Exciting news, folks: A few weeks ago, winemaker Rick Moshin of Moshin Vineyards in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley asked me to do my first harvest internship with him this year — and I said yes!
From late August through October, I’ll be paid to help Moshin harvest, crush, rack and barrel their pinot noirs and other wines. I’m excited to learn about winemaking from an accomplished team…as well as how to drive a forklift.
In February 2018 I took an epic nine-day trip to the Napa Valley and Sonoma County (stories soon to come), and my very last appointment was a tour of Moshin Vineyards with Rick, to be followed by a night’s stay in the winery guest suite generally reserved for wine club members. Before the tour had even begun, though, Rick’s delightful wife Amber invited me to dinner at their house — and Rick said, like it was no big deal, “Well, if we’re gonna go all the way there, she might as well just stay with us, don’t you think?”
Please picture my wide-eyed, glowing face. I was fairly plotzing at the idea of spending an entire evening with a longtime Sonoma winemaker, but merely smiled, said a polite “yes” to this kind offer, and quickly racked focus back to the tour at hand. (I’ve been a professional writer for a long time, people.)
As Rick showed me around his four-tiered gravity flow winery, I learned that prior to becoming a winemaker, he’d been a math professor at San Jose State who tinkered with home-made wine in his garage and spent his summers working with Sonoma’s legendary Davis Bynum. Moshin made his first commercial wine in 1989, and with the physical help of his entire family, officially opened his own winery in 2005.
Excited by his career transition and obvious command of winemaking science, I
blurted out casually mentioned that I was looking for a harvest internship. Rick tossed out, “Oh, well maybe you should intern with me.”
With as much grace as I could muster, I merely replied, “Yeah, that would be amazing.” (In my head, meanwhile, I was emitting a weird squeak, not unlike someone stepping on a dog toy.)
Moshin makes a handful of chardonnays, zinfandels, and some delicious dessert wines, but specializes in my most beloved varietal, pinot noir. Amber and Rick treated me to one of these pinots, the 2011 Rosalina Vineyard vintage, while overlooking said vineyard, prized for its pinot-friendly Gold Ridge soil. As the sky blushed rose-gold over the Mayacamas Mountains, I was blissing over a glass of wine that smelled like rose petals and vanilla, and tasted like black cherries ripening on a windowsill in summer. I could picture making a life for myself in Sonoma County.
That evening at Casa Moshin, set a world away from reality down a long, winding country road, was one of the best I’d had in years. As the couple cooked and I perched on a kitchen stool, we talked about art, winemaking, cats and family, and Rick opened various bottles of his wine for me to try. One of my favorites was his Rosé of Pinot Noir, which despite being open on his kitchen counter for three days, still displayed bright fruit and zingy acidity.
Right before dinner, Rick asked me to join him downstairs in the garage to pick out a special wine. “This is my James Bond door,” he said with a smile, reaching for a little tab on a long stretch of pegboard hung with various tools. Pulling back the entire wall, he revealed a temperature-controlled wine cellar stacked with vintages dating as far back as the 1950s. I’m pretty sure I made that dog-toy sound again — but this time, out loud.
After a few minutes of searching, he found the bottle he was looking for: his 1994 Proprietor’s Select Pinot Noir, made largely with grapes from his Rosalina Vineyard, like the pinot we’d opened earlier. He wanted me to compare the two wines, to see what can happen with his pinots over decades. As I expected, the older wine tasted of delicately stewed fruit and dusky spice, but I was completely surprised by its still-fresh acidity. 1994 was the year I started drinking wine, and it had felt like a really long time ago; this freshness made me feel energized and hopeful for my own maturing self.
Before I skedaddled off to bed that night, I took a deep breath and asked Rick what was required in order for me to officially apply for a harvest internship with Moshin. Turned out it was exactly the same as applying to any other winery: he’d need my resume and a letter of intent. (Cool as a pinot grape at dawn, I managed to wait three whole days before sending this to him.)
The next morning, after checking out Rick’s one-acre grenache vineyard in the front yard (because of course), Amber’s art-studio cottage, the couple’s market-worthy veggie garden and their hillside yoga deck, I remarked that the Moshins are pretty much living my dream life. And I felt sure that I’d just found myself a winemaking mentor.
My internship with Moshin doesn’t start until August, but I’m hoping to move to Sonoma County by the start of the summer to get myself settled. I’ve since been asked to do three other harvest internships (I applied for 18), but I’m happily committed to Moshin; I’m hoping to find some writing or winery work before my cellar stint begins. I’m now in hot pursuit of place to live between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, and though the awful fires of 2017 have made housing harder to come by, I can’t help but feel like this is going to work out just fine for me, too.
Thanks, Universe: I owe you one.