Best New Sommelier 2016

Victoria James | Piora, NYC


Each year we put a call out to wine directors across the country, asking them to nominate the best new talent they’ve spotted working the floor in restaurants. They voted in eight up-and-coming sommeliers who all share a depth of wine knowledge, a warm presence with guests and the respect their colleagues. We’re pleased to introduce our Best New Sommeliers of 2016.

Victoria James attended Fordham University for two years before she began working as a bartender to help pay the bills. She then moved from being a cellarhand at Harry’s Café and Steak to a sommelier at Aureole when she turned 21. She spent two years there, then two years at Marea before moving to the West Village to direct the wine program at Piora. She’s spent the last year making the list her own, heading into Swiss wines and moving away from oxidative Jura, expanding and contracting her stock with the seasons, ranging between 300 and 500 selections.

Studying Alone

I’m an introvert; that’s where I gain my energy. I have the Brainscape flash card app, so I wrote 20,000 flash cards for the theory portion of the exam. For tasting, I have a weekly tasting group at Eleven Madison Park. But the most useful tool for me is working the floor and talking wine everyday.

Escape in NYC

Buvette is probably my favorite restaurant in New York. You can go there any time of day. No frills, just great food. And it’s one of my favorite lists.

Foraging in Upstate New York and Vermont

I got into it at Marea. There are only so many green salads you can have from foraging so I started making amaro, mostly using plants from the aster family—daisies, sunflowers, mugwort—and burdock root, wild sorrel…This year, I made a 225-liter barrel; I’ll water it down and sweeten it with local honey, so I’ll have about 800 bottles of Aster Amaro.

To read Victoria James’ profile, click here to order the digital copy of the October issue or pick up a copy at your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.

photo of Victoria James by Mike Rush.

This article first appeared in W&S October 2016.

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