Immigrant Who Put Napa Valley, California, on World’s Wine Map Dies

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a renowned winemaker who played a crucial role in establishing Napa Valley as a world-class wine-making region, passed away at the age of 100. Grgich Hills Estate, his winery, confirmed that he peacefully passed away in his Calistoga, California home on Wednesday morning.

Born on April 1, 1923, in Desne, Croatia, Grgich grew up with winemaking in his blood, as his father was also a winemaker. His earliest memories included stomping on grapes during harvest season. At the age of 10, he left his village to live with his sister and pursue education. His father’s parting advice, “Every day do your best, learn something new, and make a new friend,” became his guiding principle in life.

Although Grgich studied enology and viticulture at the University of Zagreb, the rise of communism in Croatia compelled him to seek opportunities elsewhere. Through a conversation with a professor, he discovered the possibility of going to California through an exchange program in Germany.

In 1954, Grgich left Croatia with a small amount of money hidden in his shoe and a suitcase filled with wine-making books. Today, that suitcase, along with his trademark beret and a bottle of chardonnay, are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

After briefly finding asylum in Canada by working as a lumberjack in British Columbia, Grgich received a job offer from Lee Stewart, the founder of Chateau Souverain in Napa, California, in 1958. Before joining Chateau Montelena in 1972, he worked for several other wineries.

A surprising triumph

In a moment that shocked the wine industry in 1976, Grgich’s 1973 vintage Chateau Montelena chardonnay took first place in a blind tasting event in Paris. Additionally, a cabernet sauvignon from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa emerged as the top red wine at the competition.

FILE — Winemaker Mike Grgich sips a glass of his cabernet sauvignon wine at the Grgich Hills Estate winery in Rutherford, Calif., Sept. 15, 2008. Grgich, who helped establish Napa Valley as one of the world’s premier wine-making regions, has died.

FILE — Winemaker Mike Grgich sips a glass of his cabernet sauvignon wine at the Grgich Hills Estate winery in Rutherford, Calif., Sept. 15, 2008. Grgich, who helped establish Napa Valley as one of the world’s premier wine-making regions, has died.

“Mike’s immeasurable impact on the history of Napa Valley and the wine world cannot be overstated,” stated Napa Valley Vintners, a trade group, in a tribute to Grgich. “We, along with the entire wine-making community, pay our respects to Mike Grgich and the enduring legacy he leaves behind.”

Chateau Montelena also expressed their tribute to Grgich on Thursday, acknowledging his significant role as their first winemaker and his special place in their history.

Contributions beyond winemaking

Grgich utilized his success to establish his own winery, now known as Grgich Hills Estate, in 1977. He also played a pivotal role in revitalizing Croatia’s wine industry after the fall of communism. In 1996, he opened Grgic Vina, a winery located on the Adriatic Sea north of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Furthermore, he established an endowment at the University of Zagreb to support students studying wine-making, earning a degree from the university in 1989.

Grgich also collaborated closely with Roots of Peace, an organization dedicated to clearing minefields and restoring agricultural land. In 2022, he received a lifetime achievement award from Roots of Peace.

Grgich remained at the helm of Grgich Hills Estate until 2018, when he passed the leadership to his daughter, Violet Grgich, and his great nephew, winemaker Ivo Jeramaz. This year, he celebrated the winery’s regenerative organic certification.

Grgich attributed his longevity to his friendships and the enjoyment of a glass of wine each day. He is survived by his daughter, great-nephew, and one grandchild, while preceded in death by his ex-wife, Tatjana Grgich.

Keep it meaningful & plagiarism free.
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a renowned winemaker who played a significant role in establishing Napa Valley as a premier wine-making region, has passed away at the age of 100. Grgich died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Calistoga, California. Born in Croatia, Grgich followed in his father’s footsteps to become a winemaker. He studied enology and viticulture at the University of Zagreb before seeking opportunities abroad due to the rise of communism in Croatia. Grgich eventually made his way to California, where he worked for various wineries before joining Chateau Montelena in 1972.

Grgich gained international recognition in 1976 when his 1973 vintage Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won first place in a blind tasting in Paris, surprising the wine world. This achievement helped put Napa Valley on the map as a leading wine-producing region. Grgich went on to establish his own winery, Grgich Hills Estate, in 1977. He also played a crucial role in revitalizing Croatia’s wine industry and founded Grgic Vina winery in Croatia in 1996.

Aside from his contributions to the wine industry, Grgich was involved in philanthropic efforts. He worked closely with Roots of Peace, an organization dedicated to clearing minefields and promoting agriculture. In 2022, he received a lifetime achievement award from the organization. Grgich ran Grgich Hills Estate until 2018 when he passed the leadership to his daughter and great-nephew. The winery recently earned its regenerative organic certification.

Throughout his life, Grgich emphasized the importance of friendship and enjoyed a glass of wine each day. His legacy as a pioneering winemaker and his impact on Napa Valley’s history will continue to be celebrated and remembered. Grgich is survived by his daughter, great-nephew, and one grandchild.

The article is reproduced from Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending

Related Articles