2010 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc

  • Mission Codename: Crown Me Champion

    Operative: Agent White

    Objective: Return to Grgich Hills Estate and acquire the latest vintage of the esteemed Napa Valley Fumé Blanc

    Mission Status: Accomplished!

    Current Winery: Grgich Hills Estate

    Wine Subject: 2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc

    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 Fumé Blanc.

    Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

    Look – Brilliantly clear straw-yellow with light pale golden and yellow streaks when held to the light. The color lightens only slightly along the edges. When swirled, random clusters of fat legs thin out as they descend, ringing the glass.

    Smell – A blend of bright citrus, fresh apricot and green apple leads you in on the nose. These are followed by complex aromas of citrus, blossom honey and flowers, soft spice and subtle hints of green, grassy herbs.

    Feel – This dry white is full-bodied with an exceptional and vibrant acidity that balances its weighty feel and sturdy texture that glides over the palate.

    Taste – Fresh keylime and citrus fruit, tart green apple, apricot and tropical melon flavors all take center stage. These flavors blend with soft green herbs and grassy notes, with a touch of hot peppery spice that balances against the weighty texture and bright fruit.

    Finish – Long clean and fresh, this racy wine leaves just enough of a hint of its bright fruit and other complex flavors to invite another sip.

    Conclusion – The 2010 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc is an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps one of the best we’ve had the pleasure of tasting all year. Great complexity on the nose and palate with a full and sturdy structure for a lighter white. Enjoy this wine with anything spicy, from Thai food to buffalo wings, or as the perfect way to welcome in the spring. This delicious white is drinking beautifully, right now.

    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 WHITE: Greetings, Mr. Grgich. It is a pleasure to meet with you again. We are thrilled to be featuring your 2010 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 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.

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

    MIKE: 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.

    WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

    MIKE: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.

    WHITE: Who do you make wine for?

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

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

    MIKE GRGICH: All of our grapes are certified and Biodynamic. Relying on naturally-occurring yeasts, we fermented 80% of the grapes in 900-gallon French oak casks, called foudres, with the remainder in previously-used small French oak barrels. We then aged the wine six months on its lees (the spent yeast) in neutral barrels.

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

    MIKE: The cool growing season produced crisp, yet rich, flavors of lychee, jalapeno and white pepper that are perfect with a wide range of foods, including green salad topped by Chèvre cheese, grilled seafood and spicy Mexican or Asian cuisine.

    WHITE: In your opinion, what makes your vineyards so special?

    MIKE: We grow our Sauvignon Blanc in our American Canyon and Carneros vineyards in the southern tip of Napa Valley, not far from San Pablo Bay, which spills into the San Francisco Bay. The cool maritime breezes and fog allow the grapes to slowly ripen to develop complex flavors while maintaining a pleasing natural acidity that is impossible to achieve in warmer areas.

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

    MIKE: We have pruned our Chardonnay and now we’re just waiting for the rain to stop so we can get back in the vineyard. In the cellar, we’ve made our first evaluation of the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and we’re pleased with the results. This week we’re making the final blend of the 2011 Fume Blanc so it will be ready to bottle.

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

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

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

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

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

    WHITE: 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!

    MIKE: Thank you for your interest. We enjoy working with The Wine Spies

    Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

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