Wine of the Week: Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley

I've been tasting his Chards for almost a decade now, and find the 2011 among the best.

Grgich Chardonnay, Napa Valley

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VERDICT: "Smashing stuff"
Napa Valley
Chardonnay, 13.5% alc.

Grgich Hills Estate, Napa Valley Wine ReviewOkay, I’d admit, I’m not exactly putting my neck on the line by declaring a Grgich Chardonnay, wine of the week. But this 2011 is just so good, so delicious, so ready to drink, it’s impossible not to gush just a little.

I like that this wine is made from grapes plucked from the estate (and not trucked in from a supplier). Those that enjoy wine history and thumbing their noses at the French on occasion, will recognize Croatian-born Milkenko “Mike” Grgich as the famous winemaker that upset the establishment. It was 1976. The Judgment of Paris. Along comes no-name, upstart Napa. In two blind tastings the Americans upset the French across all categories. Grgich’s ’73 Chateau Montelena came out on top, besting all whites. Safe to say after that event (which was basis for the smart film Bottle Shock), things were never the same. Imagine: Respect and Napa were often used in the same sentence!

But just because you were good when Elton John was topping the charts (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart) and cars were averaging 8 miles per gallon (shocking enough, that’s what the ’76 Caddies were getting) doesn’t necessarily make it true today. Fortunately, Grgich and Chardonnay are still a winning combo. I’ve been tasting his Chards for almost a decade now, and find this particular vintage among the best.

The 2011 is $42. Very reasonable given that this is from Napa, and is considered a fine wine. Not exactly avante garde of me, but I must say it: this wine is balanced. It tastes like wine, not alcohol. It tastes mineraly, not oak-tastic. And it feels clean, refreshing, with just the right amount of tropical notes to entertain the palate. In other words, a classic Napa Chardonnay.

I still have a serialized commemorative ’01 Chardonnay by Grgich sitting in the cellar. I doubt that one will ever get opened. It’s good to know that I can still enjoy his wines without having to touch history, or break the bank. All hail the King of Chardonnay!

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