We continue the chronicle of 100 wines that I learned the most from with an entry in my first wine notebook from May 16 & 17, 1983. The wine was the Grgich Hills Johannisberg Riesling 1979, Napa Valley.

Born in Croatia, Mike Grgich immigrated to the United States in 1958. He worked at the old Souverain winery, at Christian Brothers, Beaulieu Vineyard and Robert Mondavi. At Chateau Montelena, he was the maker of the Chardonnay 1973 that beat the French in the well-known and replicated Paris Tasting of 1976. Grgich Hills was founded in 1977 as a goodgrgich_01.jpg partnership between Grgich and Austin Hills, whose family sold the San Francisco-based Hills Bros. Coffee company in 1976.

Until this moment in May 1983, the Grgich Hills Johannisberg Riesling 1979 was “the best white I’ve ever drunk.” As far as I can recall, it was also my first riesling. “Excellent,” say my notes. “Beautiful golden color, full bodied. Well-balanced between the just off-dryness & the acidity.” “Balance” was a word that showed up with increasing regularity in my fledgling notes on the wines we tried in 1983. I don’t know if this occurrence was a reflection of my reading or an indication of the quality in wine that would become most important to me as the years went by, but the concept was certainly there in the beginning.

Note the price: $9.69.

If you look back at the “100 Wines: A Chronicle (2)” post from two weeks ago, you’ll notice that the wine was the Parducci Petite Sirah 1977, Mendocino County, and that the dates of its consumption were Feb. 12-14, 1983. Here’s a roster of the wines we tried between that date and May 16, with the price if recorded:

Clos du Bois “Cornell Release” Pinot Noir 1978, Alexander Valley.
Beaulieu Vineyard Beau Tour Cabernet Sauvignon 1979, Napa Valley.
Mirassou Zinfandel 1978, Monterey County.
Robert Mondavi Red 1980, California. ($4.99 for a 1.5-liter jug.)
Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 1981. ($6.19)
Sterling Vineyards Zinfandel 1977, Napa Valley. ($7.99. This was really good; the last zinfandel that Sterling produced.)
Robert Mondavi Zinfandel 1979, Napa Valley. ($7.50)
Sandeman Late Bottled Vintage Port 1974. ($8.99)
Freixenet Cordon Negro CAVA.
Concannon Petite Sirah 1978, California. ($6.59)
August Sebastiani Country Zinfandel (non-vintage), “A Dry California Table Wine.” ($5.83 for a 1.5-liter jug.)
Croft “Distinction” Finest Tawny Porto. ($8.86)
Chanson “St. Vincent” Macon-Villages 1976. ($8.99, past its best)
Chateau Garriga Entre-Deux-Mer 1978. ($5.08, past its freshness)

See, we were trying to learn, though sometimes we just wanted a wine that went down easily.