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Author: mcgrailvine

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!

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 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

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
Wine at Home

Prawns In Lemon White Wine Sauce Over Zucchini Noodles…

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.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

DIRECTIONS:

  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. Add 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!

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

Cheesy Summer Squash & Mac Casserole & McGrail Family…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

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.


Cheesy Summer Squash, Cauliflower, & Macaroni Casserole

Makes about 12 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 12 oz. (about 4 cups) zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Pepper to taste
  • 12 oz. steamed cauliflower
  • 12 oz. steamed broccoli
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn kernels
  • 1 1/4 to 2 cups shredded cheese blend (medium cheddar, Jarlsberg, and even a lite blend are fine), separated
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan, separated
  • 3/4 to 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)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil on medium-low in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and chopped onions and cook until soft and browned.
  3. Add sliced zucchini and squash. Add pepper to taste. Cook thoroughly, until soft.
  4. 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).
  5. Evenly spread cooked zucchini and squash on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on top.
  6. Prepare your macaroni and cheese as directed on package.
  7. 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.
  8. Bake in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling inside and the top is crispy and browned.
  9. Enjoy with a slightly chilled bottle of our McGrail Family Chardonnay!

I hope I’ve inspired you to make this delicious summertime casserole 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

Pluot-Blackberry Amaretto Pie & 2018 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.


Pluot-Blackberry Amaretto Pie

Makes 8 servings.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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.

DIRECTIONS:

  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.

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

Cheers and enjoy!