Mike Grgich Trusts Eisenhower Cardiologist with His Heart

“EVERY DAY, DO YOUR BEST, LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND MAKE A FRIEND.” These words, from an illiterate, peasant Croatian farmer to his son Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, set in motion a philosophy that would propel his youngest child to become one of the most famous winemakers in North America.

Born in the village of Desne on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, Grgich, his parent’s 11th and final child, grew up in a family of shepherds and winemakers. Keenly interested in learning more about winemaking, Grgich studied enology at the University of Zagreb. Unhappy with communism, he left Croatia in 1954, eventually landing in California and arriving in Napa Valley in 1958. Eager to work in California’s burgeoning wine industry, he found himself under the tutelage of Russian-born enologist André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyard. From there he worked for Robert Mondavi, crafting Mondavi’s legendary 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon that put his winery on the map. But his most notable break came at the historic “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 — a blind tasting of some of the best French and California wines — when his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay beat all contenders, both white and red, elevating California for the first time as a serious wine producer. This Chardonnay is part of an exhibit chosen by the Smithsonian Institute as one of 101 Objects that Made America.

Following his success at Chateau Montelena, Grgich struck out on his own, entering a partnership with Austin Hills, whose family had recently sold its Hills Bros. coffee business. In 1977, the two men opened Grgich Hills, now known as Grgich Hills Estate.

“When we started the winery, we bought most of our grapes,” explains Violet Grgich, Mike Grgich’s only child and president of Grgich Hills Estate. “We continued to buy vineyards until we had acquired enough to become 100 percent estate grown and we started farming organically in 2000. A natural, sustainable eco system creates balance and harmony in the vineyard which produces exceptional grapes. Everything we bottle is estate grown.”

Grgich, now 96, spends most of the year at his home in Calistoga, but winters in La Quinta. Feeling some fatigue in 2018, he met with Eisenhower Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist Puneet Khanna, MD.

"An echo test revealed that one of his heart valves was in the critical range, qualifying him for an immediate valve replacement."-Puneet Khanna, MD
“Mike didn’t have any symptoms other than fatigue, but he did have a loud heart murmur,” says Dr. Khanna. “An echo test revealed that one of his heart valves was in the critical range, qualifying him for an immediate valve replacement. I explained that we could do something called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) which is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a poorly functioning aortic valve. The TAVR approach delivers a fully collapsible replacement valve to the diseased valve site through a catheter. Once the valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way and the new valve takes over.

“Mike was concerned about the risk of such a procedure and decided to wait until he was symptomatic, so we agreed that he would get in touch with me when that occurred. I told him it would probably happen within a year’s time.”

Grgich was in Napa Valley when the predicted symptom hit — atrial fibrillation elevated his heart rate to a dangerous level and he was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was stabilized. The time had come for a decision about intervention.

“I trusted Dr. Khanna,” says Grgich. “He speaks to you directly and he explains everything in a way you can understand.” Grgich returned to Palm Springs and placed his care in Dr. Khanna’s hands.

I believe Dr. Khanna saved my life

“We brought Mike in and did an angiogram to check the arteries in his heart,” says Dr. Khanna. “He had a blocked artery that I fixed. One week later we brought him back to do the TAVR. I work with an experienced, multidisciplinary team who did an extraordinary job collaborating on Mike’s procedure.

“Normally, TAVR patients return home the next day, but we wanted to keep an eye on Mike, so he stayed in the hospital a bit longer.” “I believe Dr. Khanna saved my life,” explains Grgich. “I’m happy I went through with it and my heart is working normally.”

Grgich still enjoys being active in the wine business when he is in Napa Valley.
“Dr. Khanna is a miracle worker,” says Violet. “My dad has amazing strength and character but he would not have done the procedure without Dr. Khanna. He said, ‘If anyone is going to do anything, it’s going to be Dr. Khanna.’ He had a true, good feeling about that. “Having spent time at Eisenhower with my father, I decided that if I ever need to go to a hospital, I’m going there,” she continues. “I was so impressed with everything. We were well taken care of.”

To contact Eisenhower Desert Cardiology Center, call 760.346.0642.