"A memoir from the youngest certified sommelier in the male-dominated wine industry. After her passionate response to the final question of the competition, James (Drink Pink: A Celebration of Roés, 2017) won the Sud de France Sommelier Challenge in 2013, becoming the first American female sommelier to take home the title. Soon after, at the age of 21, she became the youngest certified sommelier. Getting to that point was not an easy task. Along the way, she endured a tumultuous upbringing due to an absent mother and an alcoholic father as well as verbal and sexual abuse from customers. Growing up, James felt "that one's social class did not define one's character" and had the notion that she could "bring people together through wine" as a sommelier. Becoming a certified sommelier should have been a life-changing event, but she soon discovered it was not. Despite her successes, she was continually belittled for her age and faced sexism and abuse of power from employers and clients. After years of humiliation in the high-end restaurant world, where men hold the majority of the power, James became disillusioned and escaped to the vineyards of France, seeking authenticity. There, she also discovered a true sense of purpose. On her return to the States, with the support of her family, she felt "empowered to make a change." She established a zero-tolerance policy at the restaurant she now co-owns, and, with a vision for "diversifying the wine world," she created Wine Empowered, a nonprofit organization that offers tuition-free education for minorities and women in the hospitality industry. She also finished her book, which shares this journey and dispels many of the myths associated with the wine industry. Many of the details James shares about her experiences are disturbing and graphic in nature; however, her story also 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."--Provided by publisher.
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
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
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
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
[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)
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.