Editor’s Note: In Part V of our Napa Valley wine tour and blog series, Giana Pacinelli reviews her visit to Grgich Hills Estate Winery and offers us some tips and recommendations for those looking to go wine tasting at this historic property.
Background on Grgich Hills Estate Winery
There can be no mention of the Grgich Hills Estate without including a reference to the “Paris Tasting” of 1976. It was at this now-historic blind tasting of white wine from France and Napa Valley that Mike Grgich became internationally known.
In that year, French judges chose the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, crafted by Mike Grgich, as the finest white wine in the world. This earned Mike the reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world, and announced to the world that the California wine industry was making its claim to fame. With that, the creation of the Grgich Hills Cellars was born.
As of 2003, all Grgich Hills wines became labeled as “estate grown,” which guarantees a superior level of quality. Now at 93 years old, Mike is the oldest living Vintner in Napa. He has been inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame and is known as the “King of Chardonnay.” The family-owned winery has remained a small size estate, and prefers to focus their efforts on improving the quality of their vineyards and their wines.
Because I am more partial to red wines, I chose the Legacy Flight ( ) because it contained mainly Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately for me, this was the most expensive tasting on the menu. However, Donna customized our tasting to better fit my red wine preference.
The wine tasting consisted of the following:
- 2012 Miljenko’s Old Vine Zinfandel: A member exclusive wine due to extremely limited production, this wine comes from Zinfandel vines that sit outside Mike Grgich’s home in Calistoga.
- 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: At 93% Cabernet, this wine was my favorite. The blend is pulled from three of their vineyards, rounding it out with Cabernet Franc and Merlot to produce a fruitier but bold flavor.
- 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Younger than the 2003 Cab, and composed of only 74% Cabernet, this blend had much more of a bite.
- (2) 2006 and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville Selections: These two wines are made from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Napa Valley, which were planted in 1959. They produce distinctly different, bold flavors.
- 2013 Violetta, Late Harvest: Named after Mike’s daughter, Violet, this wine is grown in their chilly American Canyon Vineyard to bring a depth of flavor that stays on your tongue well after you’ve finished.
- If you make a tasting reservation online, you can have the opportunity to stomp grapes while you’re there
- All Grgich Hills Estate wines are aged in oak
- They have five vineyards throughout Napa Valley
- This past May, Violet Grgich hosted a gala celebration of the “Judgment of Paris” at Vizcaya Museum & Garden in Miami, FL
- You can purchase wines online to your home or business, most Grgich wines are available nationally and some at international locations
- “Legacy” wines can only be found at Grgich Estate or online at their website
I was referred to Grgich Hills Estate from a friend’s mother, who illustrated her own level of passion for the place based on the story of the “Paris Tasting” of 1976. This made me eager for what was in store. The estate is definitely, and purposefully, small in size but it denotes a cozy atmosphere like something you’d find in a quiet neighborhood. The exterior is full of luscious greenery and several different backdrops that make for perfect photos.
I found all of the flights to be pretty pricey and was not overly impressed with the wine, but I likely ruined my experience by not tasting Grgich’s white wine offerings. I found the tasting room to be fairly basic, although very comfortable and warm. I would recommend the winery based on its history, and would probably suggest that you do a tour rather than just a tasting.
Giana Pacinelli is a full-time advertising executive and a part-time freelancer writer. Her passions for writing, traveling and being awkwardly straightforward have led her to become a contributing writer on platforms such as The Huffington Post, Elite Daily and Thought Catalog. Other hobbies include reading, football (Go Gators, Go Cowboys) & eating (mostly pizza). Find out more at GianaPacinelli.com.