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Meet, dine, drink with masters of Napa winemaking

Mike Grgich
Mike Grgich
Photo courtesy of Grgich Hills Estates, used with permission

Mike Grgich of Grgich Hills Estates is a winemaker who makes wine but has also made history. Now you can talk to him and ask him how he did it.

Grgich will appear Friday, Aug. 15 in the first in a series of “master winemaker” dinners hosted by the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. He will chat with guests and share hors d’oeuvres and wine at a pre-dinner reception, followed by a four-course meal at the hotel’s underground wine cave.

The 91-year-old Grgich, whose given first name is Miljenko, a reflection of his Croatian heritage, achieved his greatest fame by helping to upset the apple cart of French wine domination. This occurred in 1976 in the famed Judgment of Paris in which a three-year old Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga beat the best white wines of France in a blind tasting popularized by the movie “Bottle Shock.”

It was Grgich who created that world-changing white. No longer did French winemakers reign supreme; now they had to make room for the upstart Californians, signaling the start of an epoch that continues today in which first-class wines hail not just from Burgundy or Bourdeaux but from upstart regions all around the earth.

A bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and a 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon—the Napa Valley red that also won that Paris competition, making the embarrassment of the French complete—are both enshrined at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. in a measure of their history-making impact.

After his triumph in Paris Grgich founded Rutherford’s Grgich Hills Estate, which itself has won many awards for its wines. His place in wine history secure, he is an inductee in the Vintner’s Hall of Fame established by the Culinary Institute of America.

Other winemakers to be featured in the Meritage series are Renee Ary of Duckhorn Vineyards, Sept. 12; and Will Phelps of Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Oct. 17. Dinners are from 6:30-10 p.m. Tickets are $135-$150 apiece for an evening. Reservations necessary. Space is limited. Call the Siena Restaurant at 855-969-2870, book online at the Meritage website or email sales@themeritageresort.com.