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Best F Stephen Millier Wines

Best F Stephen Millier Wines
Latest posts by Lauren Vigdor (see all)

Stephen Millier is a winemaker “of the people.” He has built a very successful wine business from the ground up through dedication and relationships formed within his community. The first wine that launched his winery was made from a small lot of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that his former employer had planted by mistake, and he’s grown to become the leading direct-to-consumer winemaker in the United States. 

His F. Stephen Millier signature line of wines are wines “for the people,” but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. The affordable wines are made in a region that was all but overlooked by the wine industry before Stephen came along. They’re made with grapes that are sometimes passed on by other winemakers, much like that original Cabernet harvest.  

I spent more than a decade working in the hospitality industry, and during that time, I learned that the best winemakers put their personality into their products. Stephen is one of those winemakers. He creates a huge variety of wines, but big, bold, complex reds and sweet, fruity whites are where he shines. Below is my list of the best F. Stephen Millier wines. 

Bottom Line Up Front

There’s a reason why Stephen Millier is so successful — he’s very good at his craft. All of his wines are fantastic, but my favorite is his Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo. It’s complex, flavorful, and easy to drink, regardless of the time of year or what you decide to pair it with. 

F. Stephen Millier Legend Series Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo Calaveras County 2020 | Naked Wines

Stephen’s bold and flavor-packed Tempranillo is a single-vineyard specialty from your #1 winemaker, dripping with dark fruits and a big, full-bodied structure that ends on a lengthy, unforgettable finish.

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Picks at a Glance

  1. Stephen Millier Black Label Calaveras Viognier 2020 — Most Interesting Varietal
  2. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Chardonnay 2020 — Easiest to Drink
  3. Stephen Millier Sweet Selections Muscat Canelli 2020 — Best Sweet Wine
  4. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Pinot Noir 2020 — Most Versatile 
  5. Stephen Millier Legend Series Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo Calaveras County 2020 — Best to Share with Friends
  6. Stephen Millier Black Label Winter Cabernet 2020 — Best for the Holidays

Who is F. Stephen Millier?

Stephen Millier is an award-winning winemaker who has been making wine for decades. He studied winemaking in college and began making wine professionally immediately after graduating. 

In the early 1980s, during his time working for Stevenot Winery, Stephen helped put his current home of Murphys, California, in Calaveras County, on the map. He split his time between winemaking and acting as an ambassador for the region before eventually opening his winery, Milliaire Winery, with the support of his former employers. Stephen continues to produce wine made from grapes grown in and around Calaveras County. 

Where Can I Buy F. Stephen Millier Wines?

Stephen Millier wines are a line that Stephen created exclusively for Naked Wines. Stephen was the first American winemaker to join Naked Wines a decade ago, and together he and the company have built a thriving direct-to-consumer wine program.

Naked Wines allows wine enthusiasts to support independent winemakers through crowdfunding. Members, known as Angels, buy into the program for $40 a month. That monthly fee can then be spent on wine purchased directly from the winemaker through the Naked Wines website. You can find more information about Naked Wines and the Angels program here

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The Best F. Stephen Millier Wines

I chose the wines on this list because I think they represent the best of what the F. Stephen Millier line of wines has to offer. They’re unapologetically bold, flavorful, and complex. They’re all affordable — most of them are around $20 or less a bottle ($10 or less for Angels.) 

I also chose wines that pair well with food. While not all of these are as good on their own as they are accompanied by a good meal (I find few things in life are), you can drink them without food should you choose to do so. 

Finally, all of these wines are delicious and just a little bit unexpected. 

F. Stephen Millier Black Label Calaveras Viognier 2020

F. Stephen Millier Black Label Calaveras Viognier 2020 | Naked Wines

Ripe tropical fruit flavors lead the way in this rich, juicy Viognier, followed by a long, lush finish with just a touch of tangy citrus to leave your tastebuds tingling.  

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I love Viognier, but it’s not an easy variable to find. It’s a creamy, rich, medium-bodied white wine with a bit of viscosity to it. This isn’t a citrusy wine; it’s fruity and floral and slightly off-dry with just a hint of bitterness. Dry Riesling drinkers will probably like it, as well unoaked Chardonnay fans. 

Stephen Millier’s Black Label Calaveras Viognier is lush and tropical with stone fruit, citrus, and floral notes. It’s got a ton of flavor to match its body. The grapes for this wine are sourced from a single vineyard. 

I would drink this wine with pan-seared scallops in simple herb butter sauce or with a slice of my aunt’s almond pound cake. You could drink this one without food as well.

Pros

  • Very flavorful medium-bodied white wine
  • Somewhat hard to find grape varietal

Cons

  • Will feel viscous or oily if you’re used to drinking strictly Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc

F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Chardonnay 2020

F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Chardonnay 2020 | Naked Wines

Rich, juicy tropical fruit flavors combine with a in this easy-sipping summery Chardonnay from 3-time Winemaker of the Year Stephen Millier, all rounded out with a crisp, thirst-quenching finish.

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After all my years serving guests from behind the bar, I concluded that Chardonnay drinkers are particularly brand loyal. I have to assume that this is because so much of Chardonnay’s distinctive flavors and character comes from the winemaking methods used rather than the grape itself. Sure, the terroir and climate will affect the taste of your wine, but a lot of the flavors that we tend to associate with Chardonnay come from the aging process. We often associate Chardonnay with oak barrel aging, though there are plenty of wonderful unoaked Chardonnays that are aged in steel casks.

Fun fact: Chardonnay is one of the most popular grapes in the world and is very commonly used in Champagne production!

Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Chardonnay does spend some time in oak barrels, but it’s not as buttery-tasting as many oak-aged California Chardonnays. It’s an elegant Chardonnay with tropical fruit flavors and just a hint of oak. It’s smooth and lean with a little crispness that makes it super drinkable. 

Drink this chilled, but not too cold, or you’ll lose the subtlety of some of the flavors. I would pair this with linguine and clams or even lobster.

Pros

  • Very drinkable, lean Chardonnay
  • Not too buttery (which I don’t care for)
  • Ready to drink right away

Con

  • Might be too light for people who like heavily oaked Chardonnay

F. Stephen Millier Sweet Selections Muscat Canelli 2020

F. Stephen Millier Sweet Selections Muscat Canelli 2020 | Naked Wines

Stephen’s Muscat Canelli is jam packed with a fruit cocktail of flavors for a plush, sweet treat from Naked’s #1 winemaker.

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Before I dig in and discuss this wine, I need to start by saying that I’m not a sweet wine drinker. I was gifted a very nice bottle of Sauternes ages ago that has been through several moves with me because I’m never in the mood to drink it. So while I do think this is one of Stephen’s best wines, it’s not really for me. The reason I’m including it on this list is that I think that for people who do prefer their wines on the sweet side, even if just occasionally, this is a wonderful choice. 

Stephen Millier’s Muscat Canelli is floral, fruity, and sweet, but it’s well-balanced and not cloying — it is a gorgeous expression of the varietal. Just note that if you like your wines super sweet, this might be a little too dry for your taste.

Muscat pairs well with Asian foods, but I’d probably drink this one on its own in place of dessert. I think a well-chilled glass of wine (or two!) is an excellent choice by itself after dinner when it’s too hot for a heavy dessert, but if you’d like to pair this with something sweet, stick with something simple. Fresh fruit and cream or a slice of not-too-sweet cheesecake are great options. 

Pros

  • A well-balanced, sweet but not cloying wine
  • Great for warm weather

Cons

  • Might be too sweet for dry wine drinkers and too dry for sweet wine drinkers

F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Pinot Noir 2020

F. Stephen Millier Angels Reserve Lodi Pinot Noir 2020 | Naked Wines

Stephen’s Lodi Pinot Noir is layered with bright red fruit flavors like fresh, ripe cherry with a rich, mouth-filling texture and a long, lush finish.

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When the weather is warm, I like to drink fruitier Pinot Noirs, slightly chilled, and I think this is the perfect wine to drink that way. It’s got plenty of cherries, raspberry, and strawberry flavors that are balanced out by oak and a bit of acidity. 

Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that can be tricky to cultivate and easily picks up the terroir of where it’s grown. Stephen Millier’s Angels Reserve Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown in several sustainable vineyards in Lodi. It’s lush but a bit more balanced than a lot of other California Pinot Noirs. It’s got a little bit of earthiness to it, though not as much as a typical French Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is light enough that you can pair it with fish, but I prefer to drink it with poultry. There’s a café near where I grew up that used to serve this amazing mixed green salad with roast duck and candied pecans that would be perfect with this. I’d also love to enjoy a chilled glass while nibbling on strawberries drizzled with balsamic reduction — I’d probably sit on my back porch and pretend I was overlooking the Mediterranean, but that’s just me. 

Pros

  • Super drinkable light-bodied red
  • Pairs well with all kinds of food
  • Great with or without food

Cons

  • Might be too acidic for some California Pinot Noir drinkers
  • Too fruity for French Pinot Noir drinkers

F. Stephen Millier Legend Series Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo Calaveras County 2020

F. Stephen Millier Legend Series Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo Calaveras County 2020 | Naked Wines

Stephen’s bold and flavor-packed Tempranillo is a single-vineyard specialty from your #1 winemaker, dripping with dark fruits and a big, full-bodied structure that ends on a lengthy, unforgettable finish.

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I rarely drink Cabernet in the summer. Instead, I opt for Tempranillo. It’s not as heavy or rich as Cab Sauv, but it does have a lot of the same flavors, like cherry, tobacco, and leather. I find it a little easier to drink on its own without food, and it’s great with grilled and spicy foods, which are pretty much all I live on in the summertime. 

Stephen Millier’s Tempranillo is made from grapes harvested from a single vineyard. It’s fruity, smooth, and very well-balanced. Its medium acid, tannins, and savory finish mean it will pair wonderfully with food. I would decant this wine (actually, I’m kind of lazy, so I’d probably just let it breathe.) You could also age this wine for quite a while.

Tempranillo can hold its own against all the foods you would typically pair with a Cab Sauv, plus some lighter fare as well. As I said, I like to drink this in the summer, so I’d probably serve it with burgers and grilled vegetables. Tempranillo is also fantastic with tomato flavors, which means it would be great alongside pasta or grilled flatbread pizza as well. 

Pros

  • Easier to drink than Cabernet Sauvignon, with a similar flavor profile
  • Great for any season

Cons

  • Might be too acidic for some people

F. Stephen Millier Black Label Winter Cabernet 2020

F. Stephen Millier Black Label Winter Cabernet 2020 | Naked Wines

Once a year, Stephen makes a special blend of his most popular Black Label Cab and turns it all the way up with sultry dark fruits like cherries and berries and rich toasted flavors — it’s a real holiday treat!

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Who doesn’t love a bold red wine to pair with a holiday meal? At least once during the holiday season, I recommend indulging in a rich, decadent meal with the biggest red wine you can get your hands on, and this cab is a perfect contender.

Stephen Millier makes his Black Label Winter Cabernet once a year. It’s a small-batch blend of his Black Label California Cabernet with the holiday flavors turned up to eleven. It’s made from grapes grown on Stephen’s estate blended with grapes grown in nearby Lodi, CA. The wine is aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels. 

This wine is huge, but it’s very smooth. It’s full of sweet blackberry and cherry flavors balanced by an earthiness and hint of oak and spice imparted by the barrels. It tastes like Christmas in a bottle.

 Let this one breathe a bit before you drink it — or better yet, decant it. You could also cellar this wine for years to let the flavors develop. 

This wine is meant to accompany a Game of Thrones-style feast, so don’t hold back with your menu. Juicy ribeyes (or a holiday prime rib,) truffled potatoes, or braised short ribs with mushrooms and gnocchi are all great choices. 

Pros

  • The perfect holiday cab
  • Will age extremely well
  • Very smooth for such a big wine

Cons

  • Not as good without food
  • Might be too fruity for some aged cabernet drinkers

FAQs

Question: How much is a bottle of F. Stephen Millier wine?

Answer: The market price for a bottle of F. Stephen Millier wine ranges from about $11.99 to $106.99, but Naked Wines Angels will pay about $8.99 to $44.99. Most F. Stephen Millier wines are around $24 or less at market price and $9.99 for Angels. 

Question: Is F. Stephen Millier’s wine sweet?

Answer: Not all F. Stephen Millier wine is sweet, though there are several sweet wines in the line. If you’re looking for something sweet, try the Sweet Selections Muscat Canelli. If you prefer dry wines, you might like the Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo.

Question: Do Naked Wines have a monthly fee?

Answer: Naked Wines costs $40 a month, but that money accrues in your account, and you choose what wine to buy with it and when to spend it. 

Final Thoughts

Stephen Millier puts a lot of care and personality into his wines. He’s not one to take the easy approach to winemaking and will instead give even the most temperamental grapes the care and dedication they need to transform into spectacular wine. His wines are bold, rich, and complex but affordable enough to become your everyday wines.

His F. Stephen Millier wines are exclusively available through Naked Wines and include some of his most exciting bottles. My favorite F. Stephen Millier wine is his Hay Station Ranch Tempranillo. It’s great with or without food any time of year. It’s a well-balanced crowd-pleaser of a wine. 

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