Nikola Kirigin Chargin, age 93, died peacefully on May 14, 2011, on his beloved island of Brac, Croatia, in the Adriatic Sea.
He was born Nikola Kirigin on April 29, 1918, in Mirca on the island of Brac.
He is survived by his wife, Biserka, of Gilroy, CA; sons Anthony Chargin and wife, Carol, of Livermore, CA, Mladen Chargin and wife, Doris, of Gardnerville, NV, and Nick Chargin of San Jose, CA. Five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren survive him.
In his family’s tradition of winemaking, Mr. Chargin graduated from the University of Zagreb with knowledge of chemistry and enology. After communists occupied his native country after World War II, ending private enterprise, Mr. Chargin left in 1959 to pursue freedom in the United States. He often said, “Maybe I can live without wine but I cannot live without freedom.”
In his early years here he produced a weekly radio program informing people of the atrocities of communism. The Kirigin name was anglicized to Chargin by relatives whose families had emigrated decades earlier.
He started work in the U.S. in the bottling room at San Martin Winery in San Martin, CA and a few years later became their chief enologist. Next, he was chief chemist for Almaden Winery in San Jose and then moved east where he was head chemist and vice president in charge of production in a large upstate New York winery.
Returning to California, he became vice president and head chemist at Perrelli-Minetti & Sons Winery in Delano. In 1976, he acquired the Bonesio Winery in Gilroy, renaming it Kirigin Cellars, and happily ran the winery for 25 years.
He sold it at age 82 in 2000. Industry colleagues said that Nick brought an old-world tradition combined with scientific technology to his wines.
After selling the winery, Mr. Chargin chose to live alternately between the U.S. and Croatia. By this time, Croatia had wrestled independence from the former communist Yugoslavia. Mr. Chargin served as president of the Croatian World Congress during the struggle for Croatian independence, working to bring relief to children without parents. In recent years, as his advanced age prevented him from travel, he resided in his birth home in Mirca.
Funeral services and burial will take place in Croatia. Donations may be made to Little Sisters of the Poor, 601 Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore, MD 21228-3698, on-line at www.littlesistersofthepoor.org, or Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, 3725 Alexandria Pike, Cold Spring, KY 41076, on-line at cst.dav.org/donate/DonateNow.aspx