MICHELIN Guide Ceremony 2 minutes 09 June 2022

Victoria James, MICHELIN Guide Florida 2022 Sommelier Award Winner

Cote Miami beverage director Victoria James on drinking seasonally, buying from BIPOC winemakers, and white—yes, white—wine with steak.

Florida Miami wine Wine Access sommelier

Victoria James is the beverage director and a partner at One Star Cote in Miami, the author of Wine Girl, and the 2022 Florida Sommelier Award winner, presented in partnership with Wine Access—part of the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Florida Star Revelation. At 21, James became the youngest sommelier in the US at the time, and she hasn't stopped moving since. After opening One Star Cote in New York, she relocated to Miami for the restaurant's second outpost. To celebrate her sommelier award and The MICHELIN Guide Miami, Orlando and Tampa launch, we chatted with James about drinking and eating seasonally, non-alcoholic cocktails, and drinking white wine with steak.

What are you drinking these days? 
I'm super seasonal in how I drink, and food always comes first. So with more ripe, summer vegetables, I'm drinking a lot of Mediterranean wines like Bandol rosé, salty island white wines like Vermentino from Corsica, and light chillable reds like Rossese from Liguria. In cooler weather, when heartier fare is more in vogue, I go for beefy reds like Brunello di Montalcino, Garnacha from Spain, and structured California Rhône blends from Santa Barbara.

What's your favorite nonalcoholic drink?
As a new mother, I am fully embracing the nonalcoholic drink! When I was pregnant, I was constantly disappointed by how many restaurants didn't have high-quality non-alcoholic options; everything was either super sweet and sugary or essentially club soda. As a result, I made sure that at Cote we had genuinely cool offerings for those who wanted to abstain from alcohol during their meal. I love Athletic Brewing's lager. Unlike most N/A beers, it isn't bitter or over-watery; they have a proprietary method of brewing that is just genius. It really feels as if you aren't getting a "lesser" product just because it's nonalcoholic.

What's your ideal meal and pairing?
Since Cote is a steakhouse many default to red wine with red meat (which is delicious!), but my ideal pairing is actually a more textural white wine with our steaks. The best ever is our marinated shortribs, galbi, with a big side of kimchi so you have the sweet marinated meat with the sour/spicy fermented vegetables. Pairing this with red wine can be tricky, so I love an off-dry Riesling with a ton of acidity and freshness to help clean up the palate and match the concentration of flavors.

Beverage director Victoria James at Cote Miami cellar
Beverage director Victoria James at Cote Miami cellar

What's the biggest misconception about being a sommelier, or wine in general, that you'd like to dispel?
The world of wine can be very confusing and intimidating, so I feel like most people don't fully understand what a sommelier is or what we do. Most people seem to think that I just lounge around and drink wine all day (I wish!). A sommelier is someone who works in restaurants, not just selling wine to guests but also as a Captain in service, really overseeing the experience from A to Z and making sure that beverages—from water to wine to coffee—are being integrated into the meal seamlessly. I encourage all customers to ask for the sommelier early in their meal so they can help curate the whole experience.

What’s your criteria for adding a new wine to your list?
At Cote Miami, we have such an incredible team of sommeliers, and our beverage manager, Daniel Ng, and head of beverage operations, Mia Van de Water MS, all play a part in making sure our wine list follows the Cote ethos we set in place when opening. Our wine list focuses on farmers and producers who are committed to organic, biodynamic, sustainable, or la lutte raisonnée practices. Whenever possible we also try to lift up marginalized groups by purchasing wine made by women and BIPOC. Most importantly, we feel that wine should be delicious and speak to a sense of place.

Cote Miami beverage director and partner Victoria James
All photos © Cote Miami
Presented in partnership with Wine Access
Presented in partnership with Wine Access

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