Grgich Hills Estate
2009 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc •Estate Grown
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
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Today’s delicious Fume Blanc drinks well above its price-class, earning this special QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) alert, today.
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Mission Codename: 24k
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Having secured the past two vintages of Grgich Hills’ outstanding Fumé Blanc for our demanding Operatives, send Agent Red back to the winery to capture an allocation of the newest vintage of this very popular wine.Return to Operative favorite, Grgich Hills Estate. This time secure an allocation of their fantastic
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Wine Subject: 2009 Fumé Blanc, Napa Valley
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 Fumé Blanc.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Pale straw yellow, with a slightly darker core of pure gold. At the edges, the wine glints in the light when swirled. As the wine settles, chubby tears start high up on the glass, then branch and thin out as they move steadily downward.
Smell – Delightfully fresh, with aromas of green apple, zesty citrus, white peach and pineapple. As the wine warms, white flowers, soft white spice and flinty minerals emerge.
Feel – Velvety and round on entry, the wine moves quickly across the mid palate. Then, the wine grips at the edges of the palate where a hint of white spice and a lively acidity combine to reveal a medium body and enhancing the flavors of the wine.
Taste – Bright and delicious, with green apple, citrus, pineapple and white grapefruit. As the wine warms just a little, green melon, vanilla, white spice and watermelon rind emerge.
Finish – Clean, fresh and very long, with lingering citrus that yields to melon, spice, flint and the very unique flavor of watermelon rind.
Conclusion – Another extraordinary white wine from our friends at Grgich Hills! We have had the great honor to be showcasing Grgich wines for more than three years now, and we are never disappointed by what we taste. Today’s wine is a perfect follow-up to the previous vintages that we reviewed here. Fresh, lively and filled with flavor and character, this wine has a plush feel and a stellar finish. The neutral oak contributes to the feel of the wine, without imparting any oak flavor. Pair this fine white with nearly anything. Our tasting panel enjoyed our review bottles with fresh Pierogi and coleslaw. At the end of our California winter, drinking this wine made it feel like Springtime!
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: In 2009, for the third year in a row, Napa Valley received only two-thirds of its average rainfall, which reduced crops levels somewhat. Spring was essentially frost-free and a relatively cool summer with no drastic heat surges brought smooth, even grape development. Just before harvest a few days of heat spikes insured perfect ripeness when we picked in the first days of September.
AGENT RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MIKE GRGICH: The wine’s crisp, elegant flavors of passion fruit, lemon grass and a hint of mineral at the end of the long finish are perfect with a green salad topped by Chèvre cheese, grilled seafood or sautéed chicken breast.
AGENT RED: In your opinion, what makes your vineyards so special?
MIKE GRGICH: This 100% Sauvignon Blanc was made from grapes that were certified organic and Biodynamic® at our American Canyon and Carneros vineyards, not far from the San Francisco Bay. Thanks to the maritime influence, the cool temperatures and winds off the Bay reduce the vines’ vigor and result in high quality, concentrated fruit. The soil type here is quite diverse, ranging from sandy to sandy-loam, clay to clay-loam with slates.
AGENT RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE GRGICH: We’re busy pruning our vineyards. Pruning is critically important for shaping the vines to produce the best fruit. In the cellar, we’re also blending our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. We like to blend the lots earlier, so they have plenty of time to marry in the barrel, instead of blending just before bottling.
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.
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!
- MIKE GRGICH:* Thank you for your interest. We enjoy working with the Wine Spies
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Grgich Hills Estate can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Relying on naturally-occurring yeasts, we fermented 80% of the grapes in 900-gallon French oak casks, called foudres, with the remainder in previously-used small French oak barrels. We then aged the wine six months on its lees (the spent yeast) in neutral barrels. These techniques add body while showcasing the wonderful fruit, not masking it behind new oak. The wine’s crisp, elegant favors of passion fruit, lemon grass and a hint of mineral at the end of the long finish are perfect with a green salad topped by Chèvre cheese, grilled seafood or sautéed chicken breast.
Vintage: For the third year in a row, Napa Valley received only two-thirds of its average rainfall, which reduced crop levels somewhat. Spring was essentially frost-free and a relatively cool summer with no drastic heat surges brought smooth, even grape development. Just before harvest a few days of heat spikes ensured perfect ripeness when we picked in the frst days of September.
Vineyard: All of our vineyards are certifed organic and Biodynamic®. This holistic farming practice uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines without artifcial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. Our Sauvignon Blanc grapes come from our American Canyon and Carneros vineyards in the southern tip of Napa Valley, near San Pablo Bay, which spills into San Francisco Bay. The coolness restrains vigor and allows the grapes to develop a crisp liveliness that is impossible to achieve in warmer areas. About 80% of our Sauvignon Blanc is planted to the Musqué clone, which provides elegant foral aromatics.
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.
Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Total acidity: 7.1 g/L
Fermentation: indigenous yeast
Time in oak: 6 months on lees in neutral barrels
Type of oak: French oak 20% neutral barrels, 80% 900-gallon casks
Harvest date: September 1-5, 2009
Sugar: 23.4˚ Brix (average)
Bottling date: April 28, 2010