Nature gives most people, if they’re lucky, thirty chances to make a wine the way they want to. For Mike Grgić, the iconic Croatian-born winemaker who made his name in Napa, this year will be his sixty second harvest.
That’s why we forgive him for a rambling website bio that goes on for 2,000+ words. We will not try to summarize it here except for one event: the Judgement of Paris.
Mike’s most celebrated achievement came in May of 1976, when a famous British wine merchant organized a blind tasting in Paris to promote his fine wine shop. Timed to coincide with America’s Bicentennial celebrations, the tasting gathered the best French judges, the finest French wines and a few bottles from upstart winemakers in California. The merchant himself sold only French wine and believed the New World upstarts could not possibly win.
“For years, everybody in the world believed that only French soils could produce great wines. We shattered that myth.”
As the scores from the all-French jury were tallied, the unimaginable happened. The 1973 Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich for Napa’s Chateau Montelena, won with the highest total score of 132 points. The TIME magazine reporter at the event promptly revealed the results to the world, putting Napa Valley on the global wine map, although he did remark that the wines were “rather expensive ($6 plus).”
The French wine industry was enraged and promptly banned the unlucky merchant from their prestigious cellars and events. French media buried the story for months. But one person who did not ignore the result was a certain California native named Ronald Reagan. After becoming president, he famously packed a few cases of Mike Grgich’s chardonnay onto Airforce One and served it to François Mitterrand at a state dinner at the American Embassy in Paris.
Fast forward some forty years, and Mike has set his sights on doing the same thing he did for Napa for his native Croatia. He established a stunning winery in Trstenik on the Pelješac Peninsula, and if you ask us, his Croatian wines are just as worthy of a presidential banquet.