"Every day do your best, learn something new, and make a friend." -Miljenko "Mike" Grgich
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became our signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.
Today, we remain committed to making distinctive wines with quality, consistency and longevity. We are proud that world leaders such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand chose our wines to serve at state dinners, but we are just as proud that every single day discriminating wine drinkers count on Grgich Hills to turn their own dinners into special occasions.
We treat each of our different wines as a special child, carefully nurturing their development and character. Our pride and joy is our Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavors and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, we also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honor of Mike’s daughter, Violet.
Now 93 years old and still sporting his signature blue beret, Mike was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008 in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. This strategy continues to pay significant dividends.
Committed to natural winegrowing and sustainability, we farm our five estate vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, rely on wild yeast fermentation and use our passion and the art of winemaking to handcraft food-friendly, balanced and elegant wines. In keeping with our goal of sustainability, the winery switched to solar power in 2006. As Mike often says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!”
Beginning with the 2003 vintage, all Grgich Hills wines were labeled “Estate Grown.” This guarantees a consistently superior level of quality and it means that Grgich Hills will always remain a shining symbol of prestige and good taste. In recognition of that important milestone, the winery changed its name in 2007 to Grgich Hills Estate.
Mike and Austin Hills break ground on July 4, 1977 for their new winery in Rutherford, in the heart of Napa Valley.
President Reagan takes the 1979 Grgich Hills Chardonnay to the American Embassy in France for dinner with French President Mitterrand.
The inaugural release of our Cabernet Sauvignon, which is from the 1980 vintage.
Winery purchases 79-acre vineyard in Yountville.
Mike opens Grgić Vina winery in Croatia, his homeland, producing Plavac Mali, a red wine, and Posip, a white wine.
The Napa Valley Wine Train makes its first stop at Grgich Hills on July 16.
Winery purchases 203 acres in Napa Valley’s American Canyon
The inaugural release of late harvest Violetta (named after Mike’s daughter, Violet) is the 1994 vintage. The Wine Spectator awards it 95 points.
Mike purchases a 110-year-old Zinfandel vineyard in Calistoga and renames it “Miljenko’s Vineyard, using his given Croatian name.
Grgich Hills plants Cabernet Sauvignon on vineyard surrounding the winery, which is located on the famous “Rutherford Bench” of Napa Valley.
Grgich Hills begins organically farming all of its vineyards.
Inaugural release of Merlot is the 1999 vintage.
DNA testing proves that the Crljenak vine is genetically identical to Zinfandel and that Plavac Mali is one of its offspring. This confirms Mike’s long-standing belief that Zinfandel originated in Croatia.
All 366 acres of the winery’s estate are certified organic.
Winery switches to solar power, installing 860 photovoltaic panels that produce up to 142 kilowatts.
In recognition that all of its wines now come from its own vineyards, the winery changes its name to Grgich Hills Estate.
The winery releases Napa Valley Essence, a limited-production Sauvignon Blanc only available at the winery.
In celebration of Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s 90th Birthday, the winery releases the inaugural Paris Tasting “Commemorative” Chardonnay with the 2010 vintage.
To officially kick off the creation of our Miljenko’s Selection tier of wines, the winery releases the 2012 Miljenko’s Selection Chardonnay, Carneros.
The Miljenko’s Selection tier is completed with the release the 2012 Miljenko’s Selection Petit Verdot, Yountville and the 2012 Miljenko’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.w
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the winery, Grgich Hills released the exclusive 40th Anniversary Chardonnay from the 2014 vintage.
When Miljenko “Mike” Grgich joined forces with Austin Hills in 1977 to form Grgich Hills Cellar, the original label design proposed a rearing horse clenching a baton in its mouth, a colorful feature of the Hills’ family crest. After some friendly debate over the label and how it should be redesigned to reflect the philosophy of the newly formed winery, the winning argument concluded with the point that “Horses do not make wine. Grapes make wine!” and thus, the current design was agreed upon.
Produced by Wine Country artist Sebastian Titus, the highly recognizable label features a prominent cluster of grapes. White wine labels feature yellow chardonnay grapes and red wine labels feature red cabernet sauvignon grapes. In the lower right and left hand corners the partners share equal billing through the depiction of the red and white checkerboard crest of Croatia, Grgich’s homeland in former Yugoslavia, and the familiar rearing horse of the Hills’ family crest.
By 2005, Grgich Hills purchased enough vineyard acreage to source from its own vineyards. The label was amended to add the word “Estate” in recognition of this important milestone and in 2007 the name was officially changed from Grgich Hills Cellars to Grgich Hills Estate.
With 366 acres under our control, we source all of our grapes from our five estate vineyards. As an “Estate Grown” winery, we are better able to control the farming and can utilize our organic farming practices for all of the grapes. Our goal is to create a balanced eco-system in our vineyard and allow the grapes to thrive with our natural farming.
In 2013 the Legacy tier was introduced with the inaugural vintage of the Paris Tasting “Commemorative” Chardonnay. This tier celebrates our most rare and lauded wines and was introduced at Mike Grgich’s 90th birthday party on April 1, 2013.
The Chardonnay is joined by our Miljenko’s Old Vine Zinfandel, Yountville Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, and Violetta Late Harvest. These bottles boast this unique label based on a woodcut image of Mike Grgich and a traditional Croatian gold braid design.
In 2014 we introduced our Miljenko’s Selection which features single vineyard wines which truly express the Napa Valley’s unique microclimates and terroir. The first wine in this tier to be released was the 2012 Miljenko’s Selection Carneros Chardonnay followed by our Napa Valley Essence Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, and Miljenko’s Selection Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are exclusivley sold at the winery and many are reserved just for members of our wine club.
In a blind tasting of 221 Chardonnays at the Great Chicago Showdown, the 1977 Grgich Hills Chardonnay is proclaimed the winner, solidify Mike’s reputation as a master of Chardonnay.
The Grgich Hills’ 1979 Chardonnay is served at a White House dinner for King Juan Carlos of Spain
Queen Elizabeth II is served the 1978 Grgich Hills Chardonnay at the home of Stanford University President Donald Kennedy.
The 1984 Grgich Hills Zinfandel wins a Gold Medal and is named Best California Zinfandel and Best American Zinfandel.
Wine & Spirits magazine names Grgich Hills as Winery of the Year for wineries producing 40,000 cases or more.
Mike Grgich appears on the cover of Wine Spectator magazine, “California’s Old World Master-Few Can Challenge Mike Grgich in crafting World-Class Wine.”
President Clinton and Vice President Gore are served the 1989 Grgich Hills Chardonnay during a dinner held at the California Café in Los Gatos, California.
The 1989 Grgich Hills Zinfandel receives the Zinfandel trophy and is named “Best Zinfandel, Worldwide” at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, England.
The 1994 Grgich Hills Zinfandel receives a Gold Medal plus the Zinfandel trophy as “Best Zinfandel, Worldwide” at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, England.
Wine & Spirits magazine selects Grgich Hills as Winery of the Year (multisource category)
The 1995 Grgich Hills Chardonnay is served at a dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton at The White House.
Wine writer Jerry Mead names Grgich Hills “Winery of the Year.”
1999 Grgich Hills Chardonnay receives 94 points and is named one of the “Top 10 Chardonnays” in Wine & Spirits magazine.
The 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich that was the champion of the 1976 Paris Tasting is part of the exhibit selected by the Smithsonian Institute as one of “101 Objects That Made America.” Chosen from 137 million artifacts in the Smithsonian collection, the Chardonnay is joined by other iconic American objects such as Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit.
The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects chose Julia Child’s Kitchen, which includes the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay crafted by Grgich, in a major exhibition on the revolution in American wine in the second half of the 20th Century, and the book features a photo of the winning wine. The author, Richard Kurin, is the Smithsonian Institution’s Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, selected objects from the entire collection held by the 19 museums and research centers of the Smithsonian Institution.
Looking over the list of 101 treasures from the Smithsonian’s Collection, Grgich commented: “When I was growing up in the little village of Desne in Croatia, I never would have dared to dream that my wine would be in the same book as America’s “Declaration of Independence,” or in the same museum as Nikola Tesla, the famous inventor who is also from Croatia. When I arrived in the United States, I thought I was the luckiest man alive to have my dream come true of making wine in California, but this recognition far exceeds my American Dream.”