An affecting memoir from the country’s youngest sommelier, tracing her path through the glamorous but famously toxic restaurant world
At just twenty-one, the age when most people are starting to drink (well, legally at least), Victoria James became the country’s youngest sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Even as Victoria was selling bottles worth hundreds and thousands of dollars during the day, passing sommelier certification exams with flying colors, and receiving distinction from all kinds of press, there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status, and a trip to the hospital emergency room.
It would take hitting bottom at a new restaurant and restorative trips to the vineyards where she could feel closest to the wine she loved for Victoria to re-emerge, clear-eyed and passionate, and a proud leader of her own Michelin-starred restaurant.
Exhilarating and inspiring, Wine Girl is the memoir of a young woman breaking free from an abusive and traumatic childhood on her own terms; an ethnography of the glittering, high-octane, but notoriously corrosive restaurant industry; and above all, a love letter to the restorative and life-changing effects of good wine and good hospitality.
About the Author
Victoria James has worked in restaurants since she was thirteen. She was certified as a sommelier when she was twenty-one, making her the youngest sommelier in the country. She was Food & Wine’s Sommelier of the Year in 2018, and has appeared on both Forbes and Zagat’s “30 Under 30” lists. She has worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in New York City, including Marea and Aureole. Currently, she is the Beverage Director and partner at Cote, a Michelin-starred hot spot in the Flatiron district. She is the author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, which Harper Design published in 2017.
"[James's] story...exudes warmth as she breezily weaves in her knowledge and passion for wine and shares the generous love she has for her siblings, friends, and husband. An inspiring, captivating story of resilience. "
— Kirkus Reviews
"Gritty, eloquent...a captivating story of resilience from a sommelier who hustled hard to conquer her profession."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Wine Girl is funny, bracing, disturbing, and above all necessary. Victoria reveals the best and darkest in who we are and how we dine. I couldn’t put it down."
— Bianca Bosker, NYT Bestselling author of Cork Dork
"Sommelier Victoria James's deeply personal book is by turns harrowing and inspiring, incomprehensible and educational. From Wine Girl, I learned as much about the resilience of the human spirit as I had about the wonders of wine. And turned the last page with a profound feeling of gratitude to Victoria for sharing her story and becoming a model for women everywhere."
— Dana Cowin, former editor-in-chief of Food and Wine
"While informative about what it takes to become a sommelier, the focus of this moving memoir is more on James’s personal journey. A satisfying read."
— Library Journal
"Victoria James's journey from roadside-diner waitress, theme-park fairy princess, and drug-addled victim of abuse to the pinnacle of New York's haughty wine world reads like something out of a great fable by Charles Dickens. This affecting, informative memoir is crucial reading for wine lovers, food lovers, and anyone thinking about making their way in the rough-and-tumble world of big-time restaurants."
— Adam Platt, New York Magazine restaurant critic