Business Update: In business for three years, micro-winery enjoying its niche
FRONT ROYAL – Jason Miller’s journey to winery ownership started at a much less glamorous place. He started making wine as a hobby in the one-bedroom apartment he shared with his wife. Since then, he has gone on to open Front Royal’s only winery, which he opened in September 2013, a place that to this day hides in plain sight.
“If somebody comes into the tasting room, the first thing they say is, ‘Wow I had no idea you were here,'” Miller said. “We’re only open Saturdays, usually at noon.”
For those who venture to the winery at 23 S. Royal Ave., what they get into is a tiny-batch craft wine making operation with a knowledgeable proprietor who’s more than willing to help customers get a better feel of what he does and what they’re about to imbibe.
“The goal is if you come into my winery and taste my wine I want you to say, ‘I’ve never had a blend like this’ or ‘I’ve never had that grape varietal,'” Miller said. “We can take more risks. … We call it an education session. I don’t want you to just come in and drink some wine. I want you to know about the process and the grapes and how we make it. Most people want to learn something and I really enjoy that.”
The scale on which Miller’s Winery produces wine (400 bottles of each vintage) is a bit of a blessing and a curse. With small batches, there is less risk and more room to experiment, but the small inventory limits the winery’s hours and excludes Miller’s operation from attending large wine events where hefty inventory is necessary. However, for Miller, the benefits outweigh the cons, as the scale of Miller’s Winery enables him to better connect with those to whom he sells.
“The goal was to have something in the town,” Miller said. “We make really small batches of wine.”
Miller said that perhaps their most popular wine is a cabernet Franc he calls Sir Oliver, an homage to his pug of the same name, sold in bottles adorned with Sir Oliver’s visage. Miller also said another good seller is what’s known as Five, a white blend made of three grapes from California wine country and two Virginia grapes.
Miller’s operations deal with some area growers but also has a growing operation of its own near Lake Anna in Louisa County. The operation grows five grape varietals, which it uses to make its eight wines, most of which cost around $22.
Despite the small inventory, Miller’s winery has a sizable distribution operation. Miller said he now distributes to 18 states, working primarily with small restaurants, including the Apple House in Linden.
Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org