Confessions of a Winemaker Chef

I grew up in rural New York State.  There, simple, fresh, homegrown food was an everyday experience. Our meats, milk, bread, fruit, and vegetables were from local farms. Many of my earliest memories are the tastes and smells of my mother's kitchen - bread, Christmas cookies, apple pies, smoked ham, and Thanksgiving turkey. Just picked, juicy, finger-staining huckleberries were hard work, but memorable.

My first cooking job was as a humble, short-order lunch cook but I was hooked. After attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, I was fortunate to enjoy - and learn from  - numerous culinary opportunities at world-class restaurants in White Sulphur Springs, Chicago and Aspen.

I always considered winemaking to be “cooking”. Through my entire time as a chef, I wanted to work with the flavors, textures, and aromas of grapes from California wine country.  My focus and commitment was always on the pairing of fresh, authenic food and fine wine, which brought me to Rhone varietals, which have historically been wines drunk at the tables of real people having dinner rather than collected in a rarified atmosphere.

Finally I took the plunge and moved to the Napa Valley.  Northern California is a special place, but not just for its history, natural beauty, and perfect conditions for winegrowing. The people are truly amazing, placing a premium on food, family, friends, and farming.  In a way, it was like coming home to the food world I remembered from my childhood.

I started Miller Wine Works in 2000, sourcing grapes from all over Northern California in order to find the very best expression of the different varietals, which depend on the soils, the growers and the different climates,  I released my first 67 cases in 2001, and with the 2002 vintage began sourcing fruit from Amador County.  The quality of those grapes was what inspired me to look to the Sierra Foothills when the time came to find a home for the wines I was creating.

It was magical to find a  gourmet cheese shop for sale in the Gold Rush town of Sutter Creek, with a turn-of-the-century storefront  - we have now moved our tasting room inside of the shoppe - so we are now offering wine tasting and wine and cheese pairings (always fun and informative).  We were seeking to find a way to have our tasting room also demonstrate the synergy between food and wine; now, here in the Sierra Foothills appellation, I continue to focus on balanced, nuanced wines that speak clearly of their locations, and have an affinity for carefully raised and prepared food.

I have combined the two to present a wine tasting experience unlike any other in the area.  Taste our wines, try some cheeses and check out our special events, where we love to introduce you to flavor experiences you will want to recreate at your own table.  For us, it doesn't get any better than that.

  

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