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Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  7,166 ratings  ·  287 reviews
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 tho
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by Ecco
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Average rating 3.31  · 
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 ·  7,166 ratings  ·  287 reviews

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Skyler Autumn
2.5 Stars

I was really rooting for this book. I wanted it to be Sweetbitter mixed with Kitchen Confidential mixed with I Hear She's a Real Bitch but with amazing wine descriptions that send me running to my local wine shop.

I wanted to come out of this book demanding I only drink Cabernet Sauvignon with aged gouda as it brings out the cheesiness of the cheese and the barnyard notes of the wine. I wanted to swirl a fine white wine and declare hints of lemon, butter and subtle trace of a teardrop f
Sarah Robinson
Mar 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As Victoria James' biological older sister, I am so disappointed in the fact that she decided to write a memoir that trashes our family with an incredible amount of lies and very skewed opinions. Honestly, you don't even need me to break it down for you to see the vast amount of inconsistencies and falsehoods in this book. Her perspective on our childhood is her perspective--that's fair--but it's incredibly biased, unrealistic, entitled, and insinuates that she helped take care of our family or ...more
Cam Kovach
This is a tough book to review -- it sometimes reads more as a plea for acknowledgement than a memoir written from the vantage point of time and perspective. The author shares so much of her personal life and her difficulties in growing up essentially without a mother, with an alcoholic father, experiencing multiple sexual assaults, and triumphs over these obstacles -- something she should be, and is, very proud of. She ultimately excels in her career and personal life, at a very young age. This ...more
In 2012, at age 21, Victoria James became America’s youngest certified sommelier. Still in her twenties, she has since worked in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City and became the only American female to win the Sud de France Sommelier Challenge. But behind all the competition wins, celebrity sightings, and international travel for wine festivals and conferences is a darker story.

This is a tell-all about a toxic restaurant culture of overworked employees and casual sexism. Jam
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, 5-star, memoir, debut
I am an absolute fan of Wine Girl. I received this very early ARC from Edelweiss and tried to only sample it, but I couldn’t put it down. This is a #metoo story for the fine dining industry. (Trigger warning for rape and sexual assault). Victoria became a sommelier at 21 years old and was the youngest sommelier in America. Because she grew up with a ultra strict father, she her first job in a diner at 13 years old. She works her way into bartending and eventually got into the fine dining scene i ...more
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
QUICK TAKE: Part EDUCATED, part SWEETBITTER, WG is a great behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant industry (both the good and bad), though I wish James, as an industry leader, had discussed steps she’s currently taking (and the industry as a whole is taking) to prevent what happened to her (harassment, gender disparity) from happening to other young women on their way up. It’s a small quibble, but would have elevated an excellent book above similar titles in the genre.
DNF -- credit where credit is due: becoming a sommelier at such a young age is incredibly impressive. i certainly don't want to invalidate what the author has gone through, but i cannot get past the writing here. it lacks any tension or self-reflection and very clearly works to make victoria the battered hero in every instance. i love reading about food and wine, but i think i will be spending my energy on a different book. ...more
Shannon A
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘Master Sommelier’ is simply a pretty label for someone that knows wine; The title was well earned.
What Victoria lives through to be able to share her love of wine with people will break your heart, only to leave you amazed and inspired by how she found a way to thrive in a world where most people want to pull you down.
Like any good meal paired well, this memoir made me want to return to her restaurant & experience more.
I absolutely loved this powerful, could-n
Two of my favorite books I have read in the past five-ish years are Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste and Sweetbitter. Although one is memoir and one is fiction, both focus on different aspects of upper class hospitality: being a sommelier, waiter, learning obscure things about wine/food, and dealing with rich, often asshole customers. I have no clue why I am so into this subgenre. I’ve neve ...more
Colleen Chi-Girl
**** 4-1/2
I just finished the delightful and fun Wine Girl by Victoria James. This is a really good memoir to listen to on audio, especially since the author is reading it. James begins informing us of a fairly miserable childhood due to her mom's mental health issues and a dysfunctional marriage between her parents. She was thrust into supporting herself at a young age in the restaurant biz. I wondered if it was going to be along the lines of Educated, but it only focused on her early life for
My review on my website Twitter@bookpage5

Wine Girl is a memoir from America’s youngest sommelier, taking readers through the necessary accounts of the best and darkest moments throughout her work in the restaurant world. And d throughout her childhood age 7 to 14. When Victoria worked in the restaurants she take us all through what it was like working in the restaurant trade. Some of the wines were a staggering six-hundred-fifty dollars. And before serving wine, a
Whitney Gaston
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Amazing story with raw and real experiences. This really hit home for me as I am in the wine industry. I cannot believe all Victoria had to overcome in her life, and it makes you realize how resilient the human spirits truly is.
Thank you for sharing your life and being so open.
Nikita (thebookelf_)
When I read the synopsis online, I feel in love with the book. I knew I had to read it for two reasons – I work in an industry where wine is an important part of the business and secondly, just for the love of wine!

Wine Girl is an autobiography by a resilient women sommelier and her journey across the world of fine dining. The restaurant business is a glamourous industry but is unfortunately replete with toxic relationships. Amidst the misogyny and obstacles, Victoria James manages to emboss a s
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I overall enjoyed reading this book but it disappointed me in a way similar to Educated. The traumatic events seemed gratuitously emphasized and her family/personal relationships felt hollowly described. James skims through her life without a lot of reflection, and while she exposes a lot of details, she doesn't truly let us in to her interior world. I loved the sections about studying and working in wine/restaurants, but even (almost especially) in those passages I felt kept at an arms length. ...more
Whitley Lopez
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 stars rounded up. I FLEW through this memoir and loved every page of it! The book is written in a way that made me feel like the author was in the room telling me about her life. I felt so connected to her and felt her pain/fear/joy/happiness. Her dry sense of humor (which I loved) made the book flow perfectly for me. The overall message for women was for them to “share their stories, take charge of their lives, and empower others. Stand for social justice and create positive change.” HERE ...more
Brianna Benton
Breathtaking memoir about America's youngest sommelier about her experiences in the service industry. A highly recommended read, especially for fans of Educated!

CW/TW: child neglect alcoholism, sexual assault. Please be aware of your triggers when you pick up this book
Megan Prokott
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. Full review here~ ...more
Heather Gadd
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
Few books cause me to react in the way that this story evoked. From the very beginning, I was drawn into her bizarre and tumultuous family dynamic, the unique, terrifying, and depressing teenage years, and the crazy ups and downs of the early 20s. I now simultaneously (continue to) hate the food service industry while respecting those who succeed and thrive in such a cutthroat atmosphere.

At the very start, you know this story will be unlike any other. Victoria was raised in an environment of st
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to EccoBooks for my free copy of Wine Girl in exchange for my honest review!

I love wine and I loved this book! I love reading memoirs and books that dive into the experiences that have shaped people into who they are today! Victoria's story was interesting and heartbreaking, reading about the way she grew up and the way she was treated throughout the restaurant industry! I loved reading about the way she grew over all the years working at different restaurants and loved reading about her
Taylor M
I was given Wine Girl as a gift by a friend who knows my love for a good glass and a great memoir and, this was just what I needed. With a childhood backstory reminiscent of Educated, or the Glass Castle (albeit perhaps with trauma to a lesser extent), this is a story of overcoming odds, restraints and patriarchal constructs to achieve great success at a young age. Victoria’s life was not roses and rainbows, she battled for every inch of ground in her professional career, often finding
One of my takeaways from this memoir is that I'm most definitely drinking bad wine, haha.

I enjoy a glass of wine here and there, but I can't say I'm really INTO wine. And because I've never really taken a dive into the wine world, this book was actually really informative. Most of my favourite bits revolve around Victoria's training to be a Sommelier.

There are no doubt better books out there about working in the NYC restaurant industry. That being said, I did like Wine Girl. It's #metoo for th
I knew this book wasn't going to be for me as soon as I started it. I really only read memoirs of people that I know, but I thought I'd give this a try. I didn't get too far into it, but I don't drink wine and so I just didn't connect to the book. I wasn't the right audience for the book. ...more

I don't really drink wine (although I have, on occasion, enjoyed wine tasting in the Niagara region), and don't know a thing about sommeliers even though half my family are in the restaurant business. So this book, Wine Girl offered a great introduction into what it means to be sommelier, and what it's like being a young and female sommelier for Michelin restaurants in New York City.

Working in the restaurant business is stressful enough on its own, but the added pressure of working for
Dana DesJardins
WARNING: there are multiple depictions of sexual assault in this book. Here is how the review describes her serial rape and abuse: "there were still groping patrons, bosses who abused their role and status..." As disturbing as attacks were, James' lack of reporting them or getting therapy made me wonder how and even IF she had gotten over what she subtitles "humiliations."
I learned a good amount about wine, but this is more of a tell-all about the demeaning and damaging treatment of women and m
W.  Frazier
I have mixed emotions on this book. The author’s brain trust of wine knowledge is impressive. There is a lot of information about the wine industry, restaurants, and the perks and perils of being a sommelier. I wish it stayed on this track. Instead, the narrative has some large jump-cuts. The timeline includes some very descriptive personal reveals of a difficult childhood, strained parental relationships, and abuse. The point-of-view, pacing, and agenda get muddled.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a bit of background, I'd like to add that I had the immense privilege of working with Victoria for a year and a half. She once remarked to me when facing a minor work-related quandary, that "if we lead with love, everything will be alright."

This book is a testament to that statement, one I've carried with me since. Upon starting the book, I very quickly realised that I would not be able to put it down, and read it in one sitting. It's written with infectious honesty and beauty. I think that a
Rachel Houck
3.5 stars! There are huge sections of this book that I truly loved, including information about wine tasting and production, lessons learned about hospitality, and stories from her travels abroad. I finished the book with a desire to learn how to drink wine so that it can speak to a “sense of place”, which James shares only wine can really demonstrate on so many levels.
Nathan Albright
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: challenge-2021
This book would more accurately have been titled whine girl, as most of this book consists of the author whining about her hard life and how being a woman in her field was so difficult. This book manages to combine three different sorts of approaches together, and two of them I dislike. On the positive side, this book opens a view into the life of people whose status from serving elite wines to elite audiences can often lead to difficulty when it comes to staying out of debt (because of the fact ...more
Much akin to the sampling of a bottle of wine, one might be able to point to certain stage of development in one’s life and notice its maturity, a well-rounded awareness of balance and savour the ingredients, climate, effort and the ingenuity it took to bring forth. In “Wine Girl”, Victoria James does this in a nuanced memoir which tells how she sprang from her erratic family, joined the even more erratic restauranteur industry and eventually found her way to become a top sommelier in the United ...more
Jul 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up. This memoir was worth reading, and I finished it quickly and found myself very interested in the story. Victoria James has had a unique experience as a young female sommelier in an industry that has few young women in positions of power. I don't agree with some other reviewers that the author was snobbish due to her work in the NYC wine scene or proud of the backbreaking labor it was necessary for her to do to work her way up at all. I found her to be tenacious and courageo ...more
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Librarian note: There is more than one author with this name in the database.

Victoria James is an award-winning sommelier and a partner at Gracious Hospitality Management, which includes in its portfolio the Michelin-starred Cote Korean Steakhouse—where James serves as the beverage director and oversees more than 1,500 labels. She is also the author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, which was

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