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Meet Justine Osilla

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justine Osilla.

Justine, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As the daughter of a wine enthusiast, I frequently visited Napa Valley and Paso Robles. I then became intrigued with the environment of a winery and started developing a palate for wine at a young age. My upbringing sparked my interest in wine. And it was this interest that unanticipatedly turned into a career choice. But, of course, in every journey to self-discovery, there is always a roadblock.

I was raised by a traditional Filipino family that taught me their narrow definition of success—the one that implies you can only be happy, successful, and fulfilled if you’re a nurse, doctor, engineer, or lawyer. Both my parents are nurses, so they naturally pushed me towards the medical field. Fresh out of high school, I was unsure if a life in the hospital was what I really wanted. So, I attended a community college, immersed myself into my science and math courses, and unearthed my passion for chemistry and I was good at it. Chemistry sometimes helped me avoid my parents question to which occupation I chose. To be honest, I didn’t even know the answer. I told them I’d be a Physician Assistant and that made them happy. I drilled the idea in my head till I thought I was happy too. At that time, wine was just a hobby that I was passionate about on the side.

One day, I decided to study in my favorite boba shop where my friend Patty worked and got to catch up with her. And of course, I couldn’t help but bring up the subject of wine. She pointed out how I light up every time I talk about wine. Since Patty knew I loved wine and chemistry so much, she recommended that I look into the winemaking program at our local University. I was baffled by what she just said. I had no clue my hobby for wine could be turned into a career. After some research and reading a few wine books, I discovered how deeply integrated chemistry is involved in the winemaking process. Then it clicked. I decided to take a wine course (WSET) at the Napa Valley Wine Academy, and it solidified my plans to pursue a career in Enology. At first, I wasn’t taken seriously. To prove I was set on my new path, I took a semester off from school and worked for the world’s largest family-owned winery (E&J Gallo) as a sugar tester in the vineyards. This position helped me get my foot in the industry door. I learned so much about viticulture and how grape farming played a huge role in Central Valley agriculture.

The next semester I enrolled in Fresno State University’s renowned Enology program. Since then, I have met some amazing people in the program and got involved with a non-profit called the Enology Society of Fresno. With the help of University resources, I was able to land a harvest internship at O’neill Vintners & Distillers. This internship gave me hands on learning experience in the lab and in the cellar. I learned how to perform chemical analysis on wines, perform phenolics research, make wine on a large scale, and all while improving my palette by tasting through around 160 different wines a day.

My experience then extended to studying wine business and marketing in Spain, and eventually ended up working for smaller scale wineries in Madera, California. At that time, I decided the kind of winemaker I wanted to be is a boutique winemaker. I learned the ins and outs of how a winery is run year round: sales, wine clubs, events, wine competitions, winemaking/cellar operations, social media, and etc. Today, my story is ongoing and I’m still breaking cultural barriers.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. I had to battle the expectations of family members and my Filipino community. “Go through the medical field,” they said, “It’s a stable job.” The more I heard variations of that phrase, the more I felt discouraged. I even had a friend that made me feel like she thought Enology is a joke of a major. It’s a common misconception that Enologists just want to get drunk all the time. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Winemakers treat what they do as a craft. It’s an art and a science.

The noise was difficult to drown out. To escape it, I had to become more independent. I built up the courage to move out of my parents’ wing and financial support. In my culture, that’s uncommon and maybe even unheard of. I pushed myself everyday to follow my goals and dreams. I still am. I worked full time (side hustles and all) to make ends meet and make sure I had enough tuition money for the next semester. Whoever said millennials are lazy? Arguably, we are the hardest working generation. With hard work, determination, and passion there is nothing you can’t accomplish. My friend Bianca once told me that when you have passion, that passion will radiate. She was right. Within a few years from my career changing decision, my family finally came around because I was able to make them feel passionate by unashamedly sharing what I love & being inclusive despite their doubts. I would be lying if I said I did it all alone. The beginning of my journey was the hardest, but I had a supportive partner. I also have wonderful friends that played a significant role in my support system. Being surrounded by positive and encouraging people make all the difference when on the path to success.

Please tell us about your work.
I started @heyjayrose the beginning of this year. Prior to the launch of my new handle, my Instagram was a channel where I could keep track of the wines I was loving. It was also a way for me to review wine and practice wine terms and descriptors – sort of like my digital wine journal. Unexpectedly, I was introduced to a wonderful community of wine bloggers and influencers. Through this platform I networked with people in the industry, attended fabulous wine events, visited many wineries, and I became friends with other wine lovers.

HeyJayRosé was created as a form of advertising for wine and myself. I have been promoting brands and products that I truly believe in. I will never tell people to buy something that I wouldn’t buy myself. It doesn’t matter how much money you put on the table. I love all types of wine, so I’ll feature reds, whites, and everything in between. If I was known for a particular type, I’d say it’s all in the name. I definitely give more rosé recommendations more than anything else. My Instagram has also become a walking resume. I have made it a point to get to know every person I meet within the industry because you’ll never know… I’ll be graduating with my Enology degree, and maybe they’ll need a winemaker.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Growing up, I was a curious child. That’s probably where my appetite for knowledge branches off from. I’ve always had multiple interests such as art, music, science, and etc. My life could have gone any direction, but I’m glad it took a turn towards enology. There’s just so much to know in the world of wine, and I’m going to spend a lifetime learning. The limit does not exist! I have no regrets and would do it all again exactly the same. My journey has included hardships and struggles. What great journey doesn’t? It made me into the strong and ambitious woman I am today.

Contact Info:

  • Email: heyjayrose.ig@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @heyjayrose

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1 Comment

  1. JoAnn Heizenrader

    September 12, 2019 at 19:19

    Great inspiring article, Justine is an awesome person thanks for writing her story.

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