What We Say 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s exceptional Chardonnay from Grgich Hills Estate is a very special wine. Essentially a reserve wine, the 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay will find itself at home with your most elegant dinners.
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Mission Codename: Move Over Montrachet
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Grgich Hills Estate. This time secure an allocation of their fantastic Carneros Selection Chardonnay.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Wine Subject: 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay
Winemaker: Miljenko “Mike” Grgich
Backgrounder:Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as ‘the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful crystal clear deep golden-yellow, with edges that are slightly more pale showing straw hues. The wine has slightly more viscous texture and leaves behind random clusters of medium thick legs that hang on the side of the glass.
Smell – Bright aromas of citrus oil and specially lemon creme along with green apple meld with a distinctive slate minerality and subtle smokey and toasted notes. Add some spice and honey for additional depth.
Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied white has an exceptional weighty texture that is expansive on the palate along with a lively acidity that is in perfect balance.
Taste – Both rich and bright with lemon creme and other citrus flavors and tart green apple blend with soft smokey oak, slate minerality and a touch of honey and beeswax that is also felt on the palate.
Finish – Long and clean with its creamy lemon citrus leading off then fading leaving bright and tart citrus and green apple behind. A subtle hint of honey and petrol also lingers on the palate adding depth and complexity.
Conclusion – The 2006 Grgich Hills Estate Carneros Selection Chardonnay is a exceptionally delicious wine that shows great depth, complexity and finesse. Bright and fresh citrus and tree fruit that lingers from the nose into the finish and enough weight on the palate to remind you of its presence, this wine’s complexity shines through as it evolves in the glass (take the time to let this wine shine) with notes of minerality, spice and toast, not of which dominates, but rather compliment each other.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Mike Grgich
WINE EDUCATION: I studied winemaking and viticulture at the University of Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia) and then I had to leave to escape communism. In 1995, 41 years after I left Croatia, I returned to the University of Zagreb, at 77 years old, and received my degree.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I left Yugoslavia to make wine in California and eventually arrived in Napa Valley in August 1958, with no money, just in time for crush to begin. I worked for some of the legends of Napa Valley: Lee Stewart, of the original Souverain Cellars; Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers; for almost nine years for André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards; with for Robert Mondavi and then Chateau Montelena, where the chardonnay I crafted won the famed 1976 Paris Tasting On Independence Day 1977, Austin Hills and I broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Our goal remains the same as when I started the winery more than 30 years ago—to craft a wine that is harmonized. To me, that means not too much oak, not too much alcohol, not too much of any one attribute. In other words, we craft a whole wine that is a pleasure to drink.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”The less you process the wine, the more people will like it. Sometimes we are led astray by figures and numbers and percentages, but it is always the taste that is important.”
Wine is like a long chain, from the vine to the glass. Every link—every step—is important. If one or two links are missed or don’t hold together, the whole chain falls apart. That means paying close attention to every link, from pruning and trellising to applying compost and disking in the vineyards to smelling and tasting every barrel to monitor the progress of the wine.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Our first release was the 1977 Johannisburg Riesling, in November 1977.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mister Grgich. It is an honor to speak with you, today. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
MIKE GRGICH: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MIKE GRGICH: I was the youngest of eleven children and during harvest my parents would put me a open barrel with some harvested grapes. So, I was safe and could wander off and I could eat the grapes if I were hungry or stomp the grapes and drink the juice. So, ever since I was two or three years, I’ve stomped grapes every harvest.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MIKE GRGICH: When I came to America, André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards was the best known winemaker. He was called the maestro. I wanted to learn from the best so I applied to Beaulieu. I worked there for nine years, from 1959 until 1968. I was the first quality control person in the Napa Valley.
While I was there I worked at improving the white wines, which in the early days would oxidize and become worthless. I was part of developing the use of Millipore sterile filtration, which was important to prevent bacteria from going into the bottle. Beaulieu was the first in California to induce malolactic fermentation in all of the red wines.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE GRGICH: You have to make the wine that you like.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
MIKE GRGICH: For this special selection Chardonnay we handpicked our best lots, aging them in 70% new French barrels and the remainder in neutral barrels for a year. We then reevaluated the lots, keeping only the best for this bottling. As part of our natural winemaking we relied on wild yeasts for fermentation. We prevented malolactic fermentation in order to preserve the pleasing acidity and fresh flavors we worked so hard to achieve in the vineyard.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MIKE GRGICH: This is an elegant Chardonnay with pure flavors of mineral, citrus flower, honey, and lightly roasted almonds on the finish. I enjoy it with a rich seafood bisque.
RED: In your opinion, what makes Napa Carneros so special?
MIKE GRGICH: Our estate vineyard in the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, which is chilled by the San Francisco Bay, is the ideal location for Chardonnay. The grapes were grown on the Wente clone obtained from our well-known neighbor, Larry Hyde.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE GRGICH: We’re preparing for harvest, which appears to be around two weeks later than average. The grapes are undergoing veraison right now, where the acid in the grapes decreases and the sugar starts accumulating in each grape. This is signaled by color changing. It’s exciting to be enjoying my 52nd vintage in the Napa Valley.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
MIKE GRGICH: My father taught me, “Every day do something a little better,” and that’s not only good advice for winemaking but for living.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MIKE GRGICH: We hope you enjoy the wine and we invite you to visit us at the winery in Rutherford.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Grgich Hills Estate can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Grgich Hills Estate
About This Wine:
For this special selection Chardonnay we handpicked our best lots from our Carneros Vineyard, aging them in 70% new French barrels and the remainder in neutral barrels for a year. We then reevaluated the lots, keeping only the best for this bottling. As part of our natural winemaking we relied on wild yeasts for fermentation. We prevented malolactic fermentation in order to preserve the pleasing acidity and fresh flavors we worked so hard to achieve in the vineyard. This is an elegant Chardonnay with pure flavors of mineral, citrus flower, honey, and lightly roasted almonds on the finish.
VINEYARD: Since 2005 our Carneros Vineyard has been certified organic and BioDynamic. This holistic farming practice uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines. Our estate vineyard in the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, which is chilled by the San Francisco Bay, is the ideal location for Chardonnay. The grapes were grown on the Wente clone obtained from our well-known neighbor, Larry Hyde.
VINTAGE: 2006 was a cool vintage in general, starting with a wet winter and spring that delayed bud-break and led into a slow, even, ripening of the grapes. Then a heat spike in July helped the grapes catch up to a normal physiological ripeness, followed by an unusually cool August that allowed the grapes to completely ripen without dehydrating. Thanks to our organic and BioDynamic® farming, the vines remained healthy throughout the temperature swings, providing us with fully ripe, flavorful grapes in September.
About The Winery:
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in 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. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became our signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.
Today, we remain committed to making distinctive wines with quality, consistency and longevity. We are proud that world leaders such as Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand chose our wines to serve at state dinners, but we are just as proud that every single day discriminating wine drinkers count on Grgich Hills to turn their own dinners into special occasions.
As always, we treat each of our six different wines as a special child, carefully nurturing their development and character. Our main pride and joy is our Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavors and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, we also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honor of Mike’s daughter, Violet.
Now 85 years old, and still sporting his signature blue beret, Mike was inducted into the Vinter Hall of Fame in March 2008 in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch. This strategy continues to pay significant dividends. Many wineries buy their grapes from outside vineyards. Grgich Hills now owns all of its own vineyards, all of which are certified organic and Biodynamic. Beginning with the 2003 vintage, all Grgich Hills wines are labeled “Estate Grown.” This guarantees a consistently superior level of quality, and it guarantees that Grgich Hills will remain a shining symbol of prestige and good taste. In recognition of that important milestone, the winery changed its name in 2007 to Grgich Hills Estate.
Alcohol: 14.3% by volume
Fermentation: indigenous yeast, No malolactic
Harvest: Sept. 24, 2006
Bottling date: April 3, 2008
Release date: Fall 2009
Total acid: 7.1 g/L
Aging: 12 months in French oak (70% new) then 6 months in stainless steel tanks.