The Journey from Croatia to Napa Valley


Born into a wine making family in the town of Desne on Croatia‘s coastal region of Dalmatia, Mike Grgich gained international respect for being the wine maker behind the 1973 Chateau MontelenaChardonnay that shined over several white Burgundy wines in the wine tasting event that became known as the Judgement of Paris at the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.

With his world-renowned Chardonnay and contributions to the wine industry, Grgich was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame on March 7, 2008. The tribute arrived at the same time that Grgich celebrated his 50th vintage of wine making in the Napa Valley.

In 2013, I sailed with my family into the small town of Trstenik on the Pelljesac peninsula onboard the Princess Aloha to tour the Grgich winery and sip the famous white and red wines.

We learned that Grichg left communist Yugoslavia to West Germany. From there he emigrated to Canada and received a job offer in California working at a number of wineries in the Napa Valley — including Souverain Winery, Christian Brothers Cellars, Beaulieu Vineyard and Robert IMG_4228Mondavi.

Grgich became the winemaker and limited partner at Chateau Montelena. His 1973 vintage Chardonnay was selected number one with 221 competitors from countries around the world. The story was told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.

Grgich Hills Estate owns 366 acres of vineyards and produces 70,000 cases of wine each year. It’s a must to visit when exploring Rutherford in Napa Valley. To learn more, click on

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