Ridgefielder bringing wines of the world to her neighbors' tables

RIDGEFIELD — A certified sommelier with a wide knowledge of the world’s wine varietals is now offering her expertise to the local community through a new service.

Jillian Fontana, who moved to Ridgefield a year ago, is leading private and corporate wine tastings, catering celebrations and curating wine cellars for her fellow residents. Her events, she explained, allow clients to broaden their tastes and knowledge of wine in a fun yet simplistic way.

“One of my greatest passions ... is introducing people to wines they’ve never heard of or never tasted before,” Fontana said. “There is definitely an appreciation for wine and the finer things (in Ridgefield). It’s a cultured town.”

Fontana was a stay-at-home mom for the past five years, but now that her two children are in school, she wanted to launch a brand-new wine service — a concept she is no stranger to.

The Rockville Centre, N.Y., native admits she “fell into” wine education after working in restaurants in her early 20s.

“I started working at a restaurant with a decent wine program … and as we did tastings I felt like I was getting it,” Fontana recalled. “I was excited about it because it made sense to me, but it was a whole world I knew nothing about.”

She then moved to Cambridge, Mass., to work as a manager at T.W. Food. While there, Fontana became more knowledgeable of non-domestic wines from France and Italy and learned about the intricacies of the regions in which these grapes were grown.

“As my wine knowledge increased they handed me the wine program, and I did that for five years,” she said.

Over the course of that time Fontana took wine courses on the side. She also vacationed in Bordeaux, France’s Loire Valley, Oregon’s Willamette Valley and in the cities of Napa and Sonoma, Calif., all the while studying each region’s unique terroir.

Terroir refers to the natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, and includes factors such as the region’s soil, topography and climate.

After her stint at T.W., Fontana moved back to New York to work at Eleven Madison Park and The Hunt and Fish Club. She also started a side business called Wine Social where she would visit people’s apartments to host wine and cheese pairing parties.

Fontana’s new service, though similar to her first, provides a greater breadth of event offerings. She can accommodate both small and large groups in a client’s home, workplace or virtually. If someone wishes to hire her for a dinner party, Fontana works with the private chef to ensure each plate gets the perfect wine pairing. She also offers wine cellar curation.

Fontana’s selections often come from family-owned wineries from all over the world that employ sustainable production practices. The finished product is “an honest representation of where these wines actually came from,” she explained. “These farmers have respect for the earth, the land and their customers — they know their terroir.”

For more information about Fontana’s service, visit jillianfontana.com.

alyssa.seidman@hearstmediact.com