|Scott Lewis plays the Zinfandel card with Mike Grgich|
|Mike Grgich recalls slower times under the Croatian "fig tree"|
Mike was miserable, though, under communist rule in Yugoslavia. So, in 1954 in search of freedom, he fled to West Germany and then made his way to Canada. But his dream destination was always America. A professor in Zagreb had told him that California was paradise, and he had long been inspired by stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller. In 1958, Mike finally made it: with one small suitcase he arrived in the Napa Valley. Immediately he 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, fifteen California winemakers proclaimed ours to be the best Cabernet in all of California." In 1972, Mike joined Chateau Montelena as winemaker and limited partner. Four years later the success of his Chardonnay winning the Paris Tasting led to fulfilling his life long dream of owning his own winery. In 1977, joining forces with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. Coffee family, Mike created Grgich Hills Cellar, located in Rutherford, the heart of the Napa Valley. The following year, Mike scored another huge victory in "The Great Chicago Showdown." There, 221 Chardonnays were brought together for a historic first, the largest blind tasting ever held of wines made from a single varietal. And Mike's Grgich Hills 1977 Chardonnay emerged triumphant with a first place ribbon. Mike later became affectionately known as the "King of Chardonnay."
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. As Mike explains, "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 realized 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."
|Chef Bob Hurley & Slow Living Radio Host Sally James |
Wrestle Australian Lobsters!