2023: A Standout Year at Grgich Hills Estate


To say we’ve been blessed in 2023 is an understatement. We’ve had a bountiful, and alas, bittersweet year, with plenty to reflect on and energize us for all we hope to accomplish in the year to come. Here are some highlights of our year at Grgich Hills Estate:

flooded vineyards

The Torrential Start to 2023

Water is the most valuable commodity when farming in California, especially as you’re being faced with year after year of droughts and heat waves. So, as the clouds began to form and the deluge began to drench our vineyards in January 2023, we breathed a sigh of relief – this year would offer a much-needed respite from previous years of desiccation.
The rains didn’t let up as the year continued, and our vineyards saw a renewed vitality, in both the growth of our vines and our cover crops. Due to the high level of soil organic matter in our vineyards and the health of our soil as a whole, we were able to capitalize on these downpours and store water in the ground for our vines to access later in the season, when the rains inevitably ceased. All this meant a hopeful beginning to the 2023 growing season.

flooded vineyards

Regenerative Certification

Responsible, eco-friendly farming has always been a priority at our winery, where we are guided by the philosophy that great wines begin in the vineyard. As such, we’ve done our research over the years and adapted our farming practices to include organic and biodynamic principles. However, we still faced issues with pest control and disease prevention. Enter regenerative farming.
The practical applications of this new style of farming, encapsulating many that we had already put into practice, have led to a great increase in the health of our vineyards. Our efforts to evolve our agricultural methods came to a head in March of 2023, when we were awarded Regenerative Organic Certification by the Regenerative Organic Alliance. All five of our estate vineyards were awarded this honor, and we became one of only a handful of wineries in the world to have passed the rigorous requirements that this certification entails.

flooded vineyards

Mike’s 100th Birthday

Though he grew up in a small, rural village in southern Croatia, our founder Miljenko “Mike” Grgich had grand ambitions. Those dreams led him away from his country of origin, across Europe and then the Atlantic Ocean, until he finally arrived in his own personal paradise – Napa Valley, California. It was here that he could hone his skill in the industry that had called to him since childhood, and where his dreams would be made a reality.
Aside from his desire to found a winery of his own, Mike frequently spoke of his wish to reach the age of 100 – so when he finally achieved that in April of 2023, Grgich Hills simply had to celebrate! We began the festivities with a retrospective tasting, when a panel of Mike’s peers was called together at the CIA Greystone to taste 19 wines assembled that represented the breadth of work that Mike has done over his 65 years in the Valley. Mike himself was able to participate and try the wines he spent a lifetime perfecting, and though the toll of a hundred-year life had confined him to a wheelchair, he was still brimming with joy. He entered waving at his old colleagues, thanking everyone present, and even singing Croatian ballads about the blessing of life. You can find the full story about the celebrations here.

flooded vineyards

Grgich Hills Estate Advocacy

A highlight of 2023 for us was certainly all the partnerships we fostered with incredible organizations. The work done by the nonprofit Roots of Peace has always been close to the heart of the Grgich family, and this year we were happy to offer our continuing support to them, in the form of our annual Festival of the Bells. Diplomats, educators, and wine industry professionals from around the world convened to raise over $39,000 going to the replacement of landmines with agricultural fields.
Our advocacy for sustainable farming practices also allowed us to partner with some of the preeminent authors of sustainability in the wine industry. We were featured in Ray Isle’s new book, The World in a Wineglass, which serves as a guide to the best artisanal and sustainable wines around the world.
We also hosted the launch of the Slow Wine Guide, written by Pam Strayer and Deborah Parker Wong. This book showcases 400+ wineries, including Grgich Hills Estate, that prioritize land stewardship and sustainable efforts in their winemaking operations.

mike grgich holding wine glass

In Memory of Mike

2023 saw the last of Mike’s goals accomplished – he attained the centenarian status that he’d coveted for decades. As the year-long celebration of his life came to a close, Mike departed this world, no doubt content with the fact that his incredible lifespan saw him accomplish all he had dreamed of and more. He passed away peacefully in the early hours of December 13th, surrounded by family. Though we continue to mourn this loss of an extraordinary winemaker and man, we also look back proudly at his monumental legacy. Grgich Hills will continue to be guided by the wisdom he imparted, and each day, we will strive to do our best, learn something new, and make a friend.