Born in the United States and raised in Spain and England of Greek Cypriot and Spanish parents, Kemiji is a graduate of the University of California at Davis. In addition to his Economics and Spanish Literature degrees, he studied Viticulture and Oenology.


After graduation, he worked for the famed wine merchant, Corti Brothers in Sacramento, California, under the direction of Darrell Corti and former White House wine consultant, David Berkley. Subsequently Kemiji acted as Ritz-Carlton Director of Wine & Spirits from 1988 to 1999, first at Laguna Niguel and then in San Francisco. In 1989 Kemiji became the 12th American to pass the Master Sommelier exam on his first attempt. In the same year, he received the “Sommelier of the Year” award by the California Restaurant Writers Association. Kemiji was also chosen “Wine Director of the Year” in the Critics Choice Awards, and was honored in the August 1999 issue of San Francisco Magazine.


Kemiji formed Miura Vineyards in 1995, becaming the first sommelier to establish a winery in the United States. Soon to follow was a project in Montsant and Priorat, Spain – Clos Pissarra in 2003. The San Francisco Chronicle named Kemiji as one of the “10 Winemakers to Watch for 2000.” In 2006, Kemiji received the Wine Industry Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League. He has also been a wine judge at the Los Angeles County Fair and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.


In July of 2020 he launched two new projects: L+i, the first California wine in a can crafted by a Master Sommelier, and Miura Beer Works, the first craft beers made by a Master Sommelier and a Master Brewer. That same year he completed ‘The Miura Affair’, a novel about the complex relationship formed between two men during the Spanish Civil War.


2023 saw Kemiji begin a nitro cold brew coffee project, café Islero, based around a single estate and single variety coffee, and start an agave project in Sonora, Mexico- Estaca 1627.


Where are you working currently and how has being a MS supported you in your current role?

Currently I own 2 wineries, Miura Vineyards in California and Clos Pissarra in Spain, am a partner in a brewery, Miura Beer Works, and am Managing Partner of a new agave project in Mexico, Estaca 1627. By being a Master Sommelier I got to meet numerous men and women that inspired me to chase my dreams, and the connections that I made have been instrumental in making my projects come to fruition.


Where were you working when you passed?

I was the Director of Wines & Spirits at The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in 1989 when I passed.


What advice do you give those who are pursuing certification?

It’s not about having two initials at the end of your name. It’s about the journey where the worst that can happen is that you end up gaining more knowledge about something you love which helps you in all facets of your career.


What is your desert island wine, or what wines/beverages are you currently excited about?

Bacanora from Sonora, Mexico!