This is my first experience with Grgich Hills Estate wine. It’s a winery I’ve always been, for lack of a better word, a bit intimidated to try. It has all this hype and rep around it — such an elevated heir. I really didn’t think I was cool enough to drink something from Grgich. But sometimes, just like on the playground, you have to rustle up some self-confidence and just jump into a game with the cool kids. So grab a glass and jump in with me, you’ll be so glad you did.
If you’re not familiar with the Grgich claim to fame, here’s a little synopsis. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, a Croatian native, gained international wine recognition during the, now infamous, “Paris Tasting” of 1976. The blind tasting panel was filled with, shall we say, skeptical French judges who blind tasted a wide array of the best of France’s white Burgundies amongst a small sampling of New World Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. I think “shocked” is putting it mildly when the judges, and the rest of the wine world, discovered that the white wine winner was none other than Mike Grgich’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. Needless to say, Grgich’s reputation sky-rocketed.
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The following year, he founded Grgich Hills Estate. And, to this day, as an advocate of sustainable viticulture, Grgich wines are all estate-grown, free of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other unnatural additives. As of 2006, the Grgich property was completely converted to solar power.
Learn More about the Vineyards
So it is with Mike’s elevated winemaking reputation, the all-estate grown wines, and the sheer amount of accolades both he and the wines continue to accrue that I have become somewhat obsessed with trying Grgich Hills Estate wines. But because of the level of detail that go into the vineyards and wine production, you can imagine that Grgich bottles don’t come cheap. So I always keep my eye on them, planning for a special occasion when I’ll finally buy a bottle. Well, I’m not going to lie, not special occasion came up, but I did see the price come down. The Grgich Hill Estate Fumé Blanc was magically on sale just last week. So I snagged it and I opened it — just because I wanted to. And I am so happy that I did.
About the Wine: Grgich Hill Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested from the Grgich Hill Estate American Canyon and Carneros vineyards (about 80% of which is planted to the Musqué clone).
In keeping with the natural, biodynamic theme, Grgich relies on naturally-occurring yeasts during fermentation. The grapes are fermented in both French oak casks (about 80% of the grapes) as well as seasoned French oak barrels. the wine is aged for six months on sur lies in neutral barrels.
Flavor Profile: Grgich Hill Estate Fumé Blanc presents a luminescent, light gold in the glass. The nose is so beautiful — I could keep a scented candle of this by my bed. To me, the aromas are more floral than fruit forward, speaking of soft white flowers scattered amongst freshly watered grass, bathing in the mid-morning sun. But there’s no mistaking that fruits are present because there is a distinct acidity even on the nose. And yet, there’s something in there that’s also soft and soothing. Needless to say, the scents alone are enough to make you want to take that first sip.
On the palate the fruits are soft and subtle, but you do get a bit of the tropical: kiwi, lime zest, perhaps a bit of passion fruit. Let the wine linger on the tongue and, here’s my favorite part, the softness of the fruits round out even further with a bit of nuttiness with an essence of blanched almonds and/or hazelnuts. And if you’re paying attention, there’s even the tiniest twinge of, what I call, schtank — a little funkiness like you’d get from truffle oil or a well-aged cheese. This, I can only assume from my personal experience is what those natural yeasts cultures present on the palate. And it’s something I’ve only experienced in old world, or old world-style, wines.
Yes, my favorite part is the most subtle part, but I can’t leave out the obvious tasting note and that is the finish. Whoa with the minerality. Whoa with a kick of citrus. And Whoa with the tingly touch on the tongue that just lingers forever once swallowed.
Food Pairing: I told you I opened this bottle just because I wanted to. But, as I do, I did make sure that my meal adequately partnered this oh-so-special wine. The night I had Grgich Hill Estate Fumé Blanc I enjoyed grilled chicken breast lightly seasoned with a curry sauce, served along side a butter-saffron rice, garnished with fresh herbs and goat’s cheese.
The undeniable citrus and acidity (specifically in the finish) did well to cut through those very earth-toned spices of the curry, while the buttery rice brought forth those subtle natural yeast fermentation and oak barrel aging flavors (the nuts, the toasted oak, the schtank). And of course the freshness of the herbs just amplified the herbaceousness that is the true essence of this wine.
Was it the perfect pairing? To my palate, yes. But I’m so enthralled with this wine — it’s complexity, it’s old-world style with a new-world twist — that I would drink it again and pair it with something completely different. I’m thinking a soft, creamy risotto with something salty from the sea (muscles, clams, oysters, calimari), and drizzled with a delicate truffle oil to enhance the effects of the oak, bring forward those subtle funkilicious notes, and play with that minerality.
More Info: I feel like I gave you a lot of info on Grgich Hill Estate — even more so than I usually do with a single bottle wine review. But, like I said, I’m just infatuated with the estate and the wines. And, no, they don’t come super cheap, but they are available at grocery stores, so keep an eye out for sales. Or just suck it up and spend the extra dough — it’s worth it in my opinion. I purchased the Grgich Hill Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc at Safeway (Sale Price: ).
What’s next on my list? Anything I can get my hands on, honestly. It seems that most wines outside of the “Estate” line are reserved for club members or tasting room visits — but the Grgich Estate Merlot, Cab, Zin, and Chardonnay I assume can be found at a local grocer. What I’m super curious about is the Grgić Vina wines — wines that come from Grgich’s estate in Croatia. Not sure if those are available even in the tasting room. But if I’m ever lucky enough to sample, I’ll be sure to write all about it.
Grgich — you’re awesome.
For even more information about Grgich Hill Estate, Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, his wines, his Croatian wines, and to purchase select bottles directly, please do visit the Grgich Hill Estate website.
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