Wine Last Sold on: November 8, 2008
Miller Wine Works
2005 Napa Valley Syrah
|Vineyard:||Sage Canyon Vineyard|
|Region:||California: Napa Valley|
|Total Allocation:||Top Secret!|
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The Winery Says:
About This Wine:
With the philosophy deeply ingrained in his psyche that wine is a liquid food, Gary Miller, an accomplished chef, parlayed his career in the food industry to follow his passion… winemaking. Gary has worked for such notable wine producers as La Jota, Martinelli, and Robert Biale. His own brand, Miller Wine Works, is an expression of all the paths Gary’s life has taken, from being raised in a rural, Western New York family to becoming a Napa Valley vintner. As a chef, Gary fully understands the necessity of integration and balance when the fruits of the land intermingle with the fruits of one’s labor. Who better than a chef-winemaker to bring forth skillfully integrated, well-balanced wine?
Sage Canyon Vineyard in Napa Valley produces premium wine grapes from a steep mountain ranch with elevations that range from 900 to 1,400 feet above the Napa Valley floor. Extensive summertime early morning fog makes this vineyard an ideal wine grape growing area. On this 60 acre vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah are grown. Soils types are a complex combination that includes Berressa dibble, and both Los Gatos and Millsholm loam.
The 2005 Miller Wine Works Syrah, Sage Canyon Vineyard, Napa Valley initially presents you with aromas of fresh violets, which then cede to notes of anise, and finally some tar. On the palate, a firm structure, and ample tannins border the copious integration of ripe blackberries and earthy minerality, while confirming the hints of tar discovered earlier. While somewhat viscous, and reasonably long even now, this wine will continue to evolve for the next three to five years easily.
About The Winery and Winemaker:
Gary Miller – For me, winemaking is cooking. This is something I’ve learned from years of professionally doing both; but, it doesn’t get any better than working with the incredible flavors, textures, and aromas of pristine grapes grown in the sun and soil of the California coast. Winemaking is a tremendous challenge of the senses and demands three things from me: focus, focus, focus.
I grew up in rural, western New York where simple, fresh, homegrown food was an everyday experience. Our meats, milk, bread, fruit, and veggies 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. When mom canned summer fruit for winter eating, the house would fill with the incredible smells of ripe peaches, tomatoes, strawberries, and pears.
Although my family didn’t succeed on our trips every year, hunting season in the community produced a steady supply of game; and, dad’s grill turned out some very tasty elk, moose and venison. Home cooking for three growing boys made the Miller kitchen a busy place. Little did we know then that this kitchen was cutting a path – paving the road to Miller Wine Works.
The wonderful world of wine opened up to me when I went to college to study engineering, and simultaneously worked in a wine and spirits shop near Purdue University. As a wine buyer, I was exposed to wines from around the world, which got me to daydreaming about California.
Initially however, my passion for cooking got a hold of me, and I found myself in my first cooking job – a short-order lunch cook at a convention center hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina. Soon thereafter, I attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, and was presented with the opportunity to apprentice at the Greenbrier Hotel, in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Thereafter, I couldn’t resist the draw of helping to open the restaurant Spruce in Chicago. This subsequently led to a position at The Little Nell in Aspen, and my westward progress was THEN finalized in the land of my dreams, Napa Valley.
Napa Valley is an amazing 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. Two such people are Bill and Joan Smith, formerly of La Jota Vineyard Company, for whom I worked, and who dear friends became. Their ongoing support and encouragement inspires me daily; in making wine, and in living life to its potential.
As a winemaker, it is my intent to make wines of the style that made me fall in love with wine – balanced, nuanced wines that speak clearly of their locations, and have affinity for carefully raised and prepared food. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Varietal Content: 95% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah
Aging: 29% new French for 20 months
Titratable Acidity: 0.65 g / 100 ml.
Alcohol: 15.4 %
Release Date: May 1, 2008
Case Production: 387 cases
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The Wine Spies Say:
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SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
Today’s wine deserves a special special alert. This is a richly delicious wine that is great now, and will continue to age beautifully. If you have never experienced a Miller Wine Works wine, well, now is your chance!
Mission Codename: Sage Wisdom
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Miller Wine Works and uncover another of Gary Miller’s red gems
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Miller Wine Works
Wine Subject: 2005 Sage Vineyard Syrah
Winemakers: Gary Miller
Backgrounder: For today’s wine, we sent Agent Red to revisit Gary Miller, a Wine Spies favorite winemaker whose wines are built from the ground up to be food-friendly additions to great meals. For today’s wine, we discovers Gary’s wonderfully rich and delicious Syrah. Read Red’s tasting notes and mission report below for the full details on today’s great wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A darkly concentrated burgundy-purple color with an inky heart. The wine maintains dark color right out to its edges, and has thin but wide-spaced legs
Smell – Dark and lush with deep aromatic dark berry, smoky black plum, start anise, cedar and earthy mushroom
Feel – Cool, soft and light at first, fast across the top of the tongue and then quickly mouth-coating. Initially smooth, then medium tannins take hold, drying the lips
Taste – Dark and smoky flavors of plum, blackberry, black cherry and sandalwood, with earth, herbs and black pepper
Finish – Dry with bright and ripe fruit flavors that are followed by more earthen qualities and a dry minerality – as the wine’s flavors and feel taper slowly
Conclusion – With great aromas and flavors, plus a really wonderful mouthfeel, this wine is bright and balanced. It is certainly a food wine, and one that can stand up to more robust pairings. Fun to drink and ready to drink now, this wine will likely cellar beautifully for several more years.
Pairing Note – Winemaker Gary Miller is also known as Chef Gary, a world-renown creator of fine cuisine. As winemaker and Chef, Gary is in the unique position to be able to craft wines that pair perfectly with foods. A food-friendly wine is one which does not over-power of fatigue your palate. It compliments the food, with wine and food each bringing out the best of the other. Today’s Syrah is a big and bold wine, to be sure, but it also has the acidity and structure to make it a great food wine. Read below for pairing recommendations.
Winemaker Interrogation Report:
The following is a re-telling of our first encounter with winemaker Gary Miller, shown here for your information:
Agent Red goes on a ride-along with busy winemaker Gary Miller, for today’s winemaker report:
GARY MILLER: Hey, Red! Over here! Hop in, we’re on schedule if we hit the road now!!
And so our day of adventuring began, on the road at 6am, making our way from Napa, up to Lake County, then down to Marin and, finally, back to Napa.
It’s busy season for most everyone in every facet of the wine business. Especially for winemakers and vineyard managers.
GARY: Okay, buckle in, Red. We’re off!
RED: Excellent, Gary. Thanks for letting me tag along today.
GARY: My pleasure. First stop, Lake County. The grapes there look like they might come in a little ahead of schedule. Maybe as much as 2 weeks early this year.
RED: Overall, how is this years crop looking?
GARY: Northern California growers have seen as much as 20% loss, due to the frost. Our yields will only be down about 10%.
RED: That’s good news. Also good news was the write up I saw on your Syrah in the San Francisco Chronicle last weekend. Congratulations!
GARY: Thanks! That Syrah is a great wine. The Works that you got your hands on is a really special wine, too. Your Operatives will love it.
RED: How did The Works come to be?
GARY: Well, friends had been asking me for a big blend for years. Finally, after test driving a few Mourvèdre, I found the right fruit. Mourvèdre is ugly in the fermenter, a grey mass, but produces unique flavors and aromas that contribute to the fun of this first rendition of The Works.
RED: It really is a great wine. The Grenache shines through as well.
GARY: Yeah, the Grenache is lovely.
RED: On conducting a deep background check on you, Gary, I discovered that you found your way to wine – through food. But, that’s not where you started your professional life. You actually worked in a steel mill and as a financial adviser!
GARY: Yeah, I’ve done it all. My longest career was as a cook, though. That certainly led me to wine.
RED: In doing the background check, I noticed that you refer to yourself as a ‘cook’ again and again, but never as ‘chef’, despite your considerable restaurant experience and your training at the CIA - the Culinary Institute of America. Is this humility?
GARY: In the end, preparing food comes down to one thing: cooking. In the restaurant business, we’re all just cooks. The more techniques we know, the better we can cook. If technique were really paid attention to, we’d all have great food. Great food, like great wine, speaks for itself.
RED: How did your experience with food lead you to a career in wine?
GARY: It was a natural progression, really. Food and wine go hand in hand. Working in some of the finest eating establishments meant that I was also exposed to fantastic wine collections. As a cook, I learned to pair.
RED: That probably contributed to your winemkaing philosophy…
GARY: Exactly! I make wines to be enjoyed with food. The Works is almost liquid food in itself, but pair it with something simple yet exotic and you have an integration of experience.
At this point, we arrive at the first vineyard and get out of the truck. Its a beautiful morning and the sun is shining on the vineyards. I hang back as Gary meets with the grower. The grapes are in top shape and harvest will, indeed, be ahead of schedule.
Top Secret Pairing Suggestion:
With Sautéed Butternut Squash Melted Endive and White Corn Grits Natural Jus
Poussin, weighing about one pound each, ideal for one person. We like them because of their rich, pure flavor. They can be difficult to find, but are worth the trip to a specialty market or butcher. Game hens may be used as an alternative.
Two 1 lb. Poussin Kosher Salt Freshly ground white pepper 2 T grapeseed oil 6 ea – Sprigs of fresh thyme 6 ea – Sprigs of fresh lavender
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Make an incision in each of the bird’s thighs, and tuck in the legs. Season all over with salt and pepper and also into the cavity including 2 springs of thyme and lavender for each bird.
Heat oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet over medium high heat. Place poussin skin side down in the hot pan then immediately transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes, flip the birds and continue roasting, basting every 5 minutes or so, until the juices run clear. Remove the poussin from the skillet and allow to rest about ten minutes. Pour the fat from the roasting pan and deglaze with a little chicken stock. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat. Add 2 sprigs each, thyme and lavender. Let steep 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and strain. Hold warm.