Derek Way is leaving his dream job as vineyard manager at Sagemoor Farms in Pasco, Washington, to pursue other dreams in China.
In September, Way, his wife, Lindsey, and their three young children will pack up and leave their quiet home at the vineyard to go live in an apartment in Nanjing, China, a city of more than 6 million people.
Way first visited China six years ago during an international study tour while he was in Class 30 of the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation’s leadership program.
“It helped me realize the benefit of mentoring and leadership development,” Way said. “I want to do that for other people.”
He and his wife have visited China several times since then and became convinced that they should go live there so Derek could pursue his two passions: viticulture and leadership development. This seemed like the right time to make the move, with their children still young enough to adapt to the new language and culture. Their son, Redek, is six, their elder daughter, Azure, is three, and their younger daughter, Tatum, is one.
“This is definitely a family decision,” he said. “I think we’re all on the same page. We’re really excited. I never thought I’d be moving to China, but in my traveling over there I grew to love the culture, the people, and the country.”
Way does not yet have work lined up, but he plans to help university students in the Nanjing area to develop leadership skills. The people there are highly educated and very professional but want to learn about other cultures, he said.
They don’t want to be western, but they want to learn about western business practices and leadership so they can be more successful nationally and globally. Nanjing is the second-largest commercial center in eastern China after Shanghai.
He also expects to work as a consultant with private vineyards, which will involve travel to agricultural areas around the country.
China is the world’s fifth largest wine grape producer and ranks second in terms of wine grape acreage planted.
“You don’t really realize what type of industry it is,” he said. “It’s huge. I think there’s a lot of interest in elevating the quality of what they’re doing.”
He would also like to help promote Washington wines in China, which is the world’s number-one consumer of red wine.
“I’m still an advocate for the Washington wine industry,” he said. “We don’t have a big reach into China, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity. I want to maintain a connection with the Washington wine industry. It’s my passion.”
After going through some cross-cultural training, they’ll fly to China next month, taking with them as much as they can pack in 20 suitcases. They’ll live in a one-floor apartment that he describes as “nice, but not fancy.”
“We’re downsizing,” Way said. “We have to sell everything we have because it won’t fit in those living conditions.”
His first priority on arriving is to take an intensive course in Mandarin Chinese. Although the people there speak some English, he thinks his ability to speak some Chinese will help break down barriers.
Way stressed that their move has nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with their life in Pasco. It’s about seizing the opportunity and not looking back later realizing he should have done this but didn’t.
“It’s nothing to do with money or job satisfaction,” he said. “Sagemoor is a dream job, but sometimes we just have to stretch ourselves.” •
Sagemoor has new manager
Sagemoor Vineyards in Pasco, Washington, has hired Lacey Lybeck as vineyard manager to succeed Derek Way, who is moving to China. Lybeck joined Sagemoor in July after working at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Milbrandt Vineyards.
Way had worked at Sagemoor since 2008. He also was previously with Ste. Michelle.
Sagemoor Vineyards, which comprises Bacchus, Dionysus, and Weinbau vineyards as well as Sagemoor, was founded in 1968. The first vines were planted in 1972, and some old vine own-rooted Cabernet Sauvignon, White Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc are still producing high quality fruit from those plantings.
The company supplies 80 customers, from large wineries to boutique operations. Many produce vineyard-designated wines.
The tree-fruit company Allan Brothers of Naches, Washington, purchased the Sagemoor Group in May 2014 from the families who were the original owners of the vineyard.