Fleeing his native homeland of war-torn Communist Croatia in 1958, with only a stack of viticulture books, a wooden suitcase and his life savings of $32.00 sewed into the soles of his shoes, Grgich set off to America in search of a better life. His dream was to become a winemaker in the rugged Napa Valley.
While his journey was riddled with setbacks, Grgich always saw his “glass as half full” and would be showered with much good fortune and “miracles” along the way.
The book reads like a Hollywood script, with all the major Napa Valley players of the day ~ Noted 1960’s Winemakers Robert Mondavi, Andre Tchelistcheff, Lee Stewart, August Sebastiani, Joe Heitz, Lee Paschich and Jim Barrett were a few of the early working friendships formed.
Fast forward to 1972, where Grgich was now at the helm as the new winemaker for Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, at the north end of the Napa Valley. Another “miracle” in Grgich’s life. With the financial backing of Paschich and Barrett, Grgich outfitted the ghost winery with the necessary presses, crushers, hoppers, tanks, pumps and oak barrels and replanted the abandoned vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
In order to generate immediate income for the winery, Riesling and Chardonnay grapes were sourced from Sonoma and Napa growers. Grgich’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won first place at the 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting, beating the finest French Chardonnay. This “miracle” put California wines on the international radar and gave notoriety to the burgeoning farming community of Napa Valley.
The next “miracle” was the purchase of an 18 acre parcel off Highway 29 in Napa Valley with partner Austin Hills, heir to Hills Brothers Coffee. Dubbed the “King of Chardonnay” by fellow vintners, Grgich and Hills opened the Grgich Hills Estate tasting room in 1977 and began planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot on the Rutherford site. Today, there are five distinct vineyards, composed of 366 acres with plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc.
A Glass Full of Miracles is a heartwarming story of Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s rise from poverty to riches. Another “miracle” for sure. www.grgich.com