In 2000, Greg Miller was studying biology in Chicago, volunteering at the Marine Mammal Department at the Shedd Aquarium, working with penguins and beluga whales. He wanted to train dolphins. Then his life flipped upside down. To pay the bills Greg waitered at a restaurant in Lake Forest. One night one of his parties shared some of the wine they were having. It was his “Aha” wine. Tasting this wine “took me to another place.” He left Chicago and Flipper and went Sideways – he jumped into the wine and beverage industry, eventually to become a much sought-after winemaker. But he wasn’t busy enough – he also trained to go professional in triathlons.
Greg started in hospitality, then went to wine production. Wine opened the world to him, “Learning about the world through this beautiful beverage.” He spent five months in Burgundy working with Joseph Drouhin, walking every hectare of the Cote d’Or. He observed that Burgundy and California are similar in that in each location Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can develop their individual characteristics. But in California the winemakers have more flexibility.
He was Director of Wine for Jordan until October 2013. He left to go to Flowers (the winery he always wanted to be at) in December.
Flowers is the quintessential winery – being on the edge of where you can grow wine grapes. Each time you touch the plant you leave an impression that shows through into the wine. Greg and the Flowers staff are like kids – adventurous, always trying new things. Each block of the vineyard is unique and allowed to develop to its full potential. There’s not a preconceived notion about what different locations of the vineyard should do.
Coastal minerality and salinity – this is the terrior of Flowers. But also great acidity, with structure – very food friendly.
The Pinots are pretty, delicate and elegant because of the challenges from its environment. Pomegranate, fresh crushed strawberries, raspberry flavors, with vivaciousness.
The whites from Flowers show lemon curd and zest not the tropical flavors often found in California chardonnay.
He lets the wine as it develops talk to him – it guides him to where it wants and should be. Cold soak, maceration, how long to leave on the skins – these variables enable the winemaker to allow the grapes to reach their full potential.
Greg’s learning and growing in his experience, knowledge and hands-on training. I expect to see at some point the Greg Miller Winery. I love talking to winemakers – they’re so damn passionate.
© Carl Kanowsky