Story and Photo Gallery by Dwight Casimere
NEW YORK--Violet Grgich, proprietor of Grgich Hills Estate of Napa Valley and daughter of winemaking legend Mike Grgich, is recounting the colorful life and career of her history-making father as no one else can in the chic Treehouse bar and dining room at David Burke's Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo. What, for her father, began as a journey, fleeing the Nazis from a tiny village in his native Croatia, to creating a wine that won the 1976 Paris Tasting, founding a world-famous winery in the Napa Valley, which is now in its 40th anniversary year, to having that championship wine enshrined in the Smithsonian Institute as one of 101 Objects That Made America, is a story she never tires of telling.
"When my father was growing up in the tiny village of Desne in Croatia, " Violet Grgich began, "he never imagined that the wine he crafted would appear in the same museum as the Declaration of Independence or that he would have a winery in one of the premier wine growing regions of the world. His achievements far exceeded even his own American Dream. In every way, my father's journey is inspiring and empowering, " she said movingly.
Grgich kept her comments brief and to the point because her main objective was to have the assembled 20 or so invited wine journalists and special guests dive into a wine pairing luncheon choreographed by David Burke's stellar culinary staff. The opening salvo was, of course, Grgich Hills 2014 Fume' Blanc, the wine which Mike Grgich originally created for winemaking icon Robert Mondavi. The wine popularized Napa Valley wine in a way that it had never been before. Paired with a Root Vegetable Salad composed of fennel, smoke and white truffle, the wine's characteristic smoky flavor and full-mouthed texture and flavors of juicy tropical fruit and lemongrass was enhanced by 6 months on the lees in neutral barrels and aging in a combination of neutral casks and large oak barrels, which gives the wine smoothness and roundness of character.
The centerpiece of the afternoon was, of course, the 40th Anniversary 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay, accompanied by a Za'Atar Spiced Cornish Hen with roasted pork belly, spinach and yogurt, a Mediterranean spin on a lunchtime staple. The pairing emphasized the complex fruit flavors of ripe peach, backed by flavors of mango and tropical fruit, with a note of minerality. A pleasant natural acidity brought about by the fact that the wine is not allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation, and the grapes are farmed naturally and are certified organic. The fresh tastes and aromas linger long on the palate and brought out the sunny array of spices used in the dish.
Za'atar Spiced Cornish Hen with 2014 Grgich Hills Chardonnay, 40th Anniversary
House Made Rigatoni appeared next accompanied by Grgich Hill's robust 2012 Napa Valley Merlot.
With a red wine game ragout, duck egg, roasted mushrooms and parsley gremolata, this was an ideal flavor pairing. It mined the ripe plum and slightly earthy notes of the wine, with hints of black dirt and freshly unearthed truffles. For lovers of game meat, this was a rewarding taste excursion.
2013 Violetta Late Harvest, named for the proprietor herself, was every bit the classically-produced late harvest wine brought about by the "noble rot," Botrytis cinerea. The thick, rich juice from these shriveled berries that barely yield a drop of highly concentrated juice bring forth a wine rich in flavors and aromas of ripe pear, Mandarin orange and honeysuckle. The wine paired perfectly with the dessert of Mascarpone Mousse, with graham crumble, green apple sorbet and violetta honey reduction made from the wine.
There is nothing more sublime than the melding of chocolate with a terrific red wine. In this case, Grgich Hills 2012 Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, served as the dessert wine.
With its rich, full bodied flavors of black berries, licorice, and hints of allspice and juniper berries, this wine showed its pedigree as having been produced from some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Napa Valley. Dark Chocolate accompanied by a red wine ganache and cocoa nibs, made for the perfect flavor combination and an ovation-worthy finale.
Photo Gallery/Dwight Casimere
Views of the Treehouse Bar and Terrace at David Burkes Kitchen in SoHo