping out of the house still. At McGrail, we continue to offer SIP Club virtual tastings every other week and are more than happy to host a virtual tasting for any group of wine drinkers who would like to enjoy yummy wine in front of a computer screen (a dream come true if you ask me).

With our biweekly SIP Club virtual tastings, Friday afternoons have become a ritual of sipping on a few glasses of wine, paired with locally sourced tasty treats, while engaging in an ever-entertaining game of trivia with our community of spunky SIP members via Zoom. It’s truly been a favorite part of my job over the past few months—composing a sometimes very long list of intriguing and edutaining trivia questions and answers and watching our SIP Club members engage with them. Although we haven’t played trivia every week, it seems to have become a favorite activity of our SIP Club members. As we enter the 29th week of our SIP Club, I look back on the various amusing games of trivia we played over the past several months. I can’t help but want to share these exceptionally enthralling trivia Qs and As with those of you who enjoy some healthy competition and intriguing snippets of information to store in your mind, just in case you’re ever a contestant on Jeopardy.

I’ve compiled a few lists of some of my favorite trivia questions and answers by theme. Maybe you can use these to host your own virtual trivia night with friends or family! Please keep in mind that if you’d ever like us to host a virtual tasting or virtual party for you, we’d be happy to create a trivia game for you and your friends, based on your personal interests!


Wine Production

The Potential for Smoke Taint in 2020

By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards

Because of the local fires in August, I decided to try to understand the potential for smoke taint in our vineyards. After researching the potential for smoke taint, we followed the recommendations from ETS Laboratories. ETS is the West Coast’s most respected wine lab and since they are based in St. Helena, they have seen a lot of examples over the past few years. Their recommendations are to make micro ferments so they can measure guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol, among other smoke flavor compounds. Some of our colleagues in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley are using this technique to decide whether to risk picking the fruit and spending good money after bad. I must say, we were a bit frightened at the thought of leaving our grapes hanging. 

We went to the vineyard and harvested grapes from five different areas of our vineyards into five gallon buckets. I had this crazy idea that washing the clusters with water might reduce the smoke compounds on the grapes. In researching this my colleagues conveyed that it doesn’t work but I wanted to see for myself. We used two buckets per pick and washed the clusters into one of the buckets. The other bucket was left au natural.

Then, we yeasted them and fermented them, sampled the wine, and sent the samples to ETS laboratory in St. Helena. The results were interesting, as there was no correlation between the washed grapes versus the unwashed grapes. All of the samples had less than 3 micrograms per liter of guaiacol (smoke flavor) and some were in the 1.3 range. What does this mean? It means we have low risk of smoke flavor in the wines. As we are now in the middle of fermentations, I am feeling strong and hopeful. 

Wine Production

October 2020 Harvest Updates

By Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards

2020 has been an interesting year. The growing season has been ideal, beginning with decent rainfall in the winter. We had a warm spring with good conditions during bloom and fruit set. The summer was warm until about the end of August, when the temperatures climbed into the triple digits. We also had a fire in the Livermore Valley due to the lightning strikes, which is the first time we have had to deal with the idea of smoke taint in our wines. 

In August, we went to the vineyard and harvested grapes from five different areas of our vineyards into 5 gallon buckets. We used two buckets per pick and washed the clusters into one of the buckets. The other bucket was left au natural. We then yeasted them and fermented them, sampled the wine, and sent the samples to ETS laboratory in St. Helena. The results were interesting, as there was no correlation between the washed grapes versus the unwashed grapes. All of the samples had less than 3 micrograms per liter of guaiacol (smoke flavor) and some were in the 1.3 range. What does this mean? It means we have low risk of smoke flavor in the wines. 

We picked 14.5 tons of Sauvignon Blanc on a smoky day, August 22nd. The fire was burning up toward Cedar Mountain. On the 9th of September, we picked 16.7 tons of Chardonnay during an ash cloud event. Then, on the 15th we picked Merlot and Malbec for Rosé. It was a clear day for a change. In all cases, I cold-settled the juice and racked it off before fermenting. As I am recapping, I am tasting the wines with pleasure. So far so good. 

We picked our Grenache Blanc on the 17th and our Cabernet Franc on the 19th of September. It was really fun to get out there with some of our tasting room staff and actually pick the fruit and bring it to the winery for processing. Then reality hit us on the 24th and 26th when we harvested the Clone 15 one day and the Clone 8 (both Cabernet Sauvignon from our estate) the other day. Both days were more than 50 bins. Long days in the warm weather. We grabbed the Clone 15 and Clone 30 from the Lucky 8 Vineyard, which turned out to be another 50 plus bin day. So far, the Cabernets have great color and intense flavors. Time will tell us whether the smoke has affected our vintage but I’m feeling pretty good so far. We should be finished harvesting everything by the 20th of October.

Yields have been spot on, with the exception of the Clone 15 at Lucky 8 Vineyard. I miscalculated that block, as it came in heavier than expected. The quality is great. I will have to pay closer attention next year. The young vineyard at Lucky 8 is really coming along now that we are through 4th leaf. Our Chardonnay was about 5 tons per acre and Sauvignon Blanc was almost 7. Our red grapes are closer to 3.5 tons, with the exception of the Clone 15 at Lucky 8, which was just over 4 tons per acre. I am very pleased with the progress in our vineyards and look forward to enjoying some of our wines on the patio soon. 


A new harvest season means new tunes.

Jump into the new season with our sounds of harvest…

Wine at Home

Easy German Red Cabbage & McGrail Cabernet Reserve

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


Easy German Red Cabbage

Makes about 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 small apples, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • I medium head organic red cabbage, sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Spray a large, heavy-bottomed pot with cooking spray and heat on medium. Add apples and onions and cook until onions become soft.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir. Cover and continue to cook on medium for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Serve hot or cold with grilled brats, spaetzle, a soft Bavarian pretzel, and a glass of 2016 McGrail Cabernet Reserve.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this easy, but delicious fall staple at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Easy Beefy Stuffed Baby Bella Bites & McGrail Merlot

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


Easy Beefy Stuffed Baby Bella Bites

Makes about 9 servings (with 2 mushrooms per serving).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/3 lb. ground organic grass fed beef burger
  • 2 tsp. herbs de Provence, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. organic baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp. raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium.
  3. Sautee onion and garlic until soft. Add ground burger, 1 tsp. herbs de Provence, and salt and pepper to taste. Brown until beef is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a bowl or ziplock bag, add baby bella mushrooms and remaining olive oil. Coat mushrooms with olive oil.
  5. On an oiled baking sheet, place mushrooms upside down about 1-2 inches apart. Sprinkle raw pine nuts around mushrooms. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn oven heat to 400 degrees F.
  7. Spoon cooked burger mixture into concave half of mushroom, using back of spoon to push burger into mushroom.
  8. In a small bowl, combine parmesan, bread crumbs, remaining herbs de Provence, and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  9. Pile parmesan mixture on top of mushrooms and bake at 400 degrees for about 7 minutes, or until bread crumbs and parmesan topping have become crispy and crunchy.
  10. Sprinkle baked pine nuts over stuffed mushrooms and serve hot with a glass of yummy McGrail Merlot.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make these easy little bites at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Irish Beef & Potato Stew & 2017 McGrail Cabernet…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


Irish Beef & Potato Stew

Makes about 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 lbs. choice beef roast, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic, divided
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery stalks, leaves removed
  • 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup leeks, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cup Irish stout beer
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 1/4 lbs. red potatoes, cubed into 1″ pieces
  • 1 cup frozen organic peas

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium in a large frying pan.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, add cubed beef roast, 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Stir.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper over beef, while stirring, to coat evenly.
  4. Slowly coat beef chunks flour with flour and stir to coat evenly.
  5. Cook dredged beef and sprigs of rosemary in hot olive oil, stirring constantly, until beef is just browned around edges. Remove from pan and set aside. Toss rosemary sprigs.
  6. In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped bacon, then stir until bacon is cooked through. Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic, chopped onion, carrots, and celery. Sautee until soft.
  7. In a large crockpot, add browned beef, cooked bacon and veggie mixture, chopped herbs, leeks, bay leaves, beef broth, tomato sauce, Irish stout, and red wine. Stir. Cover and cook on high for about 2-3 hours or until stew has began bubbling.
  8. Remove one of the two bay leaves and add the potatoes. Stir. Continue to cook on high for about 1.5-2 more hours or until potatoes have been cooked through.
  9. Add frozen peas to soup and stir.
  10. Serve stew hot with toasted herb focaccia bread and a glass or two of 2017 McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this warm classic Irish stew at home! Please let us know if you do try out this recipe. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers and enjoy!