Name: Nina Moiseiwitsch (parents: Françoise Seillier-Moiseiwitsch and Julian Moiseiwitsch)
Class Year: 2013 (attended Sidwell Friends for 10 years, starting in 2nd grade)
Business Name: Revalation Vineyards
What is your relationship to the food & beverage industry, and how long have you been in that role?
My parents, Françoise Seillier-Moiseiwitsch and Julian Moiseiwitsch started Revalation Vineyards in Reva, VA in 2006, producing their first wine in 2014, and opening a tasting room in 2018. My mom also teaches several viticulture units as a part of a horticulture class at the local high school near the vineyard. Although I have taken another path for my career (I am currently finishing a PhD in biomedical engineering as part of my MD/PhD degree at the University of North Carolina), my parents’ love for viticulture and wine has influenced my own appreciation of the art and science of winemaking! Below, my mom shares about her journey into viticulture and the joys (and challenges!) of growing grapes and operating a tasting room.
What do you like most about your work?
There are lots of things; I like being able to work outside with plants, seeing the evolution during the growing season, and seeing how the grapes turn into the final products of wine and verjus. I also love meeting lots of people in our tasting room who come from different parts of the region and country with different perspectives and life experiences. Most visitors have something interesting to say! It is a gift to be able to work in such a beautiful environment as the Blue Ridge Mountains.
What is something you are most proud of accomplishing in your career?
I am proud of turning a horse farm into a successful vineyard and winery and creating interesting products! We are the only ones in Virginia who are commercially producing verjus, a non-alcoholic juice made from grapes that are not yet ripe for wine. Verjus is delicious and can be enjoyed on its own or as a component in a cocktail or mocktail. Chefs also use it for sauces, dressings and marinades.
Can you share an experience where ethical or sustainable considerations played a role in your decision-making within the food and beverage industry?
Yes, and there are several areas in which these considerations play a role. From an agricultural standpoint, we don’t use herbicides in the vineyards. Instead, we weed mechanically. In Virginia, we can’t really do organic viticulture because the weather is too challenging, so we try to use chemicals that are as gentle to the environment as possible. We also try to stretch the time period between spraying (instead of doing the standard 14-16 sprays per year, we do only 12). From an industry standpoint, we provide competitive benefits and livable wages to our employees; even though we’re a very small business we provide our employees with retirement benefits and pay for their health insurance. And from an economic and community-focused standpoint, we are doing our best to grow a new generation of vintners by engaging and training young people. Especially for young people who may not be on an educational path to college or higher education, we like to provide an environment where they can learn valuable skills and gain experience, showing them that viticulture is meaningful and rewarding work that can support a good life. Aside from hiring young people at Revalation Vineyards, I also teach a module within the horticulture class at the local high school about viticulture, and sometimes those students have worked at the vineyard. Meanwhile, within our business, we try to create an environment that frames the value of further education, and a number of our employees have moved on to pursue further studies in various fields. In general, we are trying to support the community economically and be integrated with other small businesses and entrepreneurs in the community. One way we do this is to host pop-ups at the tasting room where local artists and crafts people can set-up stalls for an extended period and sell their work.
Is there a particular challenge you have faced in your career journey—and how did you overcome it?
Early on when we were establishing the vineyard, we were listening to experts in viticulture who would give contradictory advice. For instance, one person explains why we ought to hill up the vines for the winter (that is bringing soil to cover the graft union) and another person tells us why we shouldn’t. At first, agriculture felt to us more like religion than science – there was often not a lot of evidence for a definitive way of moving forward. Typically, the advice we received which tended not to work for us was sensible in isolation or according to the context that the particular advisor may have experienced somewhere else. What we concluded was that any time someone (including ourselves) approached a question or challenge in isolation, without consideration of the broader context, a sustainable solution evaded us. As we grew in understanding the whole agricultural system we were dealing with (e.g. the unique weather and soil of our region, the grape varietals, the disease pressures, and pests), we learned to approach each challenge in the context of its more complex system—that is, in a holistic manner.
What is the most surprising thing about your job?
Early in the growing season, at flowering time the vineyard smells gorgeous! I did not expect that, and each variety smells different. Each tiny flower doesn’t have a strong scent on its own, but in unison, the smell is overwhelmingly beautiful.