We are thrilled to welcome our Holy McGrail Wine Club Members to our brand new lounge, located in the barrel room at McGrail Vineyards.
Holy McGrail Wine Club Members
The Members Lounge has been updated with farm-style tables for you and your family to enjoy McGrail wines
Members Lounge is open to Wine Club Members and up to 5 guests at any given time. Our farm tables are communal and available first come, first serve. Please note that the Lounge is setup to enjoy wine by the glass or bottle.
For wine tasting, please book a reservation on the patio or taste at our front bar before or after enjoying the lounge.
Our members lounge is located in our barrel room and is open on non-event, weekend days. We have communal seating at farm tables available on a first come, first serve basis. This room is open to Holy McGrail Wine Club Members. We do not make reservations for this room as it is designed for those on property before or after their tastings. Please make sure to book a tasting on the patio or at the front bar before or after you enjoy the lounge. While we love your furry friends, only service animals are allowed. Children are welcome to join their parents in the members lounge, but must remain seated.
Heather McGrail shares our February release wines from the Livermore Valley!
Winter Wines getting us through the Cold!
As the temperatures are cool, picking up a nice glass of Cabernet warms you from the inside out. In February we release three Cabernets and our Cabernet based Rosé that is definitely a fan favorite!
Kylie Ryan Rosé
Named after my oldest daughter, Kylie Ryan, the Rosé is refreshing, easy sipping, and a great wine to pair with all kinds of food! Our 2022 Kylie Ryan Rosé was fermented in both stainless steel and experienced red wine barrels, with about 10% fermented in oak and the remaining 90% fermented in stainless steel. A complex wine with a bouquet of raspberries, clover honey, green apple and watermelon jolly rancher. The palate is light and bright with notes of lemon verbena, hint of strawberry, and a cherry candy finish. This wine is fermented bone dry and pairs nicely with a meal or poolside! Pair with chicken and waffles, garden salad with oranges and beets, or a pulled pork slider with apple and mango slaw. This is a red wine lover’s rosé.
C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon
Our 2020 C. Tarantino Cabernet is a beautiful garnet red. This wine opens with boysenberry taking the lead and aromas of bright cherry, black plum, cassis, and violet following. The palate is layered with boysenberry, cassis, cigar box notes, and butterscotch. The wine finishes with a hint of anise and the wine is beautifully blanched with great acidity and tannins. This wine is the most drinkable now and will continue to age well. Pair this with BBQ pork nachos and pickled onions, pulled pork sandwich, or a delicious pot roast.
Timeless Cabernet Sauvignon
Our Timeless Cabernet is dark burgundy red. A rustic wine with a bouquet of cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and chanterelle mushrooms. Hints of black pepper and vanilla linger with cassis and sweet night jasmine. The palate is complex with plum, tobacco leaf, and spiced nutmeg married with the dark fruit notes of blackberry and cherry. The finish is long with dark roasted coffee notes. This wine pairs nicely with steamed dumplings with a ginger hoisin sauce, grilled chicken with a black mole sauce, or roasted duck.
A Jó Élet – The Good Life Cabernet Sauvignon
Our A Jó Élet, The Good Life Cabernet, is a deep, dark burgundy red. This elegant California Cabernet offers bold and ripe aromas of cherry, red plum, blackberry compote, baking spices all with a subtle hint of sweet roses. The fruit is balanced by earthy characteristics including black pepper, oregano, thyme, and winter baking spices. As this wine opens, the complexity of flavors arise and the ripe fruit is complemented with cocoa, dried tea leaves, fennel, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla. The tannins are bold and leave an exceptionally long finish with luscious, mouth-coating tannins. Pair this wine with brisket based beef bourguignon, hanger steak and asparagus, or meatballs.
Heather McGrail shares our newest released wines all from the Livermore Valley!
Our Family Release
We are so excited to share the family series of wines with you. Each of these wines are named after grandkids, besides the James Vincent, which is named after my Father, the co-founder. We hope you enjoys these as much as we do.
Charlie Rae Chardonnay
A favorite of mine! The Charlie Rae Chardonnay is named after my sweet and spunky niece, Charlotte Rae. The California style Chardonnay is rich, creamy, buttery, but balanced by bright fruit. This wine stands alone, but I recently enjoyed it with baked brie wrapped in phyllo dough, apple slices, and candied walnuts.
Austin James Cabernet Sauvignon
Charlie’s older brother is Austin James and he is the 2nd oldest Grandson in the family. This fruit driven Cabernet has black cherry, boysenberry, and blackberry. The fruit elegantly blends with the milk chocolate and vanilla notes and is decadent! I recently paired this with the most delicious Chocolate Cherry brownies, try this one!
Chocolate Cherry Brownies paired with Austin James Cabernet
Cook time: 40 min
½ Cup Unsalted Butter
1 ¼ Cups Sugar
1 tbs Canola Oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Flour
½ Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbs Cornstarch
¼ Tsp. Salt
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Frozen pitted cherries
A handful of fresh cherries
1. Preheat oven to 350°F & line a 9 x 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar with a hand mixer on high until the mixture is smooth. Next, add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix all together.
3. Add flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt and mix again until well-combined, making sure your batter is smooth and free of clumps.
4. Fold in your chocolate chips and frozen cherries *Reserve a handful of each to add on top
5. Use a spatula to transfer the batter into your lined pan, smoothing it out to spread the batter evenly throughout the pan. Place reserved cherries, fresh cherries, and chocolate chips on top
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Pair with our 2020 Austin James Cabernet! Enjoy!
Shamus Patrick Red Blend
Shamus Patrick is named after the oldest grandson. This Bordeaux style blend is a gem! Perfect food pairing wine that starts with purple fruit notes such as plum and blackberries. Rose petal, sandalwood, and mulled wine spices are all evident if you have the patience to allow this complex wine to open up. I love to pair the Shamus Patrick with fettuccine pasta with beef and mushroom ragout!
James Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon
The James Vincent is named after my later father, Jim McGrail. This was the first vintage after his passing and I truly believe he had a hand in it from up above. It is one of my favorite vintages, elegant, bold, and velvety tannins. This wine opens with dark cherry, cassis, violet and vanilla. As the wine opens a bit you get more complex flavors and the toasty notes start to shine. Year after year, James Vincent continues to be one of our favorite wines! Pair this wine with a delicious filet mignon or a ribeye steak.
Winemaker, Mark Clarin, shares an insiders view of the 2022 Grape Harvest in the Livermore Valley!
The 2022 vintage has been a classically different vintage from the other 43 I have lived through. I had hopes in January and the preceding December of having a decent rainfall year, but February came along and dried out and this trend continued through spring and into summer. We managed a few classic April showers but that didn’t really make up for the deficit. Then, we had frost after bud break on the Lucky 8 Vineyard which affected primarily the Grenache Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
The growing season was warm but not really hot for the most part. And then, Labor Day weekend showed up with a heat spell that broke records. We hit 114 degrees in Livermore and had about 5 days of extreme heat. In a matter of a few days, vines that normally ripen over several weeks, were ripe and ready to go. And, the vines that were behind, began stalling out.
Heat wave ends, rain follows
As the heat wave ended, things seemed to be going back to normal, and then we had a rain and hail storm September 18-20th. Fortunately, our two vineyard properties managed to miss the hailstorm and the weather finally mellowed out. With the weather normalizing, it gave us a little break between the early and late ripeners and allowed us to wrap up the last ¼ of our vines calmly for one of the craziest vintages I have seen! Even though September proved to be challenging in the vineyard, the fruit is tasting delicious.
CBS came by for a visit and had a quick interview with our team picking. Check out the interview HERE
9-19-22 The weather cooled down and we actually have rain for the past two days. We harvested most of the Estate Cabernet before the rain and will finish on the 21st. The rain and cool weather have helped us keep the fruit from drying up. At this point, it seems as though we will finish harvest by the end of the following week.
9-21-22 We had a crazy scare last night as we were heading out to pick the last of the estate vineyard. I was at home cooking dinner and a torrential rain cell came through my neighborhood. I panicked and called my viticulture partner and we raced out to the vineyard to halt the picking. By miracle, the vineyard was dry and in great condition for harvesting. We processed the fruit from there and the clone 30 from lucky 8. I think Jim was watching out for us.
9-26-22 I checked the remaining vineyards as we were scheduled for Wednesday harvest on a couple blocks. I called it off. The cool weather and the rain from the prior week seems to have put those blocks back to “normal”. We will continue to pump over our fermenters and possibly press some before the next harvest day.
10-5-22. We started pressing off our Cabernet fermenters this week. The wines are spectacular with intense color and flavors. The vineyard continues to progress at an excruciatingly slow pace. So, we are taking advantage of the situation to get a head start on barreling down wines.
10-19-22 The tale of the 2022 vintage is the continued struggle to get pickers, so we organized our own group of pickers utilizing tasting room staff and family members. This turned out to be the hottest day of October hitting 95F. I thought I was going to die and am in awe of the professionals that do this everyday. It took us until 1:30pm to pick a whopping 1.3 tons. I think there were 6 of us to start and 4 for the duration. Not ideal but we managed.
10-20-22 Heather rallied about 15 people for pick day 2 and we picked 2 tons before noon. Things are looking up. We just might finish harvest yet. Only about 25 tons to go. Oh my! We really are so fortunate for our great community. We had wine club members, tasting room team members, friends, neighbors all show up to pitch in and help.
10-21-22 We filled barrels with our Cabernet that we pressed last week. In the meantime, we are continuing our sampling of the vineyard and coordinating the next harvest dates.
10-23-22 I’m starting to feel like we will never be done with this crush. We pressed off the Touriga and Souzao grapes and put that to barrel on the 24th. On Wednesday we had about 15 people in the vineyard to pick the Petit Verdot form Lucky 8 and I also found pickers to pick the Merlot, Malbec and Cab Franc from Lucky 8 on Thursday the 27th.
10-28-22 PICAZO Merlot came in on Friday leaving 2 blocks to go and now I feel like we are going to make it. As my friend and colleague Randall Grahm told me when I went to work for him; “with winemaking we are in a constant state of flux”.
10-31-22 It’s Halloween and I reminisce about being finished with harvest in years gone by. We harvested 4.4 tons from the C. Tarantino Vineyard today. All in all a beautiful day and we were finished long before donning our masks and costumes for the evening’s festivities.
11-1-22 LAST DAY of harvest 2022. We harvested 17.25 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 15 from the Lucky 8 property. The vintage has presented many challenges so far, with hot weeks, cold weeks, rainy weeks and cool months. Of course the last day has to start out warm, switch to cold and windy and then dump a bunch of water on our heads. Except we were able to pivot and move the sorting equipment into the building, out of the rain and reasonably dry. We started harvesting at 4:30 am and wrapped up the processing by 5pm. I was waiting for brix and color. We got 25.4 brix coming in. I’ll let you know how it colors up but I’m confident.
A Tale of Two Vintages – 2022
We managed to still have great phenolics, good acid, and we are optimistic about 2022’s harvest. The yields on a few varietals are light, but the quality is present. 2022 Grape Harvest in the Livermore Valley is like none other.
There’s not much to dislike about this delicious dish that features the most trendy vegetable with a classically bad reputation. Yep, not everyone loves Brussels sprouts, but this recipe does the downtrodden, cruciferous veggie justice. Put simply, this warm balsamic bacon Brussels sprouts dish tones down the tannins and balances the earthiness in our McGrail estate Clone 8 Cabernet.
Our Colton’s Cabernet is special. It’s set apart from our other Cabs because it’s an old-world-style Cab and the grapes come from our Lucky 8 Vineyard. What’s unique about this property is a gargantuan eucalyptus tree on the adjacent property, which lends these grapes serious herbal characteristics. Though herbal notes were very strong in our first vintage of Colton’s Cab, each vintage following has been farmed more meticulously, reducing the amount of mint and eucalyptus we get from these grapes. Unlike our estate-grown Cabernets, it’s been aged for 18 months, rather than the 30 months our Cab Reserve, Patriot, Good Life, and James Vincent spend in oak, resulting in a wine that is less tannic and more approachable. Lastly, the clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, clone 30, is different from the clones 8 and 15 that are planted on our estate.
Still, the 2018 vintage of Colton’s Cabernet is unexpectedly big, but incredibly smooth, with muted herbal hints, making it perfect to pair with herb braised short ribs.
Herb Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and Creamy Polenta
Makes about 4 servings.
For the short ribs:
3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
Pepper to taste
1 large red onion
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced
3 cups red wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh sagebrush
1 sprig fresh mint
2 bay laurel leaves
Optional: Extra sagebrush or rosemary sprigs to garnish
For the polenta:
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal or polenta
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
4 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper to taste
For the short ribs:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Remove all racks from oven except for one and place it in the lower third of oven.
Brush short rubs with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add each short rib, leaving space between them. Sear each short rib, allowing them to really brown. Turn short ribs on each side, until all sides are browned, about fifteen minutes in total.
Once short ribs have been seared, turn the heat to medium, add onion and garlic around short ribs, and cook until soft, about five minutes.
Add red wine and bring to a simmer.
Add herbs, cover, and place in oven. Braise short ribs in oven until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about two to two and a half hours.
Allow meat to rest in covered pan for twenty minutes prior to serving.
Rest the meat. When the meat is done, rest in a covered pan for 20 minutes before serving. Serve by gently tugging the chunks of meat away from the bone and spooning the saucy onions over top.
In a medium saucepan, bring salt and 4 cups water to a boil. Slowly and steadily add polenta or cornmeal, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk 2 minutes after all polenta has been added. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Add butter, cheese, and one of the minced garlic cloves, then season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
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!
There’s something so special about Italian food. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it impossible to dislike Italian food. The ingredients are so, incredibly wholesome and versatile. Italian dishes are just plain comforting and delicious.
Vintage after vintage, our C. Tarantino Cabernet Sauvignon continues to be one of my absolute favorite wines we produce. I can always count on it being fruit-forward and drinkable as soon as it’s released. My favorite vintage was the 2013 and despite being so drinkable when it was released, this wine is aging beautifully. I’d say the 2017 vintage is quite similar to the 2013. Consistently, the C. Tarantino Cab has gorgeous acidity, which makes it the absolute perfect wine to pair with Italian dishes. I’m not sure if it’s the soil the grapes are grown in, if it’s the grape clone (337, which is different from what we have on our estate and our Lucky 8 Vineyard), or if it’s even the way the sun hits the vines in the summertime, but something about this wine is simply magical.
If you were lucky enough to receive this fabulous wine in your most recent club shipment, whip it out and try this pairing for yourself. We are a few bottles shy of selling out of the 2017 vintage of this Cab, so if you want to try this pairing, don’t wait. Get a bottle now. I promise you won’t be disappointed by this pairing!
By Laina Carter and Mark Clarin of McGrail Vineyards
February was an incredibly busy month in the vineyards, but unseasonably so, as our vines are currently dormant and February tends to be a pretty uneventful month for our vineyards. There are countless facets to grape growing and external factors affecting grapevines that no year and no season are ever the same.
Dormancy & Pruning
Grapevines, like most perennials, undergo a dormancy stage, which is essentially a hibernation period for these plants. The vines have stored all of their nutrients in their roots, leaving the once vivacious, fruitful shoots dry and void of leaves and fruit. Dormancy allows grapevines to tolerate winter weather and gives them time to prepare for budbreak in the spring. Like hibernating animals, the vines are waiting for warmer temperatures before once again using the energy they have stored up to become active and begin growing again.
The most critical vineyard practice that occurs during dormancy is pruning. For us, pruning usually happens around February, when the vines are completely bare and nearing the end of their dormancy. This year, we began pruning our estate vines at the end of January and continued with our Lucky 8 Vineyard through the beginning of February.
Each year, we prune last year’s growth back to the cordon. Our vineyards are currently pruned to two bud spur positions. These positions are kept approximately a fist apart along the cordon in order to keep the new shoot growth separated for later when the fruit sets.
Pruning is important because it gives us the ability to determine the number and position of shoots on the vine, and will therefore determine cluster count and quality of wine. The reason we prune back is to control consistency in production and to make sure we can still walk down the rows and properly manage the vineyard. There are many tasks throughout the growing season that require hand manipulation. Since grapevines are vines, they seem to have a mind of their own and want to grow in wild directions. Our trellis allows us to control the vines so that we can manage yields and quality.
Our estate vineyard was originally planted in 1999 and is now at the end of its ideal productive life. We have sixteen and a half acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and it has, and still continues, to serve us well. At some point, the need to replant is fast-approaching, so we are taking out a section of approximately three acres this year to be replanted again in 2022. Since we have our new Lucky 8 vineyard coming into full production, it affords us the opportunity to re-develop our estate vineyard.
It takes about three years for new plantings to come into full production. It’s about a five-year process when you have to remove a vineyard, because you want to leave the ground fallow for a year. If we have to remove all 16.7 acres at once, we would lose production for five years. By doing it in small quantities, we will still be able to produce our cherished Patriot, James Vincent, A Jó Élet “the Good Life,” and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon through the re-development phase. This February we began our vineyard re-development by removing about three acres of Cabernet vines at the front of our estate property. It will take up to ten years for us to replant the whole vineyard and up to twenty years to get back into full production.
We are currently at the beginning of March, 2020 and we haven’t seen significant rainfall since early January, which is quite a bit different from what the last few winters we’ve experienced. December was fairly wet and we were on course to having a “normal” winter when the new year decided to change all that. We tried a little irrigating this past week to trick the vines into thinking it’s still winter. The windy weather has really dried things out and the hills are turning brown, which is very unusual for this time of year. We’re hoping this month brings rain again and more importantly, a decent snow-pack in the Sierra mountains, but time will tell. Until then, we will continue to irrigate as needed.
Unseasonably Warm Temperatures
On February 26th in 2018, there was snow on Mt. Diablo and snow on Mt. Hamilton, which is wildly different from the weather we experienced on the same day this year, with sunshine and a high of 76˚F.
Although we have had some warm late winters in years past, these temperatures can be of concern for grape growers. Air temperatures of 50°F are the threshold of below which grapevines refuse to grow. This means that enough days with a mean air temperature of 50°F or above could cause budbreak in the vineyards. Since an earlier budbreak during a warm late winter hasn’t really happened for us before, we aren’t too worried; however, an early budbreak could result in damage to the vines if spring frost occurs. We are keeping our fingers crossed that our vines don’t come out of dormancy this week!
Grape growing is definitely not for the faint of heart.