Mike Grgich (born Miljenko Grgić on April 1, 1923 in Desne) is a Croatian American winemaker in California. He was born into a winemaking family in the town of Desne on Croatia’s coastal region of Dalmatia. He is notable for being the winemaker behind the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that bested several white Burgundy wines in the wine tasting event that became known as the Judgement of Paris. In recognition of his contributions to the wine industry, Grgich was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame on March 7, 2008. The tribute comes at the same time that Grgich is celebrating his 50th vintage of winemaking in the Napa Valley.
He attended the University of Zagreb Faculty of Agriculture, where he studied viticulture and enology. However, he learned about California and wanted to leave the then-Yugoslavia to become a winemaker there. In 1954, he left communist Yugoslavia to West Germany, obtaining a fellowship to study there. From there he emigrated to Canada and upon finally receiving a job offer from a winery in California, Grgich was able to go there.
After working at a number of wineries in the Napa Valley — including Souverain Winery, Christian Brothers Cellars, Beaulieu Vineyard (working alongside André Tchelistcheff), and Robert Mondavi — Grgich became the winemaker and limited partner at Chateau Montelena. His 1973 vintage Chardonnay was selected for competition in the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, where it was ranked the number one white wine. A dramatized version of the story is told in the 2008 film Bottle Shock. Bottle Shock does not mention Mike Grgich.
This success permitted Grgich (with business partner Austin Hills of Hills Brothers Coffee) to establish his own winery, Grgich Hills Cellar in Rutherford, California. The winery, which changed names to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006, owns 366 acres (148 ha) of vineyards and produces 70,000 cases of wine each year. Its very first vintage won the Great Chardonnay Showdown, with 221 competitors from countries around the world.