Thursday, February 11, 2021

Mike Grgich's Beret at the National Museum of American History

This dark blue beret, made of wool, was worn by Napa Valley vintner Miljenko “Mike” Grgich. The beret reflects Grgich’s European roots and was his signature item of apparel over the course of many decades as one of Napa’s most celebrated winemakers.

Born in Croatia in 1923, Mike Grgich began his studies in viticulture and enology at the University of Zagreb in 1949. Fearful of political unrest, he left Croatia in 1954 by accepting a United Nations fellowship to continue his studies in West Germany. Months after completing the fellowship he received a visa to Canada, where he lived for two years before landing a job in the place of his dreams, California’s Napa Valley.

Grgich worked briefly for Lee Stewart of Napa’s Chateau Souverain, and for Brother Timothy at Christian Brothers. In 1959 he began working in the laboratory at Beaulieu Vineyards, under the supervision of André Tchelistcheff, a Russian enologist and fellow immigrant. In 1968, Grgich was hired by Robert Mondavi to be part of his new winery in Oakville, and in 1972 he became the winemaker at Chateau Montelena.Grgich made the 1973 Chardonnay for Chateau Montelena that placed first in the 1976 Paris Tasting, an event that brought international attention to the wines being produced by a new generation of California winemakers. 

Grgich’s success allowed him to establish his own winery with Austin Hills in 1977.

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