by Fred McMillin
for January 15, 1998

The Croatian Connection or Mike Gets It Right


  • Recent work has traced the origin of Zinfandel to Croatia, very close to the area where I was born. On my last visit there I discovered that Zinfandel is almost identical to a grape called Mali Plavac (mah-lee plah-vahts).

    ...Miljenko "Mike" Grgich

  • July 1994—We are pleased to inform you that your 1989 vintage has been selected as the Best Zinfandel in the World. The trophy will be presented at Guildhall in London on Oct. 31.

    ...The International Wine and Spirit Competition, England.

The Rest of the Story: OK, so three years ago Mike Grgich's '89 Zinfandel, alias Mali Plavac, won recognition as being the best in the world.

Was it a fluke? Hardly. This year he won the award again! ... With his 1994 vintage.

With that kind of track record, I expected the new 1995 to do well when I slipped a bottle into my last large blind tasting of reds. At $18, the panel found it to be by far the best value of the night. In fact, the only three reds to be rated higher averaged $42.

There's no doubt that a Croatian winemaker knows what to do with a Croatian grape.

The Wine:
1995 Zinfandel, Sonoma County
Grgich Hills Cellar
1829 St. Helena Hwy., Rutherford, CA
Contact—Gail Golden (707) 963-2784
Tasting Notes—Mike calls it "big, high-powered."

Food Affinities: "The Vintner's Table Cookbook" by Chef Mary Evely devotes a chapter to what to serve and not to serve with (red) Zinfandel. Barbecued spareribs, polenta, lasagna, goat cheese with figs and Belgian endive are among the recommended. Avoid light fish and veal dishes. Don't enter your kitchen without this delicious book. Order at (707) 433-6981.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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