That regions like the Napa Valley also produce elegant wines, not the big blockbusters full of alcohol, fruit and oak that we expect from California, was not new to me, but I was pleasantly reminded of it during my recent visit to wine fair Prowein in Düsseldorf. I made a quick stop at the Napa Vintners stand and tasted four wines of Grgich Hills Estate, owned by legendary wine maker Mike Grgich: Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Chardonnay 2010, Merlot 2008 and Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. All very ‘lean’, elegant and drinkable, without any of the alleged characteristics mentioned above. My colleague wine writer Christian Callec on the Sauvignon Blanc: “Absolutely fabulous, pure, fruity and mineral sauvignon blanc, the very best I tasted in the past 30 years from the American continent!” I couldn’t agree more with Christian!
A fitting compliment by the way, since Mike Grgich is celebrating his 90th birthday tomorrow, April 1st. Lots of activities are taking place in California, among them a cake decorating contest. Greg and Maryanne Wedner, the friendly couple that poured me the Grgich-wines, told me it would be a very big event in the Napa Valley calendar. And mr. Grgich is still actively involved in the wine making business, I was assured!
Who Mike Grgich is? Well, then you certainly haven’t heard of the famous Paris Tasting which took place in 1976, in which an American Chardonnay, Chateau Montelena, beat several white Burgundy wines in a blind contest! Responsible for the Chateau Montelena 1973 was the Croatian wine maker Miljenko Grgich, hired by Montelena’s owners to make wine. One year after the tasting, later made famous by journalist George Taber in his book The Judgement of Paris, Grgich started his own business Grgich Hills Estate (together with a partner, Austin Hills) in Rutherford.
From the Netherlands, a very big Happy Birthday to you, Mike Grgich!
Want to read more on the Paris Tasting and Mike Grgich? On the Grgich Hills Estate website is a speech by Mike Grgich himself on the making of Chateau Montelena 1973.