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Grgich Hills, Napa Valley

New Releases by Grgich Hills are always very exciting. One wonders how this winery manages to surpass itself year after year; thirty years after the legendary Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s “coup” at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. .

By Simone Zarmati Diament


New Releases by Grgich Hills are always very exciting. One wonders how this winery manages to surpass itself year after year; thirty years after the legendary Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s “coup” at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. During 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 Mike’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world.

Mike Grgich’s reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world was established. Keeping up with it is another matter.

Today, with all of their vineyards in American Canyon, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford, and Calistoga, grown organically, two thirds of which are biodynamically grown, Grgich Hills continues to turn out exquisite, richly complex, awards-winning Chardonnays as well as a refreshingly crisp Fume Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot,.and a dessert wine named “Violetta,” after Mike's daughter.

Two new releases are worth noting and drinking:

2004 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc "Estate Grown" - Napa Valley $24.00
The Sauvignon Blanc grape produces wines of distinction in most of the areas where it is grown, wines which are higher in acid and often exhibit 'melon' in the nose and tastes. Sauvignon Blanc and Fumé Blanc are actually the same type of wine; Fumé Blanc being a market name for dry Sauvignon Blanc. In any case this wine is stunning with a floral and citrus bouquet, exuberant ripe pink grapefruit, spice, and a brisk acidity. Extremely low yields in 2004 (only 3 tons per acre – minuscule for this varietal) resulted in an amazing concentration of flavors – mango, passion fruit, a hint of guava – while retaining the acidity and balance Grgich Hills is known for. While most of the wine was fermented in stainless steel, 40% spent 5 months in 3-year-old French oak This crisp and refreshing wine is a good food partner for seafood or can be very pleasant on its own on a warm summer day. 12,469 cases

2001 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $55.00
Whoever has tasted Grgich Hills Cabs before can recognize them on any given blind tasting. The Cabs are big yet velvety and complex with a long, long finish . This 2001 Cabernet (90% Cab. Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) which spent 27 months in new French oak displays Grgich Hills’ trademark bouquet of intense cassis and cedar, followed by more subtle nuances of roses, licorice, and dried cherries. On the palate, rich extraction is balanced by moderate tannins and acidity. Ripe black fruit, plums, and dark cherries harmonize in the mouth with notes of cigar box, anise, and spicy oak to form this elegant, full-bodied wine. The finish is concentrated and persistent, with layers of mocha, caramel, cassis, cherries, and vanilla. This young, structured wine should mature well over the next several years, developing additional complexity and depth of flavor. A roller coaster start to the 2001 growing season led into near perfect temperatures and cool nights during the last few months before harvest, ensuring fully ripe Cabernet grapes with mature phenolics and balanced acids and tannins. 13,300 cases.

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