Iconic winery also adds enticing collection of small lot wines
This spring, iconic Napa Valley winery Grgich Hills Estate will release an exclusive 40th Anniversary Chardonnay. Co-owner Violet Grgich says, “This wine embodies the Chardonnay my father, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, first made for Grgich Hills Estate 40 years ago, and illustrates the advancements we’ve made in vineyard and winemaking techniques over the past four decades.” The Grgich and Hills families discuss the history of the winery and what’s next in a new video available to view below.
The limited-production wine recalls an earlier style of Chardonnay, with crispness, rich body, and refined elegance. Lots were chosen to showcase the fresh, bright, juicy flavors of crisp apple and pear, driven by refreshing acidity and a clean mouthfeel. “The quality of our wine is first created in the vineyard through grape growing,” says Ivo Jeramaz, winemaker at Grgich Hills Estate and grandnephew of Mike Grgich. “The grapes for this wine came from our oldest vines in Carneros that produce fruit with impressive flavor.”
The vineyard is certified organic and dry-farmed (a farming technique that is rare for Carneros), and the 40th Anniversary Chardonnay did not undergo malolactic fermentation to preserve the natural high acidity from the fruit, just as with the 1977 Chardonnay and all subsequent vintages. The wine is barrel fermented with indigenous yeast, and aged for 10 months in 70% new and 30% neutral French oak, resulting in a harmonious, graceful wine.
Use of natural wild yeast, the sur lies technique, and Oxoline system (where barrels can be spun to stir the lees without exposing the wine to oxidation) also contribute to a fresh, elegant wine that avoids a high sugar and alcohol content. “Personality is more important than perfection,” says Jeramaz. “Every vintage should be different, while at the same time maintaining consistency of our heralded style—this is the beauty of wine.”
What else is new for Grgich Hills Estate?
Violet Grgich remembers, “Many years ago, we had the opportunity to grow our production to over 95,000 cases but we decided to focus on making less wine and pursue quality. Today, we use only estate-grown fruit, all of which is grown naturally and sustainably and is certified organic. Not every lot of finished wine makes the cut, and those lots are sold bulk to ensure the highest quality in the wines that bear our name.”
While reducing the amount of wine made, the winery has recently created two additional tiers of small lot wines that are primarily sold to wine club members and winery visitors. The Miljenko’s Selections are single vineyard wines such as Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Rutherford Cabernet. The Legacy Selections are the winery’s most coveted wines, such as the Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay, Yountville Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon and Miljenko’s Old Vine Zinfandel. This spring, the winery will celebrate the inaugural release of its small production Rosé, which will only be available to wine club members and at the winery. The Napa Valley Selections continue to be the most widely distributed wines.
A third generation is ready to continue the legacy and carry Grgich Hills Estate into the next forty years and beyond, including Austin Hills’ son Justin, Ivo’s daughter Maja, and Violet’s son Noel.
And, some things never change. Violet Grgich adds, “Dedication, passion and hard work are always at the core of the winery’s values. This was passed on from generations of Grgićs in Croatia to my father, who taught every aspect of the wine business to me and Ivo.”
Save the date for the winery’s 40th anniversary Open House with the Grgich and Hills families on Saturday, July 29th from 11am to 3pm!