In the early 2000s, newly minted sommelier Jennifer Beckmann smoothed the lapels on her black blazer and double-checked that her shiny new lapel pin was straight. This was it: her first visit to a restaurant table since earning her designation to help a customer select a bottle of wine.
She approached the table followed by a busboy ready to refill the diners' water glasses. Before Beckmann could open her mouth, a man at the table began asking the 17-year-old busboy about the wine list.
It was that snub that made Beckmann decide she would work diligently to pave the way for other wine lovers to become more educated — and empowered — in their journeys. Especially women.
"I went to art school. Not only did I go to art school, I was a poetry major," said Beckmann, who now owns Re:Rooted 210 Urban Winery, a winery and tasting room located on the ground floor of Hemisfair's '68 Apartments. "Like many people, I worked in the restaurant industry through school, and I fell in love with hospitality right away. I fell in love with wine early on, and I realized that either path [poetry or hospitality] dictated that I would drink for a living. At least as a wine professional, I would get paid to do it."
Beckmann opened Re:Rooted in 2021 as San Antonio's first-ever downtown winery. The venture centers around a collection of wines Beckmann produces herself, along with the idea that wine education can be approachable and fun. By offering guided tastings and classes for wine hobbyists as well as one-on-one prep for die-hards looking to achieve sommelier certification, she hopes to break wine free from its stereotype of being stuffy or contrived.
"One of the things I have noticed about her is that she always finds a way to make the student laugh," San Antonio-born wine educator Cecilia Barretto said of Beckmann's approach. "She has the skills to be able to talk about wine in terms that will make sense to anyone. I definitely think that there are quite a bit more educators adopting that style, but Jenn has always done that."
Barretto, a level-three Wine & Spirit Education Trust certification holder, likens Beckmann to the original gangsters, or OGs, who pioneered hip-hop music. To Barretto, the Hemisfair wine maven is as groundbreaking as rappers Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg.
"Their work still exists and influences millions today," Barretto said. "I don't want to call [Beckmann's approach] 'avant garde.' It's just always been a step ahead of the time. I feel like she just embodies that OG spirit."
Beckmann holds the prestigious title of Certified Wine Educator with the Society of Wine Educators, the 441st wine expert to earn the designation in the program's history.
In other words, Beckmann is a wine educator that knows her shit.
Her hospitality journey began in fine dining establishments in Chicago, where she worked to hone communication and service skills with guests. In 2009, after the Air Force relocated her husband to Texas, she found a position in the state's growing wine industry.
Beckmann made quick friends with other women working at Hill Country wineries, eventually lending her expertise in developing four boutique spots over a span of a dozen years.
One of those early friends, Farmhouse Vineyards co-owner Katy Jane Seaton, describes Beckmann as a driven self-starter.
"She launches these [wineries], prepares them and markets them," Seaton said. "And she has always said, 'I'll do this for myself. This is my job until I can do this for myself someday.' Each place that she has landed, she makes better, and her parting words were always, 'This is what I learned, and this is what I will do differently.'"
Seaton added: "She just does what she says, and says what she does. You don't ever have to wonder if she's gonna follow through."
Beckmann and Seaton met in 2009 and remain in close touch, in part because Seaton's farm near Brownfield has provided Beckmann with warm-weather grape varieties for her proprietary blends.
They also bonded because they both suffered through scenarios in which they were challenged and overlooked simply for being women in the male-dominated Texas wine industry. Beckmann and Seaton became allies, mentors, protectors and role models for each other and for young wine experts looking to toddle in their footsteps. In their eyes, it's long been time to stop competing and start empowering.
"You cannot bottle a woman's intuition, you know. Jenn's never been intimidated by trusting her intuition or sharing what she thinks that might look like, and I enjoy that about her," Seaton said. "If she sees someone struggling, or if she sees someone who's powerful, and she thinks they can benefit from her knowledge, she connects with them with intention and follow through."
Educator Barretto — who holds a master's degree in wine business from the Burgundy School of Business in Dijon, France — echoes that sentiment.
"I can't tell you how many times she's thrown opportunities my way because she doesn't have the bandwidth for it," Barretto said. "Because I've experienced the opposite side of that coin, where someone would rather turn down the event than pass it on and boost another business. She's just so much more interested in not trying to be competitive but being more collaborative."
Both Seaton and Barretto participated in Boss Ladies, a July 2022 panel discussion featuring seven dynamic women in the Texas wine industry. Held at Beckmann's Hemisfair tasting room, the talk centered around the participants' trials, tribulations and triumphs throughout their careers. Attendees also got to taste wines from each of the panelist's reserves.
One overarching theme of the talk was the unwavering support each panelist — spanning winery owners to wine makers to grape farmers — received from Beckmann.
That kind of love and support, Beckmann says, is just how she wants to make her mark on the world — whether the impact is on a seasoned industry expert or a wine-curious guest.
"I never understood the idea that people should hoard knowledge," Beckmann said. "There's plenty of support to go around, and I think the community is ready for more engagement. I'm just lucky my part in that allows me to live a lifelong dream."
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