Violet Grgich - Transcript - Waking Up In America

Violet Grgich – Transcript

Season 2 – Episode 16. Released on May 12, 2015

INTRO
I travelled to Chicago to meet with Violet Grgich, proprietor and vice president of Grgich Hills Estates, an iconic Napa Valley winery for the celebration of 35th Anniversary of the Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown which brought her father Mike Grgich the triumphant victory of Grgich Hills Chardonnay and his title “King of Chardonnay”. I wanted to know “how does a daughter of a man with such a big dream coming true live her own dream, while carrying on her father’s legacy?”
BUMPER
I am Tajci.
At 19 I was a superstar and I was lost inside. I left it all behind, switched continents and started all over. Years later I found myself lost again. This time in the American dream.

This is a story about awakening. About living the life you were created for. About going inward and discovering the joyous and purposeful person you and I are both meant to be.

This is “Waking Up In America.”
TAJCI
Violet Grgich, thank you so much for being here On Waking Up in America.

VIOLET
I am so excited and so honored to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me!

TAJCI
Thank you. So we’re in this beautiful Drake Hotel in Chicago and tonight we’re celebrating

VIOLET
The 35th Anniversary of the Great Chicago Chardonnay Showdown. Which is very exciting for us.

TAJCI
Congratulations and were are, I think what happened thirty five years ago really is history.

From a Croatian point of view, obviously it’s what gives us… gives us all and gave us all then, and now it keeps giving us this hope that dreams come true.

VIOLET
Absolutely!

TAJCI
And no matter where in the world you start from, if you have the courage to follow your dream, to follow your path you can… look at this! And to affect not just… have your dream come true, but then to make the world a better place with that dream…

VIOLET
Right, right!

TAJCI
That’s why I love the story of your father Mike and the reason why we’re here today to celebrate.

VIOLET
Absolutely!

TAJCI
But we’re not gonna talk about that I want to talk about your story.

VIOLET
Oh, I’m so used to talking about my father’s story!

TAJCI
Yes!

VIOLET
Cause it’s just truly amazing!

TAJCI
It is. But you are obviously you’re a huge part of it as well. And now you’re the proprietor of Grgich Hills Estates. So how does that  feel?

VIOLET
Oh, actually pretty amazing! Because you know

when I was growing up I really never had an idea and even though my father was a winemaker and we had a winery and he kept telling me that some day I would do this. I just couldn’t quite imagine it!

So, I started off being very, very shy and very, very introverted and didn’t understand anything about business but I always remember my father telling me that in America you can achieve whatever you want as long as you have the will and the passion.

TAJCI
Yes.

VIOLET
So when he was growing up in his very small, very poor village in Croatia, he was one of many, many lines of Grgiches and through the family had come down that his father told him to

every day do your best, every day learn something new, and every day make a friend.

And that was something that I very much learned when I was growing up.

TAJCI
That’s beautiful! And so here you are, a little girl playing in your father’s vineyard…

VIOLET
When I was growing up, again, I heard stories from both of my parents who were both Dalmatian by the way, so they grew up during the war and had very, very difficult circumstances. And when I was growing up I was raised as a Croatian but everyday I was told stories about how they were nearly killed, how they had no food to eat, my Dad struggled to come to America to find a land of freedom, and so I grew up feeling very much as if I was a Croatian but appreciating the freedom that we have in America. I, in fact did not learn English until I was two years old.

So when I went to kindergarten I had a very heavy accent and kids used to make fun of me. 

But that feeling always growing and always learning has been with me throughout my whole life and to this day I don’t go into my house or get into my car without thinking that I might not have this.

This was something that, for my father the idea of the family is very important. And a family legacy and keeping the family together and passing on knowledge throughout the family. And for him, as famous as he is, as well known, his vision is for the business to continue throughout the generations and I’m very lucky because my son when he was 7 was very worried. He was like, Mama I’m so worried. I wanna go to college and get my master’s degree in chemistry so I can work at the winery but I can’t afford it. That’s a lot of money. I need to get a job!

TAJCI
Aw, how sweet!

VIOLET
So he’s already started thinking about that line which is just wonderful!

TAJCI
Yes, and that’s something I’m really curious about because we, in Waking Up in America we explore how to live your own dream and how do you… sometimes so many people out there live somebody else’s dream and we get stuck in expectation of what we think we’re expect it to become. And I hear a lot of stories of people who become lawyers or get doctor’s degrees because parents want them to.

So I’m really interested to hear  from you because you know, to continue the legacy, that’s beautiful but how does that align with your dream?

VIOLET
Being born in the wine industry, it’s an industry that people think is so romantic and will give up things to come and work in the wine industry and..

TAJCI
Well, we’ve seen the movies.

VIOLET
Absolutely, but it’s funny. Growing up that’s what I knew. That’s what my dad did and he took me with him from the time I was two years old, I would go to the wineyards with him, but I had many different interests and my dad was always telling me you have to become a winemaker.

And I guess I got a little bit of that stubborn Croatian in me too, and so I had again many things: literature, writing, archaeology, many sciences, genetics, astrophysics, I was very interested in everything as well as music and I started playing piano when I was four years old and loved music. And loved all the arts in fact I used to make a lot of my own clothes when I was very young. So I had all these thoughts and all day my dad telling me oh, you will become a winemaker. And so when time came for me to go to college and he said, I’m gonna sign… the only application I’m gonna sign is for UC Davis and you can study viticulture  and enology.

Okay. So I went to UC Davis and I studied music. And I studied some Latin as well and took a number of courses, but, I used to love reading textbooks, science textbooks for fun and so it’s not as if I didn’t enjoy that part of it but I think just the stubborn part of me was like, if my dad’s telling me to do it I need to do my own thing.

TAJCI
Well but I guess I mean that’s that’s what helped you to flush out then, your dream to just be you say stubborn but maybe it’s just the way we are because we have that desire to be be our own souls, our own person. And so you studied music.

VIOLET
Which was wonderful and I enjoyed it and I discovered the harpsichord when I was there. So I started playing that and of course being a proper Croatian I played the according as well.

TAJCI
Oh!

VIOLET
So yeah, it was very exciting and, I studied and then I came back to the winery and started working a little bit. I’d spend most my time in the cellar and the laboratory because I was horrifically shy, painfully shy and in fact had severe performance anxiety so whenever I had to play I… hands were shaking, my stomach… huh… so I managed to do very well in the cellar and the laboratory.

And then one day might my dad, I was driving my dad to a vendor dinner, and… I’ve known my father for many years as being an amazing speaker you know, when he spoke people’s jaws dropped open and the stories that he told, and the love that I saw being showered upon, it was just so amazing and I just, I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing anything like that.

And so I’m driving him to a vendor dinner and it was a hundred people but it was sold out, so we had to do two dinners of a hundred people each. And a second dinner I’m driving, we just drive up and he goes, Violet, tonight you’re gonna speak about the Fume Blanc.

And my jaw dropped and my stomach went aww.. . and I couldn’t… I was petrified! We had a podium and a microphone , my dad gave his wonderful introduction and I just came up shaking like this and I open my mouth and nothing came out.

I thought, this is it, I’m gonna die. Nothing came out and then I think I said something, it was awful.

And so people asked me a few questions and I could answer them! Ah, I had something! I was okay and… didn’t matter how complicated it was I could answer it, so… So for years, my father made me continue to go out and do this and I’m like, Dad, this is awful and terrible, I’m never gonna learn.

He says, Violet I was painfully shy at some point. I’m like, No! How can you be painfully shy? You’re amazing! He said, No, I was painfully shy and you know what? Can you tell? I’m like, No! So, I keep on doing it and now nobody knows that I’m painfully shy and I’m so grateful to him for having exposed me to that and having taught that to me

TAJCI
And challenge you.  And trust that you can do it. That’s, I think huge.

So was there any moment in your life that you can look at, ’cause I mean it’s a beautiful story of your father and your story, and through music, how you went through music, I just love that part ’cause I think… to me, yes, it’s very romantic to pair music and wine. I can’t imagine anything… and family. What else can we… You know for me, that’s just really perfection. Was there any moment in your life that you had this awakening, you know, that
that something shifted from the way it was to this Violet who you are today.

VIOLET
I think it was a long and gradual process and it was a combination of many things and I think that interest that I’ve always had in learning and knowing more and experiencing and having perspective and…

When I got my degree in music and I, before I go to graduate school, let me go back to the winery and do some work, and after a while I, it’s slowly started realizing that I think I’m enjoying this. And after a few years of starting to sort of enjoy this, and learning more about it, I realized I was getting a little old and I really needed to go to graduate school, and so told my dad, Dad I need to go to graduate school I need to get my master’s in music, and he was horrified. He was like, you can’t leave, Ah!!!  And I was, but Dad, I got to leave.

So anyway, I went off, I went to study at Indiana University and so every time I called home, he was like, when are you coming home? When are you coming home? And I remember one time I’ve gone to a wine tasting and I met somebody who came up to me and said, Oh, I was at a wine tasting last month and I met your father and my goodness, he is so proud of you. He was telling me, My daughter is getting her master’s at Indiana University and I thought, this is great!

So next time I talked to my dad I kept expecting something on the other line When you coming home?

So I did come home after that and and I found that the more I had learned and the more areas that I explored, that that ability to do everything and learn everything could be combined in this wonderful business that we had.

And I’d never thought about business before. I thought it was dry and boring all of a sudden I started realizing how interesting and fascinating it was.

And so, it was… I remember one morning thinking you know, I can hardly wait to get to work. I’ve got all these things to do. And I was like, after all those years of sort of… it finally all came together so it was my decision and my awakening and it did feel like my dream, you know. I’m not doing it necessarily the way my father did it, and it is mine but it’s also part of that bigger picture.

TAJCI
Yes! It sounds like the moment that you just opened up and kind of surrendered to this blessing and a gift that you’ve been given and in that… you know when we do that, then everything, your music, it doesn’t go away.

It’s part of you. You just expand, rather than contract.

VIOLET
Absolutely! And that’s always been my goal. is to expand my perspective and to, you know, become a bigger person in that way, and be able to do it.

TAJCI
And that’s a part of your Dad’s message, everyday learn something new to make it… that’s a message of expanding. So, if you had a chance to say something to a person who’s maybe struggling, you know maybe not knowing how to… how to embrace the life that’s kind of given to us, that we find ourselves in and… because a lot of times, when we talk about awakening the first thought is, Ok, I am packing my stuff and I am leaving. Starting over, doing
something completely different.

But I think awakening, when it happens within and it opens up your heart and you surrender to the dream, to the bigger purpose and you see the bigger picture of what you do for the world. Then we, we don’t have to leave our situation.

VIOLET
No you don’t. And actually… Somebody told me this a long time ago you know, perception is reality. And that ability to be engaged in the moment and be alive in the moment…

We talk about balance in our wines, and as a musician there’s that sense of balance, intention that you always have to get, and by our house, growing up. there was a railroad track.

I used to love walking on the railroad tracks. And it was so hard at first to find your balance. You sort of went back and you tattered your arms about like that, but once you found that point of balance, that point, it felt infinite. It felt like no matter what direction you lean left or right, front or back it would hold you because it was infinite.

And so that’s something that I think it’s very hard for many people to do today. Our lives are so busy. We’re always thinking about what’s going to happen on the weekend, what about this thing that’s due.

Taking time, engaging in the present moment and listening to yourself, that’s pretty hard to do. And when you can turn inward, create that quiet space and listen, it will tell you.

It will tell you. You just have to listen.

TAJCI
Yes, it’s hard to listen when we have so many voices coming from all the outside, and it’s hard to listen and find that balance and balance when you, when you just have these desires or urges, Ooh, I want more this, and more of that and more of this, and I want to be more with my kids, I wanna be better mom and finding that peace within and balance.  I love how you compared that with the balance in wine, the balance in music

VIOLET
Everything’s related.

TAJCI
And again, with your love for learning if you just keep open, the lessons are all there.

VIOLET
They absolutely are. You can learn something everyday, every minute and you know, my father just turned 92 and it’s fascinating to me and I know the story is that you know, the older you get the more you find, the smarter your parents get.

But I really have found that my dad lives what he says, he never stops working and he never stops learning. And he’s always learning something new everyday, still at the age of 92. And it’s a great example.

TAJCI
Very inspiring. And Violet now. You have a family. Do you playing music with your son?

VIOLET
We actually do. My husband is a musician as well and we met at Indiana University. So he plays viola de gamba, which is, you know, between me and him we’re the basic baroque band. And we have people we play with that we went to school with as well.

And I remember when I was pregnant with my son and I had this fantasy, Oh my gosh I’m gonna once I give birth I’m gonna have all
this time with my newborn son and I’m gonna be practicing eight hours a day and, well, things didn’t quite work out that way and it was actually about a year before I touched the harpsichord and that’s because my husband booked a gig.

He just put on the calendar, and I’m like, Okay, I gotta practice.

And so it was a little hard getting back into it. You get older, your muscles are has been wonderful. So, we’ve played at the winery, we’ve played various other places here and there, locally for festival du Soleil which takes place in Napa, so I’m very blessed to be able to continue that and even though I don’t practice every day like I should even the five minutes that I tell myself I will, I don’t always get around to it. But that ability to know that I can still pursue my passion and still enjoy what I do and be living my dream in my life.

MUSIC

TAJCI
It’s wonderful!

One beautiful thing that I am, as a Croatian really grateful for is that you started a Croatian Grgich Vina and you have a foundation for scholarships. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

VIOLET
Well actually, those are both my father’s ideas and when Croatia became independent he finally felt able to return to the country and he remembers meeting with president Tudjman and he asked him you know, Miljenko you’ve been so successful in California, can you help? Can you bring some that knowledge to Croatia?

So he went, Well what can I do? And he says, do what you do there and so he helped him actually find a beautiful location on the peninsula Peljesac, which is right on the Adriatic, which is so spectacularly beautiful and he’d at that time been really thinking about the fact that Plavac Mali, which is a native Croatian variety might be the original Zinfandel and so, in his mind… so we made Plavac Mali there and also Posip, which is, the grapes are grown on the island of Korcula, and our first finish was 1996 and immediately became successful there.

And his idea was to, have that as a kind of educational facility where he could show Croatian winemakers what he had learned
along the way.

TAJCI
Yes.

VIOLET
So that was a very special and after number of years, again that ability to pass on knowledge very important and having had very little money growing up to start he realized how important it was to be able to help people get through education and so he was able to fund a scholarship actually number them, one at the University of Zagreb for wine studies there.

Also has a scholarship for the Culinary Institute of America and now one for the James Beard Foundation so these are all scholarship going to furthering education in wine, and the ability to achieve your dream.

TAJCI
Yes absolutely!

Because, and then really bring the change into the world because I really believe, when we are happy, when we align with our dream and our purpose, we do change the fibers of our world. I am from Zagreb and so, people from Zagreb and people from the coast, we always have something to argue about… but one thing that we all enjoy and agree about is our food and our wine. And not even so much music.

(laughter)

VIOLET
Right!

TAJCI
Thank you so much.

VIOLET
You’re so welcome,

TAJCI
I hope these stories featured here on Waking Up in America are inspiring you to live your dream and then bring the change that you desire into our world. If so, please share these episodes with your friends and join us at WakingUpInAmerica.net and on our Facebook group #WakingUpinAmerica. See you next time!

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