95 years young at Grgich Hills
First published 11th March 2018
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became their signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.
Today, they remain committed to making distinctive wines with quality, consistency and longevity. They are proud that world leaders such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand chose to serve their wines at state dinners, but they are also just as proud that every single day discriminating wine drinkers count on Grgich Hills to turn their own dinners into special occasions.
They treat each of their different wines as a special child, carefully nurturing their development and character. Their pride and joy is their Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavours and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, they also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honour of Mike’s daughter, Violet.
Now 95 years old and still sporting his signature blue beret, Mike was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008 in honour of his many contributions to the wine industry. While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. This strategy continues to pay significant dividends.
Committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, they farm their five estate vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, rely on wild yeast fermentation and use their passion and the art of winemaking to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. In keeping with a goal of sustainability, the winery switched to solar power in 2006. As Mike often says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!”
We would like to take the opportunity to celebrate Grgich Hills and in particular wish Mike a very happy 95th birthday.