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Interview with Violet Grgich, President of Grgich Hills Estate


Considering she grew up under the watchful eye of one of Napa’s most famous winemakers, Violet Grgich’s passion for wine began at an early age. Her father, Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, encouraged her to spend the summers of her youth at the winery. She attended the University of California, Davis, earning a BA in Music while taking classes in biology, chemistry, and enology. After graduation, she returned home to Grgich Hills to continue her education in the wine business, learning about daily operations of the winery from her father. She received her Master of Music in Harpsichord at Indiana University and then joined the winery full time in 1988. She’s now responsible for daily management of the winery, as well as sales and marketing.

1. What was it like growing up with your father Miljenko “Mike” Grgich?

From the time I was walking, my father used to bring me with him on the weekends to all the wineries at which he worked. When we founded Grgich Hills, he wanted to make sure that I learned the business properly, so I essentially grew up at the winery and played in the vineyards. It was very natural.

2. Was wine a strong presence in your life from early on? How so?

I’ve done everything at the winery since 1977, from working in the cellar and the laboratory, to accounting and hosting visitors in the tasting room. I officially joined the winery full-time in 1988, which is 22 years full-time. But, don’t tell anyone!

3. What do you think it takes to run and remain a successful brand in today’s competitive market?

I’ve had the privilege to work in every facet of this business, starting at a very young age in the cellar and lab and then in the tasting room, sales, and accounting. Over the years, I have been able to experience first-hand what it takes to make a successful winery run smoothly. As a winery and family, we understand the need to adapt and innovate while staying within our values. Our values come from my father, who was told by his father, “Every day do your best, learn something new, and make a friend.” We all live these values every day, personally, professionally, and passionately. This creates success and a sustainable legacy not only now but for many future generations to come.

4. What are your favorite wines from the portfolio and why?

I’m afraid I’m like a proud parent with our vineyards and wines: I don’t love just one of my children. Each vineyard and each varietal is unique and special in their own way.

5. Given concerns over climate change, drought, and a changing ripening period, where do you see Napa Valley wines in the next forty years?

Like training for a marathon, we are training our plants to thrive in hot, dry conditions. We are forcing the roots to stretch deep by not relying on drip irrigation so that they can survive drought seasons. The Vitis vinifera vine (the vine you see in Napa) is adaptable and can thrive in a hot climate with no irrigation. It can take heat and drought while still making beautiful wines, which can be seen in vintages that have experienced a drought season. We are deeply committed to natural winegrowing and are stewards of the land. We own all our vineyards and farm them naturally and sustainably without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. We believe what we are doing now, not relying on chemicals or irrigated water, is preparing our vines for global warming in our area.