George Miliotes is an educator and leader at Darden Concepts for The Capital Grille and Seasons 52. As the Director of Beverage and Hospitality and one of the world’s few Master Sommeliers; (160 professionals worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier since the first Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.) George oversees all aspects of The Capital Grille and Seasons 52’s wine and beverage program, from the development of the award-winning wine lists to educating and motivating service teams about wine.
Miliotes is not only a leader but an innovator, who is credited with bringing a global, by-the-glass wine program to up-market dining. His unique by-the-glass program encourages guests to make adventuresome choices, mixing and matching wines with each course of their meal. Both The Capital Grille and Seasons 52 have similar wines-by-the-glass programs known as “George’s Picks” and “Drink Them Before They Become Famous” The purpose of these select lists is to introduce guests to new wines at a reasonable price point.
A few examples off the Seasons 52 list for the Spring of 2012 include:
Aveleda Vinho Verde, Portugal ‘10/‘11
Lioco Indica Rosé , Mendocino ‘11
Zardetto Prosecco, Treviso NV
Botani Moscatel, Sierras de Málaga ‘10
Alegrini Palazzo della Torre Corvina Veronese ‘08/‘09
A firm believer in education and knowledge-sharing, Miliotes continues to study wine while enhancing both The Capital Grille and Seasons 52’s wine list through trips all over the world. Let’s meet the man who famously introduces the unknown; I present this week’s Sommelier in the Spotlight, George Miliotes.
South Florida Food and Wine: George you epitomize the phrase, “living your dream.” You have taken your passion for wine and turned it into a burgeoning career with Darden as a Master Sommelier and Director of Beverages for The Capital Grille and Seasons 52. What is the one thing you love the most about what you do?
George Miliotes: By far the ability to train our teams is the most fulfilling thing about my job. The energy and passion that flows from all our servers and bartenders constantly refreshes my desire to learn more about wine and pass along that knowledge to others.
South Florida Food and Wine: How do you manage such a massive job, being responsible for the wine lists in over 80 restaurants across the country?
George Miliotes: By working as a team is key. I have support from our Purchasing Department, Training Department and Operations. Personally, I work on being better organized every day. I continually have to taste and look for new things. I am constantly in contact with all levels of the supply chain from growers to producers to suppliers to sellers so that I can learn as much as possible about what the next big thing may be or a future business opportunity. I could not do it without the support and passion of the servers and bartenders who follow through on our vision each and every day at The Capital Grille and Seasons 52
South Florida Food and Wine: How do you keep a wine program fresh and exciting to keep your guests coming back for more?
George Miliotes: This ties directly to how I manage my responsibilities. I have to listen to all of the links in the business chain – what are the guests asking for? what do the servers need? what is new and cool in the market? Then, since it is all about taste (whether it be a wine, spirit or beer), you have to sample everything. As the saying goes (or as the old adage goes), you have to kiss quite a few frogs before you find your prince!
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your most memorable wine moment to date?
George Miliotes: By I have been very lucky in life to have tasted many really great wines. Two experiences, however, stick out in my mind. First, I have had Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1982 three times in my life. Each time it has been beautiful. I also was lucky enough to walk into the De Toren winery in South Africa before it was famous. I feel it is one of the greatest red wines in the world year in and year out (maybe it is the Leoville Las Cases of South Africa?). It has been a pleasure to be a part of building its reputation.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you most would like to share a bottle of wine with? And why?
George Miliotes: By My wife! I love to have a great bottle with her as we spend time with our three children (6, 11 and 15.) If it had to be someone from history, though, it would be Thomas Jefferson. He was one of the great statesmen of his time and loved wine. We could enjoy a Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau d’Yquem from the 1700, 1800, 1900 or 2000’s and talk about politics today. It would be fun!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final quaff be?
George Miliotes: By I would grill out at home. We would start with Roederer Estate sparkling wine from the Anderson Valley. Then, we would have to drink some Rioja from Sierra Cantabria, Bordeaux from Chateau Leoville Las Cases and some rock star Cabernet from Napa (I have too many friends out there to specify just one!). To finish, I would end with a dessert Riesling from Selbach-Oster, preferably from the great 2006 vintage.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the best wine advice you have ever received?
George Miliotes: By Drink what you enjoy, not what others think is “cool” or “good” because it is expensive. By the pool, my favorite wine is Vinho Verde and it is sold for $9.00 a bottle.
South Florida Food and Wine: Dream come true: You can have the wine of your choice in any city in the world, which city would it be and why? What wine would it be and why?
George Miliotes: By I would be in Napa Valley (not exactly a city but…). My wife Leanne and I would be overlooking the Napa Valley on the patio at Auberge de Soleil. We would be having a dessert wine or sparkling wine with some blue cheese. The sun would be setting. It doesn’t get more romantic or relaxing!
South Florida Food and Wine: Your sense of taste and smell are crucial to your job, what if you lost your “senses?” What would be your Plan B?
George Miliotes: By I can’t imagine not being able to do what I do, but if I had to choose something else, I would be coaching a major college or professional football or soccer team.
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