New Orleans native James Moises is a physician and professor of emergency medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine. In 2002, he began making wine in Oregon's Willamette Valley with his medical school classmate Mark Wahle, whose family has vineyards in that region. The first vintage was released in 2009. Today, Moises Vineyard & Wines (www.moiseswines.com) is a small boutique winery, producing about 400 cases a year. Most of it is pinot noir, and practically all of it is sold at shops and restaurants in the New Orleans area. Later this summer, the winery will release its latest vintages, including a new pinot gris.
What set you on a path to becoming a winemaker?
Moises: It came out of my friendship with Mark. There's an expression: "You have to drink a lot of beer to make a fine wine," and that's what we did. I enjoyed wine, but I didn't know much about it, and it was fascinating when I started learning. For a city boy, getting out into wine country, seeing the rolling hills and the vineyards, it was inspiring.
Is there a connection between your work in medicine and in wine?
M: There have been a lot of studies looking at the health benefits of drinking wine. In a nutshell, it's all the antioxidants in wine that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, of stroke, of certain types of cancer. So as a doctor it's nice to be able to tell people about wine, not just from information you're passing on but with experience now in the chemistry that goes into wine.
How does a small winemaker get a foothold in the marketplace?
M: You have to open up a lot of bottles, hold a lot of tastings and get restaurant people to put it on their lists. It's easier on the West Coast, where people seek out small, boutique wines, but we're making some progress in New Orleans. People are starting to try different wines and not just turning to the big brands. That's the beauty of the small wine shops we have here. The owners taste just about every wine they stock, so they know what we're doing and they are great ambassadors for us. — IAN MCNULTY