Interview with Andrea Jacoby: WSET 3-certified Wine Rep
We’ve known Andrea Jacoby for several years—from her time as a tasting room associate to a tasting room manager and now as a WSET 3-certified wine rep for Handcrafted Wines & Spirits. We’ve watched her relish each step of her professional journey and wanted to share her path with you to illustrate the mobility that is available within the wine industry.
Q: We’re curious—how did you go from majoring in political science at Wright State University to a career in the wine industry?
There is a long answer and a short answer to this: The short answer is serendipity. My boyfriend, now husband, worked at a gear shop next door to a little wine shop in Miamisburg, Ohio, and told me they were hiring, and the rest is history! I worked there for all five years during college.
The long answer: A winding and wandering journey led me to wine. During my gap year, I worked at Starbucks and enjoyed the nuanced experience and unique customer service that naturally led to wine. I also spent four months in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) Africa during my gap year, which gave me a great passion for international politics. I was on the International Model United Nations team from 2009-2014 and was a staff person for the international conference in various roles from 2015-2018. So, the international aspect of wine really married well with my love of travel and international politics. Five years later, my husband, Logan, had gotten a full-time job in northern California, and I happily followed with my political science degree, but Oregon had other plans. Although I had hoped for a local civil servant job, the wine was still calling, which led me to a job at Troon Vineyard. I honestly just drove through the Applegate with a folder full of resumes and hoped one would land. I had no idea what the future had in store, but it grew exponentially from there.
Q: There are so many career opportunities in the wine industry. You’ve moved to the distribution side as a wine sales representative at Handcrafted Wines & Spirits. What is your typical day like?
This is so true. When I worked at the wine shop in Ohio, I was so intrigued by distribution, but it’s also something that’s just in my blood. I come from a “sales” family. So, the first time I met a wine distributor, I thought, “If I stay in wine, this is what I want to do.” I loved that the job was about talking to people, sharing wine and always learning something new. The benefits I didn’t realize until I got into it, was the flexibility, and the ability to treat it like your own business. You can make your own schedule, but at the end of the day, you eat what you kill, and your success is pretty much up to you. Of course, there are sales goals and tasks to accomplish, but there’s nobody to blame but yourself at the end of the month. My typical day is straightforward but would probably vary from person to person. At the beginning of the week, I do admin like answering emails, organizing my wines, making shelf talkers, etc. Middle of the week I call on different accounts, pour them wines they either asked for or that I found interesting. By the end of the week, I am either trying to seek out new accounts and/or help with deliveries. Every day is different, so if desk life isn’t for you, traveling salesperson might be!
Q: Congratulations on earning your WSET level 3 certification with merit! Why is WSET certification important to you? What preparation and study tips do you have for others who are pursuing a WSET certification?
Thank you! Sometimes it can be hard to set yourself apart and/or legitimize your knowledge, especially as a young woman from the midwest. (There’s wine in Ohio?!) I knew I always wanted to further my wine knowledge from an academic standpoint but was unsure about the direction. Once I got into distribution, I had enough confidence to pursue my WSET 2 and ultimately my WSET 3. My advice would be, do not skip WSET 2. It gives you the groundwork you need to pass level 3. Also, make sure you like writing and acronyms because there is a lot of that. Finally, WSET wants you to succeed! They want you to pass! Which makes them such a wonderful organization, in my opinion. So, go for it! Put in the work, have a sharp pencil ready, and you will do great!
Q: Who have been the biggest influencers for you in your wine industry career? Why?
The ladies who ran the wine shop in Ohio, Bonnie and Kim, were retired teachers, so they always had a passion for education. They would invite us to come by if reps were around, encourage us to try all the wines on the list and to buy wine for ourselves at cost. They also believed in taking things slow and enjoying the moment, which made for such a positive work environment. When I moved to Oregon, I looked to a lot of online resources to continue my education and stay inspired. Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette kept me relevant and also helped me do a better job of explaining wine in a fun and interesting way to my customers. I also made life-long friends working in tasting rooms! Those friendships with those ladies are so valuable and special to me. I simply can’t name them all. Finally, I met Joseph Shaugnessy randomly at the Lithia Wine Garden, and we hit it off immediately. I wouldn’t say I was looking necessarily, but I was hoping to find a mentor in wine education. Joseph had just passed his certified somm and his WSET 3, and I had just started looking into WSET, so it definitely felt like fate. He is so good about holding me accountable for my studies but also doesn’t take it all too seriously either. And now we are both in distribution and certified! Joseph is currently working on his WSET 4 Diploma, and I am thinking about dipping my toe in as well, but I am currently working on my Certified Specialist of Wine.
Q: Tell us about an achievement or contribution in the industry that you’re most proud of.
Passing my WSET 3 with merit, by far. School always came easy to me, and so I somewhat thought that this would be just as easy as everything else had been. Boy, was I wrong. Be prepared to do a lot of in-depth, highly detailed writing, and don’t skimp on it. I like writing, so that’s why I prefer WSET, but you have to be prepared to have a sore hand and brain!
Q: What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to explore a career in the wine industry?
When I’ve heard this question in the past, I always laugh a little because it seems that there is no direct path to the wine industry. It’s always a winding road that by the time you get there, you look back and say, “Wow, that was interesting” (but usually worth it). I worked in wine all through college because it worked with my schedule and I enjoyed it. When I moved to Oregon, it just kept naturally happening from one place to the next. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard and set goals, but sometimes things find you, and that’s what made the most sense for me. So, if you want to work in wine, just make time for it. Practice! Taste whenever you can, buy a weird bottle you don’t recognize, take some notes/record your thoughts on your phone. Basically, try and taste something every day (you will still only scratch the surface). I am pretty sure that after over a decade in wine I still learn something new. Every. Single. Day. And I love that!