Grgich Hills Merlot: Sipping an Icon

Grgich Hills Winery and Mike Grgich are American Icons. For wine lovers the “Paris Tasting” in 1976, which awarded the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, as the best white wine in world, is as much a part of American history as the Lunar landing and the Miracle on Ice hockey game. The judgement was so significant that the Smithsonian selected the bottle as one of the “101 Objects that Made America,” along with Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. In many ways it was the sip heard round the world, and since that day the wine world has never been the same.

Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley

Mike Grgich’s influence on the American wine industry had only just begun in 1976. On Independence Day 1977, Mike partnered with Austin Hills and Mary Lee Strebl and Grigch Hills Estate was born! Mike was truly a Napa Valley pioneer. Grgich Hills has a diverse portfolio of six wines, seeing each as a “special child.” Their wines have been served at state dinners by Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II, and even French President François Mitterrand. Furthermore, the 1976 “Paris Judgement” signified that well-crafted wine can be found outside of France, launching what we see today as a global wine industry that thrives in countries all over the world including Argentina, Australia, Italy, Spain, Greece, as well as every state in the US. Who knew that a humble immigrant to America from Croatia would have such a far reaching global legacy? I think Mr Grgich said it best when he viewed the Smithsonian exhibit of 100 Objects that Made America:

Grgich Hills logoWhen 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.

Grgich Hills Merlot

Today Mike Grgich’s legacy is alive and well at Grgich Hills Estate. The family run winery is committed to crafting distinctive wines of quality, consistency and longevity. They utilize modern wine making techniques to craft wines that are distinctively old world in style. Grgich Hills is committed to natural winegrowing and sustainable practices including farming their five vineyards without artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, utilize wild yeast in fermentation and switched to solar power in 2006. As Mike Grgich says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!”

Grgich Hills vineyards

I feel deeply honored to have been contacted by Grgich Hills Estate requesting to share their wine with me. Here is the wine they sent me and the delicious meal we enjoyed with it.

Grgich Hills wineGrgich Hills Merlot 2012 Estate Grown: This wine was crafted of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. It poured a deep ruby into the glass; juicy fruit notes of red cherries, strawberries and plums were accompanied by savory herbal notes of mint, spice, licorice, brewed coffee and a touch of toasted cedar; it was velvety soft on the palate, very juicy and fruit forward but well-balanced with earthy notes; medium body with round acidity and firm tannins with a pleasing finish. 14.9% alcohol; aged 18 months in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels. SRP $43. Drink now or cellar for ten years.

This was one of those elegant, fruit forward yet balanced Merlots that you WANT to drink. Very pleasing and easy to enjoy. I was really excited to open this wine and knew I wanted to pair it with a good meal. We opened it while watching the Broncos BEAT the Steelers. I was drinking a delicious wine watching my man Peyton lead the Broncos to victory so by the time dinner was ready I was looking forward to a great pairing. I made Bistro Steak with Buttermilk Onion Rings using a flat iron steak and it was a GREAT paired with the wine. The balsamic vinegar, thyme and mustard was an elegant combination with the Merlot. And the onion rings were easy and delicious! I highly recommend this meal paired with the Grgich Hills 2012 Merlot.

Flat iron steak dinner (2)

I encourage you to visit the Grgich Hills Estate web site to learn more about this iconic Napa Valley winery, view their entire portfolio of wine and order several bottles of this crowd pleasing 2012 Merlot for yourself. Grgich Hills said their Merlot is a “Cab lovers Merlot.” I think it is a wine lovers Merlot. Try it and see for yourself.

Grgich Hills Merlot2

My Song Selection: This article was written a few days after the passing of Alan Richman, who among many famous roles, played Steven Spurrier in the movie that featured the “Paris Judgement” Bottle Shock, as well as days after the passing of another icon: David Bowie. Therefore, I have selected the Bowie song “Rebel, Rebel” in this live tour version because it is a fun song that has lots of energy like the Merlot. Furthermore, Mike Grgich is not only a pioneer and an icon, he is also a risk taker. He had the audacity in 1973 to craft the finest white wine in the world and he did it in California. He is a rebel!

Get your own bottle of Grgich Hills Estate 2012 Merlot and raise a glass with me to rebels! Cheers!

11 comments

  1. I didn’t know about the 100 Objects that made America. That is amazing to think they chose wine to go with the other things. I am not one to question the importance of the judgement, but impressed even more that it is including in that exhibit. But it truly did help shape the American wine industry!

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