Women In Wine Part 2 ft. Victoria James & Eva Wildrick

How kick ass were the women in part I of this series?

They were pretty remarkable if you ask me. Today I have two more amazing women paving the way. Thankfully, as women infiltrate the wine industry more, there will continue to be women to interview for this series. So be on the look out for monthly “women in wine” interviews!

When I first was entering the sommelier world, I was told to “act like a man,” if I wanted to excel. I think that was some of the worst advice I was ever given.

But this week I’m bringing you interviews from Victoria James, who became a somm at the age of 21, is an author and the wine director at two amazing NYC restaurants and Eva Wildrick, a wine rep for Regal Wine imports with crazy knowledge on wines. Eva is proof that you don’t need to know it all to get started in the wine industry. 

The Somm, Wine Director & Author – Victoria James

How did you get started in wine?

I started working in restaurants when I was thirteen, progressing from server to bartender when I was in college. I quickly realized that I knew nothing about the world of beverage. I signed up for a wine class which turned into a second wine class which turned into an entire program. Soon, I secured a job as a cellar hand, worked harvest in Sonoma and then became a sommelier at Aureole, also passing my sommelier exam.

What inspired you to write a book all about rosé? 

Thanks! I collaborated on an article about rosé last year for NY Mag and a literary agent came across the piece. She asked if I might be interested in writing a book on rosé, a topic that was suddenly becoming trendy. In the sommelier world, rosé had long been a well-kept secret, but only recently has it become mainstream. I was, of course, thrilled by the idea but was worried about being pigeonholed as the “rosé girl.” As a young female in a competitive and male-dominated industry, it can sometimes be a challenge to be taken seriously.

I went home that evening and told my boyfriend, Lyle, about the possibility. He encouraged me to pursue my passion and not worry about what other people would think. “Yes you are a woman, yes you like rosé, own it!” I decided to write the book and focused on producers that I was passionate about, versus a lot of mainstream swill that has watered down rosés good name. Lyle also helped me by illustrating the book, drawing over 100 lovely pictures!

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to break into the world of wine?

When I first was entering the sommelier world, I was told to “act like a man,” if I wanted to excel. I think that was some of the worst advice I was ever given. I think you should be true to who you are and as a woman, I have unique strengths that have helped me get ahead in life. The advice I would give a woman entering the wine world is just this- act like a woman.

What’s your go-to wine at the moment?

I love rosé, of course, but at the moment I am all about cru beaujolais, especially the Thivin Côte de Brouilly. Really affordable, crunchy fresh and delicious!

Buy Drink Pink here.

The Wine Rep – Eva Wildrick

How did you get started in wine?

Twelve years ago a friend of mine started a small import and wholesale wine distribution company and asked me to come on board as a sales rep. I was looking for a change and a challenge so I left my job, as a flight attendant. Jumping into wine and sales in NYC without any experience was not the smartest move but luckily I was happily clueless about that at the time.

I had to build a territory from scratch, cold call restaurants and shops and face a whole lot of rejection on a daily basis. All my spare time was studying about and drinking wine. Fast forward and 12 years later I’m so happy I made the career change!  I’ve met such wonderful people, worked harder than I thought possible and have a great customer base and wonderful relationships in the industry!

What do you enjoy most about your current position in wine? 

I really enjoy the relationships that I’ve built over the years. Most of my customers are now friends and I’m inspired daily by their hard work, knowledge and passion for wine, food, stories and hospitality. I also like the flexibility! Oh and eating and drinking as part of the job description doesn’t suck either. Did I mention traveling to the vineyards?? Ok, I’ll stop now. 

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to break into the world of wine?

If you are not in the industry yet, get in the industry. Don’t do what I did! A great place to start is your local retailer.  Most retailers are almost always looking for part time help, especially in season, Oct, Nov & Dec.  It’s a great way to see how one side of the wine world works and allows you the opportunity to taste a lot of different wines and learn more detailed information on each of the wines as well as meet winemakers, sales reps and suppliers!  Once you have a good base of knowledge and experience you can pursue other avenues in the field. 

What’s your go-to wine at the moment?

My go to wine is anything sparking! I love a a bubble. I’m into grower Champagne and for value Cremants from France as well as Cava from Spain.  I love them all! In America we tend to think of sparkling wines as more for a celebration with a group of people and not something that, say on a random Tuesday, when we get home from work, pop a bottle and have a glass or two.  

When I’m pouring at one of my stores and a customer walks in and asks for a recommendation for a white wine, I’ll say would you like sparkling or still and that starts the conversation.  I tell them if you have a good champagne stopper you can drink bubbly every day! Also, I’m a big fan of rose. Bigger fan of rose bubbles, obviously.

I hope these women continue to give you insoirtation to get into the wine business or keep pushing forward if you’re already in it!

Check out Part I of this series here

More From Chel Loves Wine