I saved this wine. Saved and saved and saved until I was so antsy to try it, I basically threw a party for it. Ok, not really. But it was two good friends’ birthday and I wanted to pour a wine that a) represents a specific piece of California wine country and a piece of California history and b) showcases all that I’ve learned and come to appreciate during my latest wine studies. Who better than Grgich? What better than a Napa Cab? Flatout — no one and nothing.

Winery History: Because I’ve taken the time to write (somewhat extensively) about the history of Grgich on two of my previous Grgich Hills Estate posts, I’m going to take a moment here to address the “Hills” portion of Grgich Hills. It’s almost unfortunate that the name is written how it is because it sounds like Grgich’s Estate is on the hills of Napa and hence “Grgich Hills.” But, as one of my readers aptly pointed out, we cannot forget about Austin Hills when we talk about Grgich wine.

Austin E. Hills is a descendant of Austin Hills, owner, founder, and successful operator of Hills Bros. Coffee company founded in San Francisco in 1878. Because of his family business, our current Mr. Hills got his education in business, receiving his B.A. degree from Stanford University and his M.B.A. from Columbia University. After working his way up the family business ladder, he decided to take a complete left turn and start his own wine label in 1975. After Mike Grgich’s reputation sky-rocketed from the Judgement of Paris in 1976, Hills approached Grgich with a business plan. Having just sold Hills Bros. Coffee, Hills was ready to fully invest in a world-class wine venture. Having established his name as a world-class winemaker, Grgich was ready to start his own label. Fate.

Fun Fact: “The partners shared equal billing on the label and in the lower right and left hand corners of the label through the depiction of the checkerboard crest of Croatia, Mike’s homeland, and the rearing horse of the Hills’ family crest.”

About the Wine: Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Most of the grapes come from their Yountville vineyard, “the heart of our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon,” with a few select lots from the Rutherford and Calistoga vineyards as well.

Each lot is aged separately using indigenous yeast for fermentation and several months of skin contact during that initial fermentation process. The blended wine then moves to French oak barrels (60% new) to age for 21 months,

Flavor Profile: Love the pour of this wine: dark, inky, velvety, almost sexy. Take a deep breath in on your first whiff: it’ll warm you from the inside with those intense dark aromas of black currants, plums, figs, black cherries — all at the peak of ripeness. Swirl and sniff again moving your nose around the glass: an earthy, vegetative quality will come through — dry but fertile soil, mushrooms, and the dark leafy greens of a jungle. Take a sip and even a small sip will overwhelm you with the intensity and the density of this wine.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a heavy wine, but it is a wine with a voluptuous body — that is for certain. Oh those dark fruits just burst forward and envelope the tongue, while that earthy fragrance balances in conjunction. And then the finish — the hit of tannin, the hit of funk, the hit of “this is Napa Valley terroir.” Your tongue will be left enveloped in a warm coat of wine, comforting yet engaging — you’ll be reaching for a second sip just to re-live the experience, find further nuances, and appreciate that even this young wine can taste like a legend.

Food Pairing: For me there’s only one answer to this category and it’s a seared fillet mignon, cooked med-rare, topped with a red wine jus. What better accompaniment than roasted marbled potatoes — their natural “buttery” quality will enhance that homey comfort. Try to parallel the balance of juice and earth in the wine with your food pairing.

I also urge you to have something fresh, herbaceous, green on the side (a simple salad will do it) to bring forward that vegetative quality in the wine that really requires deep breathing and concentration when sipping it on its own. (NOTE: I would steer clear of power greens like spinach and kale, as they may fight with the tannin texture on the tongue.)

More Info: I received this bottle of Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon as a sample for review (thank you kindly!) (Suggested Retail: $69). If you haven’t yet read my previous reviews of the Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay and the Grgich Hills Estate Fumé Blanc, please do so.

Of course for more information about Grgich Hills Estate, where to purchase their wines, or to purchase wines directly, please do visit the Grgich Hills website.

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