Celebrate Chardonnay The CA Way: McGrail Vineyards, Knotty Vines Paired with Shrimp N Grits, Bisque

2 classic CA Chardonnay with shrimp

“What do you mean, Chardonnay Day?” Sitting in the midst of a Ventura County vineyard, we were taking a break from the hot sun and the rather intensive work of shaping the over grown goblet vines back into something that resembled trees. Our break, of course, included wine and sandwiches from Fillmore’s Roan Bakery. But no Chardonnay, I remarked, and “What about Chardonnay Day?” I asked. 

The appropriately named Rick Bakas came up with the idea of Chardonnay Day following the success of Cabernet Day. Now, just about every wine you can name off the top of your head has its own day. 

And Sue Hill and I are happy to try to celebrate all of them because it gives us a reason to pay to attention to various grapes, and to learn more about them. And of course drink them!

So at least once a year, we focus on CHARDONNAY. Last year, we wrote about a range of Chardonnay from California and we discussed Chablis and the problems with pre-mox.

For the past few years in May, we’ve focused on Chardonnay from France and Oregon, since we LOVE Oregon Chardonnay, with a particular fascination for dry farmed wines. For example:

Chardonnay, California

This year we feature two from California that found their way home with me following the 2021 Wine Media Conference in Eugene Oregon. Since so many of the wines we feature are obscure and hard to find, we’re glad to share with you Knotty Vines from Rodney Strong and one from McGrail Vineyards located in Livermore Valley just east of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Livermore Valley has a long history of grape growing and wine making. The region often reaches the 90s, but don’t always break that mid 90s threshold that makes grapes cranky. Even better, the cool foggy breeze from the Pacific wends its way to Livermore’s rolling hills to cool the grapes at night to allow them to retain acidity. 

At the Wine Media Conference, Livermore Valley representatives brought a range of wines; you’d be surprised what all they are growing there! At the end of the conference, most of the wine was gone but I scored this bottle of Chardonnay.

On the other hand, Knotty Vines wines blend various vineyards in California. At the Wine Media Conference, the rose was poured during the white and rose speed tasting (read more here), while the Cabernet Sauvignon was poured during the red speed tasting. Both wines, as well as the Chardonnay we discuss below, were poured during the event, and I once again scored a bottle to take home. Since I drove my van, I had plenty of room to bring home wine! 

And yes I got Knotty too!

photo by George Rose, tiara by Lisa Stoll


  • Shrimp Bisque
  • Green Salad 
  • Smoked Santa Barbara spot prawns 
  • Bacon Creamy Shrimp and Cheesy Grits 

smoked Santa Barbara spot prawns are insanely good with chardonnay

Chardonnay for Chardonnay Day

  • 2019 Knotty Vines Chardonnay, California  
  • 2019 McGrail Vineyards Chardonnay Livermore Valley, CA

2019 Knotty Vines Chardonnay, California

2019 Knotty Vines Chardonnay, California  

SRP $15
Sample for my review
Great wine by the glass, great restaurant wine

At Knotty Vines, it’s “ChardonMay” with winemaker Olivia Wright. While Wright takes the process of winemaking seriously, she says go ahead and play: pair chardonnay with ballpark franks, Kendrick Lamar, and Elvie Shane. Knotty Vines is about the pleasures of being naughty. 

“There’s a beauty to the legacy and tradition of wine, but it can also feel intimidating,” notes Wright. “With Knotty Vines, I want to go toe to toe with accessibility and appeal of small batch spirits and craft beers. I’m going for goosebumps, giddiness, and a good time.”

Wright worked harvests at Mumm Napa and Isabel Estate in New Zealand before landing in Sonoma County to lead Knotty Vines. As one of the few female head winemakers in the industry, Wright is passionate about organizations like Women For WineSense, which provides scholarships and support for women pursing educations and careers in wine, and The Professional BusinessWomen of California, which inspires women to dream big and achieve their ambitions and lift others as they rise.  

Color: Yellow, lemon yellow, crystal clear

Aroma: Petrol, meadow grasses and florals, chamomile, apple, buttered toast, 

Palate: Fruit forward palate, caramel apples, pineapple upside down cake, vanilla, green apple, lemon curd,  very pleasant easy to drink Chardonnay, in the middle of being buttery and crisp, nice vibrancy, 

Pairing: Great with the rich creamy sweetness of the bisque, and the rich creamy sweetness of the shrimp and grits. This is a Chardonnay that is bound to be best friends with a rich creamy seafood dishes. We thought this might be nice with corn chowder.  The shrimp bisque is so sweet paired with this wine. This would be the perfect wine for shrimp scampi or lobster dipped in butter. For that type of dish go no further for your choice of wine. 


Soft pretzel with Dijon + Knotty Vines 2019 Chardonnay “Chardonnay pairs so well with mustard that some brands like French’s and Islander Herbs feature Chardonnay in their mustard products. So, this is the perfect wine for baseball tailgates and that mustard-ladened 4th of July hot dog.”

Fried Chicken & Waffles Knotty Vines 2018 Chardonnay “Move over Brut, brunch is not just for bubbles. Our Knotty Vines Chardonnay is the perfect sipper for a soul food breakfast of crunchy fried chicken and waffles smothered in maple syrup. Yumm!”

2019 McGrail Vineyards Chardonnay Livermore Valley


2019 McGrail Vineyards Chardonnay Livermore Valley

ABV 14.2%
SRP $30
Sample for my review

“Less is more. Start with good grapes and don’t mess it up. And then at the end of the day, I make wines I like to drink,” says Mark Clarin, McGrail Vineyards Winemaker.

Known for Cabernet Sauvignon, in 2012 the McGrail Cabernet Reserve won the Best Red Wine in the United States with the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. 

Originally, Jim and Ginger McGrail sold all their Cabernet Sauvignon to Steven Kent Winery, but in 2003, the McGrail family decided to make a barrel for themselves. The next year they made five barrels, and by 2005 they made 1,000 cases of wine and began planning a winery which opened in 2008. 

While they started with one grape, they now offer wines from several, including this classic California Chardonnay, with butterscotch and tropical fruit, that’s balanced with acidity to satisfy both camps.

Color: Lemon yellow, bright yellow gold, very clear, platinum rim.

Aroma: Lemon, Meyer lemon, lemon curd, green apple, caramel, toast, browned butter, tropical fruit,

Palate: Creamy mouthfeel, lemon curd, creme brûlée, passion fruit, kiwi, buttered toast, rich, caramel apple with more apple on the finish, balanced acidity 

Pairing: The shrimp and grits dish was so creamy and flavorful and was absolutely perfect with the wine. The creaminess of the dish brought out the beautiful fruit in the wine. There was enough acidity in the wine to cut thorough and pair nicely with the meal. Because the grits were made with seafood broth instead of chicken or veggie broth, it was an amazing profile with the wine. The shrimp and grits brings out the tropical flavors in the wine. The pineapple, mango and coconut are prevalent. The rich flavors of the dish bring out tropical flavors in the wine. 

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