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Vintner Hall of Fame Miljenko “Mike” Grgich Partners with the James Beard Foundation

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Mike Grgich in vineyard PicmonkeyMike Grgich at age 90Rutherford, CA March 26, 2014 - Mike Grgich began his life as a peasant in communist-controlled Croatia and arrived in the Napa Valley with $32, his life savings, sewn into the sole of his shoes. He was able to fulfill his American dream first by having his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay win the 1976 Paris Tasting and then by founding his own winery, Grgich Hills Estate in 1977. A bottle of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is currently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History along with his signature beret, original suitcase and textbooks, and was included in the book “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects”. For his contributions to the wine industry, Mike was inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame in 2008.

Grgich established the Miljenko “Mike” Grgich American Dream Scholarship to provide deserving young wine professionals an opportunity to succeed and to honor the adoptive country that has given him so much. His father taught him to “Every day learn something new, do your best and make a friend.” This scholarship helps enable the next generation to achieve their own dreams through a professional wine studies program accredited by The James Beard Foundation. Grgich turns 91 on April 1st, the same date all scholarship offerings will be officially posted on the foundation’s website.

“We wanted to share my dad’s success and legacy in a meaningful way and The James Beard Foundation’s mission and educational pursuits resonate strongly with us” adds daughter and Vice President of Operations Violet Grgich.

Born April 1, 1923, Grgich grew up in the village of Desne on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, where generations of Grgich’s family grew grapes and made wine. His goal of moving to the U.S. was inspired by success stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

Grgich and business partner Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar in July 1977 (later changed to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006 after becoming entirely estate grown). The winery continues to receive international awards for its balanced, elegant wines and is recognized as a leader in sustainable vineyard practices. Grgich Hills’ entire acreage is certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power.

Grgich’s contributions to Roots for Peace, an organization founded by Heidi Kuhn and dedicated to the conversion of former minefields into successful grape-growing areas, have helped demine areas in his former homeland. A Croatian TV documentary about Grgich’s life, “Like the Old Vine,” premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.

Editor's note:  Planning on visiting Grgich Hills or other Napa wineries? In the North Coast listings of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory you'll find links to the websites of wineries, as well as links to websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options.

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