Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, a 2008 inductee into the Vintners Hall of Fame, has established a scholarship to enable future generations to attend a professional wine studies program accredited by The James Beard Foundation.
Grgich established the Miljenko "Mike" Grgich American Dream Scholarship to give deserving young wine professionals an opportunity to succeed and to honor the adoptive country that has given him so much.
"We wanted to share my dad's success and legacy in a meaningful way, and The James Beard Foundation's mission and educational pursuits resonate strongly with us," says daughter and vice president of operations, Violet Grgich.
Grgich turns 91 on April 1, the same date all scholarship offerings are officially posted on the foundation's website.
Born in 1923, Grgich grew up in the village of Desne on Croatia's Dalmatian coast, where generations of his family grew grapes and made wine. His father taught him, "Every day learn something new, do your best and make a friend."
He arrived in the Napa Valley with $32, his life savings, sewn into the sole of his shoes, and a dream. His goal of moving to the U.S. was inspired by success stories of self-made Americans like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller.
Grgich fulfilled his American dream, first by having his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay win the 1976 Paris Tasting, and then by founding his own winery, Grgich Hills Estate, in 1977.
Grgich and business partner Austin Hills broke ground in Rutherford to build Grgich Hills Cellar in July 1977 (later changed to Grgich Hills Estate in 2006 after becoming entirely estate grown). The winery continues to receive international awards for its balanced, elegant wines and is recognized as a leader in sustainable vineyard practices. Grgich Hills' entire acreage is certified organic and the winery has converted to solar power.
His contributions to Roots for Peace, an organization founded by Heidi Kuhn and dedicated to the conversion of former minefields into successful grape-growing areas, have helped de-mine areas in his former homeland. A Croatian television documentary about Grgich's life, "Like the Old Vine," premiered at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2012.
A bottle of the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay is currently displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, along with Grgich's signature beret, and original suitcase and textbooks. The bottle was also included in the book "The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects."