About two years ago, my close friend Jessica asked me if I wanted to be part of a wine club. From the moment the invitation was extended with a trace of secrecy — “I don’t think anyone else needs to know about this, do you?” — I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

I have not been disappointed.

Thanks to Jessica, wine club in Pulaski County is not something that is taken lightly. Each meeting, we are supposed to read the appropriate chapter from our book, “The Wine Club,” by Maureen Christian Petrosky. With each wine (usually five, all of the same grape varietal) we fill out a tasting grid, focusing on color/intensity, aroma, flavor, body and finish. We rinse our glasses out with water in advance of each new pour and, when we don’t like a wine, we dump it, a concept with which, let me just tell you, I was pretty unfamiliar.

But the best part of wine club is when Jessica gets up in front of us with a stack of cue cards and starts tell us about that evening’s grape. The information is always detailed and interesting, and I find myself taking notes on my tasting grid.

If the women start to get too chatty, Jessica unabashedly redirects us, occasionally by firmly saying, “Ladies, listen!”

This is not a job for a shrinking violet. Half of the women in our group are my mom’s age, true matriarchs all, educated and savvy. Each meeting, the older ladies tell the younger ladies how much they appreciate spending time with us and us “young girls” tell the other half the same. For my part, the feelings I have toward my wine club run deep. I have learned a lot about comportment, grace and attitude.

However, it all stems back to Ms. Jessica Crockett. We met when we were at a bourbon tasting (sensing a theme here?) in Danville several years ago, introduced by the local yenta, Tiffany Bourne.

Immediately, we hit it off. Jessica is larger than life, every inch the word “fabulous” as she flings her long, brown hair and walks into a courtroom with her Tory Burch earrings and Louis Vuitton purse. She goes to every cool concert and has her finger on the pulse of multiple restaurant scenes, her Instagram page featuring flights of craft beer and hipster-gourmet donuts. When she’s in town, she shops at Aldi and picks up charcuterie and croissants. Her little apartment, with its roaring fireplace, her record player spinning, and photos and paintings on every piece of wall, looks like it should be in Paris. It is, and she is, a refuge to us all.

The thing I admire most about Jessica is how she has embraced her independence. She has a longtime, long-distance boyfriend, Blake, to whom she is now engaged. But Jessica, in a place where the vast majority of people marry and have children before the age of 30, has enjoyed her singlehood in a way few of us have.

Essentially, she hasn’t been in a hurry. And, as a result, she’s enjoyed herself in a way few women do. She loves expensive lipstick, she loves brand names, she loves watching make-up tutorials on YouTube and she’s not sorry about it. When the new season of Game of Thrones is about to kick off, she has countdown stickers in signature GOT font that she puts on her deluxe daytimer to help her get geared up for the premier. She watches every Oscar-nominated movie at the Kentucky Theater before the Oscars come out. On the rare occasion she’s at home for the weekend, she makes coffee and pastries and enjoys them at her bistro table, which is topped, of course, with a pot of succulents.

Put simply, Ms. Jessica Crockett is both a force and a presence, but she’s a lesson too. She didn’t let social pressure to “Hurry up! Settle down!” get in the way of her fun. She didn’t panic.

Tonight will likely be one of our last wine club meetings. Jessica is moving to Lexington to be with Blake, something she is approaching with sweet tenderness. I think she’s excited. I think she’s scared. But, most importantly, I think she’s ready.

So, without our leader, our club will likely disband. But tonight I will savor what’s left. We will sup on appetizers and toast to the soon-to-be Mrs. Crockett under the setting sun. And be reminded that sometimes in life, you get very, very lucky and meet a girl like Jessica.

7 thoughts on “Leader of the pack

  1. You certainly caught the true essence of Jessuca Marie Crockett. I should know as she is my niece. And I love her for all those qualities you expressed so eloquently and much better than I ever could. Thank you for this wonderful portrayal of a very special woman.

  2. I am very proud of my daughter as I am of All my children. At times we tease her about her idiosincraties. It doesn’t bother her. I’m a true believer in individualism and she is one. She learns she teaches and we learn. She is a teacher. Not that she knows it all, she shares what she knows. We love her and thank her for that. Thank you for your tribute.

  3. Darlin’ from one of the “matriarchs”, I LOVE this. Jessica and I go way back..hope we can all say the same years from now. And The Club isn’t over. For sure..so much wine and so little time. There are parties for Jess for heaven’s sake!

  4. Your magic with words never ceases to amaze and intrigue me. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Wine Club once and it was every bit as fun as you described. SOMERSET will miss Jessica. I wish her every good thing.

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