California wine received a rare honor when the Smithsonian Institution chose the two bottles that won the famous Paris Tasting of 1976 as part of the museum’s online exhibit “101 Objects That Made America.”
The two bottles are, of course, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay made by Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Warren Winiarski.
Each won out over French wines in the blind tasting organized by Paris wine merchant Steven Spurrier, much to the chagrin of the French. At that moment, Napa Valley made a grand entrance onto the world wine stage.
Out of all of American history -- and the 137 million artifacts in the Smithsonian’s collection -- those historic bottles join Abraham Lincoln’s hat, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit in the exhibit. Louis Armstrong’s trumpet is also part of the 101 objects, along with singer Marian Anderson’s fur coat, Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine and a 19th century Remington typewriter.
You can read about them all in the book “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects” by the museum’s Richard Kurin.
In a statement, Mike Grgich, now 91 and since 1977 the owner/winemaker of Grgich Hills Estate, said: "When I was growing up in the little village of Desne in Croatia, I never would have dared to dream that the wine that I crafted would be in the same book as America’s 'Declaration of Independence,' or in the same museum as Nikola Tesla, the famous inventor who is also from Croatia. When I arrived in the United States, I thought I was the luckiest man alive to have my dream come true of making wine in California, but this recognition far exceeds my American Dream.”
American dream, indeed.
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