What We Say 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Once again, Mike Grgich sets the bar on great Chardonnay with his 2008 vintage. This delicious wine is perfect for all your late spring and summer get togethers, so stock up on a true classic.
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Mission Codename: A True Classic
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Grgich Hills Estate and secure the latest edition of their delicious Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Wine Subject: 2008 Napa Valley 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 – Light and pale straw yellow that lightens to a golden hued clear along the edges. When swirled, this slightly more viscous wine settles quickly in the glass and leaves slow thin and randomly spaced legs on the side of the glass.
Smell – Bright tropical and citrus fruit including peach, grapefruit, pineapple and melon meld with white flowers, soft toast and spice. Subtle notes of nutty almond, soft lees, orange blossom, oak and other complex aromas present themselves as you explore the nose of this wine
Feel – Smooth and dry, with good weight, this medium to full-bodied and relatively sturdy white has vibrant acidity, spice and minerality that frames the fruit perfectly and lingers long into the finish.
Taste – Layers of tart and fresh fruit including pink grapefruit, pineapple tart pear and white peach linger with soft toast, spice and lingering dry minerals. The complex aromas from the nose also make their presence known on the palate.
Finish – Extremely long and crisp with its tangy and vibrant acidity and minerality lingering and inviting another sip as the tart and fresh tropical fruit and other flavors fade.
Conclusion – The 2008 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay is a delicious wine that unlike many California Chardonnay does not undergo any malolactic fermentation resulting in a fresh, vibrant and racy wine that is exceptional with all sorts of good. We paired this delicious wine with a wilted romaine salad topped with roasted strawberry vinaigrette and pine nuts and linguine with spinach, lobster and an artichoke turmeric cream sauce. Enjoy this wine tonight or for the next four to five years.
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 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: Since the Chardonnay that I crafted at Chateau Montelena won the 1976 Paris Tasting, I’ve been known for Chardonnay. Following the classic style that I established when we began in 1977, we did not allow our Chardonnay to undergo malolactic fermentation.
AGENT RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MIKE GRGICH: Match this Chardonnay’s elegant style with poached salmon, roasted chicken, grilled pork, or creamy cheeses.
AGENT RED: In your opinion, what makes your vineyards so special?
MIKE GRGICH: We grow our Chardonnay in our American Canyon and Carneros vineyards in the southern tip of Napa Valley, not far from San Pablo Bay, which spills into the San Francisco Bay. The cool maritime breezes and fog allow the grapes to slowly ripen to develop complex flavors while maintaining a pleasing natural acidity that is impossible to achieve in warmer areas.
AGENT RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE GRGICH: We are evaluating the lots of our 2010 Chardonnay to make the first blend of this wine. This involves racking the wine and then cleaning around 1,000 barrels, so it’s big project. In the vineyard, we are busy cutting weeds around the vines and disking the soil to allow aeration. The vines are sending out shoots right now and it’s very exciting to start a new vintage.
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
Grgich Hills Estate
Awars & Accolades:
91 Points – Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine – Although a wine of mixed messages that range from candy to tropical fruit to toast, minerals and read more…lees, this dense, firmly built effort presently wants for continuity and more precise focus. As is the norm with Grgich Hills’ wines, it is fairly tight and quite firm in balance, but rather than being a liability, that tightness augers well for age. We would opt for a bit of patience here, and, given the winery’s track record for long-aging wines, this one seems a safe bet for keeping. Aging recommendation: Drinkable now.
About This Wine:
Following the classic style that Mike Grgich established when we began in 1977, we did not allow the Chardonnay to undergo malolactic fermentation and our Biodynamic farming created a wine that is alive with delicious acidity. This aromatic Chardonnay is rich with aromas of ripe peach, mango and tropical flowers, plus a note of minerality. Showcase this wine’s elegance with fresh seafood, roasted chicken, grilled pork, or creamy cheeses.
Vintage: From budbreak through harvest we didn’t see a drop of rain, making 2008 one of the driest years since we began in 1977. Frost threatened the new buds through April, then we enjoyed a steady, relatively cool growing season until a heat spike at the end August jump-started
Vineyard: 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 Chardonnay in our American Canyon and Carneros vineyards in the southern tip of Napa Valley, not far from San Pablo Bay, which spills into the San Francisco Bay. The cool maritime breezes and fog allow the grapes to slowly ripen to develop complex flavors while maintaining a pleasing natural acidity that is impossible to achieve in warmer areas.
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.
Total acidity: 6.9 g/L
Sugar at harvest: 23.9 Brix
Fermentation: Indigenous yeast.
Oak: Fermented and aged 10 months in French oak: 60% neutral barrels, 40% new.
Harvest dates: Sept. 2 – Sept. 11, 2007
Bottling date: July 7, 2009.