Grgich Hills Cellar cofounder Mike Grgich was honored for his passion and dedication to the wine industry on August 18. Appropriately timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Paris Tasting, “A Celebration of the Life and Achievements of Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgich: An American Dream Come True,” recognized his achievements in and contributions to the California wine industry. “I feel I am the luckiest man alive to have my dream come true of making wine in California,’ said Grgich at the event.
After working at a number of wineries in the Napa Valley, including Souverain Winery, Christian Brothers Cellars, Beaulieu Vineyard and Robert Mondavi, Grgich became the winemaker and limited partner at Chateau Montelena. At Montelena he created the 1973 vintage that was selected for competition in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, where it was ranked the number one white wine. This is Grgich’s most celebrated achievement, as it pushed U.S. wines into the spotlight, proving that California wines were a major contender in the global world of wine.
This success allowed Grgich to establish the 365-acre Grgich Hills Cellar in Rutherford, California. Its very first vintage won the Great Chardonnay Showdown, with 221 competitors from countries around the world. Since then Grgich’s wines have been awarded numerous accolades and prizes, making the winery one of the premier in the world. Grgich is also recognized for pioneering California winemaking techniques, such as malolactic fermentation and cold sterilization.
At the black-tie gala, Grgich auctioned off historic wines from his private cellar including a 1943 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, wines he made at Chateau Montelena, Beaulieu Vineyard under André Tchelistcheff, and special selections from Grgich Hills Cellar. Other auction items included 12 of the last remaining bottles of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from the 1976 Paris Tasting. The silent auction raised over $50,000, which is going to establish the Miljenko “Mike” Grgich Scholarship for Professional Wine Studies at the CIA.
In 1996, he returned to his native Croatia and opened a new winery, Grgich Vina, to make fine wines and to bring Croatia the latest in modern winemaking techniques. “When I was a student in Croatia I dreamed of coming to California to make wine. I’m grateful for the people who helped me along the way and now that I’ve achieved my wildest dreams, I wanted to help the next generation achieve their own dreams by starting a foundation for professional wine studies,” said Grgich.
Today, Grgich Hills has all five vineyards being farmed organically and over 100 acres farmed bio-dynamically. Grgich continues to oversee Grgich Hills Cellar; he chooses to stay small and to focus on improving the quality of the vineyards and wines.
Donations to the Miljenko “Mike” Grgich Scholarship for Professional Wine Studies are still being accepted. To find out how to contribute, please contact Pam Harter at the winery, 707.963.2784.
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