What’s it like serving wine to celebrities like Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus? How is being a sommelier different when you work at a Michelin-starred restaurant, especially when you’re just 21 years old? Why is the wine world still largely an old boys club and how does that impact the wines you drink? Which shocking ingredients might you find in some non-organic wines?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with Victoria James, author, restauranteur and the youngest person in the world to pass the certified sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- What’s it like managing celebrity clientele while working in the upscale restaurant industry?
- What was the most expensive bottle of wine Victoria has ever sold?
- Why was Victoria’s Christmas season encounter with Mariah Carey so bizarre?
- How can you build yourself up and create your own sense of importance?
- Which shocking ingredients might you find in some non-organic wines?
- What is it like for you to work at a Michelin starred restaurant at 21 years old?
- Why did Victoria want to reclaim the term “wine girl”?
- How did the Me Too Movement play a role in getting Wine Girl written?
- Was Victoria aware of the impact Wine Girl would make, especially on women?
- Why did Victoria decide to write her memoir even though she’s still in her 20s?
- Will you see people’s real names in Victoria’s memoir?
- How has Wine Girl positively impacted readers?
- Why were the potential negative implications of putting her story out there were totally worth it for Victoria?
- What type of insidious effects do women in the wine and restaurant worlds often experience after going public with their stories?
- Is diversity well-represented in the wine and restaurant industries?
- What is the impact on you as a restaurant diner when wine lists are curated by the old boys’ club?
- What will you learn about rosé from reading Drink Pink?
- How is COTE restaurant adapting to changes caused by the pandemic?
- What new wine experiences can you have when you order COTE for delivery?
- How can you keep yourself from going stir-crazy while sheltering in place?
- What new innovations will you experience with a book tour during the pandemic?
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About Victoria James
Victoria James is the Beverage Director and Partner at COTE and recently received a James Beard nomination for “Outstanding Wine Program.” She has worked in restaurants since she was thirteen, fell in love with wine and when she was twenty-one became certified as a sommelier. She has worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in New York City including Marea and Aureole.
Victoria’s name has appeared on many notable lists: Forbes “30 Under 30,” Food & Wine’s “2018 Sommelier of the Year,” Zagat’s “30 Under 30,” Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40,” Wine & Spirits’ “Best New Sommeliers,” and The Back Label declared her “New York’s Youngest Sommelier.”
She is the author of DRINK PINK, A Celebration of Rosé (2017, HarperCollins) and the upcoming book WINE GIRL (March 2020, Ecco/HarperCollins). She also has a print column for Forbes magazine, “Buy, Hold, Sell,” and has contributed to Cosmopolitan, Munchies and Bon Appétit.
Along with COTE’s General Manager (Amy Zhou) and Events Director (Cynthia Cheng), she has founded WINE EMPOWERED, a non-profit that aims to diversify the hospitality industry by offering free wine classes to women and minorities.
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 76!
What’s it like serving wine to celebrities like Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus? How is being a sommelier different when you work at a Michelin-starred restaurant, especially when you’re just 21 years old? Why is the wine world still largely an old boys club and how does that impact the wines you drink? What shocking ingredients might you find in some non-organic wines?
That’s exactly what we’ll learn in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. We’re chatting with Victoria James, the author of best-selling memoir Wine Girl: The obstacles, humiliations, and triumphs of a young sommelier.
I recorded this conversation on video a few weeks ago with Victoria, and you can watch that on my website. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/76.
I wanted to share some good news with you. A few weeks ago, the prestigious Drinks Business Magazine named Unreserved Wine Talk one of the top wine podcasts in the world, the only one in Canada, as did, one of the UK’s largest newspapers, The Evening Standard.
I couldn’t have done this without my amazing team, and in particular, my podcast editor, Alex Stennett, and my social media manager, Ellen MacDonald. They’re also behind this podcast being named one of Apple’s “Best Listens of 2019.”
If you want to discover great wines to pair with this podcast, sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!
Okay, on with the show!
You can also watch the video interview with Victoria that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Victoria James.
Here are my takeaways:
- Victoria’s story is a powerful reminder of how far the wine world has yet to go before it becomes truly diverse and welcoming to women and people of colour.
- Her research that reveals that only 14% of New York City’s Wine Spectator restaurants have women beverage directors is an eye-opener.
- She has such strength for someone so young; it’s an inspiring testament that we can endure unfair, even egregious, treatment and still triumph.
- I love her optimism for the future of the wine world and the fact that she’s doing something about it, not only in her own workplace, Cote restaurant, but also with Wine Empowered, offering education to women and people of colour.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips that Victoria shared. You’ll find links to Victoria’s books, her restaurant, the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation, the video version of this chat and where you can find us on Facebook live every second Wednesday at 7 pm at nataliemaclean.com/76.
Finally, if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
You won’t want to miss next week when I’ll be rebroadcasting my chat with Pete Damico and Michael Matonte aka Vino Mike that originally aired on their fun, irreverent podcast That Wine Pod. We cover a lot of ground, from the problems with wine scores to the wine writing life.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a subtle wine made by a strong woman!