The 84-year-old winemaker, born near Dubrovnik, Croatia, was chased out of his homeland by Communists trying to nationalize his vineyard. Arriving in the U.S. in 1958, “Mike” quickly made his way to Napa Valley and in 1976 put the grape-friendly area on the map when his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the 1976 Paris Tasting. Grgich will speak about sustainable vineyards Wednesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.
How important is sustainability to the future of winemaking? When I came to America, the chemical industry was verystrong and offering many products, selling insecticides and pesticides. The problem with that was that those chemicals not only killed bad bugs but good ones. In Mother Nature, when you spray, you kill the ones who eat the bad ones. You find out Mother Nature will take its course if you just let it go. … Sustainable farming is a goal to preserve land and the people and not to spoil it but to improve it.
What’s your favorite wine to drink? That’s like choosing between your children. I drink all my wines, but it depends on what I’m eating. I drink more whites in the summer and more reds in the winter. The joke is, a man in order to be happy he has to have two things that both start with “W”: women and wine. The ladies have two things as well, and they start with “M”: men and merlot.
At what age did you first drink wine? What was your experience with it? I know for sure I was the last child of 11, and my mother kept me on breast milk until I was 2½ years old. I did some things my momma didn’t like, and she found an excuse to switch me from the breast milk to the wine.
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