If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I’m a big fan of Grgich Hills wine. I’m particularly partial to their Cabernets, which I find put the intimidating “Napa Cab” stereotypes to rest. But their Zinfandels come in at a close second. Last year’s vintage had me taken aback, as the Zinfandel’s disparate flavors and textures seemed to, in the end, create a seamless journey. This year, those flavors and textures seem to come together creating a rounder, fuller-figured wine, a more cyclical story — and quite an enjoyable drinking experience.
There was a time when I was very much intimidated by the name Grgich Hills, thinking I was not worthy of the wines produced. After all, there’s a lot of Napa fame and history behind the label. But I dipped my toe, sunk my teeth, no — wetted my palate with the 2014 Fumé Blanc, was taken aback by the 2013 Estate Chardonnay, and pretty much threw a party in honor of the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. What I’ve come to learn is that Grgich Hills can and does produce fun and affordable wines. And Grgich Hills 2012 Zinfandel is one such gem.
I feel like everything Grgich Hills produces has an element of fun to it. Even their rustic Zinfandels and hearty Cabernets take the intimidation out of the Napa red wine stereotypes. But nothing says a whimsical night of wine drinking than a fumé blanc. Even the name has a bit of witticism: an accepted synonym to Sauvignon Blanc, the nickname was given to the varietal by Robert Mondavi in the 1960s — purely as a marketing gimmick. So cheers — gimmick or not — to a fun fumé by a fun producer.
It makes sense that Zinfandel has gained a reputation as California’s “heritage grape.” For many years, Zinfandel’s exact origins remained a mystery, or, as Jancis Robinson calls it, “a romantic thriller.” The red grape seemed to have made the trek and set fresh roots in the Golden State in conjunction with the forty-niners seeking their fortune in gold. Here, when the search for treasure proved fruitless, settlers turned to farming — and the Zinfandel grape thrived more than the Gold Rush ever could. Fields of vines flourished throughout the Sierra Foothills, and wine — namely jug wine — became a household staple and a new California industry.
With no known parentage and no knowledge of how the red wine grape arrived in the States in the first place — Zinfandel became California’s “wine child.”
I’ve come to love anything Grgich Hills produces: from their bodacious Zinfandel to their textural Chardonnay; their light and lively Fumé Blanc, and even their seemingly ‘crazy’ rosé. But nothing says “Napa love” like a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon. I was first introduced to this wine almost one year ago, and was taken aback by how simultaneously rugged and voluptuous their 2013 vintage was — all the while maintaining a certain lightness from start to finish. While the 2014 seems to kick it up a notch, Grgich Hills reputation for friendly Cabernet, expressive of its Napa estate fruit, is absolutely in tact.