(LibertySociety.com) – Winemaking pioneer Miljenko Grgich, known as Mike, died peacefully in his sleep at 100 years old on December 13. According to Fox News, Grgich “helped establish Napa Valley as one of the world’s premier wine-making regions.” His life story is undoubtedly revered, as he made an impact across the globe in many ways. Grgich was born in Croatia, destined to be a winemaker like his father. He was studying winemaking and the science of grapes at the University of Zagreb but was advised by one of his professors to apply for a German foreign exchange program. He got into the program but left Croatia thinking that he would never be able to return. He also knew that if he had stayed and completed his degree, he would never have been able to escape.
He applied for asylum in Canada while in Germany and was accepted by agreeing to go to British Columbia and work the difficult and dangerous job of a lumberjack. However, after the lengthy journey, he ended up washing dishes for a living until 1958 when he was hired by Chateau Souverain in St. Helena, California. It was then that his winemaking career began. He worked for many wineries over the next several years but made his mark at Chateau Montelena after he began working there in 1972. One of his chardonnays won first place in a competition in Paris in 1976.
Grgich knew he was destined for more and opened his own winery in 1977. After communism was crushed in his home country, he opened a winery there in 1996 and worked to rebuild the wine industry. His love for winemaking likely influenced his decision to create an endowment for other aspirational winemaking students at the University of Zagreb. In 1989, the institution awarded him his degree. Grgich passed on his legacy to his daughter and great-nephew in 2018. The pair now run the Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley. Grgich always said that having one glass of wine each day, and many friendships, was the reason he enjoyed such a long life.
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