Guest Blogger: How Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan Followed Her Passion
Today's Guest Blogger, Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, Master of Wine, has a story I'm really excited to share with you. The picture you see to the left is an article I found, read and tore out of Fortune Magazine back in 2010. Being the optimist that I am and also being completely inspired by the career change that she risked, I googled her, found her contact information and sent her an email. I figured, why not? What's the worst that could happen?
And guess what? She wrote me back. I was shocked, half believing I'd never hear from her. We traded emails a few times and then after discovering we both lived in the same Manhattan neighborhood, we met for lunch one day at Bar Boulud. Meeting Jennifer in person was even more impressive than the story I ripped out of the magazine that day. I was amazed by her charm and intelligence. Her career-changing decision was impressive but all that she was working on and had hopes to accomplish was even more exhilarating. It's been several months since Jennifer and I first met but I promised myself we'd find a way to stay connected, and today I've asked her to share her story with you. I've also asked her to contribute to Girl on the Go in a very meaningful way by providing us with some of her favorite and affordable wine recommendations. Wine is something I love and finding the perfect bottle at an affordable price is often quite difficult for the uneducated with all of the choices available to us. Keep tabs on Girl on the Go, because you'll be hearing more from Jennifer as she shares some of her favorite wines from around world in future posts.
Hello! My name is Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan and I’m a Master of Wine. Ever hear about people who can taste a wine and say, “Ah, that’s a Classified Growth Bordeaux from the 1995 vintage”? It’s not a myth. I can do that. I have my dream job now, but I wasn’t always so happy. As we kick off a new year, I’m reminded of the new beginning I made over a decade ago that I so desperately needed.
Many recent studies claim that anywhere from 33 to 45 percent of Americans are unhappy at their jobs. I was definitely one of those people. I used to work in corporate banking for Citicorp in New York and London and I woke up every morning saying to myself, "can I call in sick today?” You might say I was in “job jail."
It was an unhealthy lifestyle. I was working 100 plus hours a week and my diet consisted of cheese crackers and Red Bull (hey, it was something I could grab quickly and go back to my desk). I remember one night at 3 a.m. in the office I begged my transaction manager to let me go home for a just few hours of sleep. She told that was unacceptable and that I had to finish the analysis I was working on before I could go home.
I was miserable and then one colleague said, “don’t worry. In ten years, you’ll have paid your dues.” That hit me hard. I didn’t want to spend the next ten years of my life living an unhealthful lifestyle doing something I hated just for the sake of money. I needed a change. But what?
Then one day I had a business lunch that changed my life forever. We were served an herb-crusted salmon and Sancerre. This was my first “real” food and wine pairing and the taste sensations and flavors just blew me away and it occurred to me that whoever put the lunch together created that reaction! I knew nothing about wine and this was my own wine “epiphany.”
I started taking a wine class as a hobby and I was hooked. I knew the wine industry was for me. After moving back to New York, I gave up my six-figure salary to work for a wine shop in Greenwich Village.
I wasn't surprised to learn that my family thought I was crazy but I knew that if I followed my passion, good things would come. And they did! From the wine shop I went to work for a few importers but always continued learning about the wine I loved.
I earned three industry certifications when I heard about the Master of Wine or MW, which is the top title in the wine industry. It’s kind of like the Olympics and the Bar Exam (pun intended) all wrapped up in one. It’s a four-day exam that includes identifying 36 wines while blindfolded (grape, vineyard, vintage, etc.).There are less than 300 people in the world who have ever passed. In 2008, I became the fourth woman in the US to receive the MW title and even won a trophy for my palate.
I now work for myself. I’m also an international wine judge, a wine consultant, a host, and author of The Everyday Guide to Wine and The Everyday Guide to Spirits & Cocktails with The Great Courses and two books coming out in 2012.
I have my dream job and love my life now. My lifestyle is much healthier and actually make more money than I did in banking. All I had to do was follow my passion. In honor of that fateful lunch that changed my life forever, below are some wines you may enjoy:
2010 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre White wine made from Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley of France. It’s light, crisp refreshing with lemon and citrus notes and touch of minerals. And for those of you who love the smell of fresh cut grass while running in the summer, then you’ll enjoy this wine’s slight herbaceous notes. (Retail Cost: $22).
Bogle Petite Sirah, California Lot’s of rich blackberry and black cherry with flavors of chocolate and mocha. On the palate it has an impression of sweetness that makes you think of jam. The best part? It’s $11! Very easy on the wallet. (Retail Cost: $11).
And as a special tip for Girl on the Go reader's watch as Jennifer indoctrinates Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on how to properly open a bottle of Champagne!
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan is a Master of Wine and Certified Spirits Expert. @JediWineMaster on Twitter, she is quickly rising as one of media’s most-featured experts on wine and spirits. Jennifer has trained thousands in the industry, hosts two series with The Great Courses, and is the author of two upcoming books in 2012.