“We are tied to our lands, seasons and community. It’s our responsibility to leave them in a better place for all of our children,” she says.
Winemaking wasn’t really on Jessica Mozeico’s radar as a career while growing up and yet, there were strong, undeniable influences present all through her childhood. Wine was a passionate hobby for her dad. As a little girl, Mozeico saw her dad growing grapes in the backyard and making wine in their garage.
“Guess who got to help clean everything? When I got older, wine was something my dad and I enjoyed together, but it was never on my radar as a career, ” says Mozeico.
Mozeico went to graduate school in business and then worked in biotechnology. A keen interest in science led a fresh-out-of-college Mozeico to work in management consulting for pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies evaluating the scientific and business opportunities for new drugs and devices. She was crystal clear about what she wanted to do.
“Pretty much all I wanted to do was to launch drugs that helped meet medical needs,” she says.
Then one day, her dad called and said he was considering taking his hobby professional. And he made it clear that he wanted Mozeico’s help. “My path into wine was entirely out of family loyalty,” she says.
The two co-founded the Newberg, Oregon-based winery in 2003, plunking down $10,000 each and seeing how much wine they could make in their first year. “I learned everything about winemaking from my dad because we did it side by side until he died in 2017,” Mozeico says. “I didn’t have the academic or internship pedigree to be a winemaker — I just learned by doing, making mistakes and adapting.”
So does Mozeico’s biotechnology experience come in handy with everyday life as a winemaker?
“Winemaking is both art and science. Because of my background, I approach it with an analytical framework, conduct a lot of experiments to inform decisions and am comfortable with numbers and science,” she says. “That said, once you start tasting, you need to follow your senses and sometimes that means the analytics go out the window. So yes — it comes in handy to know when to use it and when to set it aside.”
The name Et Fille started out as a bit of an inside joke between Mozeico and her dad. However, not only did the name stick, but it has also come back full circle to signify Mozeico’s relationship with his daughter.
“You know how a lot of French producers are ‘Family Name’ et Fils (which means ‘and sons’)? The first year I helped my dad make his hobby wine, we jokingly called it Et Fille, largely because I am an only child and obviously a daughter. It stuck.”
At Et Fille, a pour of wine always comes along with strong values that both the company and its valued customers believe in. An example of their belief system is that they’re B Corp certified. They were just named to the Best for the World list of B Corps, which means that they scored in the top 5% of all B Corps in their size for community focus.
“I firmly believe values should matter to wine lovers because we all have a fixed amount of time and money to spend on wine and we ought to spend it on companies that embody our values. If we care about the environment, as an example, shouldn’t we support wineries that choose to purchase bottles and packaging that is lighter weight and locally sourced” asks Mozeico.
Some of her wines come with a purpose too, which is to raise awareness and funds for children. The Gabriella Pinot Noir raises money for prematurity research and care at Providence Portland and the STEM & Root Pinot raises funds for Girls Inc.’s STEM education program.
Circa 2020, most Oregon wineries were hugely impacted by wildfires and smoke at harvest. For Jessica Mozeico, that meant that Et Fille ended up making only 10% of the Pinot Noir that they would make in a typical year.
“I wanted to do some good with what little we had and STEM education seemed an obvious choice because our roots are in STEM. Prior to wine, my dad was a software engineer and I worked in biotechnology. I found a program focused on STEM education for girls with Girls Inc. and a portion of the proceeds fund that program. The goal is to raise enough money to send one girl through an entire year of STEM education (we’ve already done that) and 25 girls to go through STEM camp,” she says.
The Gabriella Pinot Noir is a delicious wine that is named after Mozeico’s daughter, who is a Natal Intensive Care Unit warrior. At age 42, Mozeico’s water broke 32 weeks into her pregnancy, creating the need for an emergency cesarean section. Mozeico’s daughter Gabriella was in her arms for only 20 minutes before being whisked off to the NICU.
“Had Gabriella been born 25 years earlier, I’m not sure she would have made it,” she says.
Mozeico’s father came to visit at the hospital and asked about adopting the French tradition of saving a special wine to be enjoyed on a child’s 21st birthday. They agreed to create a wine that was meant to age to commemorate her birth year in 2015.
“However, the next year, after my dad died, I found three lots in our cellar that were the best of our barrels but needed time to age,” she recalls. “I decided to make the Gabriella Pinot Noir a consistent part of our program, in which it would represent our best foot forward in any given vintage that is meant to age. We give a portion of the proceeds back to the NICU where we were and have participated in clinical trials to improve neonatal care.”
Through her platform, Mozeico continues to do so much to support and uplift children. While we see women across different fields breaking barriers everyday, there is still a long way to go in terms of recognition.
“I don’t think we can stop supporting organizations that make our community better for all of our daughters until we have equal access by gender to careers at all levels (not just entry levels) and pay equity,” she asserts.
“I’m used to being a female in male-dominated industries. When I worked in management consulting, less than 5% of partners were women. When I went to business school, less than 30% of our class were women,” she says.“Only recently have I begun to comment on being a woman winemaker, because representation matters and I hope that women see me and don’t think being a woman winemaker is any big deal. We have to celebrate what we are until it’s normalized and doesn’t require mention.”