Jana “the Wine Girl”, an incredible wine story
Having a career in wine never crossed my mind as a child.
I suppose that isn’t too much of an anomaly for a kid in general, let alone for a little girl who used to tell her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to be a turtle when she grew up… mhmm, fact. Thankfully though, my reptilian aspirations faded and eventually I developed the new and slightly more achievable goals of becoming a fashion designer/actress. Yes, both. I took sewing lessons through grade school, practiced Shakespeare and outdoor theatre in junior high, and in high school I designed and created my very first clothing line.
It was called ‘anaJ’ and I presented it in-front of a big crowd of local shop owners, press and of course, all of my family and friends. What I didn’t know then, was that the brochures for my big ‘fashion debut’ had been printed in a very sleek, modern font; a font that turned my innocent little ‘anaJ’ into a not so subtle ‘anal’… hahaha ahhh.
Isn’t it funny how something that was once SO mortifying can be so hilarious now?
So anyway, after high school and the whole ‘anal’ debacle I made the spontaneous decision to turn down design school and follow in the footsteps of dear old dad. Since I already knew how to design, I figured it would be smart to learn how to run my own company too, so I enrolled in university to study business.
Now, even-though that may have been a good idea in theory, unfortunately due to my complete lack of attention span, it didn’t exactly pan out… In my second semester I flew to England to visit a friend and during that visit became quite smitten with a South African chicken farmer who was waitering at the time in a pub outside of London.
Nothing ever did come of the chicken farmer and I, but the whole ‘European spring fling’ thing had me feeling inordinately adventurous! By the time I landed back home in Nova Scotia I had already made up my mind – I would finish my semester, sell my car, sublet my apartment and move to London! And that’s just what I did.
I loved life in the big city – it was the perfect place at the perfect time. The people, the art, the architecture and the buzz in that city is spot on. I stayed as long as I was allowed, which was sadly only two years, and then I packed my bags again and headed to New York City to study film.
The Big Apple was cool – a totally different vibe than London of course, but I loved it there too. I lived up in Harlem on the corner of 135th and Lenox in the same building where Cam’ron and Big L used to live (these names will ring a bell if you were a fan of hip-hop/rap in the 90’s – R.I.P. Big L) and I got to know a lot of the locals pretty fast.
Everyone was laid back and friendly once you got up past Central Park and away from the rush. People actually took the time to acknowledge one another on the street and hold the door for a stranger. My neighbour’s name at the time was Million and man was she a character – she was the best! She used to call me Snowflake, until a couple of my Swedish girlfriends moved in and she started calling us ‘Charlie’s Angels’. She always kept us up to speed on the neighbourhood juice. Unfortunately however, Miss Million was not around to give us a heads-up the day that the police were searching the rooftops of all the brownstones on our block. Yep…the three of us were up there sun-tanning and we thought we had hit the jackpot discovering that the door was unlocked to let us up there! Anyway, let’s just say the cops got a pretty good surprise when they found the angels up there topless soaking up the rays!
Of course one of the best things about living in Harlem was the music and culture. My then boyfriend (now husband) used to fly over from Europe on his semester breaks and when we weren’t drinking $2.00 PBR’s and playing pool at dive bars downtown you would most likely have found us enjoying the live jazz scene at the Lenox Lounge or The Shrine. We were always so amazed when someone would just walk in off the street with a saxophone or a trumpet and join in with whomever was already in the middle of a set.
Anyway, post film school I moved up to Toronto. Being in my home country made it a lot less complicated to find work and I had heard decent enough things about the film industry there. Basically, I became a stereotype and lived out the classic waitress/actress lifestyle. I spent the most part of 3 years working at a high-end Italian restaurant called Sotto Sotto where they have an incredible (and very extensive) wine list. It’s the kind of place that frequently caters to celebrities, athletes, etc. blah blah, who cares, right? The point is: I needed to know wine and I didn’t.
Since the restaurant gig was the only thing I could rely on as a source of income, I decided I should probably take it seriously and get a handle on the whole ‘wine situation’. That is when I decided to enrol in classes at the Sommelier Factory in downtown Toronto, and this is where my story finally starts to get a little more relevant!
Four years ago I decided I wanted to work in the wine business. Thing is… I didn’t have any experience, and if I was being honest, I didn’t even know that much about wine! What I did know is that I liked it, I probably wouldn’t ever get bored of it, and that it’s one of those things, like food or music, that brings people together.
It just seemed like a good idea, ok? So I packed my bags and headed for Europe with a whole lot of hope, and no idea what I was doing. It probably sounds a bit cavalier, the way I just dove into it all. But there is one thing that stood in my way for a long time – something that I have only recently overcome – and that is fear.
Cliché, right? Well, I’m serious. I was constantly afraid of saying something stupid and embarrassing myself during wine-tastings. I felt like people expected me to know way more than I knew and I was constantly intimidated by the confidence of my peers.
Thankfully, that fear was like fuel. I found a job working harvest, which ended up leading me into an internship with a fantastic biodynamic winery in Germany. I didn’t speak the language (at first), but I powered through and learned a TON working in the vineyards, cellar, and around the estate.
After proving myself valuable, that same winery then created a position for me as Export Manager, which I now maintain remotely giving me the flexibility to keep travelling and exploring wine regions world-wide. I have also recently completed my WSET Level 3 and am now working towards my diploma! POOF! Fear overcome.
So where does the Instagram success come into the picture? Well, it was during that first chapter of my European adventure that I started my Instagram account. Originally intended as a personal diary of my journey through the wine world, it is constantly evolving and growing with me.
But, like everything else in life, there should be a balance. You won’t see me posting every single day just to feed the machine – no, no. I’m a human with a loving husband and a thirst for adventure, so if you don’t see me for a few days, I’m probably just enjoying life without the constant social pressure that comes with a smartphone. If that’s cool with you then follow along to see what I get up to next!
I promise I won’t bust out lists of bizarre tasting notes or add anymore pretence to the world of wine – there’s enough of that already.’’
Jana Hoyt Kreilein
My name is Jana, and I’m the one behind the Instagram account the.wine.girl.
4 years ago I decided I wanted to work in the wine business. Thing is… I didn’t have any experience, and if I was being honest, I didn’t even know that much about wine! What I did know is that I liked it, I probably wouldn’t ever get bored of it, and that it’s one of those things, like food or music, that brings people together.