Jean Reilly MW
Became an MW 2010, died 2 February 2024
It is with regret that we share that Jean Reilly MW has sadly passed away.
Jean became a Master of Wine in 2010, becoming just the fifth American woman to earn the coveted title. Jean was an event host, public speaker, educator and a consultant to wine collectors with offices in New York and Orlando. She travelled to over 60 wine regions across four continents, and ran the purchasing operations for prestigious wine retailers such as Morrell & Co in Manhattan and JJ Buckley in California. Jean was also a dedicated mentor to many MW students over the years. She worked harvest both in Burgundy (Domaine de la Vougeraie) and in New Zealand (Sileni).
Jean shared her passion for wine on television and radio and with readers of magazines such as Fortune, Wine Enthusiast and American Airlines’ Latitudes. Outside of wine, Jean was also a professional skydiver, having completed over 1000 jumps. Without a doubt Jean lived life to the fullest, right up to the very end.
Our thoughts are with Jean’s family, especially her sister Kathy, friends and colleagues at this time.
If you have any memories you would like to share with us for this page or wish to pay your respects to her family please send these to Luke (LStephen@mastersofwine.org) and we will make these arrangements.
Tributes from Masters of Wine
Like iron sharpens iron, so one sharpens another. I think of this phrase from Proverbs in the bible when thinking of Jean Reilly MW.
I first met Jean at WSET Diploma classes in New York at the Chelsea Wine Vault where we had classes with Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW. Jean was a force to be reckoned with in class as she had a fierce ambition and dogged determination, and she asked lots of direct questions that I didn’t have the courage to ask. She was assertive, direct and what you see was what you got. She was a true New Yorker, a powerfully sharp woman and I truly admired her.
We were part of the same MW study group in New York and she organized weekly mock exams (sometimes two to three times a week!). When we went to the Napa seminar she organized appointments with winemakers, soil scientists, vine nurseries, and laboratories. She taught me a lot about how to study and to get things done. Her boldness, grit and tenacity were contagious.
While she was a private woman herself, I marveled at how she was able to get people (including me) to reveal things you never thought you’d share with anyone. I remember thinking, “What is she doing in wine? With her talent, she should be working for the FBI!”. She also had this ability to make me laugh that I will forever be grateful for.
Above all, if I had one word to describe Jean Reilly MW, it would be adventurous. I found her wanderlust courageous and exciting. She always had plans on the calendar traveling somewhere new in the world. Decades before Airbnb was a thing, she rented out her apartment while she traveled and made money on the deal. She traveled the globe, taught herself several languages and was not afraid to go it alone. She even went sky diving after sitting the MW exam because she wanted to continue intense adventuring! She then became a professional skydiver and had done over 1000 jumps. Wow.
Jean Reilly MW made me see the world differently. She sharpened me and her presence in my life made me a better person. The world truly lost an adventurous, brave, humorous, and loving soul and I will miss her.
This is a picture of Mary Gorman McAdams MW, Jean Reilly MW and I for an article for the Wall Street Journal which Jean organized. What you can’t see in this photo behind her smile is that Jean could not move and was in excruciating pain. She had a shattered pelvis and broken leg from a sky diving accident, and she was still able to pull off getting publicity in the WSJ. Though she was in agony, she still put on a smile and made us all laugh.That was Jean. Tough as nails, soft in heart.
Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan MW
Jean was a student of the Institute during the years when I was active in Education Committee, and as an Educator at Seminars and as a Mentor. She was working on her Dissertation when I was the Dissertation Co-ordinator, too, so especially then, I go to know her rather well. Jean was informed and studious and interested in taking on comments and critique. Lovely lady, so it is sad to hear that she has passed away.
Patricia Stefanowicz MW