New York By The Glass

New York’s Youngest Sommelier Is Educating A New Generation Of Wine Enthusiasts
Victoria James still holds the title of New York's youngest sommelier.
Victoria James
Wine Writer, Educator, And Sommelier At Piora

At 21, Victoria James officially became the youngest sommelier in New York City. After studying to be a sommelier, winning two tasting contests, and traveling to Chile and the south of France, James landed at Piora, a one Michelin-starred restaurant in the West Village noted for executive chef Chris Cipollone’s Italian-Asian fare.

As Piora’s wine director, James keeps a full schedule, juggling her time between working on her forthcoming book Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, attending tastings with international winemakers, planning research trips to new wine regions, and sharing her expertise with diners at the restaurant. Over the course of one day, she has likely tasted more than 100 different wines.

Named To Wine Enthusiast’s “40 under 40 Tastemakers,” Victoria James has established herself as an important voice in the industry.
Perfect Pairings
What To Expect At Piora

At the restaurant, James has built a collection featuring more than 300 wines from Northern Italy, France’s Rhone Valley, Corsica, the United States, and beyond. She is particularly fond of Swiss varietals and has amassed the largest selection of Swiss bottles of any restaurant in the country.

But the magic is all in the pairings she creates, and her collection of mineral-driven whites and light crunchy reds pairs perfectly with chef Cipollone’s seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes like bucatini with black garlic, Dungeness crab, burnt leeks, summer squash, maitake mushrooms, and chili.

At the end of the day, James has likely tasted more than 100 different wines, working as wine director at one Michelin-starred, Piora.
Coming Of Age
Charting A Course In Wine

Before James was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s “40 under 40 Tastemakers,” she tended bar at Harry's Cafe & Steak. Her tenure at the upscale steakhouse piqued her interest in wine and led her to take a semester off college and begin studying for her sommelier exam while working the fall grape harvest at Tricycle Wine Company in Sonoma. However, it wasn’t until her first trip out of the country, at a winery nestled near the Andes Mountains in Chile, that she knew for certain she had found her vocation.

Each bottle of wine tells a story, and James enjoys bringing those stories home from her travels, and sharing them with guests at the restaurant.
From Grape To Glass
Telling The Story Of Wine

After winning a tasting contest, Victoria won the opportunity to travel to Chile’s Central Valley to meet with the region’s notable producers, taste their wines, and hear their stories. Having spent grueling 15-hour days harvesting grapes in Sonoma just before her trip, she had a new appreciation for the work, passion, and time that goes into making a single bottle of wine. And her travels, which she continues, have brought her closer to the people, families, and centers of tradition that influence the taste, look, and feel of every last drop. She takes pleasure in bringing these stories back from her travels, and sharing them with her guests at Piora.

Local Recommendations

Enjoy A Taste Of New York With Sommelier, Victoria James

While James has managed to explore every major wine region in the world by now, she still makes a point of visiting new countries every month. Depending on the day, you might find her tasting new releases in the New York Finger Lakes or traveling to growing regions in Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, or Morocco. Still, New York has plenty to offer the most sophisticated of palates. Here, we share Victoria James’s guide to New York by the glass.

An Educated Palate

Expand Your Wine Knowledge

Corkbuzz (13 E. 13th St.; 646-873-6071), near Union Square, is a great place to eat, drink, and learn about wine, and it is one of the only such establishments where guests can have a truly educational tasting experience in the city. You’ll find grape enthusiasts, winemakers, sommeliers, and chefs in the dimly lit dining room huddled over chef Hayan Yi’s juicy short ribs, or seated at the long communal tables exploring Corkbuzz's ever-evolving wine list during one of their informative tasting sessions. If you’re after a bottle or two to take with you Convive Wine And Spirits (196 Ave. A; 917-383-2111) just may have what you’re looking for. At this new wine shop in the East Village, collectors and wine nerds will rejoice over the shop’s extensive selection of everything from hard-to-find vintages to bottles under $30 USD.

Neighborhood Nosh

Reliable French Cooking In The West Village

Buvette (42 Grove St.; 212-255-3590) is a tiny neighborhood cafe–some say no bigger than a walk-in closet–that serves easy-drinking French wines and simple delectable dishes from sunrise to 2am. With her West Village café, owner and chef, Jody Williams, wanted to create a local gathering place, where nearby residents could drop in for a coffee, or spend the entire day reading, chatting, and eating well.

The intimate, European-inspired gastrothèque is filled with storybook-like accessories, such as vintage nutcrackers, old picnic baskets and tiny doll house spoons. Enjoy something sweet, like chocolatey Nutella crepes or fluffy Belgian waffles topped with raspberries, or more savory dishes like the grilled octopus with potatoes and olives. Perhaps best of all, you’ll find wines perfect for pairing with almost everything.

Locavore's Delight

Enjoy Fresh From The Farm Ingredients In The Heart Of The City

When James isn’t exploring new wine destinations, or foraging in the Hudson Valley for mugwort, burdock, and dandelion root to distill her own Amaro, she’s sorting through crates of farm-fresh produce at the Union Square Greenmarket (Mon., Weds., Fri., Sat., North & West sides, Union Sq.). Since 1976, the market has been a go-to among urban-dwelling foodies and world-renowned chefs thanks to its bounty of fresh produce, organic meats, cheeses, freshly baked breads, local honey, flowers, and beyond. In peak season, the market welcomes more than 140 vendors serving 60,000 dedicated shoppers.

On sunny days, James enjoys gathering a few necessary ingredients and heading uptown for a leisurely picnic with friends in Central Park.

Cocktail Culture

Forget What You Thought You Knew About Irish Pubs

James came to the wine world through cocktail culture working as a bartender at the Harry's Café and Steak under the supervision of the now legendary Irish barman, Sean Muldoon, who was working on opening his own establishment at the time. Redefining the idea of an Irish pub, Muldoon’s Dead Rabbit (30 Water St.; 646-422-7906) became an instant classic on the New York cocktail scene when it opened in 2013.

Named for an infamous Irish-American New York gang, the establishment is housed in a non-descript red brick building in the Financial District. The first floor pub, the Taproom, serves up craft beers and specialty Irish whiskeys like Teeling Single Malt. But upstairs is where the real fun happens. Enter the Parlor, a speakeasy style cocktail bar complete with waiters in red shirts and suspenders, is popular for its delectable Irish dishes and sophisticated cocktail menu.

Points Of View

Explore The First Elevated Park In The United States

Built on an unused railroad trestle floating 30-feet above street level, The High Line (entrances between Gansevoort & Washington St. to W. 34th & 12th Ave.; 212-500-6035) is a scenic walkway and public park that brings a necessary influx of nature to the industrial cityscape below. Designed by landscape architect James Corner and Dutch plant designer, Piet Oudolf, the only elevated park in the city features 1.45 miles of ornamental grasses, rugged meadow plants like goldenrod, milkweed, and Queen Anne’s lace, as well as public art installations, an amphitheater, food and drink vendors, and sporadic benches and loungers where you can pause and admire the view. James recommends starting at the north end of the park, and winding your way down to the Whitney Museum Of American Art (99 Gansevoort St.; 212-570-3600) to refuel at Untitled, Danny Meyer’s ground floor restaurant, for accessible, delicious food, and a wine list to match.