I am Jill Weber: archaeologist, traveler, wine lover. I was born and raised in Michigan City, Indiana, a beautiful town on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was there – with cooling towers and steel mills perched near stunning sand-beaches – that I learned my love of contrast: finding great pleasure in the juxtapositions of old and new, natural and man-made, “pretty” and “ugly”.
Growing up, I was naturally drawn to dinosaurs, Native American history, and the mythology of Greece and Rome. These interests, coupled with a yearning for travel, were linked through archaeology. I received my BA in anthropology from Northwestern University in 1992—the same year I took my first trip overseas for a dig in southeastern Turkey. That trip introduced me to a new world that I will never forget: sheep being led through narrow streets, plastered mud-brick houses with the prettiest colors of green and blue, haunting calls-to-prayer by invisible muezzin, and exotic, aromatic spices. I came to Philadelphia to study at the University of Pennsylvania and started working on digs in Syria, which proved equally exotic and alluring as was Turkey. Most archaeologists have a materials specialty, and mine is the analysis of ancient animal-bones. That means I get to satisfy my enjoyment of puzzles, and the macabre.
Travels in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America further kindled my nearly-insatiable desire to experience new cultures and tastes. Some of my favorite travel moments occurred in unexpected cafes with unexpectedly good wines in Turkey, Syria, and Norway, in an ad-hoc “happy hour” while on safari in South Africa, and in socializing with near-strangers while eating raw octopus on a beach in Fukuoka, Japan. Regardless of the country or culture, food and drink—notably wine – always seem to be at the center of my adventures. I approach wine the same way I approach travel; I am always seeking out the obscure and exploring something new. I am always looking for great wine from countries not known for their wine production, or for wine made from grapes that are uncommon—especially those with ancient origins or lore. Closer to home, I enjoy wines local to the Philadelphia countryside, and—since all the States produce wine—I am seeking great wine from all the States! Those positive experiences led me to open Jet Wine Bar—and, later, Rex 1516— in my adopted hometown of Philadelphia. Now, even while in Philly I can satisfy my love of food, drink, and new experiences.