The awards of the James Beard Foundation are compared to the catering business Oscars, given to people who influenced American catering significantly. This week it was announced that among them in the category of wine, beer and alcoholic drinks for 2018 is also Miljenko Grgich, with his full name written instead of just Mike, as everyone in the US knows him.
A tiny man born in the Desna village, close to Kula Norinska in the Neretva River valley in Croatia, has thus in his 95th year won a recognition many American winemakers can only dream of. It all began in 1976 with the Paris Judgment, the famous rating of American and French wines in Paris in which the French themselves, not knowing what they were drinking, declared as the best white wine the Chardonnay 1973 by the Californian winery Chateau Montelena, where Grgich was the chief oenologist. A movie named The Bottle Shock was made about it, in which Grgich is not even mentioned. The owners of Montelena and co-producers of the movie, the Barett brothers, neglected him, angered because he left the winery to create one with his partner, coffee trader Austin Hills.
But, a bottle of Chardonnay Chateau Montelena 1973 is today on exhibition in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Competing with 137 million significant items it was made part of a collection of 101 exhibits which “made American history.” Not to forget who made the wine, since 2009 the Smithsonian also exhibits a cardboard suitcase used by Miljenko Grgich in 1954 when he left the now former Yugoslavia with 32 dollars in his pocket to Germany, and in 1958 to California.
The Grgich Hills Cellars winery continued gaining recognition. The first harvest from 1977 was declared in 1980 in Chicago as the best among 221 samples at what was then the largest Chardonnay wine rating in the world.
Grgich then also devoted himself to Cabernet Sauvignon, gaining acclaim from the influential and controversial American wine critic Robert Parker. Although known as a promoter of Bordeaux red wines, Parker rated Grgich’s Cabernet Sauvignons of various years with 95, 94, 93 and 92 points. At the Wine Review Online webpage, Michael Apstein gave the 2013 and 2014 harvests 96 and 97 points respectively, while the Croatian Wine Stars gave the 2012 harvest 99 points.
“Brilliant! Impressive! Unique! Multi-layered, elegant, refined, full, broad. Well-presented scent of dark fruit and spices, chocolate. Meaty in the mouth, but not overdone, finely rounded, with a notable, but smooth tannin. Strong in body, vivacious and long finale. A meditation wine, naturally good company to the finest dishes, can last much longer in the bottle,” wrote the Croatian reviewers without knowing what they are drinking.
At the end of last year we tasted it again in Zagreb in the company of Grgich’s daughter Violet and the rating remains the same.
Miljenko Grgich also founded in 1996 the Grgić Wines winery in Trstenik on the Pelješac peninsula in Croatia, where he makes excellent wines from the Pošip and Plavac Mali varieties. He also started the Miljenko Grgich Foundation which financially supports vine growing and winemaking students, covering the costs of their visits of several months in American wineries. Mike Grgich may be small in size, but in the wine world he is a giant, wrote George Taber, journalist of Time Magazine and author of the book “Judgment of Paris.” The small giant still regularly tastes wines in his three Californian cellars and watches over everything.
Translated from Vino.hr, for the original click here.