Wine&more Team

Mike Grgich – First 100 Years


While the entire wine world mourns the loss of a true legend, we felt the need to pay tribute to Miljenko “Mike” Grgich.

After 100 years, Mike Grgich’s life ended on December 13, 2023. However, its legacy and significance are immortal.

His life path is the realisation of the so-called “American Dream”. California, the key goal of Mike’s vision, affirmed him as an icon of winemaking. “From Zero to Hero” scenarios, according to which films are made, are a pale copy of Mike Grgich’s real life.

However, his legacy is far more fateful than the story of the success of an oenologist who literally started out with no backup to find his rightful place in the world.

In this sense, most informed Americans are aware of the role that Mike played in the famous Judgement of Paris and the consequences that changed the world of wine.

But for Croats and especially Dalmatians, there is at least one more reason why Mike Grgich will never die.

Zinfandel in the role of affirmation of Croatia

He was only a little over two years old when he drank wine diluted with water for the first time, and a year later he was already with his father, learning how wine is made. As the eleventh child of a wine-growing family from Metković in Dalmatian Hinterland, Mike had the vine in his DNA.

However, he did not need DNA tests to intuitively establish what science subsequently confirmed. As soon as Mike Grgich saw Californian Zinfandel for the first time in his life, it seemed familiar to him by its leaves, by the grapes themselves and by the taste.

Too few people know that Mike Grgich translated the work of Dr. Peter Maleš entitled “Zinfandel/Primitivo/Plavac” for Dr. Carole Meredith from the University of Davis.

The rest is history. Dr. Carol Meredith, Dr. Edi Maletić and Dr. Edi Pejić established that the Californian Zinfandel is genetically identical to the ancient Dalmatian variety – Tribidrag (Crljenak Kaštelanski).

With this, a small Croatia began to achieve its well-deserved status in the wineworld. This stimulated winemakers not to uproot old varieties and plant international ones and to establish values in autochthonous varieties that do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The idea that world wines can be made from small local varieties is one of the most important legacies of the great Mike Grgich, which does not die with him. That idea was planted like a vine, that idea vine has now spread and bears fruit, making the world a richer and more beautiful place.

As Mike himself said “…it is very important for me – they recognized that zinfandel originated from Croatia, my Yountville and Kaštela became fraternal, wine started to unite our two countries…that makes me very happy!”MIke-Grgich-tribute

The biggest change in perception of the modern wine era

The most significant role in Mike Grgich’s life changed the world. Before the “Judgement of Paris” in 1976, there were French wines and all the rest. Here and there some terroir wine of the Old World could be found in the company of the best French wines, but for a New World American Chardonnay to beat the most prestigious of France, it was unthinkable.

Mike Grgich is not mentioned appropriately for his importance in some of the most popular screen adaptations dedicated to the Judgement of Paris. Hollywood scripts that romanticize that moment might have entertained film audiences, but the wine public knew better.

They knew that then the young oenologist, who as an immigrant came to the Californian dream with nothing and no one, achieved not only the greatest victory of American winemaking, but also changed the perception of the wine world.

That was the moment that was characterized as the beginning of the decline of wine snobbery, that is, the untouchability of French wines at the time. A victory for California, but also a victory for the entire New World.

Merits and life achievements

Wine collectors around the world keep the wines that Mike Grgich made in their cellars. Even before the historic Chateau Montelena, the wines of Beaulieu Cellars, Souverain Cellars, Christian Brothers and many other Mike’s “stops” are now collectors’ items.

Of course, Mike’s life project, Grgich-Hills Winery, which he founded with Austin Hills, has its own place in the private archives.

However, some other and different wines also ended up in the same collector’s cellars. Grgich Plavac mali and Grgich Pošip helped put Croatia on the wine map of the world.

In 1995, on the Pelješac peninsula, Grgich opened his Croatian winery and established the highest quality standards, whereby selected wines of indigenous Croatian varieties became part of the line-up of the most prestigious tables.

Mike Grgich earned numerous awards and recognitions during his life, not only for excellence in wine. In 2014, the “Miljenko Grgić” Foundation was founded, which every year finances travel expenses and accommodation in the USA for several talented students of the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb to go on internships and training at one of the leading American wineries.

Countless anecdotes are attributed to the long life of the great Mike Grgich, as well as numerous statements. Many of them will continue to live with us and in us.

“I realised that you don’t make wine only with your head and your senses. You make wine with your heart.”

Hvala Ti Mike! 🍷

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