2006 Grgich Hills Estate Carneros Selection Chardonnay

Mission Codename: Move Over Montrachet

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Grgich Hills Estate. This time secure an allocation of their fantastic Carneros Selection Chardonnay.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate

Wine Subject: 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay

Winemaker: Miljenko “Mike” Grgich

Backgrounder:Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as’the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Beautiful crystal clear deep golden-yellow, with edges that are slightly more pale showing straw hues. The wine has slightly more viscous texture and leaves behind random clusters of medium thick legs that hang on the side of the glass.

Smell – Bright aromas of citrus oil and specially lemon creme along with green apple meld with a distinctive slate minerality and subtle smokey and toasted notes. Add some spice and honey for additional depth.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied white has an exceptional weighty texture that is expansive on the palate along with a lively acidity that is in perfect balance.

Taste – Both rich and bright with lemon creme and other citrus flavors and tart green apple blend with soft smokey oak, slate minerality and a touch of honey and beeswax that is also felt on the palate.

Finish – Long and clean with its creamy lemon citrus leading off then fading leaving bright and tart citrus and green apple behind. A subtle hint of honey and petrol also lingers on the palate adding depth and complexity.

Conclusion – The 2006 Grgich Hills Estate Carneros Selection Chardonnay is a exceptionally delicious wine that shows great depth, complexity and finesse. Bright and fresh citrus and tree fruit that lingers from the nose into the finish and enough weight on the palate to remind you of its presence, this wine’s complexity shines through as it evolves in the glass (take the time to let this wine shine) with notes of minerality, spice and toast, not of which dominates, but rather compliment each other.

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Mike Grgich

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 speak with you, today. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay 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.

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 a open barrel with some harvested grapes. So, I was safe and could 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.

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.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

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

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

MIKE GRGICH: For this special selection Chardonnay we handpicked our best lots, aging them in 70% new French barrels and the remainder in neutral barrels for a year. We then reevaluated the lots, keeping only the best for this bottling. As part of our natural winemaking we relied on wild yeasts for fermentation. We prevented malolactic fermentation in order to preserve the pleasing acidity and fresh flavors we worked so hard to achieve in the vineyard.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MIKE GRGICH: This is an elegant Chardonnay with pure flavors of mineral, citrus flower, honey, and lightly roasted almonds on the finish. I enjoy it with a rich seafood bisque.

RED: In your opinion, what makes Napa Carneros so special?

MIKE GRGICH: Our estate vineyard in the cool Carneros region of Napa Valley, which is chilled by the San Francisco Bay, is the ideal location for Chardonnay. The grapes were grown on the Wente clone obtained from our well-known neighbor, Larry Hyde.

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

MIKE GRGICH: We’re preparing for harvest, which appears to be around two weeks later than average. The grapes are undergoing veraison right now, where the acid in the grapes decreases and the sugar starts accumulating in each grape. This is signaled by color changing. It’s exciting to be enjoying my 52nd vintage in the Napa Valley.

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.

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.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

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

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