When I met Jill Weber, she was an archaeologist with a taste for wines from impossible places. Her palate followed her work: into the ancient vineyards of Syria and Turkey, through the ancient mariner routes toward Lebanon and Greece.
I met her when she was taking classes at the Wine School of Philadelphia. She talked of opening a wine bar, someplace where she could pour these strange and quixotic bottles. I thought she may go bankrupt pursing such a dream. I smiled politely and urged her to consider wines from Italy, France, and California. Soon after, she graduated from the certification program, and went on her way.
She recently returned to the Wine School as a bona fide restaurateur In the interim years, Philly has embraced Jill’s vision of wine and cocktails at Jet Wine Bar. That success allowed her to open Rex 1516, her take on posh southern cuisine. Not long ago, Rex 1516 was named Philly’s 51st top restaurant and a huge hit with Philly’s taste makers (Philly Mag’s Jason Sheehan and FooBooz write it up an average of twice a month).
She came to the Wine School to compete in the Sommelier Smackdown, battling the defending champion Zach Morris (the sommelier, not the fictional tv character). Armed with a collection of obscure and delightful bottles, she beat poor ol’ Zachary.
“She beat me pretty bad” he said with a rueful grin the next morning.
Better luck next time, old boy. Probably should have told you that Jill has a knack for beating the odds.