Lost Password

Yale menu

Daily News

Josh E. Jensen


After we graduated from Yale in 1966 Josh and I migrated to Oxford, where we planned to continue our rowing careers while studying for advanced degrees. I’ll start with the rowing part.

Josh and I quickly learned that rowing at Oxford was more advanced than what we had experienced in New Haven. The principal difference was the fact that there was only one race to prepare for — the Boat Race against Cambridge; everything else was merely preamble to that event and nothing else mattered: if you won the race, your work was successful; if you lost, your efforts were for naught.

The essential element of the Boat Race contest is that (unlike the Yale-Harvard race, which is a four-mile straight-shot, side-by-side run to the finish line) the Oxford-Cambridge race is a highly tactical four-and-a-quarter-mile endurance event. It takes place on the River Thames in London, an omega-shaped course from Putney to Mortlake comprising three major curves that force the crews to fight for control of the fastest part of the narrow tidal current. The training for the Boat Race was far more intense than what we had experienced before. The coaching, both for bladework and tactical maneuvering, was sophisticated and subtle, teaching us to cope with the combinations of headwinds and tailwinds that were accompanied by variations in rough-and-smooth water conditions along the course. Josh was a vital part of our crew. He rowed on the port side at number four in “the engine room,” and his power gave us speed and stamina, as well as confidence. In March, 1967, our crew set a record to Hammersmith Bridge and won by three lengths. We couldn’t have done it without Josh.

But Josh’s academic career at Oxford was less straightforward. He arrived at Oxford unsure of what he would study and settled on learning Chinese, which was NOT a good fit for the pre-nascent winemaker. As I remember, he only attended one tutorial in the entire academic year. The following year he chose not to row and changed his specialization from Chinese to Social Anthropology, a field about which he was equally unenthusiastic. Simultaneously he was involved in a love affair with a remarkable woman in London. When final exams approached in May, 1968, he was forced to confront the fact that that he had done little work. He came to me in a panic. I was studying in a parallel discipline at the School of Ethnology and Prehistory, and I found myself tutoring him in the arcana of anthropology via a sort of “Cliffs Notes” method. Time was short, and I told him, “Don’t ask me any questions; just parrot these sentences and you may squeak by.” In his oral review one of the examiners stated that his written answers were quite insightful, and would he care to elaborate? His answer was no. Without having spent one night in Oxford during the 1967-68 academic year he passed the exams.


Josh’s wine career was nothing short of spectacular, and has been chronicled extensively. Here are a few notes from our friendship that spanned more than six decades.

Josh loved coming up with nicknames. They were always insightful, often irreverent, sometimes borderline naughty, and even sometimes baldly naughty. They stuck, too.

He loved playing practical jokes. One of the more spectacular ones paired the new Yale football coach with a player (Josh’s then roommate) at a “get to know you” meeting in the coach’s office at 6:30 A.M. He did this partly through purloined stationery from the athletic association’s office. The player showed up, waited an hour and a half before the coach’s secretary arrived, and they agreed to do the same thing the next week, same time and place but this time, the coach would know about the meeting ahead of time. Deeply satisfying and hilarious.

Once Ster, Bert, Dirtfarmer and Pud were skiing in Zermatt. We took the highest Swiss cable car possible, hiked uphill for 45 minutes to the border with Italy, skied down to the town at the bottom of Cervinia, and had a sumptuous lunch with many different wines. Then the Italian cable car to the top of the ridge, and many kilometers skiing back down to Zermatt, whooping and hollering. Those were the types of experiences we all had with Josh.

A few years ago, Josh gave Beatrice and me business and first class tickets to Europe from his miles earned. He said, “You know, I haven’t done anything nice to you for a while.” We had a ball. He was extremely generous to a great many people, usually anonymously.

Best to toast his memory with a bottle of his Calera Pinot Noir. Richly flavored with many nuances, deeply complex, gets better with age. We will miss him.