100 years of Miljenko Grgić, the most famous Croatian winemaker

Today, the world knows Miljenko Grgić as Mike Grgich, one of the greatest winemakers.

Mike Grgich’s wine story began when he won with his wine in the Judgment of Paris in 1976. It was a historical comparative tasting and evaluation of French and American wines, organized by a wine merchant from Paris, albeit an Englishman, Steven Spurrier.

Miljenko Grgić, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Miljenko Grgić, photo archives by Grgić Vina

The legendary victory of the Californian Chardonnay Chateau Montelena

The real shock in the competition of white wines was caused by the victory of the Californian Chardonnay Chateau Montelena from 1973, which was made by Mike Grgić, the then chief oenologist and minority partner in Montelena. Grgić’s Chardonnay beat the Burgundian grand cru chardonnays.

Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery
Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery

It became a turning point in which Californian wines became globally relevant, and the Californian wine industry grew into a billion-dollar business.

Based on the true story of that event, a movie was made based on the book Judgment of Paris by the American journalist George M. Taber. Interestingly, Mike Grgić is not mentioned in Bottle Shock, the Hollywood film about the Paris Judgment, because he asked to be left out. After the triumph in Paris, Grgić left Montelena to founded his own Grgich Hills winery in Rutherford, Napa Valley.

His Chardonnay Chateau Montelena ’73. in 1976., received a better rating than the best French white wines from Burgundy, thus “putting Napa on the world’s wine map”. It was the first American wine to receive such recognition in France, and it became a favorite choice among many world leaders, from Reagan, Clinton, and the late Queen Elizabeth II. to French President Mitterrand.

Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery
Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery

Miljenko Mike Grgić was born in Croatia

Miljenko Mike Grgić was born in Croatia as the youngest of eleven children in the village of Desne near Metković, where the family owned a small vineyard and winery. He studied at the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb. In 1954, he traveled to Germany, Canada, and then to California, where he worked in a series of cellars.

Before Chateau Montelena Winery, he worked in the winery of Robert Mondavi, the man who created the modern American wine industry. Working for Mondavi, a winemaker of Italian descent born in Minnesota, he worked with the most current technology, which helped him make the best cabernet in California.

Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery
Grgich Hills Winery, Napa Valley, California, photo credit by Grgich Hills Winery

Grgich Hills Winery

He was dreaming of living in California and producing top-quality wines from grapes grown in his vineyards. His wish came true in 1977 when he created Grgich Hills Winery in Napa Valley. Grgich was also inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008. Housed in the Barrel Room at Greystone, the Vintners Hall of Fame celebrates the men and women whose collective vision, determination, and hard work have been responsible for the growth and worldwide prestige of the California wine industry.

Grgich Hills has become a certified organic winery, incorporates biodynamic principles in agricultural practices, and Napa Valley’s leader in regenerative organic agriculture. He uses only grapes grown on 366 hectares of certified organic vineyards to produce wines.

Grgić Vina, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Grgić Vina, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina

Grgich Hills Winery consistently produces world-class wines. Committed to natural viticulture and sustainability, they have five vineyards in the Rutherford, Calistoga, Carneros, Yountville, and American Canyon areas, which they maintain without artificial pesticides or herbicides. The winery was listed as one of the ‘100 best wineries in 2022 by Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Grgić Vina, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Grgić Vina, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina

Back to Pelješac

In 1996 Croatian-born Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and his daughter, Violet Grgić, and his nephew Ivo Jeramaz established Grgić Vina, in Croatia, on the Pelješac peninsula, in southern Dalmatia.
Mike started the winery to produce the finest wines from native Dalmatian grapes, and he concentrates on crafting Croatia’s very best varietals: Plavac Mali (red wine) and Pošip (white wine). The winery is located in Trstenik on the Peljesac peninsula, with a stunning view over the Mediterranean Sea, north of the historic walls of the port of Dubrovnik, in the Southern wine region of Croatia.

Grgić Vina, a wine tasting, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Grgić Vina, a wine-tasting, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina

Although Miljenko has received countless gold medals and the highest possible accolades for his California-made wines, those dearest and most meaningful to him are the ones he received for his POŠIP and PLAVAC MALI in Croatia. All wines made at Grgić Vina in Trstenik have been judged to be ‘VRHUNSKA VINA’ (top premium wines), and his 1996 PLAVAC MALI has twice been recognized as the BEST red Croatian wine on the market.

Grgić Vina, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Grgić Vina, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina

Happy 100th Birthday MR. VINTNER

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MiLJENKO GRGIĆ.

We wish you good health!

Grgić Vina, wine tasting, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina
Grgić Vina, wine tasting, Vinery in Trstenik, Pelješac, Croatia, photo archives by Grgić Vina

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