What We Say 2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel
Today’s wine earned a special spot in our annual Wine Intrigue Awards line-up, when it won -
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
The previous vintage of today’s fantastic wine won our 2009 Wine Spies Intrigue Award: Top Zinfandel. Today’s wine is a contender to win the 2010 prize as well!
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Mission Codename: Crljenak Kaštelanski of Dalmatia
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Revisit our friends at Grgich Hills Estate to acquire their delicious Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Wine Subject: 2007 Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel
Winemaker: Miljenko “Mike” Grgich
Backgrounder: In 1976, Mike Grgich rocked the wine world by creating a California that beat out French Chardonnays in the now famous Judgment of Paris. The French were outraged, and Mike Grgich earned the respect of wine drinkers and critics, worldwide. Today, Mike continues to oversee production of what have been heralded as “the finest wines in the world”. We are very proud to be able to bring you today’s fantastic Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark purple hues with a deeper, darker heart of black plum. At the edges, a fine line of lilac color rings the glass. When the wine settles – after a hearty swirl – skinny wine-stained tears move steadily down the glass.
Smell – Lush and heady, with big blackberry and dark plum. Keep swirling the wine, ad additional aromas emerge. Present here are strawberry, red plum and raspberry, with black pepper, dry roast beef and a hint of oak.
Feel – Medium bodied on entry, then quickly dry at the edges, mouth-coating and lush all around. Fine tannins lead to a soft mineral finish at the end.
Taste – Dark and packed with flavor, this wine leads with black plum, blackberry and smoky black pepper – and lead to mixed dark spice, soft cedar and raspberry.
Finish – Long finish with big flavors that linger for a long time. Blackberry and plum gradually fade, leading to black pepper and soft flinty minerals.
Conclusion – Last year, Grigich won our 2009 Wine Spies Intrigue Award: Top Zinfandel, for their stellar 2006 Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel. This 2007, we are pleased to say, could take this years prize as well. Delicious and great now, this wine is ready to drink now – but still shows great promise for those patient enough to squirrel a few bottles away. Decant this wine for best results, and be rewarded with a softer, fuller and more flavorful wine that bursts with flavors. We enjoyed ours with grilled burgers with all the fixings. The wine was a wonderful companion that even stood up to some of the more complex and spicy sauces that were added to the meal. This wine gets a hearty recommendation to anyone who loves great Zin.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
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 meet with you. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Estate Zinfandel 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.
AGENT 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 an open wine barrel with some harvested grapes. So, I was safe and could not 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.
AGENT 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.
AGENT RED: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE GRGICH: You have to make the wine that you like.
AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
MIKE GRGICH: All of our vineyards are certified organic and Biodynamic®. This holistic farming practice uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. We grow our Zinfandel at our vineyard in Calistoga, which is at the northernmost end of Napa Valley.
AGENT RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MIKE GRGICH: The classic Zinfandel flavors of strawberries, raspberries and plums make this wine the perfect match for grilled meats, thin crust pizza and pastas with tomato sauce.
AGENT RED: In your opinion, what makes your estate vineyard so special?
MIKE GRGICH: Set in the northern tip of Napa Valley, just above the town of Calistoga, the vineyard’s gravelly loam provide excellent drainage and the cloudless days and cool nighttime temperatures are perfect for sun-loving Zinfandel.
AGENT RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
We’re busy in the vineyards, removing lateral shoots on the eastern side of the vines to allow better exposure to the morning sun and airflow through the vines to prevent disease, while keeping the western side of the vines more bushy, to provide shade in the hotter afternoon.
It’s exciting to be enjoying my 52 vintage in the Napa Valley.
AGENT 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.
AGENT 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.
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:
Grown at our estate vineyard in Calistoga, nestled in northern tip of Napa Valley, our Zinfandel grapes are certified organic and Biodynamic. Classic Zinfandel flavors of strawberries, raspberries and plums make this wine the perfect match for grilled meats, thin crust pizza and pastas with tomato sauce.
The Vintage: We were blessed with a long, dry growing season in 2007. The warm spring brought early budding and bloom, followed by a relatively cool summer that allowed even ripening on the vine and then a heat spike at the end of August that jump-started harvest. Because we received only 60 percent of our normal precipitation, the grapes were smaller, reducing yield but giving us concentrated favors.
The Vineyard: We grow our Zinfandel at our vineyard in Calistoga, which is certifed organic and Biodynamic®. Nestled in the northern tip of Napa Valley, the vineyard’s gravelly loam provides excellent drainage and the cloudless days and cool nighttime temperatures are perfect for sun-loving Zinfandel. The vines are head pruned to protect the grapes from sunburn. All of these factors combine to produce concentrated, complex favors in the wine.
The Wine: We co-fermented the Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah to add complexity and structure and then aged the wine in large oak casks so the favors are well integrated but not overwhelmed by oak. Classic Zinfandel favors of strawberries, raspberries and plums make this wine the perfect match for grilled meats, thin crust pizza and pastas with tomato sauce.
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: 14.9% by volume
Fermentation: indigenous yeast; pressed off skins early to retain fruit character
Harvest date: Sept. 12th through Oct. 1, 2007
Sugar: 25.5˚ Brix (average)
Bottling date: December 9, 2008
Release date: March 15, 2010
Total acid: 5.9 g/L
Time in oak: 15 months
Type of oak: large French oak casks
Production: 7,203 cases (12/750 ml.); 800 cases (12/375 ml.); 15 cases (6/1.5 L)
Blend: 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah