Grgich Hills Cellar

Driving down I-29 in Napa, I could not help but stop by one of my favorite producers, Grgich Hills.  The winery was started by a man I idolize, Miljenko "Mike" Grgich.  Mike came to America from Croatia with nothing and has become one of the leading wine producers in the nation.  His ability to work with new equipment, innovations, and techniques has created a world class reputation.  He worked with Andre Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyard (BV), Robert Mondavi, and created the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting winning Chardonnay, 1973 vintage Chateau Montelena.  After the Paris Tasting, he struck out on his own at Grgich Hills. 

The property is welcoming and simple.  I noticed on the way in a sign stating the estate is both biodynamic and organic certified- a suggestion from his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz.  Ivo has been with Mike for two decades and his wine background goes back to Croatia, growing grapes and making wine with his family.  Mike and Ivo were also able to create a winery in Croatia, Grgic Vina, in Dubrovnik.  Mike may have some great help, but at 85 years of age, he is still very active at the winery.  We hoped to speak with him but he was very busy with scheduled visitors and harvest.

We were greeted by Connor, a California native who was very knowledgeable about both the winery and the wines.  The tasting room is offset by both stainless steel fermentation tanks and oak aging barrels- nice to be surrounded by future great wines!  Here is what we tasted:

  • 2007 Napa Fume Blanc- this Sauvignon Blanc was aged in oak and sur lie, giving it good body.  Great tropical and citrus fruits, oak, and oily texture.  Long finish.

  • 2006 Napa Chardonnay- this is the first vintage of both biodynamic and organic certification.  Mike's Chardonnays are always done in Burgundian style- oak aged with no malolactic fermentation, leaving a crisply acidic full bodied wine with great floral, citrus, mineral, and honeyed components.

  • 2005 Napa Chardonnay, Carneros Selection- this is the best of the best.  More contact with new oak makes this wine more rich and nuttier.  Tropical fruits and creaminess shine through with elegance.

  • 2004 Napa Merlot- is a Merlot meant for aging with rich tannins and structure.  Has a silky texture along with dark fruit, spice, and cedar.

  • 2005 Napa Zinfandel- a rich dark color accompanies lively fruit, leather, and earth.  This wine gains great structure from the addition of Petit Syrah.  Perfect pizza wine.

  • 2004 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon- a complete balance of body and fruit, this wine also gives off floral and chocolatey components.

Every wine we tasted is of the best quality and not only garner high WG scores, but also high scores from all expert tasters and writers.  The price tag on these wines are very moderate for the quality, ranging from $30-135 and considering the cellaring potential, all are a steal.

Bottle Shock Boycott

A few months ago I viewed a trailer for a new wine movie, Bottle Shock.  It looked like a very interesting dramedy and since it's release in August, the reviews have been good, especially in regard to Alan Rickman's performance.  The movie is loosely based on the happenings surrounding a blind tasting in Paris involving both French and American wines in 1976.  The American wines heavily beat the French and rendered instant global credibility.  In Napa Valley, however, they are not ready to rend credibility to these storymakers.  Many of the growers and winemakers in the valley have been around long enough to know the true story.  They are boycotting the movie due to it missing one of Napa's most valuable and influential men- Miljenko "Mike" Grgich.  He is an 85 year old Croatian American and was the winemaker of the 1973 vintage Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that made history and won the Judgement of Paris white wine category.  He later started his own winery with Austin Hills (of Hills Bros. coffee) and named it Grgich Hills.  This is a huge slap in the face to almost all Napa citizens who revere Mike Grgich and will be staying in the valley to produce wines for us all to enjoy- unlike the Barretts (current owners of Montelena).  They are selling to Michel Reybier of Cos d'Estournel.  It seems as though Bottle Shock is their last swipe at Grgich and they will be out of the biz.  Look for the new movie- Judgement of Paris, to give a more accurate portrayal.