I visited the Grgich Hills winery in Rutherford the other day with clients from Croatia (who now live in the USA). Now most folks from Napa know that Mike Grgich is from Croatia, but most don’t know what a big deal that is in a country that was under the soviet thumb for so long. To have someone leave that suppressed country so young and do so well is an inspiring story.
My day was made all the more interesting because the Grandmother in the party spoke very little English, but she did speak Italian, so we were able to converse. She came from the wine country of Croatia and had lived in northern Italy so we had plenty to talk about. We were about to leave when Mike Grgich and his grand-nephew Ivo, who manages his Bio-Dynamic vineyards came down the stairs from their offices. They spent the next half hour getting to know their Croatian guests to the delight of everyone there.
I often feel that the tasting there is very low key, after all, the tasting room is really an extension of the barrel room with a couple of tasting bars and a little shopping. Then Lahni reminded me that the experience is similar to the tasting at Chris Loxton’s in the Sonoma Valley, a simple tasting room with the barrels over your shoulder. And clients love that! I admit to being a little jaded about wineries, after all I visit hundreds and my focus is often on the hospitality experience. For me the historic architecture, or the innovative facilities are the most interesting, but I am reminded that for the typical visitors barrels and tanks and the smell of fermentation are not everyday things.
The Grgich vineyards are BioDynamic, a natural system that works with the cycles of nature in a conscious way. It is not very far from the method that Mike Grgich learned as a young boy from his Grandfather in Croatia. It is very easy for farmers steeped in the chemical industry’s propaganda to think that previous farmers were ignorant rubes, who could barely scrape together a living from the bare earth.
The reality is that humanity is part of nature, and lives in a synergistic relationship with plants and other animals. The oldest book in the world is a 5000 year old Chinese herbal manual. Anyone who has every seriously studied anatomy, physiology or botany knows that as much as we research, living systems are always more complicated and remarkable than we can conceive. The whole idea of magic is that there are forces at work beyond our perceptions. Before Marconi radio waves would have been considered magic as would most of Astrophysics.
With as much as we know, what else in our universe is beyond our current perception? We may not understand completely how they work and yet the results are significant. The actions that winemakers take to make great wine are always done based on experience and with hope for the future. Ivo asked me something interesting, if the wineries that use chemical are so great why don’t they advertise that in their publicity? When a vineyard is organic they gain uber points with the green consumer. But when vineyards use chemicals they keep it to themselves. It makes you think.
Call 707-235-2648 for Tours, Books & Seminars Copyright Ralph & Lahni de Amicis 2013 All tasting fees, hours, wine lists, etc are subject to change.