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Meet Virginie Boone!


Virginie is Wine Enthusiast’s new California taster. She’ll be reviewing the wines from inland, while I’ll focus on the coastal areas. Virginie, 42, is a lovely woman, and I’m happy to be working with her. I wanted to introduce her to the wonderful people who read my blog.

Virginie Boone: I was born overseas on a U.S. Army base in Germany. My dad was career army and my mom was French. I live now in Kenwood, Sonoma County.

Steve: How did you get into wine appreciation?

VB: I’ve always liked wine. We always had wine in our house, probably because of my mom’s French heritage. She had the French habit of drinking wine everyday, but she was living in America, on a budget, so there was a lot of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, pretty basic stuff. But it was something that we had often.

How did you start writing about wine?

I came at it through travel writing. One of my first gigs was writing for the Berkeley Guides; I went to Berkeley, and they started a guidebook company for a while.

So you’d been a freelance writer?

I’d graduated from college, and was looking to do some traveling and writing, and they were starting this guidebook series. They wanted to cover France, and I spoke French, and I knew France pretty well, so I was sent there with a blank piece of paper and deadlines. That was in 1991.

When did you get married?


What’s your husband’s name?

Lawrence. He’s a wine broker; he reps small wineries. We have one son, Miles, who’s five.

So you were doing the Berkeley Guides?

Yes, and that gave me my first experience of really traveling on my own. I was sent to the Riviera, and then Alsace-Lorraine, and learned a lot about food and wine there. It didn’t necessarily click then that I should be writing about wine. I was just writing about places. And then I came to work for Lonely Planet, and got sent all kind of places, including the Loire Valley. And who doesn’t love the wines of the Loire, and the food, and the way you go into any little restaurant and they’re featuring those regional wines with food? And it’s not crazy expensive. I’d gotten married, and was living in San Francisco, and my husband and I decided to move up to Sonoma County, just to try it out, do something different. And after that long, crazy period of traveling, I thought, why am I going to all these places if I can maybe write about my own backyard? So I made a commitment to get to know Sonoma, and write about places up there.

How would you describe yourself?

We’re typical Sonoma people. We cook seasonally. We have a garden. This time of year is amazing, because we have apples and tomatoes and beans, and we have chickens so we have eggs. Last year I got really into making bread.

What was the first wine writing you did?

The first official wine writing was when I was hired by the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat to write a weekly feature on their food and wine page, in 2004. I still do that. I was on staff until two years ago, when I decided to go freelance, because I wanted to focus on writing about wine.

Where else have you written about wine?

Besides the Press-Democrat? They have a spinoff magazine called Savor, and I’ve written for North Bay Business Journal, Vineyard & Winery Management, Art & Living down in L.A.

Have you had much experience at tasting, the way you will be now at Wine Enthusiast?

Not the way I will be now. This is a whole new discipline for me. I’ve been involved in judging, and I’ve been around a lot of other people tasting, so I’ve seen how they do it, what points they look for. Clearly, when writing features about wineries, I’ve done a lot of tasting, either with the winemakers or on my own. But this is a new direction.

How are you feeling and thinking about your new gig with Wine Enthusiast?

I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about getting to know areas that I don’t know as well, being able to focus on places like the Sierra Foothills, or Lodi. I look forward to digging into them, and getting to meet the people, getting to know the wines a lot better. When I started covering Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino for the Press-Democrat, I hadn’t been writing about wine, so I came in without preconceived notions. And I feel there’s a little bit of that here, too, when you come in with fresh eyes, a fresh palate, and I don’t have any assumptions about anything.  There are so many new things to discover.

Miles & Virginie

  1. Ron Saikowski says:

    Welcome Virginie to Wine Enthuasist! I look forward to your articles and Virginie approach to the wonderful food of wine! I also am a freelancer in Texas, writing two weekly wine columns for newspapers reaching about 800,000 homes, wine columns in two monthly magazines, and just recently for I have known Steve through FB and find him quite a character with opposing views on several topics.

  2. Virginie – welcome! I look forward to meeting you when you visit the Sierra Foothills!

    Steve – It’s been real, man. 😉

  3. I must be missing something (not the first time). Here’s a “lovely woman” who, like you, develops her chops writing travel pieces and human interest. She confesses she knows little about tasting wine, yet she is the inland CA taster (who lives in a coastal community). Is this fair to the wineries who rely on wine mag reviews?

  4. Thanks El Jefe. Keep up the good work.

  5. What she’s not an MW? Jeez!

  6. Tom, as I wrote here a week ago, in my post about applying martial arts philosophy to wine tasting: “Spirit first, technique second. This means that the wine writer may not be a technical expert, but what counts more than expertise is spirit, passion, drive.” No wine critic is a technical expert. I am far from a technical expert. Each critic relies only on his or her judgment, tempered by work ethic and personal integrity, and fueled by passion. When I began reviewing wine, that’s all I had. When I worked at Wine Spectator, I saw, first hand, that was all those guys had. It’s all anyone has. I think you will find that Virginie brings all those positive aspects to her new job. And I think the inland wineries whom she works with will welcome her with open arms.

  7. We’re looking forward to meeting Virginie in Lodi! We appreciate the focused interest.

  8. Hi Virginie!

    Congrats again, on the wonderful appointment. Wine Enthusiast is lucky to have ya. See you soon!

    And watch out for that Steve character 😉

  9. Virginie is a true pro. She knows her wine and she can capture a vintner’s story like no one else. Between her and Steve the west coast will be very well covered in the pages of Wine Enthusiast.

  10. Steve,

    This of course gets into the thorny issue of who has the cred to evaluate wines in a large public forum with not insignificant financial impacts. “Spirit, passion, drive” and related amorphous traits are dandy, perhaps even necessary, but not sufficient IMHO. Or to put it in your words spirit and technique. I guess it’s appropriate that ~enthusiasm~, if one had to lump all these characteristics together, is a fitting attribute given the context of the job.

    There are vast numbers of people, many blogging, who bring a passion to wine but also a broad experience in wine tasting. Why would Wine Enthusiast hire someone who, yes, is gung ho, but would seem to be learning on the job?

    Actually, I applaud the appointment since it is in keeping with my perspective that no individual should be relied on for determining the merits of particular wines, so conversely anyone, regardless of their experience, can offer their opinions with equal validity.

  11. This is great news. Boone has been doing great writing for the Press Democrat. She and Peg Melnick alone really elevated that paper to something worth reading, from a culinary and enological enthusist’s perspective. Boone is the right person to delve further into these growing areas. She’s good at features; at capturing what drives people.

    Over at the Spectator, Mary Ann helped to bring new found enthusiasm to California white wines. I see Boone helping to breathe new life into some of these lesser appreciated growing regions.

  12. Raley, couldn’t agree with you more! I too followed Virginie’s and Peg’s work at the PD. Thanks for your kind words.

  13. Bill Green says:

    While I don’t know Virginie or her work, the fact that her husband brokers wine is something of a red flag for me. Good luck to her, regardless.

  14. Bill Green, I don’t think it matters where a wine critic’s spouse, or any relative, works. It’s all about integrity. So relax. Don’t worry about a thing.

  15. Thomas Matthews says:

    Just to follow up on Steve’s comment re: Wine Spectator. For the past decade, we have implemented a rigorous apprenticeship program to qualify new tasters. Before a new taster is assigned any wine beats, or allowed to initial wine reviews, he or she has worked for Wine Spectator for at least three years, has tasted regularly with our senior editors for two to three years more, and has undergone multiple evaluations. We do not require an enology degree, nor any other formal credential. But we make sure they have extensive practical experience and thorough training before we allow them to judge wines under our purview. We think that is only fair, both for producers and consumers.

    Thomas Matthews
    Executive editor
    Wine Spectator

  16. Congratulations Steve and everyone at the WE! Virginie is great addition to the Wine Enthusiast team

  17. Bill Green says:

    Steve, not to start a debate, but it matters to me where a spouse works. If my US congressman’s wife worked as a lobbyist, for example, that would be an issue for me. I agree that it’s about integrity, but that’s a word that’s easy to throw around and often harder to live up to.

    That said, I do think it’s great that wine has another female voice.

  18. Virginie Boone says:

    Hello all,

    Thanks for the comments, positive and questioning. I will just add to the inquiries that I have more tasting experience than perhaps is relayed here, having sat on many a tasting panel and competition, including last year’s Pigs and Pinot event, a blind tasting of more than 50 pinots from around the world in which I, Ray Isle and Rusty Gaffney selected the same #1 and #2 wines. I’ve also been a judge for many other competitions over the years. I hope this helps mitigate any perceptions that suggest I’m more enthusiast than experienced palate. This won’t be a case of learning on the job.

  19. Megghen Driscol says:

    Peg is a consummate professional who happens to know a hell of a lot more about wine than you might think. Her humble nature (which is so refreshing in this field!) might not demonstrate that but it’s the truth. If in doubt, Google some of her stories. She is a pro!

    Congrats Virginie… very well deserved!

  20. Paul Dolan says:


  21. Bill Smart says:

    For those of us that know Virginie and have worked with her, this is an obvious next step in her career. This appointment is not some kind of fly by the seat of the pants decision. To suggest that Virginie is some kind of “green” newbie in this business is ridiculous. I can attest that her palate is excellent and she knows much more about wine than most. What makes her an even better addition is her writing skill, which is second to none. For those wineries in Virginie’s beat, you’re lucky to have her.

  22. I can imagine that WE had more than a few applicants for this job, and that they went through a thorough vetting and interview process. That WE has vested Ms. Boone with the professional cred of the magazine speaks volumes to me about her abilities. I look forward to reading her work.

    Tom Merle: “…anyone, regardless of their experience, can offer their opinions with equal validity.” Really? What is this, a First Amendment issue with you? You and I are never going to agree on this.

    I do agree that anyone regardless of their experience has a right to offer an opinion. However it is up to me to assign validity to that opinion (or to any other reader). There is a lot of “opinion” out there that has exactly zero value in my estimation, as it is not backed by any apparent experience or even basic ability.

    We may all be “created equal” but we don’t turn out so. All tasters are not equally “abled” or talented, nor are all writers.

  23. Thanks to the many posters who chimed in on Virginie’s behalf. We feel fortunate to have added her talents to those of our team at Wine Enthusiast.

    We always taste with prospective reviewers prior to hiring them so that we are confident in their abilities not only to taste and review wines consistently, but also in their abilities to communicate to our readers what it is they are tasting. Virginie is an experienced taster with the rare ability to communicate the essentials of a wine in the short form required by our publication. She has judged at numerous wine competitions and is an accomplished writer.

    Part of our tasting philosophy is that as critics we are always learning. The more we taste, the more we learn, and the more we understand that there are still more things we don’t know yet. Perhaps because of this, there is a certain humility associated with being a Wine Enthusiast reviewer. We do not believe we know it all, or are somehow infallible in our recommendations. Indeed, we do learn on the job–every day.

    We’re confident that Virginie’s abilities will be readily apparent to producers and readers alike.

  24. John Kelly: I was really saying of course, as I have in many of my posts, that one person’s opinion is equally invalid, precisely because it is one person’s opinion. I don’t care if you are one of the great gurus or the relative novice. Indeed, the novice, who knows little about the making of wine, like the parallel I’ve used in the past, of the making of a sonata, may provide better guidance about purchasing wine…. or listening to a Bach Sonata.

    Expert knowledge of the sort required to obtain an MW, e.g., to be able to pick out the characteristics of wines from Chinon, may be a feat and interesting intellectually, but it adds nothing to the sensuous experience of tasting wines. The newbie doesn’t have to determine whether a wine is a fine example of a particular terroir or variety; they just want to know how delicious a wine is.

    Now it is true that enthusiasts for whom wine is a kind of hobby may enjoy more nuanced aspects of how a wine tastes, and their guidance may be more useful for other serious wine drinkers. But again I would want to know how a wine fared among many such enthusiasts. Just as I would among many “critics” or judges. For the former I would go to CellarTracker, as everyone knows who reads this blog. For another art form, film, I would go to to find the composite percentage of many movie reviewers (nothing like this exists for vino though there was once a blue book that tracked how a large selection of wines did in the major competitions).

    Mr. Czerwinski is right to put emphasis on communication among WE “content providers”. The articles count for a lot in the various wine publications including those like Good journalism, of the sort that SH produces, remains paramount.

    OK, Charlie, I await another one of your virtual tongue lashings…. Or maybe you’ve just given up on me.

    El Grumpo

  25. Grumpo, I would add that an MW who can pick out a Chinon may be a poor wine writer/critic of the sort that writes for popular magazines like WE. The consumer needs good writers who can explain wine in a clear, entertaining way.

  26. My dear El Grumpo–

    I think you are catching on. Most of the winewriting that is in subscription publications is expected to come from professionals who possess knowledge and the ability to apply it.

    There is nothing at all wrong with Cellar Tracker or Snooth. Legions of wine knowledgeable people post there and read what is written there. But, the commentary has its own sets of shortcomings such as the fact that the commentators have already purchased the wines they review for their own consumption based not on journalistic investigation but personal enjoyment. And the wines are typically not tasted blind in peer-to-peer tastings. How could they be? I just tasted several hundred Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays for my October issue. I am tasting 60 CA bubblies for my November issue along with a couple of hundred other wines. The foiks who post on CT and Snooth are not engaged in that kind of broad-ranging, rigorously neutral investigations. That is the difference. In fact, they could not be. They have neither the time nor the financial resources to do what I do.

    That is why some people will always want expert opinion and be willing to pay for it. You are really not so grumpy, Tom. You just believe in your version of reality. I believe in mine.

  27. Monica Larner says:

    Virginie, my background is very similar to yours. I wrote numerous Italy travel guides and always had a strong passion for wine and wine writing. I remember my first tastings with Joe in New York and his valuable lessons – the Wine Enthusiast methodology, the tempo of tasting, the focus on consistency and the importance of being an individual voice in a tasting team – have remained strongly etched in my mind. I know Joe was “calibrating my palate” to the WE team standard and I don’t believe he would have been as successful had I come from another team. I also feel, as I know my colleagues do, an enormous allegiance to Wine Enthusiast and am very proud to represent the magazine in this part of the world. Now, seven years later as Italian Editor responsible for thousands of samples and one of the biggest wine producing nations on the planet, I don’t think anyone would dare question my travel writing background.

  28. Steve.

    Congratulations to the Wine Enthusiast for hiring such a consummate pro, with deep roots in both wine and food! I’ve followed Mrs. Boone’s writing for years, and her understanding of food and wine, coupled with her local and regional knowledge is deep and thoughtful. I think that this is a perfect pairing, and I look forward to Mrs. Boone’s insights and engaging writing style for years to come.

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