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

Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780062961679. $26.99. COOKING
James became the youngest sommelier at a U.S. Michelin-starred restaurant at the age of 21. How she got there is the focus of this warm and enjoyable memoir. Growing up, James knew little about food and even less about wine. She began her hospitality career waitressing at a diner when she was just 13. Work was not only a way to earn cash, but also a way to escape her dysfunctional family, if only for a few hours at a time. Bartending at a small Italian restaurant in New York exposed her to wine; in order to learn more, she went to an industry wine tasting class and eventually found her new career. The requirements for a good sommelier are steep: a strong palate, masses of memorization, and serious customer service skills. James kept pursuing the career, despite having her youth and gender used against her; she was frequently dismissed and harassed.
VERDICT While informative about what it takes to become a sommelier, the focus of this moving memoir is more on James’s personal journey.
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