The Big Move
In the summer of 1994, Matt took a trip around the country. His friend was going to be starting graduate school at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, so Matt decided to check it out. Leaving his camping spot in Newport, he visited campus on “a typical May day, a little moist, looking really green, a little overcast.” He was hooked.
Returning to the East Coast, Matt decided to move to Corvallis where his friend was starting graduate school. He “came out with nothing, sat down with his friend John Luna, and said he needed a job.”
John sent him to Scott Robbins, a researcher at OSU. Scott suggested that if he became a student he could get a job as a student worker. Matt signed up for school and started working for Scott and other researchers.
Scott and Matt connected on the long drives from Corvallis to Woodhall, OSU’s experimental vineyard outside Alpine. On the trips, Scott would talk about the winemaking process and give Matt a one on one course, followed up by the work they would perform after arriving at the vineyard. Scott was Matt’s first mentor in the wine industry. In the winter of 1995, Matt helped Scott plant an apple orchard for cider at the OSU’s Lewis Brown research facility and Scott taught him to graft vines at Woodhall Vineyard.
Working at Woodhall, Matt got to know Chris Heider, (720 Cellars) then assistant vineyard manager at Woodhall. Chris decided to finish his graduate studies and Scott Robbins offered Matt the assistant vineyard manager job.
Matt says, “I got the job because I knew how to farm, not because I knew grapes.”
Matt’s student status transitioned into a regular job, and in 1996 Matt made his first wine as a home winemaker. For several years, Matt continued to manage Woodhall, make wine, and help out at Lewis Brown Farm, an OSU experimental facility.