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Unreserved Wine Talk

236 EpisodesProduced by Natalie MacLeanWebsite

The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast features candid conversations with the most fascinating people in the wine world. Your host, award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean, dives into how it feels to compete in the nerve-wracking World's Best Sommelier Competition, the shadowy underground of wine forgery… read more


76: Wine Girl Reveals the Wine World's Dark Side and Hope for the Future with Sommelier Victoria James

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.

  • 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?
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.


To learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode, visit the

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