Seasons 52’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes is on a mission to expand the wine palates of the public by introducing little-known producers and vintners. The 152nd member of the elite Court of Master Sommeliers (only 186 worldwide), Miliotes takes wine seriously, but still has fun with it. “I love drinking all wines,” he says. “But I think to be doing the good work in the wine business, we have to be wine-forward in our thinking.”
And this shows when looking at Miliotes’ wine list for Seasons 52. With 21 restaurants nationwide, and more on the horizon, an ever-changing wine list would simply be an impossibility. “I don’t want to change my list every vintage with vintage variation,” says Miliotes. “With 21 restaurants, all I would be doing is training people on the new list, I want stability. I am not interested in wine makers that have high peaks because they have to have low peaks in order to have the high. I am looking for consistency with my producers.”
So in order to give variation to the list from season to season, Miliotes introduced the “Drink Them Before They Become Famous” supplement to the wine list. Every season, Miliotes chooses three vintages, usually from makers flying under the radar, regions that are not well-known, and/or varietals that have not yet taken off with the wine-drinking public.
“I want to put some wines on the list that nobody knows anything about,” says Miliotes. “People still want to discover something they can call their own.”
Miliotes takes special pride, and time, when working on his wine list. Starting with a strong entry-level wine and moving down the list, he is hands-on with the process. For the entry-level Chardonnay, Indaba, Miliotes flies out to the West Cape of South Africa and custom blends the wine for both Seasons 52 and the U.S. market as a whole, ensuring the consistency his patrons have come to expect. “We search the world for growers and regions where we know we can make great wine at a fair price,” says Miliotes. “I want our wine list to be different and cool, and for people to be excited when they walk in.”
For those looking for a great wine that is flying under the radar, or simply want to expand their knowledge of the wine world, Miliotes’ “Drink Them Before They Become Famous” list has three new wines for the winter. Here, we present a sneak peek at some that will grace the list this spring.
Mauritson Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007
Based in Sonoma County, Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines is a sixth generation vintner whose signature label is quickly becoming synonymous with great wine. The 2007 Mauritson Cabernet Sauvignon, a California varietal superstar, saw a great growing season, resulting in a ripe, full-flavored wine. Miliotes’ thoughts: “This is a guy [Mauritson] doing the good work in Sonoma but flying under the radar. He is not big enough to have a huge marketing budget, but he is making really good wine. I want people to know about this guy because, sooner or later, he is going to be famous and his wine is going to be twice as expensive because of supply and demand.”
Ramey Chardonnay, Russia River Valley, 2008
Coming out of Sonoma County, Ramey Wine Cellars, spearheaded by the great wine mind of David Ramey, is a no-frills type of operation dedicated simply to making great wine. Building a reputation in the California wine world for bringing old-school methods back to the region, Ramey has helped establish wines for some of the region’s powerhouse wineries. The 2008 Russian River Chardonnay has been praised for its rich flavor and fruity qualities. Miliotes on Ramey: “He is very utilitarian. He is simply about making great wine from the best vineyard sources in Napa and Sonoma, and is very successful at it. Not a lot of people know his name, even though he is responsible for a lot of famous and expensive wines.”
Marchetti Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi
Grown in the Marche region of Italy, verdicchio is a little known varietal in the United States. Riding the recent wave of small wine producers out of Italy, Marchetti is producing great wines at small quantities, making every bottle special. The Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a white wine that, according to Miliotes, is “very Italianate in that it is crisp and clean with kind of a nutty flavor that will be perfect with seafood.” So why is Marchetti on Miliotes’ list? “Marchetti makes wine out of love. He is making only 500 cases of this wine for the whole world, which is nothing. I just love what he is producing.”