This week we were super excited to be providing all of our SIP Club members with herbs from the Calhoun family ranch (my family’s ranch) here in Livermore! A lot of these herbs are wild, but can be found literally on the side of the road or near local creek beds. If you’ve ever had a Coyote Smash at Range Life, you’ve probably already had these herbs unknowingly, as my aunt Nancy is the one who sells them to Range Life for this specific cocktail, as well as for other uses, I’m sure. We included them with this week’s SIP package, so members could create an herbs de Provence seasoning to make one of the following recipes to pair with the Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon at home!
To create this seasoning, you will need the following fresh ingredients:
1-2 bay laurel leaves (Laurus nobilis)
1-3 stems of rosemary
1-4 stems of fennel
1-5 stems of sagebrush (Artemisia californica)
1-2 leaves of common sage
2 sprigs of Portuguese lavender
French lavender sprigs and flowers
If you have any of the following fresh herbs or seeds at home, please feel free to add them to your bag of herbs to dry and ultimately use in your herbs de Provence seasoning:
Italian parsley leaves
Summer savory leaves
If you have any of the aforementioned herbs or seeds at home that have already been dried, they may be added to the dry seasoning, as well.
Before preparing your herbs to dry, we highly encourage you to wash them, but to take extra care when doing so.
Bay leaves: These are heartier plants than the other herbs and can just be rinsed with water or washed by using a produce wash to clean them.
Lavender: When washing the lavender sprigs and flowers, take extra care to not lose the buds, as these are the most important part of the flower. If the buds do fall off the sprigs, make sure to hold onto them. We recommend removing the stems and using a mesh strainer to wash the flowers and/or buds. Wash the lavender flowers or buds by running them through water.
The remaining herbs are somewhat fragile and special care should be taken when washing them. They can be washed by rinsing them under cold water. It’s important to try not to crush the herbs when washing them, as this can cause them to lose their flavor.
If possible, remove the stems of the rosemary, mint, fennel, bay leaves, common sage, oregano, sagebrush, and pineapple sage, after washing and before allowing them to dry, as this will allow the leaves to dry out faster.
Once your herbs have been washed, they should be prepared to dry. Put your herbs in a new, paper bag with holes or in a clean, plastic bin with holes in it and place them in a warm, dry area of your home.
Once your herbs are dry or almost dry, you will prepare them to use in your herbs de Provence seasoning.
You will use:
1-3 bay leaves (we recommend using a smaller portion of bay leaves because they can be very pungent and overpower some of the other herbs)
All rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage leaves
All lavender buds
The exact portion of each herb you use doesn’t really matter, unless you’d like to replicate your recipe later. Play around with each herb and see which you find most appealing to your palate, then add more of that to your herbs de Provence.
Remove the stems of the bay leaves, rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, lavender sprigs, oregano sprigs, mint sprigs, and pineapple sage sprigs. Dispose of the stems.
Put the remaining bay leaves in an airtight container to use for future cooking. Use within a year for maximum flavor.
Grind the bay leaves as fine as you possibly can. These leaves are very stiff and can be unpleasant to ingest when they are not finely ground.
If you do not own a grinder, use clean, dry hands to crunch up the leaves into small pieces. You may want to remove the spines of the leaves, as these tend to be the stiffest parts.
Next, grind the rosemary, fennel, sagebrush, common sage, chives, oregano, mint, and pineapple sage. Mix well with the ground bay leaves.
Mix lavender buds with your herb mixture.
Store your herbs de Provence seasoning in an airtight container in a warm, dry area of your home. Use within six months for maximal flavor.
Here are three delicious ways to enjoy your herbs de Provence seasoning at home:
Herbs de Provence Seasoned-Steak and McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon
1 tbsp. herbs de Provence
2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 16 oz. rib eye or New York steaks
In a small bowl, combine herbs de Provence, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, minced garlic, and olive oil. Mix well to create a paste.
Rub each steak evenly on both sides with the seasoning mixture.
Allow steaks to sit with seasoning for 30 minutes or until they reach room temperature.
Pre-heat grill on medium-high.
Grill steaks for about five to six minutes on each side for a medium-rare doneness. Grill for longer if you prefer a medium or well-done steak.
Enjoy steak with a bottle of McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon!
Fresh Vegan Herb Mushroom Tomato Pasta
8 oz. uncooked pasta (linguine, spaghetti, or angel hair)
4 tbsp. olive oil or vegan butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced into small pieces
8 oz. fresh mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
1 tbsp. McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon
4 oz. vegan mozzarella (Miyoko’s VeganMozz is preferable)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions
Heat olive oil or vegan butter over medium heat. Brown minced garlic in vegan butter.
Add mushrooms, tomatoes, and herbs de Provence. Continue to cook over medium heat.
Add red wine and allow it to cook long enough to evaporate.
When mushrooms and tomatoes have been cooked through, add VeganMozz and allow to melt slightly.
In a large pasta bowl, add pasta, mushroom and tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and mix well.
Enjoy this pasta with a deliciously balanced McGrail Cabernet Sauvignon, like our Austin James.
Herbs de Provence Bread Dipping Oil
2 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
1 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. freshly cracked pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
Bread for dipping
Heat ½ tbsp. olive oil in a small frying pan. Brown minced garlic.
In a small bowl, combine browned garlic, herbs de Provence, parmesan, freshly cracked pepper, kosher salt, aged balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Mix well.
Use any kind of fresh bread to enjoy with dip, just don’t forget your glass of Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon!
We’ve shown you how innovative we can be with wine cocktails and wine pairings at home during the shelter-in-place. Before the shelter-in-place is over, we want to see your most innovative way to enjoy McGrail wine at home, by pairing it with the most creative meal, or by producing the most interestingly scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail! Beginning April 15th, 2020 through May 15th, 2020, we would like you to post photos of our wine on Instagram while tuning into your most resourceful self!
Choose a McGrail wine and pair it with the most curiously delicious meal, using ingredients that are completely unexpected, but somehow combine to create a perfectly balanced pairing with the wine. Prefer an impressive cocktail to a tasty pairing? Instead of designing a great meal to go with our wine, utilize your favorite McGrail wine to conceive the most scrumptious McGrail wine cocktail imaginable! You read that correctly. We’re looking to award two of our most inventive patrons who can either come up with an incredible, Chopped-style wine and food pairing OR a visionary wine-based beverage. Extra points will be given to those who post a photo that is both alluring and aesthetically pleasing. Entries must also include a recipe for the pairing dish or cocktail. Each of these imaginative winners will be awarded a $50 gift card to the McGrail tasting room or online shop!
To enter, simply post a photo of your originative McGrail wine pairing or cocktail to a PUBLIC Instagram account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #SIPMcGrailInnovation, and make sure to TAG and FOLLOW @mcgrail_vineyards. Don’t forget to include a recipe!
Photos must be posted on Instagram through a public account, using BOTH hashtags #McGrailVineyards and #McGrailInstagramInnovation AND tagging @mcgrail_vineyards.
Must be following @mcgrail_vineyards on Instagram for entry to be valid.
Must include detailed recipe for wine cocktail and/or wine pairing dish. Recipes may be included in the Instagram photo caption or may be sent via direct message to @McGrail_Vineyards account.
Must be 21 years of age or older to enter.
Posts may not:
Encourage excessive consumption of wine and/or alcohol
Encourage underage consumption of wine and/or alcohol
Include people under the age of 21
Encourage/include illegal activities of any kind
Make false claims about wine
State that there are any health benefits attached to the consumption of wine
Make lewd or obscene statements or include lewd or obscene comments
By using the hashtag #SIPMcGrailInnovation and/or entering the contest, you are giving us permission to use your photo
Winning photos will be announced at 4pm on Friday, May 29th. Happy innovating and good luck!
We look forward to seeing what you all come up with!
As we continue with our new shelter in place conditions in this country, there are a few fine folks who are working to ensure the 2020 vintage, and vintages beyond, will be spectacular. We recently removed about three acres of our estate Cabernet Sauvignon and put the vines into piles to dry out. Today is the perfect day to light the piles on fire and send them back to the earth to become part of the circle of life. The ashes will be spread throughout the soil and the rain will replenish the soil.
We will leave the ground fallow for a year. This tradition dates back centuries and we will celebrate the year by frolicking around the fallow ground with flutes and percussive instruments to chase away the soil pests like nematodes. This is how it was in the beginning and this is how it will be (Mark 2020 v. 17). Once we have successfully chased away all the pests, we will put our clothes back on and replant the vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon. Clone TBD.
Feeling bummed out because your months of planning a fabulous trip abroad, across the country, or even in-state were proved unavailing due to the shelter-in-place order? If you’re currently sheltered-in-place, it probably seems like you have a lot of time on your hands. That time doesn’t have to be spent sulking at home. Take a trip without leaving your couch! There are so many great international and national films available with just the push of a button through streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
I’m a huge believer in the idea that wine can be paired with anything. Grab some popcorn, a cozy blanket, and a bottle of McGrail wine, because we’re about to take a (virtual) trip, while drinking delicious wine!
Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these wines at home at the moment. We have several ways to get you some tasty McGrail wine to enjoy with these fantastic flicks! We are currently offering:
Local home delivery at no additional cost for new orders
One cent shipping to anywhere in California for new orders
Drive-up service at the winery (receive wine without leaving your car)
International Movie & Wine Pairings
New Zealand – What We Do in the Shadows (2015) and 2016 A Jó Élet, “the Good Life,” Cabernet Sauvignon
This vampire mockumentary was directed by and stars New Zealand’s two most well-known movie actors and directors–Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement. You might know Waititi as both the guy who plays Hitler in Jojo Rabbit and the director of the satirical film, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2020. He’s also directed and acted in a few more notable movies and series, including Disney Plus’s The Mandalorian, Thor: Ragnarok, and another great New Zealand-based movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. You might recognize Jermaine Clement from the Grammy award-winning comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords, but he also has an extensive brag sheet of voice acting, writing, directing, and producing. Together, these guys created a comedy dream (or rather, nightmare) that is as spooky as it is hilarious. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave this comedic flick a 96% rating and said it is “smarter, fresher, and funnier than a modern vampire movie has any right to be,” and called it “bloody good fun.” FX recently released a show with the same title name, based on this film, because it was that good!
Ireland – Waking Ned Devine (1999) and 2017 Sláinte Red Blend
When old pals Michael and Jackie discover someone in their teeny Irish village has won the lottery, they embark on a mission to find that person and get a share of their winnings. Upon uncovering the winner, a lad called Ned Devine, has passed from the shock of having won the lottery, they contact the lottery authorities and devise a plan to convince them that Mr. Devine is alive and able to collect his winnings. Rotten Tomatoes said, “A heartwarming comedy with a delightfully light touch, Waking Ned Devine finds feel-good humor in some unexpected — and unexpectedly effective — places.”
To get the full Irish experience, open a bottle of our 2017 Sláinte Red Blend and a bag of Irish crisps (potato chips to us Americans), preferably Tayto’s Cheese and Onion, to enjoy with this wine. American potato chips work fine, too.
Catch Waking Ned Devine on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy.
Australia – Muriel’s Wedding (1994) and 2018 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc
Social outcast Muriel, played by a young Toni Collette, is obsessed with marriage, fitting in, and being accepted, not only by her peers, but also by her local politician father. This was Collette’s fourth-ever acting credit, for which she gained a whole 40 pounds in just seven weeks, in order to truly embody Muriel. The movie has its fair share of both good-humored and tragic moments, as well as feathered 90’s hair and funky 90’s garb, and is an Australian classic. Rotten Tomatoes said, “heartfelt and quirky, though at times broad, Muriel’s Wedding mixes awkward comedy, oddball Australian characters, and a nostalgia-heavy soundtrack.” If you’ve never seen this movie and are in the mood for trying something wistful and new, watch this.
This film is best paired with our 2018 Peyton Paige Sauvignon Blanc, as it’s quite lovely, but has a bit of a bite to it (from the acidity), kind of like Muriel does. Enjoy with a side of Fairy Bread (white bread with margarine and sprinkles, or hundreds-and-thousands as they’re called in Oz), a disgustingly popular Australian snack in the 1990’s.
Find Muriel’s Wedding on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 to rent or just $5.99 to buy.
China – The Farewell (2019) and Gracie Sparkling Brut
Billi, a 30-year-old Chinese-American, and her adorably sweet grandmother, whom she refers to as Nai Nai, have always had a close relationship, despite the fact Nai Nai lives in China. When visiting her parents, Billi is told Nai Nai, her father’s mother, is dying of lung cancer and has just three months left to live. Given the news, Billi’s father’s family plans to gather from all over the world to see Nai Nai one last time, under the pretense that Billi’s cousin is getting married, as no one, including Nai Nai’s doctors, has told her she’s dying. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave the movie a 98% rating and said it “deftly captures complicated family dynamics with a poignant, well-acted drama that marries cultural specificity with universally relatable themes.” This film demonstrates what it truly means to be a family, but it doesn’t end the way you think it might. With a perfect balance of both tragedy and comedy, The Farewell will make you laugh out loud, but it will also make you weep.
Enjoy a bottle of our Gracie Sparkling Brut and take out dim sum from your favorite Chinese restaurant or grocery store as you watch this heartfelt film. That’s what Nai Nai would want you to do.
England – About Time (2013) and 2017 Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon
This movie, starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, follows the romance between Tim and Mary, who first meet on a blind date through a pitch black dining experience in London. Though this sounds like the most genuinely interesting way to meet someone, this isn’t the most intriguing thing about the couple, as Tim has a huge secret: he can travel back in time. This romantic comedy was not at all what I expected it to be, as it twists and turns, unapologetically touching on heartache and true, unconditional love. Nevertheless, the English screenwriter of this film is Richard Curtis, who also did rom-com classics Love Actually, Notting Hill, and the later mentioned Four Weddings and a Funeral. You are guaranteed to fall in love with both the relationship between McAdams’s and Gleeson’s characters and the relationship between Tim and his father (played by Bill Nighy). You are also guaranteed a good, healthy cry. Rotten Tomatoes said “Beautifully filmed and unabashedly sincere, About Time finds director Richard Curtis at his most sentimental.”
Enjoy this film with our 2017 Austin James Cabernet, a robust, but a velvety and romantic wine and something slightly dark, slightly sweet, but satisfying (akin to this film), like dark chocolate peanut butter cups with sea salt.
South Korea – Parasite (2019) and 2016 James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon
If you haven’t seen this film yet, you’re missing out. Korean director Bong Joon-ho nearly swept the 2020 Academy Awards with Parasite and it won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Parasite follows an impoverished, but resourceful Kim family through their means of infiltrating the home and the lives of the wealthy Park family. Due to it being classified as both a comedy and a thriller, and because of its truly alluring aesthetics, you won’t be able to stop watching this film. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave Parasite a rating of 99% and said “An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft.”
It is only fitting to enjoy Parasite with a bottle of our 2016 James Vincent Cabernet, a dark and mysterious wine, but also our top-of-the-line, award-winning Cabernet. Cook up a bowl of hot ram-don, this film’s most noteworthy dish, to enjoy, as well.
Rent this film for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video or buy it for $14.99.
Solvang and Central Coast, California – Sideways (2004) and 2016 McGrail Merlot, Picazo Vineyard
An essential watch for wine lovers, Sideways captures the essence of the true California wine snob. Published writer Miles is kind of a depressed mess, but one that possesses a deep enthusiasm and respect for wine. With just days remaining before the wedding of his friend Jack, Miles takes his soon-to-be-wed pal on a last fling trip through Solvang and the Central Coast wine country of California. Along the way, they meet beautiful lady friends, Stephanie and Maya, both of whom are blissfully unaware that Jack is only a few days away from being a married man. The trip quickly turns sour when Miles lets Jack’s secret slip to Maya. Sideways flaunts a talented cast, consisting of Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen. Rotten Tomatoes gave this film a score of 97% and said “Charming, thoughtful, and often funny, Sideways is a decidedly mature road trip comedy full of excellent performances.”
You can’t watch Sideways without a glass of wine, but due to the way this film influenced wine drinkers’ perception of the varietal, you have to watch it with Merlot in your glass. Because we are a Cab house, our Merlot is built like a Cab, but still has Merlot’s classic characteristics, which is why we think even Paul Giamatti’s character would be happy to drink our take on this ill-famed varietal. Pair this film with our 2016 McGrail Merlot from Picazo Vineyard and a classic wine country charcuterie plate with the works–olives, salami, grapes, nuts, carrot or bell pepper sticks, a baguette, and wedges of stinky cheese.
Catch Sideways on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video ($3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy).
Surprisingly, a movie that was meant to be set in Nazi Germany, was actually filmed in Prague. Like most WWII films, Jojo Rabbit has its painfully solemn scenes, but being a satire, this movie is mostly laughs. With it taking place at the end of the war, you get to see the Nazis defeated, which makes it that much better. The cast is composed of mainly A-list actors and with Taika Waititi as the director, you won’t be disappointed. Rotten Tomatoes said “Jojo Rabbit‘s blend of irreverent humor and serious ideas definitely won’t be to everyone’s taste — but either way, this anti-hate satire is audacious to a fault.” Buy it for $19.99 or rent it for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video.
England – Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a brilliantly dark-humored English film, starring several A-list actors of the 1990’s, including Andie McDowell and Hugh Grant. The movie was directed by seasoned English Director Mike Newell, who also directed several other well-known films, like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Mona Lisa Smile. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave this comedy a 96% rating. Rent this movie for $2.99 or buy it for $14.99 on Amazon Prime Video.
France – La Vie en Rose (2007)
This French film was the first movie in which an Academy Award for Best Actress was awarded for a French-language role. Marion Cotillard portrays brothel-born, charismatic entertainer Edith Piaf in this visually stunning biopic, which puts Piaf’s addictions, relationships, and losses under a microscope. Rotten Tomatoes said “the set design and cinematography are impressive, but the real achievement of La Vie en Rose is Marion Cotillard’s mesmerizing, wholly convincing performance as Edith Piaf.” Rent La Vie en Rose on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy for $7.99.
Germany – Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Like Jojo Rabbit, this movie can be categorized as both a comedy and a war film. Director Quentin Tarantino knows how to create excitement organically and make an audience laugh through suspense and gore. He uses an ensemble cast to depict Germany’s occupation of France (even though this was mostly filmed in Potsdam, Germany), as Brad Pitt’s character gathers an army of Jewish soldiers to employ vicious tactics against the Nazis. Rotten Tomatoes said, “a classic Tarantino genre-blending thrill ride, Inglourious Basterds is violent, unrestrained, and thoroughly entertaining.” Watch Inglourious Basterds on Netflix.
Germany – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Yep, the movie containing “Budapest” in the title wasn’t actually filmed in Hungary at all, but rather in Dresden, Germany. The film boasts an amazingly talented cast, with names like Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, and more! Don’t let me tell you how grand this movie is. If you haven’t seen this quirky Wes Anderson film, do yourself a favor and rent it for just $3.99 on Amazon Prime Video. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave it a 91% rating.
India – Lion (2016)
Based on a true story, Lion follows the life of Saroo, a five-year-old boy from a poor Indian family who one day falls asleep on the train and wakes to find he has traveled thousands of miles across India, away from his family. He learns to survive on his own in Kolkata, but is eventually adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, Saroo leaves to find his family, using Google Earth to help him find his way home. Rotten Tomatoes said “Lion‘s undeniably uplifting story and talented cast make it a moving journey that transcends the typical cliches of its genre.” Rent Lion on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy it for just $4.99.
Ireland – P.S. I Love You (2007)
I almost never have the guts to turn this movie on when I see it playing on TV, because it never fails to make me cry. If you’ve ever been to Ireland, you know it’s an incredible country. This mostly melancholy romantic comedy does a really excellent job of showing off all of Ireland’s most stunning aspects. You can find this tear-jerker on Netflix.
Italy – Murder Mystery (2019)
As is to be expected of any Adam Sandler movie, Murder Mystery is slightly hokey, but he and Jennifer Aniston make a great pair. Still, this movie effectively builds up the whodunnit mystery throughout the film and does so in a manner that isn’t blatantly obvious. It also really shows off some of the most magnificent parts of Italy and other European destinations. I am excited to say I was actually staying on Lake Como in the same village, at the same time the last few scenes were being filmed. I even caught a glimpse of Sandler’s stunt double! Find this movie on Netflix.
Italy – Life Is Beautiful (1997)
A charming Jewish-Italian man romances a beautiful, but engaged school teacher, who eventually falls in love with and marries her new suitor. The couple have a son, whom they clearly adore more than anything. When Nazis invade Italy, the father and son are taken to a concentration camp and heartbreak follows. The father does all he can to keep his son from realizing the true horrors of WWII by providing comedic relief. Though it is somewhat predictable, the movie uses comedy to be as lovely, but as realistic, as any war film can be. Rotten Tomatoes said Life Is Beautiful “offers the possibility of hope in the face of unflinching horror.” Rent it on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 or buy for $7.99.
Japan – Isle of Dogs (2018)
Being Wes Anderson’s second animated film, Isle of Dogs does a wonderful job of using incredibly detailed stop motion animation to convey sound, movement, texture, depth, and emotion. When Mayor Kobayashi declares all dogs are to be quarantined on Trash Island, one Japanese boy sets out to retrieve his lost dog “Spots” and Trash Island’s residents, both stray and previously owned, assemble to help him. Isle of Dogs is quirky and adorable. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave this film a 90% score. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video–$3.99 to rent or $14.99 to buy.
Mexico – Roma (2018)
Roma takes place in Mexico City in the 1970’s and follows young caretaker Cleo. Cleo, who cares for four children, is stunned when she finds out the children’s father has run away with his mistress and that Cleo, herself is pregnant. Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics gave it a 95% rating and said “Roma finds writer-director Alfonso Cuarón in complete, enthralling command of his visual craft – and telling the most powerfully personal story of his career.” Watch Roma on Netflix.
New Zealand – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
When rebellious Ricky Baker is taken to his most recent foster home, he and his new mum quickly form a bond, though his new dad is not so quick to latch on. Tragedy strikes Ricky’s new family and he runs away into the New Zealand wilderness, only to soon be accompanied by his foster father. Ricky and his new dad become the subjects of a manhunt after getting lost. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi, a 96% rating and said it “unites a solid cast, a talented filmmaker, and a poignant, funny, deeply affecting message.” Rent it for $2.99 or buy it for only $6.99 on Amazon Prime Video.
Northern Ireland – Derry Girls (2018-2019)
Though it’s not a movie, Derry Girls, a brilliant British comedy series, is definitely worth mentioning. Set in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in the 1990’s, this show follows the lives of a group of mischievous, misfit Catholic school girls. It offers historical accuracy in touching on the bloody sectarian conflict between the unionists and nationalists, but keeps you laughing through it all. Rotten Tomatoes’ critics gave it a score of 98% and said it “makes frenetic light of teen life” in its setting. Watch Derry Girls on Netflix, but don’t forget to turn on the captions, as Derry accents are hardly intelligible to the American ear.
Sweden – The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared (2016)
Notorious and widely-disliked Allan Karlsson has lived a long, remarkable life. On his 101st birthday, Allan is reminded of his time working as a spy, during which he had stolen a soda recipe from the Russian government to give to American President Richard Nixon. He remembers he still has the formula for this highly revered Folksoda hidden somewhere in the world and he, his pet monkey, his dimwit caretaker, and his best pal embark on a journey to find it. Hilarity and frenzy ensue, as details of Karlsson’s wild life emerge through old memories during his new adventures. This movie is most certainly silly, but it also has its sweet and sentimental moments. I don’t know how better to describe it than being like a Swedish, geriatric version of The Hangover. Watch it on Netflix.
Notable American Destination Films
Hollywood, California – Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (2019)
Amazon Prime – $9.99 to rent or $19.99 to buy
Napa Valley, California – Bottle Shock (2008)
Free on Amazon Prime Video
Napa Valley, California – Wine Country (2019)
Available on Netflix
New York, New York – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Amazon Prime Video – $2.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy
New York, New York – You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Amazon Prime Video – $3.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy
Rhode Island and East Coast, United States – Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Amazon Prime Video – $3.99 to rent, $11.99 to buy
Seattle, Washington – Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Amazon Prime Video – $2.99 to rent, $12.99 to buy)
What did you think of these wine and movie pairings? Did you try any? We’d love to hear your feedback!
Get to know our wonderful tasting room staff through
Meet our staff member Paige! Paige has worked at McGrail since May of 2018 and her favorite McGrail wine is the Good Life Cab. When she isn’t at McGrail, Paige is a kindergarten teacher who enjoys hiking, yoga, and drinking wine in her spare time! Paige loves seeing all the puppies that come into the winery. She says her favorite thing about working at McGrail is seeing the staff, because they feel like family to her.
Meet our staff member Gail! Gail has worked at McGrail since August of 2017, but she also worked in the tasting room when it first opened in 2008. Her favorite McGrail wines are the Graduate Cab and the McGrail Family Chard. She has helped with both harvest and bottling and can be found in the tasting room almost every weekend, because Gail’s favorite thing about working at McGrail is getting to meet new people. Gail was a legal secretary for 40 years before retiring and coming to McGrail. She has lived in Livermore since 1983. Gail has been married to her sweet husband Rick for 46 years and has two sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law, a 19-year-old grandson (who also sometimes works at the winery), and a 14-year-old granddaughter. She loves her family and all her favorite TV programs, like This Is Us and Modern Family, have to do with family. In her spare time, Gail enjoys gardening, traveling, shopping and being anywhere near water. Most people probably don’t know that Gail used to have a Harley Davidson Softail she loved to ride.
Meet our staff Member Mary! Mary has worked at McGrail since June of 2017, but she has been a wine club member since 2009. Mary’s favorite part about working at McGrail is how she is treated like a part of the family and how it just feels like home. She says it’s the best job she’s ever had. Mary feels the combination of McGrail’s grapes and the winemaker’s talents equal the best wines in the Livermore Valley, which is why she can be found in the tasting room every Thursday and Friday. Her favorite McGrail wine is our Patriot Cab, as she is the mom of a police officer. Funny enough, when Mary was pregnant with her police officer son, she was working for a defense attorney, but later made the switch to medicine, managing a medical practice for a pediatric orthopedic specialist, and later, to wine. Mary says she discovered her love of wine by drinking box wine many years ago; due to this love of wine and because she wanted to be around happy people, she decided to work at the winery upon retirement. Mary has been married to her husband Dave for 20 years. They have four kids and two granddaughters, who Mary says are the center of their universe. On her days off, she enjoys being a nana, traveling, boating, and just being outdoors. Mary’s mission is to treat everyone how she would want to be treated. She loves making other people happy. We miss Mary’s grace and compassion. Say hello to Mary next time you see her at the winery!
Meet our staff member Charlie! Charlie has worked at McGrail since October of 2018 and he says his favorite thing about working here is the people. He has always loved wine and says working in a tasting room just feels natural to him. He’s even helped with harvest! Charlie’s current favorite wine is the 2016 James Vincent Cab. He has been a wine club member for over ten years. At the beginning of their membership, whenever Charlie and his wife would come wine tasting at McGrail, they would bring their two boys, who he says were given treats by our staff members, which made the experience more tolerable for them. Speaking of his family, Charlie and his wife have been married for a quarter of a century and together they have two boys, Jack (19 years old), who works in the culinary arts, and Nick (21 years old), who is a senior at Sonoma State, majoring in history. Charlie is also into history and has been an eighth grade U.S. history teacher for the past 22 years. He says one of the most embarrassing things that has happened to him was when he accidentally ripped his dress shirt using a yardstick as a sword during one of his teaching lessons, as he had to continue wearing the shirt for the rest of the day. A fun fact about Charlie is that he has been taking a group of eighth graders to Washington D.C. for the past 17 years. When Charlie isn’t in the tasting room or teaching a class of eighth graders, he enjoys golfing, cooking, wine tasting, and taking his traveler trailer out on trips. We miss Charlie’s super sharp, witty humor and his passion for wine. Say hello to Charlie the next time you see him at the winery!
Meet our team member Gayle! Gayle began working at McGrail in August of 2016 and she can usually be found in the tasting room, giving tours, or helping with harvest. Her favorite McGrail memories are every sunset she’s experienced since she’s been working here and she says her favorite part about working here is being around people who are happy all the time! She enjoys learning about Livermore history and the winemaking process, because it’s like conducting a symphony to her. Gayle says this is a great retirement gig for her, as she spent 30 years working at Bank of America, and 25 of those years in the Residential Appraisal Department, but she also has worked as an Assistant Buyer for BevMo and as a caretaker for her father. Funny enough, Gayle’s stint at McGrail has become a family affair of sorts, as her cousin-in-law, Jeff, is also a Tasting Room Associate. Gayle and her husband Chris, who have been married to one another for almost 43 years, have one adult son, Mike, who is awesome, and a beautiful 98-pound Burmese Mountain Dog. When she’s not at McGrail, Gayle enjoys music, biking, and just being outdoors. Gayle has been studying vocal jazz and classical voice, and while she mostly sings old songs from the Great American Songbook, she can lay down some awesome harmonies, too. Gayle and her family visit Lake Tahoe quite frequently, as she bikes around the lake twice a year and she vacations with fellow Tasting Room Associate Jeff and his family in Tahoe at least once annually. One thing Gayle would like others to know about her is that she hates being late and she never lies. We miss Gayle’s wisecracking humor and her love for our Rosé, which she insists is medicinal. Please say hello to Gayle the next time you see her at the winery!
Meet our staff member Patty! Patty has been at McGrail since February of 2018 and her favorite wine is any vintage of the James Vincent Cab. She loves working at McGrail, because our customers come in happy and looking to have a good time. Patty enjoys connecting with new people and old acquaintances in the tasting room and introducing them to the Livermore Valley and McGrail wine. She says she is consistently amazed at how kind and wonderful the staff at McGrail are. Before working at McGrail, Patty worked a few different jobs: as an IT Manager for several Silicon Valley startups, as a stay-at-home mom (though she was still working for a friend’s marketing consulting business), and for the Pleasanton School District for 16 years. When Patty isn’t at McGrail, she spends her time with her grandchildren, entertaining friends, shopping, and playing with her dogs (Tilly, Reggie, and Tina). Her friends call her the “dog whisperer,” because she’s had so many dogs, her friends often call her before calling the vet, and because she can’t walk by a dog without saying hello. Patty also has 3 grandchildren, 3 adult sons, and a husband, Geert, to whom she’s been married for 36 years. She says the biggest surprise of her life was giving birth to a child with a permanent disability, but says her son has grown into a very fine and loving young man. Patty is so very proud of Danny and how high functioning he has become. She says being his mother has taught her so much about patience and compassion for others. In fact, another hobby of hers is volunteering her time to local schools and the Special Olympics! One thing you might be surprised to find out about Patty is she is a die-hard fan of Tower of Power and Diana Ross. We miss Patty’s positivity and calm, compassionate nature. Say hi to Patty next time you see her at the winery!
Meet our staff member Denise! She has been at McGrail since March of 2019 and she’s been bringing her own personal wine opener to use while working since then. Denise’s favorite McGrail wine is the Shamus Patrick Red Blend, but she’s also been sipping on the Kylie Ryan Rosé during the SIP. She says McGrail has been her favorite winery in the Livermore Valley for years, so she’s happy to now be a part of it and to be able to learn so much about the wine industry in the Livermore Valley, which she calls home. Denise has even helped with harvest! When she’s not working at the winery, she enjoys traveling with friends and family, but she also works for a transportation company that she and her husband own, but says she is lucky to have the flexibility of working from home and to have been able to be a stay-at-home mom for 20 years. Denise has been married to her husband, who is her highschool sweetheart, for 27 years now. Together, they have two daughters, whom they adore very much, and a very spoiled Mini Aussiedoodle named Kaya. Next time you see Denise at the winery, say hello!
Meet our staff member Pam! She has been working at McGrail since August of 2019. Although she is a full-time Learning and Development Management for a food service company, Pam came to work at the winery because she wanted to learn more about wine and because she was inspired by her Portuguese heritage and her uncles who used to make wine for fun. Aside from her jobs at the winery and in the food service industry, Pam is a mom to an 18-year-old son, named Travis, and a rescue dog, named Sparky. In her spare time, she enjoys dining out with friends, traveling, working out, and running. She has even run a half marathon and has hiked Half Dome in Yosemite. One thing most people may not know about Pam is that she is a breast cancer survivor. Her tenacity shines through in a story she shared with us about her childhood: “when I was a toddler, maybe 18 months, we were at the beach and my dad dug a hole in the sand, gave me a cup, told me to walk to the water, fill the cup, and then fill the hole in the sand with the water. My sister said it was painful to watch because I walked back and forth to the water and hole for hours, never giving up on this task she knew would never happen as the water continued to be absorbed by the sand. I did this until I collapsed and fell asleep on the sand. So I would say I’m very determined.” In addition to her drive, we are missing Pam’s love for people and her willingness to dive into the winemaking processes, as she helped with harvest just weeks after joining the team. She says her favorite thing about working at the winery is the people–both guests and staff, the views, and the energy of it all. Say hi to Pam next time you see her at the winery!
Today, we’re introducing you to our Assistant Winemaker and the star of our Tiger King and Richard Simmons Workout videos, Sir Cristian John-Paul Saucier, III. He has been working at the winery since February of 2015 and has probably worked 99% of weekends since then. Cris says he can’t choose a favorite wine, because they all contain his sweat, blood, and tears, but says Patriot is pretty smooth. His favorite thing about working at the winery is getting his hands dirty in production. In his spare time, Cris says he likes to break ankles on the basketball court, but we all know he’s really just an avid Golden State Warriors and Oakland A’s fan. Cris and his girlfriend enjoy cooking together, and often create meals inspired by the show Chopped, but have been doing quite a bit of hiking during the SIP. He says he wants a dog really badly, preferably a mutt, but his girlfriend’s cats will do for the time being. The last few weeks of the SIP have also really inspired Cris to dabble in acting. His favorite television show is Parks and Rec and he really wants to be Ron Swanson when he grows up. When asked what he’d do with a million dollars, he says he would open a chicken nugget food truck. A fun fact about Cristian is that he is almost 70% French! We don’t really miss Cris, because he’s been working hard at the winery, making wine, making deliveries, selling wine, and acting. Next time you see Cris at the winery, don’t be afraid to say hi!
Today, we’re introducing you to our longtime team member Eleanor. She has been working at McGrail since August of 2012 and says her favorite thing about this job is working with the Livermore Valley’s best production crew, as they laugh a lot! Her favorite wine at the moment is the 2016 Austin James Cab. Eleanor helps with harvest and bottling at every chance she gets and can also be found tending bar at almost all of our private events. She came to work at the winery to learn how to discern a good wine from a bad wine and to learn about the production side of the industry. Aside from her love for the production aspects of the winery, Eleanor also enjoys McGrail’s unbeatable sunsets and the camaraderie amongst the staff. When she is not at the winery, she is an English teacher to international adult students and spends her spare time cheering on the Golden State Warriors, sipping wine outdoors with friends, doing yoga, cycling, and running. She has run several half marathons and has cycled centuries. A few years ago, Eleanor had a bad accident while biking 50 miles in the Berkeley hills and broke her arm and shoulder in four different places. Although her injuries kept her from participating in that year’s harvest, she was determined to recover and went on to do a 65 mile bike ride just 6 months later! Eleanor’s fortitude doesn’t stop with her cycling; she has also been a vegan for 37 years and she and her husband Steve raised their two kids as vegans. She is so proud of her adult children–a daughter who is an architect in London and a son who is applying to med school. One thing that might not be obvious looking at this photo, but becomes very clear upon hearing Eleanor speak, is that she is English and has a lovely accent we all enjoy listening to. We miss Eleanor’s witty humor and her dedication to the art of wine.
By Mark Clarin, Heather McGrail, and Laina Carter of McGrail Vineyards
If you’ve ever been to a McGrail Vineyards Release Party or Barrel Tasting Weekend at McGrail, you’ve likely spoken to or seen Mark Clarin. You’ve probably even seen him jamming downtown, at other wineries, or local breweries, in one of the various bands he belongs to. Mark, standing at approximately 6′ 4″, is known for rocking a horseshoe mustache, tie-dye tees, cargo shorts, flip flops, and a ponytail. He is nearly impossible to miss. His unmistakable style isn’t even the thing that makes him stand out the most; his wine is pretty extraordinary, too.
We asked Mark to answer some questions about himself, as well as about what he’s got going on in the vineyard now and what happens in the vineyard at McGrail in the early springtime. Allow us to introduce you to our winemaker, Mark Clarin, through some quick Qs and As. We hope you find his answers both humorous and valuable, as we did, and we hope it gives you a better understanding of why we love our talented, but goofy winemaker so much.
Question: Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself? Are you married? Do you have kids?
Answer: I am married with children–a boy and a girl. The girl has a girl, so I am a grandpa called Poppy.
Q: What is your background in the wine industry and how did you get into wine?
A: Winemaking found me! I got a job at a local winery when I was 20 years old. Prior to that, I was in construction. I grew up in Livermore and sort of fell into the business. I have always been drawn to hard work and art. I’m a musician as well, which has an interesting correlation to winemaking. In music, you have to learn when not to play. With winemaking, you have to be patient and learn when not to panic. Wine is a living thing and is constantly changing. Knowing what to do when is the key, which is similar to music.
Q: When did you first start at McGrail?
A: I started consulting in 2006, before crush.
Q: What is your favorite McGrail memory?
A: While giving a tour a few years ago, I had a customer ask me what I do all year, because I only have to work, like, two weeks per year. It was insulting, yet funny. I work at least four weeks a year. Sheesh.
Q: What do you love most about working at McGrail Vineyards?
A: There are so many things to like. Number one is the team. When we first started producing wine, we made a plan to focus on making great wine. Our primary focus has been Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the king of wine in my mind. We have added a few varieties over the years, but our original goal remains the same–to make great wine.
The property is amazing with spectacular views which I get to visit every day. The estate vineyard is world class and we added the Lucky 8 vineyard in 2015. This affords us the unique opportunity to control our farming, in order to make the best wines possible. This circles back to the original plan.
I cannot forget our club members. We have the best club members, many of whom have been with us from the beginning. Without them I have no reason to make wine.
Q: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned at McGrail so far?
A: How to install a giant flagpole on release Saturday with a bunch of high school kids.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working with Cabernet Sauvignon?
A: It is the king of wine. It grows exceptionally well here in the Livermore Valley. It is a small berry with thick skin and loose clusters that afford good air flow to minimize disease. Cabernet can take a little rain in the fall, as long as it doesn’t rain for more than a couple of days and we get wind to help dry things out. Other tighter cluster varieties don’t have that luxury. Cabernet is very consistent year to year for us. This is important, as we try to make sure the wines stay consistently great. I do like to drink it, too.
Q: What is going on in the vineyard during bud break and what does it signify to you as a winemaker?
A: During bud break, the dormant vines show the first green growth of the year. The buds unfurl small leaves that continue to grow (up to 1” per day!), as shoots, tendrils, and tiny pre-clusters develop. Bud break signifies a new vintage on the horizon and another opportunity to make some amazing wine. It is always an exciting and optimistic time to be in the vineyard, as it confirms the circle of life.
Q: Why is Lucky 8 usually the first vineyard to show bud break each year?
A: In 2016 we planted Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Since that time, our Chardonnay pushes buds first, followed by the Sauvignon Blanc. This is common throughout the valley. Our hillside Cabernet Sauvignon is usually the first of that variety to break bud. The Lucky 8 vineyard is a bit cooler than our estate vineyard, but Chardonnay is an early ripener, and therefore, an early bud breaker.
Q: What does a typical day in early spring look like for you?
A: Springtime is time for blending, which requires a fair amount of sampling and tasting. Topping off barrels is a continuous task throughout the year. It is also time to review the barrel order to take advantage of any early order opportunities. Keeping an eye on the vineyard as the buds begin to push and we begin a new year. I am fortunate that I am in the vineyard every day, if only for a brief moment. Usually, we have some sort of reason to get together and taste with our club members. We also bottle quite a bit of our production in the spring.
Q: What is your favorite winemaking memory?
A: Barrel fermenting Cabernet Sauvignon in a cave. Very labor intensive, but fun.
Q: If you could make wine anywhere else in the world, where would it be, and why?
A: Douro Valley, Portugal. The vineyards are grown on steep slopes made up of shale. Everything has to be done by hand in the vineyard. The people are very nice and the weather is similar to California. The soil comes through in the wine with lots of minerality. I have not been to the Rhone, which I could probably get used to quickly.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: I am generally happy. I am very tolerant, but once you lose my respect you will never get it back.
Q: Would you care to share an embarrassing story about yourself?
A: While visiting another winery, a staff member named Joy handed me a glass of what I assumed was their Rose and asked my opinion. I responded with something like, “well, it doesn’t suck”. It turned out to be my Rose because she tricked me.
Q: What is your favorite movie and why?
A: The Wizard of Oz. I love the songwriting. Very clever.
Q: Is there anything people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I sometimes talk in my sleep and I hear that I snore, but I haven’t caught myself yet.
Q: What is your favorite wine & food pairing?
A: Beef tenderloin and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Get a taste of Mark’s winemaking abilities yourself! Purchase McGrail wine here.
Have you ever tried something that is so extraordinarily flavorful that you just can’t get enough of it? This is how I feel about McGrail wine… and chimichurri sauce. Accordingly, this pairing has a TON of flavor.
What Is Chimichurri?
Wondering what the heck chimichurri is? Basically, it’s an herb-based sauce made primarily using raw or uncooked ingredients. It can be red (chimichurri rojo) or green (chimichurrri verde), depending on what kind of herbs are used. It pretty much always contains garlic, parsley, oregano, and vinegar, but there are countless variations of this scrumptious sauce.
No one seems to be totally sure about chimichurri’s origin. Some believe it derived from the Basque region’s “tximitxurri” sauce, as the pronunciations are very similar, though the ingredients are not. Others think it was loosely based off of Sicily’s salmoriglio sauce, as both typically contain parsley, oregano, and garlic. Since the English always seemed to stick their head in everyone’s business back in the day, there are some people who insist it was called “Jimmy’s curry,” “Jimmy Curry,” or even “Jimmy McCurry,” after an English lad who joined in the fight for Argentina’s independence, and some who believe it was the result of an English prisoner asking for condiments to season his meat, after England’s attempt to invade Argentina failed. There are many myths as to where chimichurri sauce came from exactly, but at this point in its history, it is most commonly found in Argentine or Uruguayan cuisine.
A Jó Élet, “The Good Life”
“A jó élet” is a Hungarian phrase, which roughly translates to “the good life” in English. This bottle of estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is aged for nearly 30 months in 100% brand new Hungarian oak barrels. These barrels are sourced from two different coopers, both of whom use tight grain oak from the Zempelén Forest. This wine demonstrates a classic Cabernet Sauvignon bouquet of dark cherry, cassis, and vanilla, but also offers the notes of baking spice and bold tannins that you would expect from a wine that has been aged for over two years in brand new Hungarian oak. The Good Life is rich and full-bodied with notes of leather, herbs, and white pepper, which makes this the perfect wine to pair with a chimichurri rib eye steak. When you pair this wine with this dish, there is no doubt you’re living the good life.
I hope you’re excited to try this recipe at home, because I seriously can’t wait to make this pairing again! This is probably my favorite food and wine pairing so far.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk all rib eye marinade ingredients together, except for the salt, pepper, and rib eye.
Place the rib eye in a gallon-sized ziploc bag and add the marinade to the bag. Make sure the meat is completely covered by the marinade and place in the refrigerator for 3-6 hours, depending on how thick the meat is (longer if the meat is thicker).
When ready to place the rib eye in the skillet, liberally season it with salt and pepper.
To make the chimichurri sauce:
In a food processor, add all chimichurri sauce ingredients and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Store chimichurri sauce leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last several days without browning.
To prepare the sides:
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil.
Add the fingerling potatoes and boil until soft, about 15 minutes.
Strain the potatoes and set aside.
To cook the rib eye and sides:
In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add garlic cloves and halved shallots. Cook until slightly browned.
Add sliced crimini mushrooms. Cook mushrooms with the garlic and shallots, stirring occasionally, until they become soft.
Using a spatula, move the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots to one side of the pan. Add the rib eye steaks and about half of the marinade in the ziploc bag. Add the fingerling potatoes over the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots, and stir, so they are evenly covered in marinade. Add the optional sprigs of rosemary or thyme.
For medium-rare steak, cook the steaks for about six minutes on each side, flipping after about three minutes (twelve minutes total, four intervals of three minutes). Add about 3-5 minutes to total cooking time if you like your meat well done.
Once cooked to desired done-ness, plate the steaks and vegetables. Spoon the chimichurri sauce over the steaks.
Who doesn’t like to treat themselves every once in a while? Pour a glass of our 2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé and keep reading.
Whether you do or don’t have a sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, it’s always important to shower yourself with affection. Like Justin Bieber, I’m a firm believer in loving yourself. After all, you are the most important person in your own life, and really, you can’t love someone else full-heartedly if you don’t love yourself first. Taking a moment for yourself every once in awhile is imperative in being able to truly appreciate life.
I’ve created a simple recipe for a nourishing face mask you can do at home with just what’s in your pantry or fridge. I’ve exclusively chosen ingredients that have antibacterial, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties. Not only will this make your skin feel super soft and smooth, it smells and feels incredibly luxurious, AND it requires just a tiny bit of Rosé, so you can have the rest for yourself!
Pour yourself a glass of our 2019 Kylie Ryan Rosé if you haven’t already.
Warm the honey so it’s a little runny. I put it in a small microwaveable dish and microwaved it for just ten seconds to get the perfect consistency.
Combine the Rosé, honey, yogurt, sugar, and essential grapefruit oil. Mix well. It will be a little watery.
Stick the face mask mixture in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
Steam your face by wetting a folded wash cloth and sticking it the microwave for 30 seconds, then holding it on your face for 2-4 minutes. Make sure the wash cloth isn’t too hot before putting it on your face.
Pull the mask out of the refrigerator and use clean fingers to apply liberally to your face, taking care to not to get the mask in your mouth or eyes.
This Friday, January 17th, 2020, at precisely 12AM, marks 100 years since the Volstead Act was put into effect, making it illegal for the American people to produce, sell, or transport alcoholic beverages. Coincidentally, this date has been named “National Bootlegger’s Day,” but primarily due to the fact that it is the birthday of famous bootlegger Al Capone and Meryl Kerkhoff, the son of another prolific prohibition era bootlegger.₇ The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1919 and the alcoholic beverage industry, in the Livermore Valley and across the nation, appeared to be headed toward total eradication. This week we will celebrate what is now National Bootlegger’s Day in the Livermore Valley because our beloved industry ceased to die, despite efforts made to eliminate it a century ago.
The Volstead Act: A Brief History
In the year 1917, Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and after whom the act was named, along with members of the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, joined together to champion the bill behind prohibition.₁₁ The bill was vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson, but Congress overruled his veto, and the National Prohibition Act was ultimately passed in 1919.₁₀
At a glance, prohibition’s primary driving factor was its appearance of being a solution to a few of the problems America was facing at the time. Alcoholism was rampant in the United States in the early 1900’s. It is estimated that people were consuming a whopping ten to fourteen times what the average American drinks today, in terms of volume of pure alcohol. Even more astounding is the fact that any person over the age of 15 years could legally drink alcohol.₉ Advocates of the temperance movement believed the resources being used to make alcohol would be of better use elsewhere. With World War I taking place from 1914 until 1918, some prohibition supporters argued it would be advantageous to take the wheat utilized in beer production and use it to make bread to feed soldiers instead.₁ Supporters of child labor laws also became proponents of prohibition, as the Prohibition Party was the first political party in American history to denounce the employment of children in industrial fields.₆ With so many clear, concise arguments for prohibition, there were bound to be a few that were not as agreeable.
In addition to the obvious benefits of prohibition, some supporters had blatantly outlandish beliefs and downright prejudiced principles that drove their support of banning alcoholic beverages. Some dry advocates believed the origin of all crime in the United States was alcohol consumption. A few American towns were so persuaded by this, they went as far as to close down and sell their jails just a moment before prohibition was put into effect. Others were brainwashed into believing frequent alcohol drinkers had the ability to spontaneously combust due to a high blood alcohol content. A certain temperance writer, who, absolutely absurdly, was considered “scientific authority” at the time, wrote that even a sniff of alcohol could lead to three generations worth of birth defects.₂ We now know these statements to be so brazenly false, they are laughable, but, amazingly, there were actual Americans who believed them to be true. Those who disapproved of the permeation of European immigrants through the American population in the early 1900’s found themselves in favor of prohibition, as several European customs involved the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. The Irish brought their whiskey, the Catholics brought their wine, and the Germans brought their beer to the United States, but xenophobic Americans were not fans of such traditions, or, rather, they were not fans of immigrants.₁ Other groups known for being prejudiced were champions of the temperance movement as well. The Ku Klux Klan were known supporters of prohibition. KKK chapters across the nation were revived to support and enforce temperance, which became one of the group’s main purposes at the end of the 1910’s. As was to be expected, opponents of prohibition, especially bootleggers, were often victims of violent attacks at the hands of the KKK.₃
By the time prohibition had taken effect, a large population of the American people, even members of Congress, who voted in favor of prohibition, admitted to feeling tricked into doing so, because they were led to believe, or had naively assumed, only hard liquors would be banned.₉ The 18th Amendment implicitly stated intoxicating liquors would be banned with its passage, but it fundamentally failed to define the term “intoxicating liquors.” Meanwhile, the Volstead Act defined intoxicating liquors as any beverage that contained just above “one half of one percent alcohol.”₁₁ Even with some beers at the time containing an insignificant 2.75 percent alcohol, an amount so tiny it would be virtually unmarketable in today’s America, such beverages were to be banned.₁₂
Did Prohibition Work?
“The Noble Experiment,” also known as National Prohibition, saw a specific type of success. According to a study done by economists at Boston University and M.I.T. in the 1990’s, alcohol consumption in the United States declined by 70 percent in the early 1920’s.₁ Even though support for prohibition had dwindled significantly by the end of the 1920’s and 74 percent of voters were in support of the repeal of the 18th Amendment by 1932, alcohol consumption at the time of repeal was still down 30 percent from what it had been prior to the Volstead Act taking effect.₄ If the only thing America was trying to do by banning alcohol was decrease alcohol consumption, prohibition worked.
If you take a step back and look at prohibition in its entirety, it was a massive failure.
Crime didn’t just take a break during prohibition. Crime flourished during prohibition and it flourished because of prohibition. Smuggling alcohol into the U.S. over the Canadian border was a frequent and lucrative business for organized criminals throughout prohibition. It wasn’t uncommon for alcohol smugglers to fall victim to murder or having their boats hijacked while moving alcohol into the U.S. Alcohol smuggled across the border was even more desirable than that made illegally in the United States, because it was more likely to be coming from a legitimate distillery and not from someone’s bathtub, decreasing the odds of it being tainted and probably ensuring a higher quality of taste. Speakeasies, or secret, illegal bars, were everywhere around the country and encouraged dangerous activities, like binge drinking;₄ New York City was estimated to have an insurmountable 30,000 of them in the 1920’s.₉ The Ku Klux Klan was torturing and killing bootleggers and alcohol drinkers during prohibition, enforcing their ideal of it being a sin to drink alcohol.₁₂
Public officials and officers of the law became increasingly corrupt as prohibition progressed. The term “blind pig” was coined in reference to police officers who would turn a blind eye to the operation of speakeasies upon payment from speakeasy owners. Many public officials engaged in the illegal activities themselves. The Speaker of the House of Representatives was the owner and operator of an illegal distillery during prohibition.₂ The nation’s respect for public officers and members of law enforcement quickly waned as incidents of corruption continued to come to light. Between the years 1921 and 1923, in New York City, the conviction rate was one to every 260 arrests, as prosecutors seriously struggled to obtain convictions, due to lack of trustworthiness from arresting officers.₄
Regrettably, it is estimated that more than 10,000 people died during prohibition as a result of drinking alcohol that had either been accidentally tainted by bootleggers or had been purposely poisoned by industrial alcohol companies, per the request of the federal government.₁ Some alcohol was still being produced in the United States during prohibition, but solely for industrial purposes. The federal government realized this industrial alcohol could be manipulated to create alcoholic beverages. The Prohibition Bureau required these alcohol-producing companies to contaminate the alcohol with poisonous substances to make it unfit for drinking.₄ Folks still drunk the industrial alcohol, causing many to be stricken blind, become extremely ill, or die.₁ Even illegal distillers were accidentally poisoning people with their hooch. Some alcoholic beverage recipes called for the use of lead coils, iodine, and even embalming fluids, all of which are toxic to humans.₄
In addition to the multiple obvious, aforementioned reasons as to why prohibition failed, the country also lost out on what would have been a great deal of money in taxes paid on alcoholic beverages and the country’s taste for genuinely good quality wine and spirits was lost because of prohibition.₉
As we know now, prohibition was a complete disaster. Surprisingly enough, there are still chapters of the Anti-Saloon League that exist in the United States, as well as over 100 counties across the states that are completely dry.₂ When wineries today are asked to ship wine to other states, they are often jumping through hoops to obtain the correct permits, while some states don’t allow wine to be shipped to them at all. It is amazing that one hundred years later we are still feeling the effects of prohibition on the alcoholic beverage industry.
Prohibition’s Impact On Grape Growers In California and the Livermore Valley
One of the most interesting facets of the Livermore Valley is its claim to being one of the first winegrowing regions in California. With that being said, it is both fascinating and valuable to take a closer look at just how this American Viticulture Area was impacted by one of the most controversial laws in American history–prohibition. As someone who belongs to the sixth generation of a long-time Livermore family, whose family owned vineyards in the Livermore Valley in the late 1800’s, and who currently works in the wine industry in the valley, this history is captivating to me.
With the first systematized plantings of grapes in the Livermore Valley taking place in the late 1870’s, the valley already had a rich history in wine growing by the time prohibition reared its ugly head. The first men to establish both vineyards and wineries in the Livermore Valley had done so just after having esteemed the 1884 vintage as being of supreme quality. Just a few years after having first planted vineyards in the valley, two Livermore Valley wineries were awarded prestigious awards at the 1889 Paris Exposition. Cresta Blanca Winery was awarded the Grand Prize and the Mont Rouge Winery was awarded gold for their Livermore Valley wines. Vineyards began popping up around the valley at a remarkable rate, with over 156 of them pervading more than 5,500 acres by the year 1893. Sadly, many were devastated by the sweeping of Phylloxera through the Livermore Valley in the late 1890’s and the acreage of vineyards had been diminished to just 2,500 by 1911. Subsequent to the cessation of the spread of disease throughout vineyards across the valley, a glimmer of hope appeared for the once-again prosperous Livermore Valley wine industry. The demand for wine and the quality of wine began to experience significant growth in the valley, which, in turn prompted an expansion in vineyards planted, increasing to nearly 4,000 acres at around 1918. With the news of the passing of prohibition, acres of vineyards planted in the Livermore Valley returned to its plummet, with approximately 3,000 acres planted at the beginning of 1920 and another downturn to a measly 1,500 acres planted just shortly after.₈
Even before the 18th Amendment was passed, the future looked grim for the industry. In June of 1918, the Livermore ECHO, a local, weekly newspaper at the time, published an article discussing a couple saloons in nearby Stockton, California, that were planning to close their doors in preparation for the November election, during which two prohibition measures would be voted on. In the months following the publication of this article and leading up to the November election, the Livermore Herald published several articles with menacing headlines such as, “Reports Unfavorable for the Wine Industry,” and “Final Vintage Now In Progress.” Though the first World War did not end until November 11th, 1918, the future of the alcoholic beverage industry, and more specifically the wine industry, was of utmost importance for the people of the Livermore Valley and reports on the war were often superseded by reports on prohibition in local publications.₈
In the months leading up to January 17th, 1920, there was a mad rush among producers of alcoholic beverages to either sell their inventory of alcoholic drinks or dispose of it.₈ Although American people were prohibited from making and selling commercial alcoholic beverages, it was not illegal to drink alcoholic beverages, and many Americans resorted to constructing cellars in their homes to store their wine and spirits.₁ There was almost a year between the passage of the 18th Amendment in January of 1919 and the Volstead Act taking effect, but sales of “beer, wine or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquor,” was forbade after June 30th, 1919.₁₂ In a three month period following the ratification of the 18th Amendment, an estimated 141 million wine bottles were sold in the United States.₉ Not only was wine sold in unprecedented volumes, wine that was once sold for 35 cents per gallon was now being sold for as much as $1.50 per gallon!₈ Smart business men were getting rich by buying gallons upon gallons of wine and marking up prices as the people of America were scurrying to buy whatever alcoholic beverages might remain before sales became illegal.₉
Following the Volstead Act taking effect, the Livermore Valley’s winemakers, vintners, and vineyard workers left to look for work elsewhere or found work in fields they might not have been skilled in. Vineyard equipment was either sold or disposed of. On January 17th, 1920, the Livermore Herald published a headline, “PROHIBITION ENDS GREAT INDUSTRY – WINERIES OF VALLEY DISPOSE OF STOCK AND CLOSE THEIR DOORS.” Three days later, on January 20th, the Herald published another headline: “CRESTA BLANCA CLEANED OUT… C.H. Wente, C.L. Crellin, A.C. McLeod, Garatti Bros., and several other valley men, made no wine this year. … The wine industry is doomed!”₈ Indeed, the state of the industry appeared bleak for many Livermore Valley winegrowers.
Hard times call for innovation in the wine industry, and for those who possessed this quality and were able to use it to their advantage, the difficult times could be forded through. While vineyard owners and wineries were no longer permitted to produce wine to sell to consumers and distributors, they were not prohibited from producing and selling sacramental wine to the Catholic Church. Livermore Valley’s Concannon Winery had established a market for sacramental wine with the Catholic Church many years prior to prohibition and they were able to use this relationship to remain afloat through prohibition.₈ Several California wineries, including Beaulieu Winery, Beringer Winery, and previously mentioned Concannon Winery, were able to remain open and in production through prohibition, under the stipulation that their singular purpose for remaining active as a winery was to produce sacramental wine to be used during Catholic service. Even still, prohibition officers were wary of these wineries, shutting some down for exceeding the production of one million gallons of wine in just two years.₉ Like it was legal to drink wine at home, it was also legal to make up to 200 gallons of wine per year at home. Other grape growers found business through innovation by creating and selling “wine bricks” through prohibition. Wine bricks were blocks containing all that one needed to make wine at home, except for one or two simple ingredients, like water or soda. This was huge for California winegrowers, as wine bricks became wildly popular on the east coast and could be shipped there in exchange for a pretty penny.₉
With the majority of Americans voting against prohibition in 1932, change was on its way for California winegrowers.₄ Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States on November 8th, 1932, and one year and twenty seven days later, the 18th Amendment was repealed with the passage of the 21st Amendment.₅ On Repeal Day, December 5th, 1933, FDR declared, “what America needs now is a drink!”₂ On November 30th, 1933, good news came to California, as an announcement from the State Equalization Board said sales licenses for alcoholic beverages would soon be distributed. On December 7th, the Southern Alameda County News published an article stating “activity among the wineries of the Livermore Valley has gained greater impetus. All plants are being worked to capacity as orders for the fine wine for which this valley is famous for come in.” By December 21st, the Livermore Herald had full page ads for Livermore wineries.₈ The Livermore Valley had restored its vigor, though there was still much to regain in terms of vineyards, winemakers, production equipment, and vineyard workers.
Today, the Livermore Valley is home to more than 50 wineries and continues to grow. It is humbling to know the history of what the wine producers in the valley have experienced over the years and to get to live and work in their footsteps.
Bootleggers In the Livermore Valley
Did you know there were bootleggers in the Livermore Valley? Me neither. While I knew it was possible for the Livermore Valley to have had bootleggers, some history is just so cool you can’t imagine it happening where you live.
To give some background on “bootleggers,” the term was first coined in the 1880’s when Midwestern traders would hide flasks in their boots when making a trade with the native people. The term “bootlegger” eventually evolved to signify a person who made, transported, or sold alcoholic beverages after Congress passed the 18th Amendment and before the passage of the 21st Amendment, becoming a permanent part of American vocabulary.₇
An article published in the Livermore Herald in 1978 discusses an institution called the Yosemite Club, located on Second Street in Livermore, which was a bootleg establishment during prohibition. The carpenter who constructed the building, Everett “Gab” Garbini, recalls a twenty foot hole underneath the floor of the building, where empty bottles were thrown when finished. During prohibition, the hole served a different purpose, allowing full bottles, or “evidence” at the time, to be thrown and destroyed when federal prohibition officers came in.₈ While the Yosemite Club no longer exists, the building still stands, though it has undergone renovations. A Vietnamese restaurant currently exists at the Yosemite Club’s former address and I’m unsure if the twenty-foot hole still exists under the floor. One thing we do know is Livermore has a little piece of bootlegging history and I think that’s pretty fascinating!
At McGrail Vineyards, we are so proud to be a part of the continued history of the Livermore Valley! We hope this has given you some insight into and appreciation for how far our hidden gem of a wine region has come.
Every day something new happens in our exciting and crazy industry. One day, we are examining our vineyard to see how much life is left, deciding when we will rip out parts of the vineyard, and begin the five-year-long journey through replanting until grapes produce again. The next day, we are tasting through thirty barrels to begin our blending process. Once we have cleaned up from tasting, spitting, and climbing ladders, we get all dressed up and head to the city to pour at our favorite fundraising event. Life at the winery is different every day. Some parts are more exciting than others, but they are all important and are all part of the process of keeping this winery and tasting room moving. On a regular day, we open the doors, take a look at the view outside our tasting room, and start opening wine to share with you. Those are our favorite days.
To learn all things wine, please check back often. We are excited to get to share more with you in the future through our blog!