BACk TO TEAM PAGE Jesse Willard Customer Service Manager

Short bio

Born and raised in and around Seattle, I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life on the east coast, mostly in New York. Wine started as a side gig to entirely too many graduate programs, but it’s been a real joy to let it steadily take over the driver’s seat – to no one’s surprise.

And maybe the two pursuits are not so different. My studies of history, international affairs, and comparative politics have always been intertwined with lure of Someplace Else, and of course so much about wine is also about other geographies and climates, other foods and flavors, other terroir. In wine and in academia, I’ve sought to make what might be at times inaccessible, arcane, or intimidating something everyone can understand and appreciate – with an eye in both cases on where the rubber meets the road.

Back home in Seattle now and raising my kids, communicating about ideas and about wine remains a major throughline of my life, and I’m thrilled to keep at it with The Sorting Table.

Where have you lived?

Seattle, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, Bogotá, and now home in Seattle again.

First Car

Growing up, I thought it was going to be a cool old Saab. Sadly, by the time I turned 16, my folks had moved to a much less cool (still old) Chevy Celebrity wagon.

How did you start in the wine business?

I started on the retail side to have something to do between graduate programs, but it wasn’t until I had the chance to open a brand new wine shop with a colleague and friend that I really began to envision making a career of this. Tasting and evaluating everything coming into the store from the ground up – on behalf of a small, family-owned business – was the culmination of what I wanted to do in retail. Importing has been the goal and dream since then, and I count myself extremely fortunate.

Best concerts of your life

Boy, where to even start? It’s probably TV on the Radio, but I won’t ever forget The Wu-Tang Clan backed by The Roots. And I wouldn’t trade my memories of live salsa in Bogotá for anything.

After tasting wine all day I want to drink a…


After staring at a computer all day I want to drink a…

What’s the weather like? It’s summer now; I’ll say a Basque cider.

What puts the biggest smiles on your face?

Soukous/Ndombolo music. Dense forests and craggy beaches. Reading to my kids, or when they read to each other.

Fantastic wine experience

I think the most memorable was tasting old vintages of Toro Albalá’s Don PX in succession. To experience them getting drier and even more complex as we went farther back through the vintages was remarkable, and the 1958 was truly stunning. It was also the only professional tasting I attended with my eldest, when he was about seven months old. Chaotic maybe but wonderful!

Last bottle of wine you ever want to drink

I almost always want something new and surprising more than I want to revisit an old favorite, but that’s a lot of pressure for the very last wine I’ll ever have. Let’s say Carriel dels Vilars.

While on the wine route I love to…

Lose myself listening to a book on the road.

Favorite vacation spot

The Hoh Rainforest.

Favorite cheese

Anything ancient and Dutch.

Great food & wine pairing

The one that jumps to mind was seared duck breast and Langhe Nebbiolo, though to be fair that might have as much to do with much I love each individually. Good as the pairing was, it might have been even better with the right Chénas.

If you won the lottery…

Baugruppe! (A great dream of mine is to design and build an apartment building with friends and/or family.)