Sunday, September 14, 2008

Passing of Mark Miller

A winery pioneer who established Marlboro's Benmarl Vineyards is being remembered as a man dedicated to his craft, who brought the Hudson Valley into prominence among the vineyard circuit.

Mark Miller, 89, died Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C.

"He saw life as an adventure, and he saw himself at the helm of a ship, and he was just sailing through life," said Mark Miller's son, Eric Miller, in a telephone interview Friday.

Mark Miller was born in Oklahoma in 1919. He became an artist, but in 1951 started making wine as a hobby. Miller and his wife, Dene, bought the land in Marlboro in 1957 that would become Benmarl Vineyards.

Miller went to Europe and spent several years there as an artist while he learned about wine production before he returned to Marlboro.

Benmarl was granted New York state's first farm winery license in 1976, allowing it to produce and sell its wine directly to the public. At the time, there were 19 wineries in New York state, compared to about 250 today.

hough his most significant local impact may have been the winery, Miller was also a well-known artist and was an established illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post and other major publications.

Eric Miller, who also entered the vineyard business and owns a winery in Chadds Ford, Pa., described his father's view from his home at the edge of a cliff at the vineyard, overlooking the Hudson River and Dutchess County.

"He loved that view; he woke up to it every day and was charged every day," he said.

I had the opportunity about 6 or so years ago to be given a tour of Benmarl by Mark Miller. The end of the tour he allowed us to view his artwork. His vision at the time was to build an art museum to hold his artwork on the property. He was an amazing illustrator!

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