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Viña Aresti Sources the Best Grapes From All Over Chile

Viña Aresti Sources the Best Grapes From All Over Chile

Chile is one of the most exciting wine-growing countries in the world and its diversity is one of the reasons. The country contains arid deserts, lowlands, highlands, areas of ocean influence, and a myriad of soil types. As a result there are numerous distinct wine regions, each best suited for different combinations of grapes.

Some Chilean wineries produce only wines from grapes grown in in their home region; others look further afield so they can source the varieties they want in the spot where they grow best. Viña Aresti — which is closing in on 70 years as a family-owned and -operated winery, something rare in Chile — is one of the latter.

The winery is run by Begoña and Ana María Aresti López, the daughters of founder Vicente Aresti Astica. Female ownership is also a rarity among Chilean wineries, and something that sets Viña Aresti apart from the majority of its counterparts. It’s also the only winery in Chile run by two sisters. Their Bellavista Estate is located in the Curicó Valley region. However, Viña Aresti sources fruit in a number of other regions as well, going to the Leyda Valley for sauvignon blanc, Colchagua for some of their cabernet sauvignon, and Maipo for syrah — among other places. As a result, the multi-tiered portfolio that Viña Aresti produces is a microcosm of the wine bounty that Chile at large offers.

I recently tasted through a selection of the winery’s current releases. There are a number of commonalities between them that provide a snapshot into Viña Aresti’s winemaking philosophy. These are wines of balance and proportion that are best enjoyed with food. Each offering speaks truthfully to the grape variety or varieties in question. Last but certainly not least, these wines have an overarching elegance that in most cases belies their price.

Trisquel Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($22)

Leyda Valley is the source of the fruit for this wine. It’s 85 percent sauvignon blanc, with a blend of other white varieties comprising the remaining 15 percent. Grapefruit, green herbs, and a touch of white pepper are the notable aromatics here. The palate is marked by incredible freshness. Citrus, yellow melon, and a tiny hint of vanilla are evident on the palate. The finish is crisp, refreshing, and persistent. Sauvignon blanc is one of the most exciting varieties grown in Chile, in part due to the many valid expressions that can be achieved; this is certainly one of them.

Special Release Reserva 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

This is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon sourced in the Curicó Valley. Chile has been a source for outstanding cabernet for decades, and this offering is an entry-level steal. Ripe red fruit and hints of savory green herbs light up the nose. The full-flavored palate shows off red raspberry, plum, currant, and a dusting of cocoa. Chicory, a mélange of peppercorns, and earth are all present on the above-average finish. This is a textbook example of cabernet that provides far more value and drinking pleasure than its price would indicate

Trisquel Assemblage 2015 ($22)

The Colchagua Valley is a place where hearty reds thrive, and that’s where Viña Aresti sourced the fruit for this blend. It’s composed of cabernet sauvignon (44 percent), syrah (42 percent), and petit verdot (14 percent). What strikes me first here is the petit verdot; a little goes a long way. In addition to dark fruit aromas, it provides structure and a notion of velvetiness that pervades the entire wine. Violets, blackberry, and black raspberry are all in evidence on the nose. The flavors on the palate are lush and full with black fruits, hints of espresso, and black pepper all present. Chicory and Baker’s chocolate emerge on the long finish. This versatile wine will pair equally well with roasted meats and dishes covered in red sauce.

Family Collection Assemblage 2012 ($35)

This blend from the winery’s Family Collection tier brings together cabernet sauvignon (50 percent), merlot (20 percent), syrah (12 percent), petite sirah (10 percent), and petit verdot (8 percent) from Curicó Valley. The fruit was hand-picked and destemmed. Each variety was fermented and aged separately in French oak for 18 months, after which the blend was put together. Exuberant aromatics punctuated by dark fruits, spices, and hints of violets lead things off. The palate is substantial and layered with oodles of dark fruit flavors. Spices notes are evident alongside blackberry, black cherry, and hints of chocolate sauce. The substantial finish shows off continued dark fruits, dusty dark chocolate, and pepper notes. A great match for a marbled steak, roast pork, or other hearty meat dishes.

380 Codigo de Familia 2011 ($100)

This is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and cabernet franc from the Curicó Valley. All of the fruit comes from just two estates. This wine was created to celebrate Viña Aresti’s 65th anniversary. To create a wine that honors the land and the legacy their father started, Begoña and Ana María Aresti López helped with the winemaking process from grape selection all the way through the final blend. The malbec and cabernet franc were added after malolactic fermentation. Aging took place exclusively in French oak. Depth, precision, and elegance are the three words that first came to mind when I tasted this offering. The nose is gentle but inviting with rose petals, red fruit, and spice. The palate is studded with deep layers of ripe red fruit and accompanying spices. Soft, easy tannins and firm acid provide nice structure. The finish is long and memorable, with fruit, spice, and earth reverberating long after the last sip is swallowed. Learn more about Chilean wine here.


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


Tasting Notes

Over the past 50 years, Milijenko ‘Mike’ Grgich has become something of a legend in the Napa Valley. His wines, crafted in the classic Old World tradition, have won a glut of local and international prizes, making him a world-renowned winemaker and Grgich Hills one of the most celebrated wineries in the U.S and the world.

Passionate in his quest for quality, Mike has also helped pioneer a number of significant breakthroughs in California winemaking techniques, including the use of cold sterilisation, malolactic fermentation and the use of oak barrels for proper ageing.

In 1976, the 1973 Chardonnay that Mike crafted for Chateau Montelena, beat the very best wines in France in a now famous blind tasting in Paris, catapulting the Napa Valley to the forefront of the world’s wine stage. For Mike, the event is one of the most memorable in his illustrious career as a top rated winemaker. “For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energised winemakers in many other parts of the world, such as Argentina and Chile. They realised that if we could do it, so could they.”

Mike’s passion for quality wines stems back to his childhood, which he spent in the vineyard owned by his family in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. Every year, his father made wine, just as his grandfather had and his great-grandfather before him. As a small child, and one of 11 children, Mike was weaned from his mother to a 50-50 mixture of water and red wine and at the tender age of three, he began stomping grapes. Later he went to business college and then, in 1949, he went to the University of Zagreb, where he studied chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, all in preparation of becoming a winemaker.

Unhappy with life in Yugoslavia, which at the time was under communist rule, Mike decided to elope to West Germany, in 1954, in search for freedom. Later, he made his way to Canada and eventually, in 1958, inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, he landed in Napa Valley, with only a small suitcase in tow.

Mike immediately went to work for Lee Stewart, founder of Souverain Winery and an early Napa Valley pioneer. After one harvest, Mike moved to Christian Brothers and then on to Beaulieu Vineyard where he spent nine years working alongside the legendary Russian winemaker André Tchelistcheff. In 1968, eager for more responsibility, Mike became chief enologist at the most innovative winery at the time, the Robert Mondavi Winery. “In 1969, I made my first Cabernet for Robert Mondavi,” Mike recalls. “I introduced malolactic fermentation and other methods we had been developing at Beaulieu. Then, in an important blind tasting, 15 California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California.”

In 1972 Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Five years later the success of his Chardonnay at the Paris tasting led to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of Hills Bros. Coffee, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. Mike soon scored another huge victory, in Chicago at The Great Chardonnay Showdown (1980), which saw 221 chardonnays from around the world brought together for a historic first: the largest blind tasting ever of wines made from a single varietal.

Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay was awarded the first place ribbon, quickly gaining Mike a reputation as a legendary winemaker and the affectionate pseudonym King of Chardonnay.

Mike’s influence has continued to spread ever since. In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgic Vina, producing fine wines and bringing Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. While in 2001, Mike played an instrumental role, with U.C. Davis Professor Carole Meredith, in tracing the mysterious roots of California Zinfandel back to his native Croatia.

Mike’s commitment to producing quality wines has led him to search out more sustainable, ecological methods of production. In 2006, for example, the winery switched to solar power. Mike’s continued commitment to making wine as organic as possible has also led to the farming on Grgich Hills Estate to be carried out without artificial fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides.

Another proud moment for Mike and Grgich Hills was in 2007, when Grgich Hills Cellar became completely estate grown and changed its name to Grgich Hills Estate. Today, Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres spread among five vineyards throughout the Napa Valley and produces 65,000 cases of award-winning estate grown wines.

Mike continues to guide Grgich Hills Estate and to plan for its future. While some Napa Valley wineries look to expand, Mike and his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of their vineyards and wines, always according to Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. For Mike, his passion for wine goes deeper than the soil upon which he’s built his Grgich Hills empire. “There is no sure-proof scientific formula for making great wines. Over the years I have learned to communicate with the wines and how to nurture them. I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart. You have to pour your heart and your love into the wine. To me, wines are like my children. You have to love them and guide them like children and you have to transmit to them the richness of your spirit.”


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