If you’re a regular at wine tastings around town, chances are good that you have met Jo-Ann Ross. She’s a wine educator with verve and pep to spare, happy to tell you about the wine in your glass and why it’s special.
What you may not realize is that behind her energetic presence is serious training. While some are content to dabble, Ross has done a deep dive. She has amassed more than a dozen certifications that provide a solid foundation for speaking about a wide range of topics, including the particulars of various wine regions, grape varietals and current trends in the world of wine and food. Her chosen path is impressive when you learn that wine education is her second career.
Until 2008, Ross was a voice specialist and speech pathologist who trained lawyers and actors to speak with confidence. Aerobics instructors, hobbled by voice injuries before headset microphones were standard gear, sought out her expertise. About a decade ago, this longtime Boston resident began to think about making a change. Taking classes and working in wine shops led her to pursue in-depth coursework administered by organizations like the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust (known as WSET) and the French Wine Society.
Now as chief wine educator of J Ross Wine, she specializes in what she calls Edu-Tasting℠, her unique brand of customized wine education, which involves a 5-minute mini-class to accompany a tasting you might encounter at a wine shop or a restaurant event. She hopes these educational moments will whet your appetite for one of her seminars at the annual Boston Wine Expo, held at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center, or the classes she teaches at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) in the South End. Ross also manages promotions and events representing wine regions like France’s Languedoc and Rhone Valley.
Having just returned from France with her latest certification—she is now an accredited Bordeaux wine educator, one of about 200 in the world—Ross is poised to spread the word about “affordable Bordeaux.” It’s a phrase she insists is not an oxymoron.
“Bordeaux is not what we think it is,” she explains. While the dominant perception of the iconic southwestern French region is one of prestigious chateaux and bottles priced out of reach, the area is also full of small family producers who make beautiful wines in lesser-known villages. “There is deliciousness and value to be had in Bordeaux,” Ross enthuses.
One of her finds is from Chateau Mausse, made by winemaker Guy Janoueix in Canon-Fronsac, west of better-known Pomerol. She recommends the lush, mostly-merlot blend with steak frites and blue-veined cheeses. Another merlot-based red, from biodynamic producers John and Veronique Cochran, is from Chateau Falfas. This lovely bottle hails from the Cotes de Bourg, the place on the map where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers meet. “It’s bright and juicy,” the educator says of this pour, noting that its red fruit profile makes it splendid with roast chicken.
Asked if the wine will pair with other kinds of poultry, like the all-important Thanksgiving bird, Ross does not hesitate. “Absolutely!” she exclaims. There’s no mistaking the expertise behind her enthusiasm.
Chateau Mausse Canon-Fronsac 2012, around $14, is available at Bin Ends, Needham, 781-400-2086.
Chateau Falfas “Les Demoiselles de Falfas” Cotes de Bourg 2013, around $18, at Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6416.
For upcoming opportunities to learn from Jo-Ann, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.