Friday, May 14, 2010
Location:      Rutherford, Napa
Temp:         75 F overcast that burned off  
                    around 11:00 AM   
My meeting was in the late morning hour of a partially cloudy day that became sunny by early noon.  I met
with Marc Basso, Tasting Room Manager and Ken Morris, the Communications and Marketing Manager.
Just set-off the St. Helena Highway in Rutherford.  I noticed the early blooming of Chardonnay buds
flowering deep green as they were hidden between the leaves.  For their visitors benefit, they have planted
a few rows of different varietals of fruit to compare and observe.  The sun was breaking through the thick
clouds and it looked like it might turn out to be a nice day after all. I followed Marc and Ken through the
public tasting bar into the cellar and to the barrel storage facility.  The front part of the building, slightly
higher temperature then the adjacent room, housed the different red varietals.  Oak barrels were stacked
as if in hibernation as they evolve through their slow aging process.  We walked on to the back of the
facility where the white varietals were stored in oak barrels for fermentation / aging.  Racking is determined
by the winemaker/vineyard manager, Ivo, as needed.  As well as their stirring method, which Marc
demonstrated by walking up to an oak barrel placed on it's side which contained Chardonnay.  He quickly
turned it halfway in each direction and I was able to see the disturbance of the sediment due to the barrels
see-through bottom as it quickly clouded the wine.   
2006 Carneros Selection Chardonnay: Flavors of mineral, citrus and honey with a long nutty finish.  

2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel: Grown in Calistoga this wine offers flavors of strawberries, raspberries, plums and light spice.

2007 Miljenko's Old Vines Zinfandel: Nice, dark ruby color with rich flavors of ripe fruits and coffee on the finish.

2005 Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon: Aged for 27 months, aromas of dark chocolate, ripe cherries, blackberries with a hint of spice.

2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherries on the nose with hints of licorice and a long finish.  In my opinion, it needs some lay down time or a few hours to
air out.

2006 Violetta Late Harvest: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, go into making this refreshing wine.  Ripe apples, white peaches and honey.    
Great to be paired with Creme Brulee.

I did not have the opportunity to personally meet with either Mike Grgich or Ivo Jeramaz.  I mentioned my interest in having a special format bottle in the coming months for
our members.  Marc welcomed the idea and stated that Mike Grgich will sign each of the bottles and personalize them.  The question is, what wine/vintage and bottle
format, I'm still working on that.  My observation of Grgich Hills Estate is that this is a working winery where they use Biodynamic methods in their wine production.  They
rely on old world wine making techniques, you will not find state of the art irrigation systems with measuring devices to water the vines in this vineyard or likewise
technology.   As a matter of fact you will not find any irrigation system.  Grgich Hills Estate implements dry farming.  There is the experience and knowledge of Mike Grgich's
dedication and passion along with Ivo's assistance in making fine wine in the European spirit which is held in the hearts of all at Grgich Hills Estate.  They are always
monitoring, tasting, adjusting and remain dedicated to their mission of producing good wine. 'Till next time.                                                                               

Cheers!
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I went in with the perceived notion that started it all for California wine country.  After all, he was the
winemaker at Chateau Montelena during the famous Judgement in Paris almost 34 years ago, where the
Chardonnay crafted by Mike Grgich and 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon California
upstarts beat such fabled California upstarts beat such fabled producers as Mouton-Rothschild,
Meursault-Charmes and Haut-Brion.  For the very first time the wine establishments rooted in Europe and
the East Coast began to take California producers seriously.  
At the other end of the cellar, he pointed out their bottling line, which has the capability to fill 3 sizes; 375ml, 750ml. 1.5L(magnum).  All other larger bottle formats are filled
manually.  As stated by Marc and Ken, winemaking techniques are done in accordance with old world tradition.  I guess it explains, Mike Grgich's style of his Chardonnay.  
To favor the style of a French Montrachet with less oak characteristics.  There is no malolactic fermentation process for his Chardonnay, which I found surprising because I
thought that the Carneros Selection Chardonnay was creamy and buttery.
Ken (left), Me (center), Marc (right)
See-through bottom,
oak barrel containing
Chardonnay
Oak barrel
storage room
Automated bottling line
Oak barrels, As
you can see
this is a
working winery
Grgich Hills Estate, Winery
For The Distinctive Epicurean and Wine Enthusiast
Chef   & Vintner
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