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Dr. James Moises on Wine

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Dr. James Moises leads the kind of double life that would challenge even the most ardent overachievers. Besides directing the emergency room at Ochsner Baptist Medical Center and teaching at Tulane and LSU's medical schools, Moises makes wine. This isn't some sort of backyard operation — he is a wine producer in Oregon's Willamette Valley, and it's a full-time, year-round occupation. Somehow, Moises manages to fit both his medical and wine-making careers into one schedule. He sees wine making as a complement to his duties as a physician and uses both occupations to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Q: Wasn't practicing medicine enough?

A: That's what all my old girlfriends ask. It's been a busy nine years. I started the wine project back in about 2001 with a fellow resident, Mark Wahle, who lives in Oregon. He did his residency at LSU in emergency medicine because his wife went to Tulane for medical school and residency. So we got to be friends, and he went back to Oregon. My intent was not to work myself to death and be spread as thin as I am. I thought it was going to be a neat hobby to be involved in wine making, selling it and letting my friends enjoy it.

Q: How much time do you devote to this?

A: It's pretty busy. I work 15 days a month in the emergency room, and those are 12-hour days. And then I'll spend 20 hours a month with teaching and administrative stuff, and then I'll spend easily about 50 hours a month with wine, if not more. It's seasonal, so things are kind of slow now in Oregon, but for harvest in October, I'll spend three out of the four weeks in Oregon.

Q: What are some of the health benefits of the wine you produce?

A: From a science standpoint, one of the nice things about Pinot Noir, which is what I make, is that it's probably the healthiest of all the red wines because it has the highest level of antioxidants. We've done some research in the lab as well, and it's documented that there's almost four times higher levels of resveratrol or antioxidants in Pinot Noir than any other wine, so I also look at it from a health standpoint. Yes, it lowers your stress level; it tastes good; yes, it makes you feel good, and you have a good time. But it also has a fair amount of antioxidants, so it helps me promote good health off the beaten pathway.

Q: You've also done some studies to see if there's a way to increase those antioxidants?

A: That's what we're looking at right now, and it's still early on. What we're doing is looking at different points of the process — from where we first gather the fruit to soaking the fruit, to crushing the fruit, to different stages of the fermentation — to see if doing different cold soaks, or extending or shortening the processes, can maybe extract more of these antioxidants from the (grape) skins.

Q: Do you prescribe wine to your patients?

A: A lot of patients come into the ER because they're stressed out and they're looking for a pill. Everybody wants a pill to make things better. I'm really not your traditional doctor; I'm not giving prescriptions to everybody to just make them feel good. So I'll say, "Look, go walk one hour a day, and one to two glasses of wine is recommended." Not by me, but it's well documented that people who drink one to three glasses of wine a day have a lower incidence of heart disease.

Q: How long do you plan on doing this?

A: The hard part was the first nine years. I enjoy being a doctor, and I enjoy the wine industry and the wine project. I was just in Oregon two weeks ago doing my 2008 labeling, and one of the guys running the machines said, "Man, you're so lucky. You get to do two things you really want to do. Most people in life have to settle doing one thing." And he's right, so as much as I complain and as much as the old girlfriends complain, I'm doing two things that I really enjoy — and I don't want to give either one up. I just need to modify it, so they're both doable. My goal is to cut down a little on the practicing medicine, and maybe promote more of the wine project.

Q: So you don't want to give up either. What about the old girlfriends?

A: I just haven't found the right one yet.

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