Founders & Owners – Lisa & Darius
Over 30 years ago, we experienced our first Wine Tasting and fell in love with it while attending the 1st Annual Pennsylvania Wine & Food Festival. We were novices, drinking wine coolers and boxed wines – preferring sweet over dry and knowing very little else.
Over the years we continued to learn about wine, where it grew, and how it was produced. But living in PA we had limited opportunity. 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 MillerCOO & 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.”
cat O’ConnorSommelier & Tasting Room Manager
After 35 years of marketing and communications roles in high-tech and biotech, Catherine (Cat) traded in her day job to pursue her curiosities for painting, gardening, and geeking out over grapes.
She is a graduate of the Professional Certificate Program in the Business of Wine at SDSU, holds a Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 3 Award, and is a Spanish Wine Scholar.
She gets her Zen through yoga, hiking, and exploring good wine with friends.
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 GlennWine Steward
Teacher by day, wine steward by night.
Melanie, A farm girl from Illinois, comes to Koi Zen having lived most of her adult life in the Blue Grass State of Kentucky. She has taught Public School Art for over 20 years, but has a growing passion for the wine industry. Kentucky, heavy in tourism for horses, bourbon, and believe it or not – wine.
Melanie worked 3 years at a small vineyard in the heart of it all. Melanie is a versatile, dedicated individual with much creativity. She draws her “Zen”ergy from being around people.
Danielle “Dani” SerranoWine 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.
Vince MarioWine Steward
Vince is the father of two wonderful girls, Lauren, a firefighter in San Diego, and Erin, a nurse in Tennessee, and husband to Vicky, project manager of a local construction company.
Vince grew up in Chicago learning about wine from his grandfather who made his own and shared his passion with him.
Vince moved to San Diego in 1988 via the Navy. He got to know Darius and Lisa who invited him to join the “Crush Crew.” His goal is to continue to grow his knowledge of wine and to make his own.
Darius MillerCEO & 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
The motto of the winery is “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 TaylorAssistant Winemaker
Dane 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.
Then 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 BriggsAssistant 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 the wine production from exploratory trips to wine country to the final product. And he still considers himself “retired”