Wine Scholar Guild honors Chris Miller of San Francisco Wine School as 2017 IWS Instructor of the Year!
IWS Instructor of the Year is an award of excellence recognizing creative and effective classroom instruction for the Italian Wine Scholar study & certification program.
The recipient is selected based upon outstanding presentation skills, organization, congeniality and a genuine and spirited dolce vita—all talents reflected in stellar student evaluations.
Kudos to Chris!
Meet Chris Miller
Chris caught the wine bug wandering the major wine producing nations of Europe, then later, working room service at a high-end hotel in London. Shortly upon his return to the States, he started his first wine job on Valentine's Day 1997 in the tasting room at the David Bruce Winery. Shortly thereafter, he started working for a large distributor and found himself, in early 2001, the Northern California Market Manager for Wilson Daniels. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and was recruited to work as the Wine Director/Sommelier for Pizzeria Mozza where he created and oversaw an all-Italian wine list championing obscure, little known varietals. He later spent close to 4 years as the southern California Italian wine buyer for K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood where he wrote extensively for their newsletter and website.
In addition to his sales and marketing experience, Chris has taught for various wine schools and for private clients, worked on Sommelier teams at events such as the Masters of Food and Wine, the Pebble Beach Food and Wine, the World of Pinot and the California Culinary Institute, and has crafted and consulted on numerous restaurant wine programs. Chris has traveled exhaustively through the wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Hungary and North America. He achieved the Certified Sommelier designation from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2007.
Interview with Chris Miller
You are teaching a course about Italian wine in California wine country. How is that received?
The Italian wine scene in the greater Bay Area is very sophisticated. I would argue, probably as sophisticated, per capita, as anywhere in the world. With thousands of producers of wine a couple hours north or a couple hours south (not to mention the dozens of "urban wineries" we have right smack in the middle of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, etc.), we are, as a demographic, already incredibly wine savvy. Couple this with the fact we have some of the best Italian restaurants in the United States (Acquerello, La Ciccia, A-16, Bellotti, Perbacco just to name a mere few), people, both industry and non, are exceedingly eager to learn more and more about Italian wine.
When a restaurant can not only pour a Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato or Pallagrello Bianco by the glass, but go through three cases a week, you know you're in a special place. So to answer the question directly... very well received!
When and why did you choose to become an Italian Wine Scholar instructor?
I was an American Literature major at UC Santa Cruz and was convinced my life's work would be as a professor of the humanities. I always felt like I have a genuine passion for teaching. I've been teaching for David Glancy, the owner of the San Francisco Wine School, off and on for more than a decade. After I returned to San Francisco from a stint in Los Angeles where I was an Italian wine buyer for a high profile restaurant and then a high profile retailer, I became the sort of default Italian wine "authority" at the school. When we launched the Italian Wine Scholar program in 2016, I taught the first course to be offered here in California. In a nutshell, I love teaching and I LOVE Italian wine.
To whom do you recommend the Italian Wine Scholar program and why?
I always let people know that it really does take a commitment to be successful with the Italian Wine Scholar program. There are other programs to learn the basics of Italian wine, but I tell prospective students that the operative word in the title is "scholar." You'll have your nose buried in a book, learning things the vast majority of wine professionals and wine enthusiasts will never know, and you have to have the passion to stay committed to making that happen. That said, once completed, the sense of accomplishment and confidence is well worth the effort.
How do you think your instruction style or teaching methods set you apart/help your students be so successful?
Great question. I think the most important thing is to make it fun, and keep the humor in it. Yes, it's serious stuff and there's a lot to learn, but if my students aren't laughing multiple times in a three hour class, I feel like I'm doing something wrong. Wine is about to joy after all, yes? I think I wear my passion and love of wine (all wine in general, but Italian wine in particular) on my sleeve, and my hope is that through my teaching, that passion is contagious.
2017 WINE SCHOLAR GUILD AWARDS:
Previous Years WSG Awards:
- 2016 WSG Program Provider of the Year: Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, CAN)
- 2016 WSG Instructor the Year: Sheral Schowe, M.Ed., FWS, IWS (Wasatch Academy of Wine, Salt Lake City, USA)
- 2015 WSG Program Provider of the Year: AWSEC (Hong Kong, HKG)
- 2015 WSG Instructor the Year: David Glancy MS, FWS (San Francisco Wine School, USA)