Grgich Hills Estate
2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc •Estate Grown
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
EXCEPTIONAL WINE ALERT:
If you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc then you do not want to miss out on today’s selection from Grgich Hills Estate. Today’s selection is perhaps one of the best Sauvignon Blanc we have tasted all year.
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Mission Codename: Crown Me Champion
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Grgich Hills Estate and acquire the latest vintage of the esteemed Napa Valley Fumé Blanc
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate
Wine Subject: 2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc
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 – Brilliantly clear straw-yellow with light pale golden and yellow streaks when held to the light. The color lightens only slightly along the edges. When swirled, random clusters of fat legs thin out as they descend, ringing the glass.
Smell – A blend of bright citrus, fresh apricot and green apple leads you in on the nose. These are followed by complex aromas of citrus, blossom honey and flowers, soft spice and subtle hints of green, grassy herbs.
Feel – This dry white is full-bodied with an exceptional and vibrant acidity that balances its weighty feel and sturdy texture that glides over the palate.
Taste – Fresh keylime and citrus fruit, tart green apple, apricot and tropical melon flavors all take center stage. These flavors blend with soft green herbs and grassy notes, with a touch of hot peppery spice that balances against the weighty texture and bright fruit.
Finish – Long clean and fresh, this racy wine leaves just enough of a hint of its bright fruit and other complex flavors to invite another sip.
Conclusion – The 2010 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc is an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps one of the best we’ve had the pleasure of tasting all year. Great complexity on the nose and palate with a full and sturdy structure for a lighter white. Enjoy this wine with anything spicy, from Thai food to buffalo wings, or as the perfect way to welcome in the spring. This delicious white is drinking beautifully, right now.
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 WHITE: Greetings, Mr. Grgich. It is a pleasure to meet with you again. We are thrilled to be featuring your 2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 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.
WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MIKE: 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.
WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MIKE: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.
WHITE: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE:You have to make the wine that you like.
WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
MIKE GRGICH: All of our grapes are certified and Biodynamic. 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.
WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MIKE: The cool growing season produced crisp, yet rich, flavors of lychee, jalapeno and white pepper that are perfect with a wide range of foods, including green salad topped by Chèvre cheese, grilled seafood and spicy Mexican or Asian cuisine.
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes your vineyards so special?
MIKE: We grow our Sauvignon Blanc 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.
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE: We have pruned our Chardonnay and now we’re just waiting for the rain to stop so we can get back in the vineyard. In the cellar, we’ve made our first evaluation of the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and we’re pleased with the results. This week we’re making the final blend of the 2011 Fume Blanc so it will be ready to bottle.
It’s exciting to be enjoying my 52 vintage in the Napa Valley.
WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
MIKE: My father taught me, “Every day do something a little better,” and that’s not only good advice for winemaking but for living.
WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MIKE: We hope you enjoy the wine and we invite you to visit us at the winery in Rutherford.
WHITE: 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: 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
Awards & Accolades:
93 Points - The Tasting Panel - “She’ll trick you: this stunningly sleek white has what it takes to be a Sauv Blanc (citrus verve) but the weight, texture and honeyed character (a Riesling came to mind at second sip) speaks as much to the use of French oak as it does to the spending six months on the lees. But this 100-percent Sauv Blanc is a floral flirt, and her tone remains crisp and whetted our appetite with every bite of our meal”
93 Points - Wine Review Online - “Grgich Hills has a slightly different interpretation of Sauvignon Blanc than many others, which always makes me reach for it when I see it on a wine list. Theirs is slightly rounder, less edgy and frankly, more complex. The interplay of the pleasantly aggressive side of Sauvignon Blanc with the wine’s richly textured body keeps you coming back for more. A touch of intriguing spice makes it even more captivating”
90 Points - California Grapevine - “Medium-light yellow; intense, herbal, stylistic, rather aggressive varietal aroma with a light trace of sulfur; medium-full body; assertive, crisp, herbal, grassy flavors; lingering aftertaste. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.”
San Francisco Chronicle - “Grgich taps estate parcels in American Canyon and Carneros for this racy but deep-flavored effort. The 2010 is paricularly dramatic, full of verbena, kaffir lime, apricot and melon flavors, with an intense freshness but subtle weight. They’ve embraced a style that transcends the old-time moniker—as even they seem to know, adding “Dry Sauvignon Blanc” on the label.”
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. The cool growing season produced crisp, yet rich, favors of lychee, jalapeño and white pepper that are perfect with a wide range of food, including green salad topped by Chèvre cheese, grilled seafood, and spicy Mexican or Asian cuisine.
Vintage: Cool and long sum up the 2010 growing season. Spring temperatures were below average with above average rain, pushing back budbreak by two weeks. The cool temperatures continued into summer allowing for steady but slow grape ripening until a series of heat spikes brought much-needed heat to ripen grapes to full maturity.
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.
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 17-28, 2010
Sugar: 23.1˚ Brix (average)
Bottling date: April 11, 2011