Five Questions for Russell Moss
Russell Moss joined the grape and wine team at Cornell as a lecturer in viticulture in August of 2018. Prior to coming to Cornell, Russell managed ultra-premium and luxury vineyards in New Zealand, Oregon and Burgundy and taught viticulture courses Chemeketa Community College in Oregon. Russell launched his own boutique ultra-premium Oregon wine brand, Bocamo, in 2017. Russell is also a vineyard management consultant and continues to maintain a residence in Salem, Oregon. He holds a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University (New Zealand), a master’s of science in horticulture (viticulture) and a master’s of life science in food science and technology (enology) from Virginia Tech.
What inspired you to work in grape and wine?
I used to be a musician by training and trade. I was living, working and going to school in Los Angeles and decided to change course. I didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly and my folks encouraged me to go to India on a bit of a walkabout. I was aimlessly wandering about India when I ended up in a large wine region, the Nashik Valley (~8,000 planted acres). I met some folks in the industry there and realized that wine was really where I needed to be. From there, I went to New Zealand for university/work and haven’t looked back. I can’t have asked for a better career. Wine is my life.
What is your vision for your position within the V & E teaching program?
I have always loved the Cal Poly motto, “learn by doing” and that is something that has guided my teaching philosophy. I want to provide students with industrially relevant skills that are guided by research and best management practices. At Cornell, we have a great opportunity to supply students with solid theoretical and practical hands-on learning from vine-to-wine with our two teaching vineyards, state of the art teaching winery and our renowned faculty.
What classes are you teaching, and what is the one thing you hope students take away from your classes?
I am co-teaching Introduction to Wines and Vines and Principles and Practices of Growing Grapes and Making Wines with Kathy Arnink. I am also teaching a vineyard practicum series. I hope that my students will come away from my courses with actionable information and skills that will assist them in their careers and lives after Cornell. I also try to foster problem solving skills so that my students will be able to think on their feet in vineyards upon completing their program. More importantly, I try to encourage my students to be humble lifelong learners. Grapes and wine is an incredibly fascinating topic and there is always something new and interesting to learn.
You came to Cornell with strong experience in west coast production regions. Has anything about the grape and wine industry in New York surprised you?
I have been coming to NY for years before I took the job at Cornell. I have always loved the Rieslings in this part of the world and reckon they rival some of the greats on the world stage. Also, I have always loved the grape growers and winemakers out here. When I first came to the Finger Lakes, I was amazed at how welcoming and gracious everyone was. I describe the New York wine industry as “great people making great wine.”
If your office was on fire and you could only escape with one item, what would it be?
When I was at the 4th of July rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, I commissioned a pair of viticulture themed cowboy boots from Scott Wayne of Tres Outlaws (pictured at right). These boots are displayed prominently in a case in my office.