Napa Valley Icon Miljenko "Mike" Grgich Turns 90 Today

Vintner Hall of Fame inductee celebrates 55 years of winemaking success

Apr 01, 2013, 08:00 ET from Grgich Hills Estates

RUTHERFORD, Calif., April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- From a peasant upbringing in communist Yugoslavia, Miljenko "Mike" Grgich is the American Dream personified.  Grgich arrived in the Napa Valley in 1958 armed with one suitcase, a stack of wine textbooks, and $32.00 hidden in his shoes. Along with pioneering vintners such as Robert Mondavi, Brother Timothy from Christian Brothers, Lee Stewart from Souverain Winery and Andre Tchelistcheff from Beaulieu Vineyards, he played a significant role in transforming the Napa Valley into one of the greatest wine-producing regions of the world. At Chateau Montelena, he crafted the 1973 Chardonnay that outscored the best of France in the now-famous Judgment of Paris that revolutionized the world of wine.  That bottle is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with his famous beret, suitcase, and his textbooks.


Born April 1, 1923, Grgich grew up in the village of Desne on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast, where generations of Grgich's family grew grapes and made wine. His dream of moving to the US was inspired by success stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Grgich and business partner Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar in July 1977 (later changed to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006 after becoming entirely estate grown). The winery continues to receive international awards for its balanced, elegant wines and is recognized as a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.  Grgich Hills' entire acreage is certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power. 

Grgich is grooming the next generation to lead Grgich Hills Estates. Daughter Violet Grgich is vice president of operations, and nephew Ivo Jeramaz is vice president of production and vineyards.  Well-known in Croatia for his many accomplishments, the family often hosts members of the Croatian government. His contributions to Roots for Peace, an organization dedicated to the conversion of former minefields into successful grape-growing areas, have helped demine areas in his former homeland. A Croatian TV documentary about Grgich's life, "Like the Old Vine," premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.

Violet Grgich adds, "He's been an inspiration to me and to countless others for as long as I can remember. We'd love for everyone to wish him a happy birthday by going to" His business and sales acumen sharp as ever, the elder Grgich adds with a smile, "You can see a bottle of the 1973 Chardonnay in our Tasting Room which is open every day."

For more information about Grgich Hills Estates visit


SOURCE Grgich Hills Estates