2007 Grgich Hills Estate 2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel

Mission Codename: Crljenak Kaštelanski of Dalmatia

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Revisit our friends at Grgich Hills Estate to acquire their delicious Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate

Wine Subject: 2007 Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel

Winemaker: Miljenko “Mike” Grgich

Backgrounder: In 1976, Mike Grgich rocked the wine world by creating a California that beat out French Chardonnays in the now famous Judgment of Paris. The French were outraged, and Mike Grgich earned the respect of wine drinkers and critics, worldwide. Today, Mike continues to oversee production of what have been heralded as “the finest wines in the world”. We are very proud to be able to bring you today’s fantastic Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark purple hues with a deeper, darker heart of black plum. At the edges, a fine line of lilac color rings the glass. When the wine settles – after a hearty swirl – skinny wine-stained tears move steadily down the glass.

Smell – Lush and heady, with big blackberry and dark plum. Keep swirling the wine, ad additional aromas emerge. Present here are strawberry, red plum and raspberry, with black pepper, dry roast beef and a hint of oak.

Feel – Medium bodied on entry, then quickly dry at the edges, mouth-coating and lush all around. Fine tannins lead to a soft mineral finish at the end.

Taste – Dark and packed with flavor, this wine leads with black plum, blackberry and smoky black pepper – and lead to mixed dark spice, soft cedar and raspberry.

Finish – Long finish with big flavors that linger for a long time. Blackberry and plum gradually fade, leading to black pepper and soft flinty minerals.

Conclusion – Last year, Grigich won our 2009 Wine Spies Intrigue Award: Top Zinfandel, for their stellar 2006 Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel. This 2007, we are pleased to say, could take this years prize as well. Delicious and great now, this wine is ready to drink now – but still shows great promise for those patient enough to squirrel a few bottles away. Decant this wine for best results, and be rewarded with a softer, fuller and more flavorful wine that bursts with flavors. We enjoyed ours with grilled burgers with all the fixings. The wine was a wonderful companion that even stood up to some of the more complex and spicy sauces that were added to the meal. This wine gets a hearty recommendation to anyone who loves great Zin.

Mission Report:



WINE EDUCATION: I studied winemaking and viticulture at the University of Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia) and then I had to leave to escape communism. In 1995, 41 years after I left Croatia, I returned to the University of Zagreb, at 77 years old, and received my degree.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I left Yugoslavia to make wine in California and eventually arrived in Napa Valley in August 1958, with no money, just in time for crush to begin. I worked for some of the legends of Napa Valley: Lee Stewart, of the original Souverain Cellars; Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers; for almost nine years for André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards; with for Robert Mondavi and then Chateau Montelena, where the chardonnay I crafted won the famed 1976 Paris Tasting On Independence Day 1977, Austin Hills and I broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Our goal remains the same as when I started the winery more than 30 years ago—to craft a wine that is harmonized. To me, that means not too much oak, not too much alcohol, not too much of any one attribute. In other words, we craft a whole wine that is a pleasure to drink.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: The less you process the wine, the more people will like it. Sometimes we are led astray by figures and numbers and percentages, but it is always the taste that is important. Wine is like a long chain, from the vine to the glass. Every link—every step—is important. If one or two links are missed or don’t hold together, the whole chain falls apart. That means paying close attention to every link, from pruning and trellising to applying compost and disking in the vineyards to smelling and tasting every barrel to monitor the progress of the wine.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Our first release was the 1977, Johannisburg Riesling in November 1977.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Mister Grgich. It is an honor to meet with you. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Estate Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

MIKE GRGICH: Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

AGENT RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MIKE GRGICH: I was the youngest of eleven children and during harvest my parents would put me an open wine barrel with some harvested grapes. So, I was safe and could not wander off and I could eat the grapes if I were hungry or stomp the grapes and drink the juice. So, ever since I was two or three years, I’ve stomped grapes every harvest.

AGENT RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style? MIKE GRGICH: When I came to America, André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards was the best known winemaker. He was called the maestro. I wanted to learn from the best so I applied to Beaulieu. I worked there for nine years, from 1959 until 1968. I was the first quality control person in the Napa Valley.

While I was there I worked at improving the white wines, which in the early days would oxidize and become worthless. I was part of developing the use of Millipore sterile filtration, which was important to prevent bacteria from going into the bottle. Beaulieu was the first in California to induce malolactic fermentation in all of the red wines.

AGENT RED: Who do you make wine for?

MIKE GRGICH: You have to make the wine that you like.

AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

MIKE GRGICH: All of our vineyards are certified organic and Biodynamic®. This holistic farming practice uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. We grow our Zinfandel at our vineyard in Calistoga, which is at the northernmost end of Napa Valley. AGENT RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MIKE GRGICH: The classic Zinfandel flavors of strawberries, raspberries and plums make this wine the perfect match for grilled meats, thin crust pizza and pastas with tomato sauce.

AGENT RED: In your opinion, what makes your estate vineyard so special?

MIKE GRGICH: Set in the northern tip of Napa Valley, just above the town of Calistoga, the vineyard’s gravelly loam provide excellent drainage and the cloudless days and cool nighttime temperatures are perfect for sun-loving Zinfandel.

AGENT RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

We’re busy in the vineyards, removing lateral shoots on the eastern side of the vines to allow better exposure to the morning sun and airflow through the vines to prevent disease, while keeping the western side of the vines more bushy, to provide shade in the hotter afternoon.

It’s exciting to be enjoying my 52 vintage in the Napa Valley.

AGENT RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

MIKE GRGICH: My father taught me, “Every day do something a little better,” and that’s not only good advice for winemaking but for living.

AGENT RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MIKE GRGICH: We hope you enjoy the wine and we invite you to visit us at the winery in Rutherford.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Grgich Hills Estate can be seen in this satellite photo.

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