In the Vintner Hall of Fame of American winemakers with iconic names like Mondavi, Winiarski, and Tchelistcheff, another name – Grgich, stands out as living legend status for having elevated the global reputation of Napa Valley with his Chardonnay’s triumph at the Judgement at Paris. That stunning feat in 1976, along with Winiarski’s winning Cabernet Sauvignon, in one fell swoop won California a starring role on the world’s wine stage.
When Miljenko ‘Mike” Grgich came to California in the 1950’s to work in Napa Valley wine he was struck by his observation that one of the common varieties of red grapes that were growing in many vineyards in Napa Valley – Zinfandel – were very similar to the variety that was common in his homeland of the Dalmatian Coast. Eventually, with Grgich’s support and through genetic studies by U.C. Davis and the University of Zagreb, Grgich was proved right, and Zinfandel has been identified as identical to an ancient native grape of Croatia – Crljenak Kastelanski.
And when Grgich founded his winery and vineyards in Rutherford along with grape grower and coffee businessman Austin Hills, Zinfandel was chosen along with Chardonnay and Riesling to be the winery’s specialties.
Today the family-operated winery’s President is Mike’s daughter Violet, and the farming of the 366 acres of estate vineyards and the winemaking are directed Mike Grgich’s nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, who has become an outspoken proponent of organic viticulture and is one of Zinfandel’s most respected authorities.