Saturday, November 19, 2016

Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Celebrates His Life In America by Philip S. Kampe

                                                           93 year old Mike Grgich

                                               The 'Judgement of Paris' 40th Anniversary Wine
                                                         Violetta named after Violet
                                                        40th Anniversary Chardonnay
                                                                    Violet Grgich

The Judgment of Paris, definitely the biggest judgment in favor of accepting and respecting the wines from America, occurred 40 years ago- in 1976.

If you are unaware of what happened, a Napa Valley wine from Chateau Montelena beat out its French counterparts in a blind tasting. If you read the account in George Taber’s book, ‘Judgment of Paris’, you will learn first-hand about the account, since Mr.Taber was the only journalist that was present at the event.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Violet Grgich, a masterful storyteller and daughter of famed winemaker Mike Grgich, who combined with Stag’s Leap winemaker, Warren Winiarski to create the ‘Judgment of Paris’ winner.

Both winemakers worked for Robert Mondavi, who brought California wines to international, global attention 40 years ago. In fact, 40 years after the event, we are still talking or in this case writing about the achievement.

With the help of Violet Grgich, the opportunity to learn about her 93 year old father was intriguing. Yes, he makes great wines. Yes, Mike Grgich is a household name to wine lover’s worldwide. And Yes, everyone knows his famed wines from Grgich Hills. 

But, who is this man who entered America as an immigrant whose only dream was to see ‘paradise.’  Daughter Violet tells the story of her father’s journey from a family of eleven children (he was the youngest) to his move from Croatia to the ‘New World’, known as America.

Violet goes on to say that her father, Mike (born with the name, Miljenko) came to America after WWII. He was a survivor with a dream.

He had grown up around vineyards in his native Croatia. In his early 20’s he emigrated to California, worked in the vineyards-eventually working with the Zinfandel grape- a relative of the Plavac Muli grape-a grape he knew well in Croatia.

Somehow, the grape brought Mike’s mind back to Croatia- sort of uniting his wine experience past with the present-a feeling, he expressed-of not being alone anymore in America.

Years of hard work anf gratefulness blossomed as his winemaking skills were recognized by Robert Mondavi. He joined the team that catapulted California wines into orbit.

As time went by, his reputation as a winemaker spread and the opportunity to invest his hard earned money paid off immediately. He opened Grgich Hills. His reputation grew and is still alive.

Mike Grgich is an icon in the undustry.

To learn more about the Mike Grgich story,I suggest that you read Mike’s biography in ‘A Glass Full of Miracles.’ It is a wonderful book that affirms that a positive attitude mixed with a lot of talent breeds success.

Its easy to affirm that the wines served by Violet show the many facets of Mike’s winemaking life he excelled at. As I can attest to, Grgich Hills Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Plavac Muli (Zinfandel), Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon and a Late Harvest Violetta (guess who that is named for?) confirm that 93 year Mike Grgich has found his nirvana in America.

Philip S. Kampe 


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