Grgich Hills Estate Winery

A Day of Peace and wine at Grgich Hills Estate

May 29, 2014 • Posted in: News

A Day of Peace and wine at Grgich Hills Estate

May 27, 2014 2:56 pm  • 

A commemorative chardonnay released 38 years to the day of the Judgment of Paris was a tip of the hat, or beret in this case, during an event at Grgich Hills Estate to also say a prayer for peace, and raise some money for a cause that replaces land mines with vines in war torn countries.

“We have the opportunity today to celebrate something called Roots of Peace,” said Miljenko “Mike” Grgich — wearing his signature beret — to guests who attended the winery’s “Day of Peace” event on May 24 at the Rutherford winery where 5 percent of the day’s sales would be donated to the nonprofit organization that Grgich has been involved with since 1998.

Grgich, who lives in Calistoga, is a native of Croatia. His homeland had an estimated 1.3 million land mines left over from the Balkan War and is one of the countries where Roots of Peace works to turn Mines to Vines.

While Heidi Kuhn, founder of Roots of Peace, works with Pope Francis to bring peace in Bethlehem and Palestine, her daughter Kyleigh Kuhn represented her at Saturday’s event where a white rose bush, a symbol of peace, was planted near the fountain of peace. In 2000, Kyleigh Kuhn, then 13, traveled with Grgich to Croatia to visit children of a school near the heavily mined border of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where land mines would be removed to make way for soccer fields.

“It was a great honor to learn from someone who leads with their heart,” said Kyleigh Kuhn of her trip with Grgich.

On a side table sat defused land mines, examples of the types of explosive devices planted across Croatia, Afghanistan, Cambodia and dozens of countries besieged by conflict.

Retired U.S. Army veteran Michael Morgan of Napa had firsthand experience with the types of land mines on display. He pointed out how each of the explosives could be set off and the level of damage that could be inflicted by them. Morgan and his wife, Veronica, are wine club members who just happened to stop in to pick up their shipment and decided to buy tickets for the worthy cause, he said.

Morgan, a huge fan of Mike Grgich, applauded the Paris Tasting Commemorative Chardonnay, calling it a “perfect bottle of chardonnay.”

An Iraq war veteran, Morgan said when he shook the hand of President Ronald Reagan, that may have been the most powerful man he’s ever met, but the diminutive Grgich stands even taller.

“(Mike) is the most important man I’ve ever met. I mean, just look at what he’s done,” Morgan said referring to Grgich’s long list of accomplishments.

A museum depicting some of those accomplishments was opened for viewing on the Day of Peace where visitors can read about the Vintner Hall of Fame inductee, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay he crafted that won the Paris Tasting in 1976, and see some of the trophies he has collected over the years housed in a sparkling glass case.

Backdropped by rows of vines and mountain views, the museum building is adjacent to a new patio and lawn area on property the winery recently purchased and renovated, said Violet Grgich.

Mike Grgich started the day’s festivities reminiscing about the rise of California wines’ respectability as a result of the Paris Tasting and subsequent awards won by wines he created and the development of the quality of Napa Valley wines over the years.

“I declare May 24 a day of peace … and wine,” he said.

Grgich Hills Estate wines are organically grown and the winery is solar powered, which are among other environmentally friendly practices, said Ivo Jeramaz, winemaker and Grgich’s nephew.

Diane Baker, actress and board member of Roots of Peace, said the organization looks to take the same care of soil as does the Grgich winery.

“Roots of Peace has taken up that mantle,” she said.