Growing up in the world of food, wine and service, hospitality might as well be Pavle Milic’s middle name. His roots run deep within the industry, as he entered the restaurant scene at the age of 16. Hand-me-down advice and hard-working genes were gifted to him by his Columbian mother and Yugoslavian father –which without a doubt, prepared him for big things in this life.
Milic worked in a multitude of capacities in restaurants all over the Valley and the country-as-a-whole. But it was a reunion with a longtime friend, Charlene Badman, that set the stage for the wild journey he was about to embark upon. The two created a concept to encompass fresh local foods with a huge focus on an Arizona wine program. Together, they opened FnB, a restaurant that strongly showcases the state and all that its terroir provides. Within a short time, they were truly connecting with the people and the land that represents Arizona. Since conception, the restaurant has been receiving accolades and recognitions in excellence. Badman was awarded the James Beard winner for best chef in the Southwest in 2019.
As Milic’s relationships with his patrons and suppliers grew stronger, and his love for nature continued to blossom, he knew he had to do what had always been on his agenda – make his own wine. With the encouragement and guidance from the folks at Dos Cabezas Wineworks in Sonoita, Milic built his own label.
“I would have customers in the restaurant try my wine and ask them if they would order it again, they always said yes,” Milic said.
An enormous accomplishment, yes – but his energy and desire for creating something from the actual countryside was stronger than ever.
“I lived all over Napa and had a bit of separation anxiety when I left, but then became quite taken with Sonoita/Elgin and fell in love with this part of the world,” he said.
Milic wouldn’t be satisfied until the wine he made came from his own plantings and production facility in Arizona. His plan was for he and his wife to buy a small winery once the kids left the nest.
However, one fine day, in 2017, a special thing happened. Being the convivial, working owner that Milic is, he was waiting tables at his FnB restaurant, when a table of four ordered two bottles of his Los Milics label. That order led to a conversation that would make his dream a reality much sooner than he had anticipated. FnB patron and business consultant Mo Garfinkle wanted to talk about the scope of Milic’s winery and vineyard project, and wanted to make it happen sooner than later. Like a magnetic force, the Garfinkle/Milic vision, along with their adventurous spirits, joined with the dirt of the earth.
Three vineyards later, they are in-the-midst-of constructing their estate vineyard site, that will be home to their state-of-the-art winemaking facility, tasting room and guest lodging. With construction in full swing, Los Milic Vineyards (LMV), teamed up with architects, Chen and Suchart, to design this magnificent undertaking.
“I never imagined I’d be working with Chen and Suchart to design my winery. The architecture is enough to make people visit,” said Milic.
On a Zoom call, Milic gave me a tour of the vineyard and walked me through the vast operation taking place within it. The tasting room, being built as we speak, sits beautifully and peacefully amongst the vines. Milic wanted the area where visitors will come to taste his wines, to be one with its surroundings.
“I wanted something that would stand the test of time, somewhat monolithic almost like Stonehenge in the modern age,” Milic told me.
The grand entrance is lined with intriguing 20-foot-tall steel structures that welcome and inspire questions, which Milic believes is what good artists do. In about one year, as weather and rain grace the area, these column structures, along with the tasting room, will blend with the soils in color as they become purposely rusted out. To demonstrate the look he is going for, he pointed out the color of the trellis posts that have been a part of the vineyard for some time now, and proudly explained how everything will come together.
Los Milics Vineyards, in all its glory, will include a private tasting room for groups to reserve space and, nine casitas for lodging. Accommodations aren’t easy to come by yet in Arizona’s southern wine country, so this is exciting news for wine drinkers who want to enjoy a few days with limited travel time once they get there.
Finally, the reason for this brilliance wouldn’t be necessary without the grapes. Milic did his research and openly admits he picked the brains of those were already in the game.
“I planted what makes sense here, not just what would feed my ego,” said Milic. Hence why he grows a mix of European varieties like those from Spain, France and Italy, that have proven success throughout southern Arizona. He’s also excited about experimenting with the unknown, his planting of an obscure Italian red variety called Teroldego – it is described as lively, approachable and one that loves food – sounds like a good fit.
Los Milic Vineyards wines can be found in the Valley at Peacock Wine Bar in Gilbert, Mingle and Graze in Chandler, FnB restaurant, Far Away Wine and Provisions and at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport – Terminal 4 in the Cowboy Ciao restaurant – and in Tucson at the Citizen Hotel, Feast and Time Market. Of course, nothing beats a trip to the vineyard – construction will be underway but, progressing in steps throughout the year. Go to www.losmilicsvineyards.com to inquire within.
East Valley resident Darla S. Hoffmann is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her at www.aboutwineinaz.com.