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Monday, May 16, 2016

I Like Mike - Nazis, Communists & Chardonnay

For a younger generation of wine drinkers raised on pop-stars, actors and athletes turned winery owners, the name Mike Grgich might not mean much.  Bummer, dude. Mike was one of the pioneers of the California wine industry and everyone, from an older generation to the younger generation has probably already enjoyed his wine, at some point.

A new book, A Glass Full of Miracles documents the life of Mike Grgich’s life from a relatively poor family in Croatia to dealing with the Nazi invasion of the region in World War II, to the subsequent Communist rule after Europe was divided up. Mike Grgich is not his given name, it’s Miljenko Grgich – but we in America know him as Mike, half of the Grgich Hills Estate in Napa. And this immigrant came to America and made his mark, in a huge way, having made the Chardonnay that beat out and beat up other French Chardonnay in the famed Judgment of Paris in 1976, which effectively put California wines on the world wine map. (Google it).

What's refreshing about this book is that it is clearly written in Miljenko’s own voice. Yes it has been co-authored, but regardless you get the feel that these are Mike's words - that is to say this is not a polished work – and in some way that’s exactly how it should be – Mike telling Mike’s story, flaws and all. There are many tales of life and hardship, family and joy and when Mike was finally able to leave Croatia to come to the US (via Canada) he had $32 US dollars hidden in the sole of his shoe. Has that ever happened to you? I’m guessing not. He was undeterred. "I had gotten an old suitcase, a cheap one made of cardboard,” he writes. “I packed it with my most important things along a few clothes and 15 textbooks about wine and viticulture. These, I knew, would be my way to Paradise." And no, Paradise didn’t come easy, but it did come. In our current time-obsessed age when we demand immediate satisfaction and instant validation, this story tells you that the world actually doesn’t work that way – it is a slow, sometime painful progression, a cat and mouse game with the future. I found it interesting and engaging that he went through, like many others of the time, so many different experiences before during and after the war, something we here in America don't understand as much and those experiences of necessity helped shape his outlook, his progressive style of winemaking and his humility. As you read this very detailed book you begin to realize the incredible joy of an immigrant having a dream and making that dream come true in this country. A Glass Full of Miracles chronicles years of dedication and hard work, penny pinching, going without, worry, fear, death and promises, faith and leaving an indelible mark. The end result is a story of Miljenko’s over 93 years on Planet Earth, a story that everyone can be inspired by. Cheers, Miljenko!

A Glass Full of Miracles
Hardback, 418 pages, $40
Dozens of photographs

1 comment:

  1. Great review. I'm just finishing this book up - it's an awesome look back into a unique time in Napa's history, and Mike Grgich is my hero, so I'm having a blast with this. Cheers!