Grgich Hills Estate celebrated its 40th anniversary this weekend. The winery was established by Mike Grgich and Austin Hills in 1977, and was Grgich’s breakout after the Judgment of Paris in 1976. That was the famous tasting in which the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay, which Grgich crafted, bested some of Burgundy’s best chardonnays as judged by a panel of top French tasters. In the four decades since, Grgich Hills has been a steady producer of top quality Napa chardonnay, sauvignon blanc (labeled as Fumé Blanc) and cabernet sauvignon.
I was not able to attend the celebration at the winery, but I did have the privilege of interviewing Mike Grgich last year for my feature in The Washington Post on the 40th anniversary of the Paris tasting. We met in Grgich’s old house just north of Yountville, in Napa Valley, which the winery still owns. When I arrived, Grgich, who is well over 90 and walks with difficulty due to spinal stenosis caused by a winery accident, serenaded me with “You Are My Sunshine.” As a writer, I’ve been buttered up and slathered in lard in many ways, but this was the only time I’ve been serenaded by a Napa Valley legend.
Since I wasn’t able to be at the winery celebration, I opened the Grgich Hills 40th Anniversary Chardonnay 2014 to toast the occasion. The winery had sent me a sample of this wine, which is rich and opulent with roasted stone fruit flavors and great acidity to balance its richness. The new oak is quite generous, more so than on most Grgich Hills chardonnays, I believe. So this 40th anniversary Chardonnay may be even better for the 45th anniversary, after the new oak integrates a bit better. But the great fruit we have come to expect from Grgich Hills is there, with an opulent mouthfeel and great finish.
Happy anniversary, Mike!