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You Can't Cure "The Wine Bug" at Maysara
Avalon Blog by Leslie Melnyk
Tahmiene Momtazi has "the wine bug" - a passion for enology. And it's only natural.
Tahmiene and her sisters grew up along with her family's vineyard. In 1997, her parents Moe and Flora Momtazi purchased 532 acres of abandoned wheat farm just south of their home in McMinnville, Oregon. Though most saw it as wild and uncared for, Moe saw a vital, thriving piece of land that had been free from chemicals for seven years, with the potential to grow exceptional wine grapes.
Today, Momtazi is one of Oregon's best vineyards. Top wineries stand in line to buy its fruit. And the Momtazi family's own winery, Maysara, makes award winning red and white wines from the best selections of the vineyard.
Tahmiene Momtazi is Maysara's winemaker. She came to the position through a circuitous path ranging from pre-med studies to Fermentation Science to work at New Zealand's Kim Crawford Winery. In 2007 she returned to Oregon and accepted the position as winemaker for Maysara.
at right, Tahmiene Momtazi
We asked Tahmiene about her career path and her style of winemaking:
What is it like to have "the wine bug" and where does one magically catch it?
"It was always something I wanted but I denied it at first. I was studying to be a pediatrician. I was pre-med and my younger sister came to me and warned me about malpractice suits being the highest rate for pediatricians. I knew about winemaking having grown up with it, but I wanted to be different from my family."
"I did not want to be seen as a follower, or somebody who just fell into a career because it was a family thing. On day of graduation I broke the news to my parents that I had actually switched my major from Pre-Med to Fermentation. I am typically like that – I act spontaneously if there is something I know I want to do. I guess you could say that I am a doctor of grapes now".
at right, "Three Degrees" Pinot noir Label
What inspired your journey to become a winemaker?
"In school, they gave a hypothetical situation in class and I would invent creative completely off the wall answers about how to handle a winemaking problem. Today, every vintage around harvest is an opportunity to be creative - to capture a story in a bottle of wine. I ask, 'what is nature giving me?'"
What has been most challenging part of your work?
"Mother Nature gives you something and you just have to deal with it. I try to be consistent with my wines, but I have to be true to the fruit. For Instance, one year it rained in September, and we wanted to release our vintage early, but in the end the longer time resulted in a more complex wine."
Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?
"I hope I stay around a long time. Someone once told me that the typical "lifespan" of a winemaker is 30 vintages. I'm not stopping when I'm 55. I hope it is death do us part - I am married to my job – I love it."
What are your other passions?
"My other passion is eating. I don't see myself being able to do that full time however, but if you can tell me a way of spending all day doing that without gaining weight, I would consider a career change!"
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