Wine crafted to celebrate a daughter, honor a father
Two months before her baby's scheduled due date, Jessica Mozeico was getting ready to go on a business trip when her water broke. The moment was terrifying and one she didn't expect to happen for many weeks, although this was her last planned trip for work.
Mozeico rushed to Providence Portland Medical Center, where she had always planned to deliver the baby. Her OBGYN was out of town, so she saw a different doctor, who told her that it was "way too early" for Mozeico to deliver the child. The plan was to put her on bed rest to keep her out of labor for at least 24 hours.
Eight hours later, Mozeico started feeling significant cramps. She was going into labor.
As she prepared to deliver her daughter two months premature, doctors were monitoring the baby's health and were worried about her underdeveloped lungs and a series of "heart dips" that occurred in the womb. Baby Gabriella was about to enter an uncertain world.
"I turned to the anesthesiologist and said that I was experiencing a bit of pain and she said it was because I was about to meet my daughter in 10 seconds," Mozeico said. "I heard her cry and it was the most wonderful sound I could imagine, because that meant her lungs were functioning. They let me hold her right away and then whisked her off to the NICU."
The NICU is the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Providence, reserved for babies in need of significant attention post-birth. Gabriella was hooked up to a CPAP machine and heart monitors, sitting in a glass case in a private room with her mother on the couch nearby.
Mozeico lived in that room for a month as she monitored her baby's progress. Gabriella survived with no major health concerns and is now a healthy 4-year-old with no shortage of personality and opinions, her mother said.
"There were many things that were unique about my experience at Providence, for which I am forever grateful," Mozeico said. "First and foremost is the dedicated rooms for each child, which means there is a couch for the parents to sleep on. I was able to live with her for the first month in the NICU."
Mozeico dealt with issues of infertility in the past, but by what she termed a "miracle," she became pregnant with and delivered Gabriella – her first child – at age 42.
A wine for a daughter
Now 46 years old, Mozeico is the owner and winemaker at Et Fille winery in Newberg. She and her father Howard co-founded the winery in 2003 after he quit his job as a software engineer and she quit hers in the biotechnology industry.
Starting a winery was a leap of faith brought on by the elder Mozeico's longtime passion for wine. He and his family had lived on Parrett Mountain since 1985 and Jessica recalled his love for drinking wine and doing some hobby winemaking on their property. Local winemakers encouraged Howard to join the industry, but he needed a business partner.
Jessica said her father asked her to co-found the winery with him, which they would call Et Fille – meaning "and daughter" in French. They worked together to build the business from the ground up and made wine for 14 years before Howard died tragically in a tractor accident in 2017.
"Everything I learned about winemaking I learned from my dad," Mozeico said. "I never thought about getting into wine, except for loving it and helping him where I could over the years. But back then I wanted to support him and it was his passion, so I joined up with him and ended up falling in love with the industry."
Before his untimely passing, Howard was there for the early portion of his granddaughter's life, including the unique circumstances of her premature birth. Visiting Jessica at the hospital, he proposed an idea: Create a wine to celebrate Gabriella's birth and – in the French tradition – set a bottle aside for her to drink on her 21st birthday.
Howard and Jessica had the same vision for the pinot noir and grandpa got to work in the vineyard finding the right grapes to honor Gabriella. The 2015 Gabriella Pinot Noir became a small lot of only 50 cases for the winery's club members.
Honoring a legacy and giving back
The story of Gabriella's special wine didn't end with the first iteration. As a way to acknowledge Howard Mozieco's legacy and express her gratitude to the NICU staff at Providence, Jessica took the vintage a step further.
"After dad died I was faced with finishing the wine from the 2016 vintage," Mozeico said. "I decided to significantly expand the Gabriella to become our highest-end wine. I wanted to select the best from a few different vineyards and combine them in a way that would age nicely and be our best foot forward."
The 2016 Gabriella Pinot Noir was recently unveiled for the public to purchase on www.etfillewines.com and is priced at $60 per bottle. A portion of the proceeds from the wine will be donated to Providence's neo-natal services because Jessica said the NICU doctors and nurses were integral in Gabriella's survival.
Every year, Providence hosts a reunion for children and their families who have come through the NICU and this year's was on Sunday in Portland. Gabriella and her mom – who now live in Jessica's childhood home in Newberg – were in attendance for the fourth year in a row. Jessica is also slated to be the featured speaker at a Providence luncheon on Sept. 13.
Karin Larson, a nurse in the NICU at Providence, said the hospital is grateful for the donation from Et Fille and they are happy to see that Gabriella is healthy.
"In the NICU, we don't just care for the babies – we care for the whole family," Larson said. "It's always a stressful and challenging time, and with Jessica it was the same. We just wanted to make her feel comfortable and prep Gabriella to go home."
Never before has the Mozeico family's winery been more true to its name. In crafting a signature wine named after Gabriella and in the vision of her father, Jessica acted as both a daughter and mother. Someday, if she wants to, Gabriella may take over the family business at Et Fille and carry on the legacy of winemaking daughters.
"I believe that wine can honor history and represent the future," Mozeico said. "This wine is a perfect representation of that. It honors the history and legacy that my dad started as what I hope to be my daughter's future.
"She wants to be an ambulance driver, but she also wants to make wine with mommy. I told her she can probably do both."
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