|Wine Consultant Jennifer Desmond of JD
Wine, New York
By Erin Hollingsworth
people decide on a career early on in life, completing
the necessary requirements, joining the necessary
organizations, meeting the necessary people –
we call them doctors, lawyers and corporate executives.
Others meander, stop to smell the roses, and rosés,
read a book or two and otherwise take the scenic route
to a career – we call them America’s wine
industry. An accidental, but serious, early interest
in wine foreshadowed Jennifer Desmond’s exciting
and varied career, but as is so often the case, her
precocious, if untrained, oenophilia remained just
that, an interest, until the wine career found her.
Working in various capacities including wine director,
marketer and public relations manager, Desmond has
enjoyed a ten year career in the booming world of
wine, finding her niche, not to mention her own company,
as a New York wine consultant, specializing in educating
the East Coast about the nuances, quality and diversity
of West Coast wines.
Erin Hollingsworth: What drew
you to wine, and to a career in wine?
Jennifer Desmond: I was really lucky.
When I was 15, I spent a year as a foreign exchange
student in Sienna, Italy. My host family made their
own wine, and it was nothing special, but I got exposed
to this wonderful culture. I grew up in Lake Tahoe
and my family wasn’t into wine, so I was really
lucky to have those experiences in Italy.
Back in Lake Tahoe, I worked in a little book store
which wasn’t really busy, so I would read Wine
Spectator and other wine magazines and books. When
I graduated from high school I moved to San Francisco
for college, planning to be a dentist. Funny, I know.
But, I really didn’t like school, so I moved
to Sonoma and found a job at Wappo Bar and Bistro
in Sonoma. There I realized I’d picked up a
lot of knowledge from all those years of reading Wine
Spectator – I was made assistant wine director.
I didn’t even know this whole restaurant, wine
industry existed as a career option, but I never went
back to school, I never looked back.
EH: The American wine industry
seems to find people accidentally like that.
JD: Absolutely, and back then there
really wasn’t an industry to speak of. You couldn’t
study wine marketing -- there were no studies.
EH: As a wine consultant, what
do you do day-to-day?
JD: My emphasis is on helping small
California wineries distribute around the country,
especially here in New York and also in DC. New York
is very much an import-driven market – they’re
comfortable with French, Spanish, Italian, even Eastern
European wines. But, I think California has a reputation
of being so New World on the East Coast. In truth
the wines are as complex as any, and Napa has the
most Mediterranean-like climate. Through marketing,
advertising and distribution campaigns, I’m
trying to get more California wine here.
EH: How do you get California
wine in New York restaurants and cellars?
JD: One way is to work with organizations
like the Napa Vintners Association. They’re
not for profit, and they help small vintners break
into the market, share ideas about wine making and
network. I help scout event locations, advertise,
and bridge communication between retailers and wine
makers. We just had a series of 24 NVA events in New
York with trade tastings and wine makers’ dinners.
It was a tremendous success.
EH: When it comes to dining
and wine, what are the primary differences you’ve
noticed between California and New York?
JD: New York has the most amazing
restaurants, but there are also so many of them. In
California I think they average out a little better,
with a huge emphasis on local, organic produce, made
possible by location. The great New York restaurants
prefer Old World wine and in California its all about
California wine. Again, I’m working to change
EH: What do you love about your
JD: The people. I think this business
attracts some of the best people on Earth. They’re
passionate, intelligent, great communicators. And
they really value the relationship between people
and the earth, wine and the soil.
EH: What do you not love about
JD: It’s hard to strike a balance
between the food and wine lifestyle, as it’s
easy to get caught up in all the eating and drinking,
and going to the gym. It’s also difficult to
be a people person all the time.
EH: Where do you see yourself
in 5 years?
JD: Doing just what I’m doing,
in New York, I love it!
EH: What advice would you offer
someone interested in a wine consulting career?
JD: I would say to anyone interested
in a wine career: go work a harvest immediately. You
meet so many people, and really get a sense of what
it’s all about, where it starts. It’s
a great birds-eye-view and anyone can do it.