The Elegant Wines of Grgich Hills


In these trend-driven times it’s good to revisit old friends.  In this case, the old friend is a winery, Grgich Hills.

Tasting through a selection of current Grgich Hills wine, I was impressed by what I call the Drinkability Effect.  Grgich is making elegant, approachable wines that don’t rise up in the glass and slap you up alongside the head.

Grgich hasn’t taken the popular Napa path of creating massive in-your-face wines that all too often score high points and win gold medals.  Why? Because palate-weary judges  and critics tend to pay attention to wines that stand out.  They don’t always stand out for the right reasons.  I know.  I’ve been there, done that.

OK. End of rant and back to the wines.

The 2013 Chardonnay has a racy acidity with tropical fruit and peach flavors backed by a rich mouth feel. Leading to a long finish.  It’s a good food wine as well and would work nicely with roast or grilled chicken and creamy pasta.

The 2014 Fumé Blanc is made from grapes grown in the cooler southern part of Napa Valley. The wine has good minerality and makes an especially nice apero.

The 2013 Cabernet has good structure with a rich mouth feel with layered flavors of dark berries and a touch of licorice laid on to yummy chocolate tones.  The finish is long and rich. This is a wine to enjoy with roast pork, grilled lamb and a rich beef stew.

The 2012 Zinfandel is from a vineyard near Calistoga, in a warmer part of the Valley.  A dash of Petite Sirah adds an edginess to the wine. The opening flavors include raspberries, a hint of black berries and a lively black pepper tone. A good grill wine.

I’ve saved my favorite for last. The 2012 Merlot is a superb wine, one of the better Napa Merlots I’ve tasted in a while.  At first sip I was reminded of the Merlot-based wines of St. Emillion in Bordeaux. There’s bright flavors—black cherry, licorice and a pinch of chocolate, all in an elegant, beautifully structured wine.  There is good acidity to match the fruit.  All together a remarkable bottling from a ‘first growth’ Napa winery.

The bonus feature is that the wines are very reasonably priced for Napa, ranging from the low-mid $30s to just under $100.

The Wine Chap/Larry Walker