By Caroline Benveniste
Victoria James is not your typical sommelier. In a field dominated by men, it is unusual to see a young woman, particularly one who has already received numerous awards and made Wine and Spirits Magazine’s list of ‘Best New Sommeliers of 2016.’ Victoria is a local celebrity: She is the wine director at Piora, located at 430 Hudson Street, between Leroy and Morton Streets, which makes her the youngest wine director of any Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.
Drink Pink came to be after Victoria wrote an article on rosés and a publisher approached her about writing a book on the subject. At first, she demurred. She felt that it was difficult enough to be taken seriously as a young woman in the wine world without writing a book about a wine that many people don’t take seriously. Eventually, two things changed her mind: the fact that she really likes rosés, and her boyfriend, who told her to just go ahead and “embrace it.”
We are lucky that she decided to write the book. Rosé is a misunderstood wine that went through a rough patch when inferior rosés dominated the landscape (think White Zinfandel). But people’s perceptions of rosé have changed quite a bit in the last few years, and many are discovering the very fine rosés out there. In the U.S., it is currently the fastest growing wine category.
The book is interesting, entertaining, very pretty, and very pink! It begins with a history of rosé wines: The earliest wines date back to the 8th century B.C. in ancient Greece, and were light pink. Victoria then discusses the three different methods used to make rosés (one of them is actually just mixing red and white wine), explains what goes into making a good rosé, and recommends specific wines to drink by region. Towards the end of the book, there is a section on “Rosé Cocktails” and recipes for dishes that Victoria enjoys eating with rosés. The whimsical illustrations were done by Lyle Railsback, Victoria’s boyfriend who, in addition to being artistic, is a wine maker and works in sales for a prestigious wine merchant.
I was lucky to work with Victoria on a rosé wine tasting that took place on Friday, June 16th. She concluded the evening with this thought: “Each little glass has a place and time where it belongs, perhaps with certain dishes or for particular occasions. Rosé, just like red and white, holds a sense of place, the notion of terroir. It speaks to a region, centuries of tradition, the climate and winemaker influences. It is more than just a color.”
Victoria has had a busy spring. In addition to her book launch, she has also overseen the wine selections at Cote, a new Korean steakhouse by the Piora team, which just opened in the Flatiron District. But most evenings you can find her at Piora, so stop by and she’ll help you pick from the 30-plus rosés on the wine list and even autograph your copy of Drink Pink.