It's Not Just a French Thing: How Mike Grgich Put Napa Valley Wines on the Map

Napa Valley is giving Bordeaux, Burgundy and Beaujolais a run for their money. Leading the way? The wines of Grgich Hills. We’re delighted to share with you all the story of wine country legend Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. His path from humble beginnings to contemporary success story is a shining example of perseverance in the face of adversity. William McPharlin, Northeast Regional Sales Manager, will join us at The Spiced Pear to further share Mike's life story and the taste of his wines.  

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From Humble Beginnings...

His is a well-known name among the rolling hills and valleys of California wine country, but Mike's early years were modest. A native of the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, Mike was born into a generations-long tradition of wine-making dating back to his great-grandfather. Wine is literally in his blood. (After all, how many men do you know who were literally weaned from their mothers to a 50-50 mix of water and wine?) Combine his heritage with a formal education in chemistry, enology, microbiology, soil biology, meteorology, irrigation, plants, fruit and grapes, and it’s clear: Mike was destined for wine greatness.

Faced with life under the harsh conditions of Communist rule made Mike dream of life in America. Inspired by the stories of self-made Americans including John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford, Mike eventually made his way to Napa Valley in 1958 with only a single suitcase. What he lacked in possessions he more than made up for in knowledge, ingenuity and drive.

...To Revolutionizing the Wine World

Nearly 20 years later, Mike made history when a panel of esteemed French judges awarded his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay the title of world’s finest white wine at the groundbreaking “Paris Tasting” of 1976. The victory not only earned Mike international repute, but also put Napa Valley on the wine-making map at a time when the prevailing mindset dictated that only French soil could produce world-class wines.

Grgich Hills was born a year later on Independence Day in 1977, and the international wine scene has never been the same. Not only did Mike’s success lead to the acceptance of Napa Valley wines, but it also sparked a global revolution as winemakers throughout South Africa, Italy, Chile, Australia and New Zealand realized that they, too, could aspire to and achieve international greatness.

During this exhilarating movement, Mike also returned home to his native Croatia to start a winery while sharing his wisdom and the latest technology with his homeland's next generation of winemakers. Today, he is the subject of a book by George Taber, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized WineHe was also inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame in 2008.

At the end of the day, of course, it's all about the wine. Grgich Hills Estate’s varieties are truly exceptional -- so much so that they’ve been selected by world leaders and luminaries -- from Presidents to Queens! -- at state dinners all over the world. Mike says of his craft,  “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.”

You don’t have to go all the way to France to enjoy the world’s finest wines. You don’t even have to go all the way to Napa Valley. We invite you to join us at The Spiced Pear on March 20th for more than a wine tasting. We invite you to share in the compelling and convention-shattering journey of one remarkable man through the tasting of his wines.

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