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Wine? Oh!

The soul of graciousness, the elegant Jessica Clark decants both wine and wisdom

By Mark Ewert

What is your job?

Helping people select the wine that suits their needs. It's difficult because sometimes people come in and want a wine, but they don't know what wine they want. So you ask them, "Are you going to be having it with food? And if so, what kind?" That gives you a good idea which direction to go in; each wine has its own characteristics.

How did you start?

It just sort of happened. I'd been a customer of this store, and I've always loved wine. I happened to be out of work and one of the owners said he needed some help.

How long have you been doing this?

Slightly over a year. I've been drinking wine since I was a little kid. I grew up with Croatian grandparents, and my grandfather made wine--he had a 50-gallon barrel in his fruit cellar. Following an old-country tradition, we children would be served two drinks with our meals: water and wine. I was 7 or 8 years old! It was wonderful. And thus began a life-long love affair.

Who was your inspiration to enter this field?

The owner, Ken McDonald. I think so much of him, I admire his ability, his palate and his skill. I'm fortunate enough to learn a lot from him about wine. He teaches classes about wine, and I help him with that. And I help him taste all the wines we buy for the shop.

Pet peeves about this career?

There are no downsides to the wine business. At the risk of being a bit facetious, wine is fun. It tastes good, it's beautiful to look at, it's for celebrations. . . . There are people out there who say, "Oh, gee, I have to go to work today." Not me.

What's the best part of the job?

The biggest upper is to have someone come back in a day or so, stick their head in and say, "That wine you recommended was perfect!" That's the greatest feeling in the world .

Friendly Spirits, 572 Castro, 415.864.2262.

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From the March 6, 2000 issue of the Metropolitan.

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