An enthusiastic wine drinker to be sure, Jessyca Frederick’s wine knowledge is based on experience, not formal education. Any wine professional (winemaker, sommelier, retailer, distributor, sales rep, etc.) will tell you the same thing: the only way to learn about wine is to drink a wide array of styles and grape varieties from different regions.
Naturally she didn’t start out knowing a lot about wine. Like many people who find themselves in a comfortable corporate job, quitting time was drinking time. Also like many people, Jessyca’s wine adventures started by picking random wines off the shelf at the grocery store. Early favorites were the Coppola wines, Rosemount Estate Diamond Label, and anything 50% off from a middle shelf.
Living in Los Angeles at the time, a wine tasting trip to the Santa Barbara area opened up a new way of experiencing wine — and to a different type of wine, one that wasn’t mass produced.
But her real jump forward into a life of wine didn’t happen until she founded this website with a friend from a previous job. At his insistence, she started a now-defunct blog called GrapeSmart to go along with wine club reviews. Acknowledging at the time that she knew very little about wine, the blog became a story of her adventures in learning about wine, and also kicked off the phase of Jessyca’s life where friends and family peppered her with wine questions.
Early lessons included a raucous Bordeaux New Release tasting event at a Total Wine in Hawthorne, California where people crowded around the most expensive stuff; discovering that Chateauneuf du Pape isn’t a winery but a whole wine region called (loosely) the Pope’s New Home; attending the bacchanal that was the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington; and that just because one vintage of an affordable Rioja from your local wine store blew your mind doesn’t mean the next vintage will be any good at all.
Frequent wine tasting trips to the Santa Barbara and Paso Robles wine regions continued to afford wine lessons (including tasting at a maximum of four wineries per day no matter what and getting a good “base layer” of food into your stomach before you got tasting). In that environment, knowledgeable tasting room staff (they aren’t all knowledgeable) helped Jessyca understand the deeper meaning of “terroir,” that vineyards are farms (very technical farms), why wineries use oak vessels and what other vessel materials are available, and so many more pieces of the wine puzzle.
Trips to anywhere outside Southern California usually included a wine tasting excursion to try the local wares including the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, Canada (multiple trips), Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, and New York. Oh, and the trip to France in 2012 which involved tasting wine from various areas of Provence and the Southern Rhone in general, including a stop at Chateau de Beaucastel and random stops in Avignon, Apt, and other local caves.
In the meantime, Jessyca drank her way (with help from others, too) through 1000s of bottles from 100+ different wine clubs. The first five years (2009-2014) are a bit of a blur, though there is some photographic evidence of what was consumed. Beginning in 2014 Jessyca & Mitch started tracking most of the wine club bottles we consumed. Understanding the variety and quality of the wines available via wine wine clubs is only one part of the formula for determining if and which wine club is right for you — you need someone tasting these wines who has extensively tasted good wine to know if there’s any value in the wines being offered by these services.
Inspired by the frequent questions from friends and family about different wines and wine practices, Jessyca also writes Useful Wine Guides so that people she doesn’t know might benefit from her knowledge and desire to share information, too. To research new topics, she voraciously consumes as much info as possible from many sources, including interviewing wineries and accomplished sommeliers. She hopes you’ll find these guides informative, easy to read, and that they inspire you to try something new.
The wine journey (hopefully) will carry on forever. Jessyca has an adventurous palate, a geeky mind, and a love of all things grape. Even her license plate is wine-themed: VINUM.
At this time, her favorite grapes are Rhone varieties grown in California, like Syrah and Viognier. She also loves Rosé, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines of varying degrees of sweetness. Really, she’ll try anything and everything. As long as a wine is well made, she’ll enjoy it.
Current explorations include learning more about Italian wine beyond Ruffino and Santa Margherita; aged wine from the wineries where Jess & Mitch are members; “better for you” wines like organic, natural, low sugar, and low alcohol versions; and, as always, what the wine clubs are shipping.
You can follow Jessyca on Instagram @UsefulWineGuides