By Allison Kozicharow; Edited by Elizabeth Fine
WiRED International’s Board of Directors and volunteers are deeply saddened to note the death of winemaker Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, aged 100 on December 13, 2023.
Mr. Grgich won international recognition when his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was chosen as the finest white wine in the world, beating French wines for the first time at the “Judgment of Paris” blind tasting in 1976.
He was born on April 1, 1923, the youngest of 11 children, in Desne, Yugoslavia (now Croatia). After World War II he attended the University of Zagreb studying viticulture and enology. In 1958 he immigrated to Napa Valley, California and went on to establish Grgich Hills Estate with partner Austin Hills. In subsequent years Mr. Grgich supported philanthropic projects in the Napa Valley and Croatia.
Mr. Grgich’s wife, Tatjana, was a founding member of WiRED, and she guided the organization from its earliest days until her death in 2020. The Grgich’s daughter, Violet continues her mother’s contributions by serving today on the WiRED Governing Board.
On behalf of WiRED’s volunteers and board, we extend our deepest condolences to Mr. Grgich’s family during this difficult time. Together, they have left an indelible mark on WiRED and the communities we serve. Mr. Grgich leaves behind a remarkable legacy of generosity and commitment to building a better world.
The Grgich family has been an integral part of WiRED from our earliest days. As I was teaching on a Fulbright at the University of Zagreb in 1997 and thinking about starting WiRED, the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb suggested that I contact Croatian-born, Tatjana Grgich, who then lived in Napa, California. I did, and Tatjana became among the first people to form our board.
During her time on our board, she provided invaluable guidance and expertise, ensuring that WiRED’s work remained driven by the needs of people regardless of their background. Sadly, in 2020, Tatjana passed away. Her daughter, Violet, graciously joined our board, carrying on the Grgich family’s legacy of leadership and service.
Like her mother, Violet has been a tireless advocate for WiRED’s mission. Mike Grgich, meanwhile, was deeply involved with Roots of Peace, the de-mining non-profit that played a crucial role in clearing agricultural land after conflicts. Mike’s passion for this cause, along with Violet’s dedication, led WiRED in the late 1990s, to connect Dragolic, an agricultural region in Croatia, with farmers in the United States, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.
—WiRED Executive Director, Gary Selnow, Ph.D.