Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center
- One North 19 Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, U.S.A.
Four Seasons Tenure
- Originally 2014, now since 2018
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Sommelier, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
- Las Alcobas, Napa Valley, California; Failla Wines, St. Helena, California; Larkmead Vineyards, Calistoga, California; Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, Orlando, Florida; Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort; Vino Del Sol, Orlando; Kahuak, Mendoza, Argentina; Murphy’s Restaurant and Wine Shop, Atlanta, Georgia
- Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, USA
- Bachelor’s Degree in Management, Master of Science in International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology
- English, Spanish, French
What to do with graduate studies in International Affairs? Jill Davis hoped hers would lead to a job at the US State Department. Instead, life led her to the position of Beverage Director overseeing the rich and varied wine program at Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center. “I made the right decision,” she says looking back. “International affairs still interests me, and the wine department has so much of that.”
The wine program isn’t the first Davis has managed, but it stands out in covering three restaurants from two celebrated chefs: Michelin-starred Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and hometown James Beard Award-winner Greg Vernick. Both are pushing boundaries and positioning the Hotel to be “the best of the best in food and beverage, not just in hotels,” she says. “So we can’t just offer the same wines as everyone else.”
Instead, Davis has built a collection of 350-plus labels – and counting – with 25 available by the glass. She looks for wines that match the food and feeling of each dining experience. For instance, “bright and vibrant” for Jean-Georges Philadelphia, with bottles from the classic regions of France, Italy, and Napa Valley, with a significant selection from the Loire Valley. She’s also introduced a variety of sake offerings to play off of the Asian influences on the menu.
Davis put together “an entirely different program” to complement the food and personality of Vernick Fish, with a strong representation of Chenin blanc and orange wines – aka, skin-contact white wines. They pair well with the menu and oyster bar-like atmosphere. She is also “super-excited” about the restaurant’s cocktail program noting, “The bartenders at Vernick Fish are very strong. Their cocktail program is based on refreshing, seasonal cocktails, which are developed as a team. It’s a very creative and exciting program.”
Popping the Cork on Bubbly
Davis is perhaps most excited about the Sparkling Wine and Champagne program she created, offering an impressive six or more different sparkling wines by the glass at Jean-Georges Philadelphia and its sister lounge JG Sky High on the Hotel’s 60th floor. Most Champagne programs across the city are by the bottle, she says, “so we’ve got something no one else has. We work hard to keep the prices approachable.”
Davis’s father is part Syrian, and she learned from him early the importance of making guests feel welcome. “Being hospitable has always been part of my life. Our house was the place where everybody gathered, whether for special occasions or a weekday home-cooked meal.” Dial forward to her graduate studies in Atlanta: She had a class in statistics and research methods and chose a research topic to look into the disparity between Chilean and Argentinian wine exports. “I spent a semester on it and really got into the wine side. It was supposed to be every graduate student’s most dreaded class, but I loved it!”
Wine is an International Affair
Davis’ passion for wine was still not appeased. Looking to continue her immersion into the world of wine, she called up a local wine shop out of the blue and convinced them to let her work there for a semester, without pay. Not exactly the typical unpaid internship of her fellow International Affairs classmates. Soon enough, every paper she wrote for school had some sort of wine angle. After earning her Master’s Degree, she did a turn with a wine tourism company in Argentina and then returned to the States with enough knowledge to work as a Sommelier on the opening team of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.
After her first experience of opening a restaurant and starting a wine program from the bottom up, she went to oversee a 1,300-label wine program at an Orlando steakhouse; then to various Napa Valley vineyards where, among other things, she was a “harvest intern” for three years. Prior to all of this, she took the test to get into the State Department, but her passion and career path were already clear. “My parents were surprised that I didn’t go into international affairs, but not too much. They’d seen me move around enough to know where I was headed.”
Now spearheading the beverage program in Philadelphia, and distance running and rock climbing in her spare time, Davis is pleased to be serving a city of adventurous palates. “Philadelphians are really open beverage-wise, which is exciting and rare, they will drink almost any variety. We bring in wines of off-the-beaten-path grapes from different regions, and they all are widely accepted by our clients.”