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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

All Wine & 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!

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

Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon Bites with Sriracha Horseradish Dipping Sauce and the 2016 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon

C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon

Marinara & Ricotta Meatball Poppers on Toasted Garlic Bread with the 2016 C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon

Charlie Rae Chardonnay

2018 Charlie Rae Chardonnay and d’Anjou Pear White Balsamic and Butter Popcorn

Colton’s Cabernet Sauvignon

Gracie Sparkling Brut

James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon

Kylie Ryan Rosé

2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé with Shrimp and Citrus Ceviche in Endive Spears

Malbec, Lucky 8 Vineyard

McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

McGrail Family Chardonnay

Crispy Stuffed Parmesan Pesto Crimini Mushrooms Paired with the 2018 McGrail Family Chardonnay

McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard

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

Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Tequila Lime Tacos & 2019 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc

Shamus Patrick Red Blend

2016 Shamus Patrick and Prosciutto Apple Balsamic Flatbread 

Sláinte Red Blend

Sweet Slow-Cooked BBQ Chicken Mango-Apple Tacos & 2017 Slainte Red Blend
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 at Home

Easy German Red Cabbage & McGrail Cabernet Reserve

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


  • 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


  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.
Wine at Home

Easy Beefy Stuffed Baby Bella Bites & McGrail Merlot

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


  • 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


  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.
Wine at Home

Irish Beef & Potato Stew & 2017 McGrail Cabernet…

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards


  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, separated
  • 2 1/2 lbs. choice beef roast, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic, separated
  • 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


  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.

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!

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


  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

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.


  • 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.


  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!

Wine at Home

Hearty Gourmet Corn Chowder & 2019 McGrail Family 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

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.


  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!

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

Cheers and enjoy!

Wine at Home

Black Bean Burgers & 2017 Malbec, Lucky 8 Vineyard

By Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards

One of my favorite vegetarian foods is a black bean burger. They can be so filling and flavorful, just like our Malbec! For those of you who don’t know, our Malbec comes from our Lucky 8 Vineyard, which we acquired just a few years ago. We have been quick to update the farming practices used on this property to match the meticulous methods we have used on our estate property for several years now. We named  the vineyard “Lucky 8,” because the McGrails have eight grandchildren. The vineyard is planted with a handful of different varieties and clones of grapes that tend to grow well here in the Livermore Valley. Due to the fact that our Winemaker Mark Clarin’s mother’s favorite wine varietal is Malbec, we chose to plant a few rows of this Bordeaux variety in our Lucky 8 Vineyard, so this wine is affectionately dedicated to Sylvia Clarin. This wine is easy-to-drink, but is also full of flavor and perfectly balanced. It’s also one of just a few single-varietal bottles (aside from Cabernet Sauvignon) we produce here at McGrail Vineyards. This wine is certainly special to us and we think you’ll find it special, as well! 

Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers

Makes about 5 burgers.


  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz.) can organic black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. 21 seasoning salute
  • 1/4 tsp. ground smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh-cracked pepper
  • 3 tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, packed
  • 1 free range large brown egg
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Five brioche buns
  • Two Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/3″ rounds
  • One Haas avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing


  1. In a food processor, add lime juice, red onion, and black beans. Pulse a few times, or until you can’t see any big chunks of red onion.
  2. Add cayenne, 21 seasoning salute, paprika, cumin, coriander, kosher salt, chipotle chili powder, and pepper. Allow food processor to process this mixture until all the seasoning has been mixed in well.
  3. To the food processor, add cilantro, parsley, egg, and bread crumbs. Again, pulse until you can no longer see any large cilantro or parsley leaves.
  4. Shape your black bean mixture into five 4.5″ patties.
  5. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Set your patties about an inch apart in the oiled pan. Cover the pan and cook your patties for about two minutes, twice on each side (for a total of four minutes per side per patty), or until patties have been cooked all the way through.
  6. Toast your brioche buns upside down on a baking sheet under a low broil for about three or four minutes.
  7. Spread the Thousand Island dressing on your toasted buns, add a cooked black bean burger, tomato slices, and sliced avocado.
  8. Enjoy your black bean burgers with a bottle of delicious 2017 McGrail Malbec!

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

Cheers and enjoy!