There are certain producers whose name must be included when discussing Napa Valley’s rise to prominence in the wine world. Grgich Hill Cellars is on the shortlist. Back in the ‘70s, founder Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Chateau Montelana. It was Mike who produced the 1973 Chardonnay that ultimately won the Paris Tasting in 1976. Up against many French wines, Chateau Montelena won that day. But really it was Napa Valley as a whole that was the beneficiary, and Mike’s wine was what captured the prize. A year later, Grgich Hills Estate was born.
40 years after that tasting in Paris, Mike Grgich’s name is one of the few that must be mentioned in the same breath as Robert Mondavi when discussing the most important people in Napa Valley history. Grgich Hills has continued to make world class wines that speak strongly of their Napa Valley origins. Here’s a look at three of their current releases. These are wines that are available around the country and offer a peek into why Napa Valley is one of the greatest wine-growing regions in the world – not to mention why Mike Grgich is one of the most legendary figures to make wine there.
Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay ($43)
The fruit for this wine came from Estate Vineyards in American Canyon and Carneros. It’s composed entirely of Chardonnay. It was fermented and aged in French oak over a period of 10 months in a combination of new (40%) and neutral (60%) oak. 30,300 cases were produced. From the first whiff to the last sip, what stands out most about this Chardonnay is the pure expression of fruit. The oak regimen provides accents but never detracts from that. Aromas of white peach and apple light up the nose. Bartlett pear, subtle nutmeg and golden delicious apple flavors are all present on the palate. Continuing spices and a host of minerals drive the impressive, crisp and refreshing finish. Mike Grgich has been making world class Napa Valley Chardonnay for over 40 years, and this is the latest example.
Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($69)
Most of the grapes for this wine came from Yountville along with contributions from other Estate properties in Rutherford and Calistoga. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), small amounts of Merlot (12%), Petit Verdot (5%) and Cabernet Franc (4%) are part of the final blend. It spent 21 months aging in 60% new French oak. 16,361 cases were produced. There is so much Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley that choosing one can be daunting. Here’s one that should be on your shortlist for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a well-proportionated wine that’s loaded with character. It also has the structure to age for a fair number of years. Dark berry fruit aromas pop out from the nose. Blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors are all accounted for on the deeply layered and rich palate. Chicory, a dusting of baker’s chocolate and a copious array of spices present on the finish. This is a mouth-filling Cabernet with firm tannins and solid acid. Pair it with equally full-flavored foods for delicious results.
Grgich Hills Estate 2012 Zinfandel ($36)
All of the fruit for this offering came from their Calistoga Estate. In addition to Zinfandel (98%), a dollop of Petite Sirah (2%) was blended in. Aging took place over 15 months in large French oak casks. 8,304 cases were produced. Blackberry jam and bits of bay leaf present on the nose. The juicy palate is stuffed with dark fruits interspersed with lighter red fruit characteristics. Black cherry, black pepper and a hint of dark chocolate are all in evidence on the solid finish. This is a classic and well-balanced example of Zinfandel that has nothing in common with some of the fruit bombs out there labeled as Zin today. A great match for a litany of foods; Sausage & mushroom pizza is particularly great pairing.
This is a well-made trio of wines all originating from property the winery owns. They each showcase typical characteristics of the varieties in question as well as the specific parts of Napa Valley the fruit originates from. Each is also fairly priced for the quality in the bottle.