Christian Miller has the heart of a sommelier and the soul of an entrepreneur. After a couple years as an operations analyst at Merrill Lynch in the 1980s, “I impulsively jumped into the wine industry, first as a wine steward at Windows on the World, then in retail sales,” he says. On a trip to California, he met with some of the wineries with whom he had done business. “We’re getting the sales and winemaking part down,” they told him, “but we need help with finance and marketing.”
Seizing the opportunity to turn his passion into a career, Miller chose Cornell for his MBA studies in part because of its proximity to wine country: “I was able to continue learning about wine and work with some of the local producers,” he says. Three decades later, as the proprietor of Full Glass Research, Miller consults with investors, wineries, vineyards, food companies, farms, and other clients on everything from economic impact studies to supply analysis.
Miller chose Cornell for his MBA studies in part because of its proximity to wine country.
Sustainability is a key concern, too. One recent Full Glass Research study focused on the role of sustainable viticulture and winemaking in the Pacific Northwest, involving 152 wineries and vineyards and 286 wine-trade professionals. More than 85 percent of winemakers surveyed found environmentally friendly practices “consistent with my personal philosophy.”
The firm, based in Berkeley, Calif., also provides analytics for WineOpinions.com, the influential website co-founded by Miller in 2005. WineOpinions taps into the palates of 14,000 high-frequency wine consumers and a panel of over 4,700 industry professionals to provide consumer and trade analysis.
With a full-time staff of three, Full Glass Research is branching out into other categories, including high-end cheese, cider, craft beer, and chocolate. Like the wine industry, “These categories share issues of fragmentation, a long tail of suppliers, a critical mass of highly involved consumers, and complex distribution channels,” Miller says.
Whether his work has taken him to Spain, France, Chile, or to wineries nationwide, “The people are mostly generous, interesting, and fun to be around,” he adds, even when they’re struggling with production or sales issues. “It’s far from the most lucrative or profitable industry, but it has a great culture and perks.”
Vineyard photo credit: iStock by Getty Images