Founders & Owners – Lisa & Darius

Darius& Lisa Miller

Over the years we continued to learn about wine, where it grew, and how it was produced. But living in PA we had limited opportunities. That changed when we moved to San Diego in 1997 and our appreciation and access to wine greatly increased. Slowly a dream formed of owning a winery one day.

After years of corporate life and raising children – life threw us a curveball and we had to rethink our lives. After months of soul searching, we realized our dream of building a winery and opened Koi Zen Cellars in April 2015. Our friends and family thought we were crazy, but we wanted to “follow a passion and not a paycheck.”

Over the years we have learned much about life, family, friends, service, determination, gratitude, and vision and we thank you for sharing your time with us.


Lisa & Darius Miller

Tasting Room Team

Lisa Miller

COO & Owner

Lisa is the creative spark at Koi Zen Cellars and her talent is sprinkled throughout the winery, from photography, promotions, merchandising, and social media images. She is a people person who always loves chatting and sharing life’s stories.

Her sincerity, generosity, and easy nature make people feel at home and welcome.

She constantly strives to get to know each guest and member. She is driven to create an exceptional experience for anyone she interacts with. She constantly teases her husband saying, “Darius makes the wine and I do everything else.”

Al Fischer

Sommelier & Tasting Room Manager

With 28 years of management in the retail and print industries, Al decided it was time to learn more about what was in the glass of wine he enjoyed each night. With his passion for food and wine pairing in mind, Al enrolled in the Professional Certificate Program in the Business of Wine at SDSU and also recently finished the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 course.

He looks forward to running a tasting room in the future and continuing to share his passion for wine, life, and travel with others. When he’s not pouring the perfect glass to go with your cheese plate, you can find Al on the trails backpacking, playing hockey, or visiting wineries.

Melanie Dore

Wine Steward

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and working in different laboratory industries, she decided to trade fins and beakers for grapes and glasses. Born and raised in New Jersey, she went to the University of New Haven in Connecticut. In college, a wine appreciation elective piqued her curiosity in wine. After simultaneously working at labs and restaurants, she decided to further her wine curiosity. She has found a lovely new home in the wine industry at Koi Zen Cellars.
 She draws her “Zen” from dogs, wine tasting, and hanging at the beach.

Danielle ‘Dani’ Serrano

Wine Steward

Danielle is an avid art student who enjoys getting out into nature for inspiration. Before she entered the food and wine industry, she worked for multiple chiropractors and holistic health practitioners. She worked at The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro from 2018 until March 2020, when it temporarily closed its doors.
She is very excited to be a part of the Koi Zen family and looks forward to the tasting room being open again. She is a quick learner and has an infectious smile.

Beth Westerlund

Wine Steward

Beth visited her first winery on her 18th birthday while traveling in Australia and she has been hooked ever since. She moved from Chicago to California in 2001 and spends most of her vacation time visiting the wineries of the Central Coast. Beth passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Introductory Course Examination in November of 2021 and is currently studying to become a Certified Sommelier.
Beth worked in the healthcare industry for over 25 years before pursuing her wine education. Along with wine tasting, she loves cooking a variety of international foods and baking bread. 


Production Team

Darius Miller

CEO u0026amp; Winemaker/Author/Motivator

After 17 years, he left the high-stress corporate environment as a military contractor and refocused his energies on establishing the winery Koi Zen Cellars located in San Diego, CA. This had been a long-time dream where he “wanted to follow his passion and not a paycheck. The motto of the winery “Uncork, Sip Back and Relax.” He is a winemaker, author, public speaker, educator, minister, and produces a weekly blog focused on wine, education mixed in with personal development and motivational themes.

Dane Taylor

Assistant Winemaker

u003cbru003eDane grew up in San Diego but decided to explore Viticulture even in high school. He studied Viticulture and Enology in Santa Rosa prior to joining Radio Couteau winery for their 2009 harvest. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThen he supported Martinelli Family Vineyards for the next season to hone his skills and learned large-scale wine production techniques. He eventually moved back to his roots where he became a Licensed Massage Therapist and instructor. One day he wandered into Koi Zen and the lure of the winery pulled him in, where he continues to hone his craft of winemaking.

Steve Briggs

Assistant Winemaker

Steve began his lifetime wine adventure in the normal manner – by drinking. Steve learned a “bunch” from his wine studies but wasn’t able to get any hands-on training that he desired to fully understand wine. That all changed when he first visited Koi Zen Cellars for the first time. This is where he had the opportunity to develop his hands-on training. Eventually, he become the Assistant Winemaker. He is involved in all aspects of wine production from exploratory trips to wine country to the final product. And he still considers himself “retired”

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”