Grape Expectations

Since this is my first piece for the new Jacksonville Magazine blog on the subject of all things wine and food, I thought it wise to give a brief background into who I am and what I’m doing here. [By “here” I mean Jacksonville, as well as “here” on this website and by “brief” I mean around 1,000 words.]

I was born and raised in West Yorkshire, England in a middle class upbringing and had zero intention of doing what I’m doing right now…but then that’s everybody’s story, isn’t it?england

Now, I don’t know how much you may or may not know about Yorkshire (not much I’m guessing), but overall it’s a very humble place. Each town usually has deep industrial roots with an abundance of untouched countryside on the outskirts. A beautiful part of the country; but like I said, humble.

Growing up, I’d always dreamed of being an airline pilot; however, the mindset of my peers going through the English educational system (at least, in my part of the Country) was: finish High School (sometimes), get a “proper” job (i.e. no College or University), have kids, live an average life, have Grandkids and then die.

For you to achieve a real understanding of this concept, I’d like to revert to the surreal genius of English comedian Mr. Eddie Izzard, who has a firm grasp of what I’m trying to explain:

“…the careers advisor used to come to school and he used to get the kids together and say,
‘Whatcha you want to do, kid? Whatcha you want to do? Tell me…tell me your dreams!!!’

One kid would say, “I want to be a space astronaut, go to outer space, and discover things that have never been discovered.”

He said, ‘Look, you’re British, so scale it down a bit, all right…’ bowie

‘All right…I want to work in a shoe shop then...’

And he said, ‘Look, you’re British, so scale it down a bit, all right?”

‘All right, I want to work in a sewer then…!”

Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t have a story about how I tasted my first wine, and had a “EUREKA!!!” moment. [For the record, I don’t think that actually happens to anyone. It just sounds like a cool story if they tell it like it does.]
My first exposure to wine was the usual story; cheap crap wine given to me by my parents when I was not old enough to drink (even by English standards). I believe it was Lambrusco, which my Mom still drinks. If you’ve ever tried Lambrusco you’ll know it’s fairly sweet, but I do remember kind of liking it at the time.

My parents bought me my first wine book at the tender age of 17. It was the Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine, whilst I was at College studying Hospitality Business Management.

kris-chislettNow, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this book; but if you do, please observe that it’s about an inch-and-a-half thick, hard bound with a beautiful red cloth cover and will put you to sleep faster than a glass of Merlot laced with horse tranquilizers. Certainly not the best place to start my wine journey! Truth-be-told, I never even really opened that book until just a couple of years ago…when I realized that mostly everything was out of date.

I didn’t touch another wine book until later in 2004, whilst working at a restaurant in Jacksonville (whose name shall remain anonymous, as I was working “under the table” as my Green Card was still being processed). The book was called The Wine Avenger by Willie Gluckstern.

I’ve read my fair share of books on the subject of wine, but I do have to say that I would’ve never gotten into wine if it hadn’t been for the Wine Avenger…so thanks for that Willie! If you’re looking at getting into wine, the Wine Avenger is the absolute best place to start!

It wasn’t until 2005 (when I assumed the role of General Manager at the now defunct Grape wine bar, here in Jacksonville) that my wine knowledge really started to take-off. Over the next few years I would complete the Introductory and Certified Sommelier examinations (with the Court of Master Sommeliers) and the Certified Specialist of Wine exam (with the Society of Wine Educators).wine-avenger

I created the wine websites of  and (essentially both the same website, with the Jacksonville site taking more of a focus on this city) hoping to offer an unpretentious, user-friendly, unbiased, insiders-guide to the world of wine. Over the past 3 years, these websites have gone from strength-to-strength and opened a lot of doors for me...although I don’t keep them updated as much as I would like. I now work "behind the scenes" for several wineries and wine brands to increase their exposure online. I speak at several winery conferences and events on the topics of social media, website design and online strategy in the wine industry.

I also teach at the Art Institute of Jacksonville on the subjects of Understanding Wine, Concepts and Theories of the Culinary Arts, as well as Management and Supervision.

Through all of this, I’d like to think that I approach the subject of wine a little differently than most others…although I would still like to point out that I’m still trying to find my true voice online.


Kris Chislett