An old wood-beamed private dining room at La Quinta Club & Resort now bears the name of one of the most storied names in the California wine industry, who also happens to be a part-time resident of La Quinta. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, who founded the Grgich Hills Estate winery in the Napa Valley in 1958, lives near La Quinta Resort, where his wines are a top seller.
“We’re going to build a beautiful wine room behind this, and store lots of Grgich Hills,” Paul Cherrett, La Quinta Resort general manager, said to laughter Friday afternoon during a sun-dappled outdoor reception to name the Grgich Suite.
Grgich, 93, and an émigré from Soviet held Croatia, made his mark on the international wine scene in 1976 in when a Chardonnay he crafted for Chateau Montelena beat the very best wines in France in a now-famous blind tasting in Paris. This event, that stunned the wine world, catapulted the Napa Valley into the front ranks of the leading wine-producing regions of the world.
“For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines,” said Grgich in a statement. “We shattered that myth. That was probably the most significant result of the Paris tasting. Our victory pumped new energy into the California wine industry, particularly in the Napa Valley, and it energized winemakers in many other parts of the word, such as Argentina and Chile. They realized that if we could do it, so could they.”
Last Friday, Grgich – small, smiling and still thickly accented – praised his new home in the Coachella Valley.
“You have not only warm climate, but warm people,” he told the group gathered around him, as they sipped Grgich Chardonnay.
“I am so lucky,” Grgich continued. “I do believe in God, and I believe God brought me here. This is the best day of my life.”