We are officially more than a month into fall, which means things are starting to cool down a bit. One thing I love about the cooler weather is that people are more inclined to eat warm, hearty meals. This one definitely falls into that category!
At first, the idea of a blue cheese butter sauce seemed daunting to me, but it was actually so easy to make and the result is luxuriously rich and creamy. The velvety tannins in the big, bold James Vincent Cabernet are tamed by both the cheese and the steak. The wine and the steak dish are perfectly complementary to one another. I could easily imagine this pairing as a Christmas dinner staple. I hope you’ll try this one out! It’s so worth it.
Blue Cheese Rosemary Butter Sauce & New York Steak
Makes about 4 servings.
For the blue cheese rosemary butter sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
2 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup
4 oz. blue cheese crumbles (about 1 cup)
leaves from one fresh 8″ sprig of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
For the toppings:
2 tbsp. butter
4 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup dry red wine
For the steak:
2 lbs. New York steak (4 1/2 lb. pieces of steak)
garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste
For the blue cheese rosemary butter sauce:
In a large pan, heat the butter on medium-low. Allow butter to brown just a bit. Add shallots and cook until soft.
Add milk and allow it to cook down to about half, stirring occasionally.
Add cream of mushroom soup, blue cheese crumbles, and fresh rosemary leaves. Stir well.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside or cover to keep warm while preparing toppings and steak.
For the toppings:
In a small pan, heat butter on medium. Add shallots and cook until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until soft.
Add red wine and allow to simmer until most wine has evaporated. There will still be some liquid in the pan from the butter; this is fine. Set aside.
For the steak:
Remove steak from refrigerator and allow to reach room temperature.
Preheat grill on medium.
Liberally season steak with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Grill steak for three minutes on each side, then another three minutes on each side (a total of 12 minutes per steak and 6 minutes per each side of steak). This is how I grill a steak that has a medium thickness to achieve a medium-rare doneness. Steaks can be cooked for a longer or shorter amount of time to achieve desired doneness.
Place steaks on a plate and cover with foil. Steak will continue to cook while resting.
To put it all together:
Plate each steak. Spoon toppings and liquid in toppings pan onto each steak. Spoon blue cheese rosemary butter sauce over steak.
Serve with a side of steamed green beans and/or boiled red potatoes and a bottle of our rich, velvety James Vincent Cabernet.
Please let us know if you end up making these pairings and if you have any feedback! We’d love to hear it.
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…
While our Shamus Patrick Red Blend is always a delicious blend of all five of the red Bordeaux varietals, the composition changes every year. The most recent vintage of our Shamus Patrick Red Blend contains 20% each of our Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. Since past vintages of our Shamus have been more Cab-heavy, the 2018 vintage certainly contains more earthy notes than most others. With that said, there are many fall foods that can be paired with the blend. Mushrooms, which are super underrated in my opinion, can bring out the richest, most flavorful layers of this complex wine. Not only do they perfectly complement the earthiness of the Shamus, they also bring a certain warmth to the palate that allows the baking spice and fruit notes in the wine truly shine. Alternatively, the risotto also has a creamy component to it that allows it to pair with the notes of creamy butter in our Charlie Rae Chardonnay just as well. Either way, it’s a great dish for the colder autumn and winter months. I could imagine this pairing being great for Christmas dinner or on any cold winter night. I hope you’ll try this one out for yourself!
Mushroom Truffle Risotto
Makes about 8 servings.
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1 cup Chardonnay
3/4 cup crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
3 drops truffle oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp. chives, chopped thinly
In a medium pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil on medium-low.
Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, making sure not to brown the onion. Add rice and toss to coat in olive oil. Continue to cook on medium-low and toast the rice, stirring attentively.
Add Chardonnay and stir. Allow Chardonnay to be absorbed entirely.
While the Chardonnay is being absorbed into the rice, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil in a small pan on medium. Cook mushrooms until soft, then remove from heat and set aside.
Add one cup chicken broth to the rice and allow it to be absorbed by the rice, stirring occasionally. Once the first half of chicken broth has been absorbed, add remaining chicken broth and condensed cream of mushroom soup. Stir well. Allow the rest of the chicken broth to be absorbed into the rice, stirring occasionally.
Once all the chicken broth has been absorbed into the rice, add your cooked mushrooms, butter, truffle oil, and parmesan. Stir well.
Plate your risotto and garnish with chives.
Enjoy this delicious risotto with a glass of our Shamus Patrick Red Blend or our Charlie Rae Chardonnay!
Please let us know if you end up making this tasty pairing and if you have any feedback! We’d love to hear it.
Makes about 8 servings (4 flatbreads; 2 servings per flatbread).
8 oz. burrata cheese (2 balls, 4 oz. each), cut into 8 pieces
12 oz. traditional naan bread (4 pieces, 3 oz. each)
2 oz. sliced prosciutto, or 4 pieces
1/2 one large Bartlett pear, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 one large granny smith apple, halved and sliced thinly
1/4 cup d’anjou pear white balsamic (I used Gourmet Blends’ version, but Amazon has some highly rated alternatives)
1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt
1/4 honeydew melon, sliced thinly into small pieces
4 oz. blackberries
6 large basil leaves, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cover a sheet pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Lay naan pieces face up on sheet pan, about 1-2 inches apart. Place two quarter pieces (1/2 burrata ball) on each naan, about an inch apart. Tear up prosciutto and place pieces around burrata. Top with slices of pear and apple. Drizzle white balsamic on each flatbread. Sprinkle with pink Himalayan sea salt.
Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes, or until desired crispiness is attained.
Place slices of honeydew, blackberries, and sliced basil on each flatbread.
Serve with a glass or two of McGrail Charlie Rae Chardonnay!
Please let us know if you end up making this pairing and if you have any feedback! We’d love to hear it.
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.
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
In a medium slow cooker, spray the insides with a cooking spray.
Place the sixths of the onion at the bottom of the slow cooker.
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.
Liberally rub the meat with the seasonings, covering all sides of the meat.
Place meat in the crockpot, cover, and cook on high for 3-4 hours.
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.
Add BBQ sauce and mix to cover the meat in the sauce. Garnish with green onions.
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.
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!
*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.
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.
Prepare dry German egg noodles as directed on package.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.