Alumnus and professor uses love of wine to help Michigan wine industry
Dave Miller understands that every glass of wine is a work of art, but for others, one glass can change a naive perspective.
He calls it the epiphany glass.
Described as a moment of awe after drinking an exceptional wine, Miller said other folks who are into wine all have passion for making and drinking wine. They’re into their vineyards and what they create like him, he said.
“Most people that get into wine have that wine epiphany,” Miller said.
Miller is now president of a new organization aimed to bring together members of the Michigan wine industry, those interested in the science of winemaking and even people who just enjoy a glass after a long day.
Founded in 2016, the Michigan Wine Collaborative's mission is to, “enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers and other businesses and individuals connected to the industry – today and for future generations,” according to their website.
He worked on his master's degree in the science of wine, or viticulture, through an assistantship at MSU and went on to receive his doctorate. In addition to the collaborative, Miller also runs his own winery, White Pine Winery.
Miller is a visiting professor and teaches a course on winemaking in the fall semester of each year.
Miller said that while it’s easy to find a mediocre wine, the epiphany glass is a much more difficult search.
“You really learn to appreciate when you have a glass of wine that’s one of those epiphany glasses, you really appreciate what that represents," he said. "It represents the right grapes in the right spot, careful viticulture, somebody who really cared about those grapes, good winemaking technique and probably a little bit of luck.”
Previously, the state's wine industry was lead by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, a group established by the Michigan legislature, but Miller said the industry was in need for a different collaborative to take on new tasks from the perspective of a professional.
“We really need to rethink this whole idea of putting together an organization that represents the industry,” he said. “The wine council people have done a great job, but they’re government folks. They get to know about our industry by talking to us and trying to understand, but we live it everyday.”
The wheels started turning on the MWC project three years ago.
It was Tom Smith, a colleague of Miller’s through VESTA, a national online viticulture training program offered at MSU, who offered to help the MWC build the foundation and bylaws that they stand on today.
“I volunteered my time to help them work through a set of questions to make sure to establish them and give them what they were interested in getting,” Smith said. "The MWC is the first state-wide, industry-run organization which is critical because of the growth of the Michigan wine industry."
He currently serves as an adviser to the MWC board and associate director of the Institute of Agricultural Technology at MSU.
Miller said that the Michigan wine industry is still growing.
International relations junior Elanur Ural works as an intern for Smith and helps with his involvement with the MWC.
“It’s been about four months since I’ve been working with them and I’ve really seen exponential growth,” Ural said.
In an effort to increase younger membership numbers, the MWC lowered the membership fee for students.
"The collaborative welcomes new voices and ideas," Ural said.