Moose to the Rescue: Physician shares healthy eating habits at vineyard

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Photo courtesy of Moose Mountain Vineyards

Wait, what? There are moose in San Martin? No, but there is a vineyard and winery named for a big dog who helped a certain doctor through a painful divorce after 27 years of marriage. 

This Moose is a handsome 110-pound hunk of love whose heritage includes Siberian Husky (with the classic blue and brown eyes), Amstaff (American Staffordshire Terrier—related to the Pit Bull), Anatolian shepherd and perhaps wolf. DNA is intriguing, especially if you are a reproductive endocrinologist, which Dr. Richard Schmidt, who commutes to his job in Mountain View every early morning from San Martin, happens to be.

Born in New York and raised in Seattle, Schmidt says his father’s job brought his family to the Bay Area. After majoring in physics at Cal Poly, he discovered he didn’t want to work for a chipmaker. 

“I wanted to work with people,” Schmidt says. 

So he changed his major to pre-med and went to medical school at Baylor in Texas, after which he worked as an OBGYN and then went into the fertility field.

He loves his job: “I love making babies!” After four kids, though, he’s been growing vines and making wines since 2008, inspired by his best friend. 

“I love growing things, and was always thinking about planting vines,” Schmidt says. “How hard could it be? He told me to just do it. And after he passed away in January of 2008 from colon cancer, I said, ‘Life is too short. I’m putting in a vineyard.’” 

On his 26-acre parcel, 14 are in vines, including the five main Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot), along with Tannat, which has become his favorite.  

Schmidt revels in raising an enormous veggie garden, along with an olive orchard, and avocados that sustains him and the guests he welcomes to his B&B, where he will feed them dishes like avocado toast and whole grain waffles.

He rues the fact that there is no nutritional education in medical school. 

“The diabetes epidemic in this country, combined with obesity, is so troubling to me,” Schmidt says. “There is no education coming from doctors. Every patient of mine gets a lecture in how they should be eating for wellness.”

He began reading Neal Barnard books about whole food diets, after a bad bout with hereditary gout. 

“After eight weeks of a plant-based diet, the gout was gone,” he says. “My asthma disappeared and my energy increased.”

So convinced was Schmidt of the importance of this diet, that he became a Food For Life instructor. 

“I train doctors to educate their patients,” he says. “There’s a huge pushback, but if I can get some to listen, that’s great. I tell all my patients about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, but without animal products.”

He notes that the American Diabetes Association is ironically funded by the beef and dairy industries, in an attempt to get people away from “sugar.” But the fats in these animal products clog up the mitochondria at the cellular level, causing inflammation and leading to diabetes and obesity. 

“Fruits and vegetables are the absolutely best thing you should be eating,” Schmidt says. “Get rid of saturated fats from animals.”

It wasn’t hard for him personally to give up cheese, as he’s lactose intolerant, but giving up salmon was admittedly tough. He loves mushrooms as a “meaty” base for meals and buys from Christine and Arthur at South Valley Mushroom Farm in Morgan Hill weekly.

“Mushrooms are so good for you,” he says. “Portobellos are great for their meaty texture and depth, and maitakes have such phenomenal texture and flavor. I love the unique flavors of shiitakes in Mexican food, sautéed with cilantro, tomato and onion, cumin and chili powder.” 

He grows all of this in his garden, including 23 varieties of tomatoes and 24 types of avocado, including Reed, Fuerte and Pinkerton, which ripen in different seasons, so that they are available year-round.

Among the veggies in his garden is okra. 

“My vegan gumbo is my favorite dish with my Tannat,” Schmidt says. 

He has multicolored corn for dishes like succotash. He makes it easy to “eat the rainbow,” using bright yellow tomatoes for gazpacho, and lots of crucifers like Japanese mezzune and wasabi radishes, along with chili peppers that range from sweet to hotter than hot. He’s definitely going to write a wine and food pairing book of his own.

“I have 270 Tuscan olive oil trees from which I make a field blend in December,” Schmidt says. “Some are green, some red, some black, which gives the blend sweetness, spiciness and complexity. I will never have to buy olive oil again.”  

He says all his kids are into plant-based whole foods, and are in excellent health. 

“I’ve read every possible book about getting health back,” he says. “My favorite for diabetes is ‘Mastering Diabetes.’ I buy the books and give them to my patients, telling them to read it and keep passing this along. If I can save one person, it will be worth all the books I’ve handed out.”

Unsurprisingly, his vineyard and garden are organically farmed, and one of his passions is showing how to integrate all of this natural goodness into whole food plant based food and wine pairings. 

“We have a B&B right in the vineyard,” Schmidt says. “We prepare whole food meals, we do a garden and winery tour, and people love it. People are so interested to learn about this way of eating that has less of an impact on the environment and is so good for your health.”

This is the ultimate reward for a physician, a healer and a farmer, who also happens to be a winemaker.

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A staff member edited this provided article.