Before Virginie Boone was working with Wine Enthusiast, she held her own as a wine writer. I first became aware of her at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Windsor, California is a bedroom community to Santa Rosa, so she was one of “our own.” When I had heard that she had been hired with Wine Enthusiast, I was very happy for her… She had earned more stripes, and that was very good for us all. I also remember Virginie with 7×7 Magazine, a San Francisco based magazine. (San Francisco is on a 7×7 mile grid, hence the reference.)
It’s very informative asking the same questions of everyone, because I’m seeing patterns. Writers seem to love Champagne and potato chips as a favorite food and wine pairing, and we’re finally getting away from screw caps being the favorite innovation in the last few years… I love Virginie’s answer to that question, and think if I were now asked that same question, I’d have the same answer.
I’ve really enjoyed reading her answers to my questions. They’ve created an interesting wine story, not just a question and answer dialogue. Her answer about her most memorable wine comes from one of her most memorable experiences… That’s very cool. Wine does that… Gives us memories that eclipse “cassis.”
Writer Profile questions: Virginie Boone
[Q] Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?
I’m lucky to say that writing about wine has been my full-time job since 2004 when I was hired on staff at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, where I’ve written wine features almost every week ever since, as well as contributed to the paper’s quarterly food and wine magazine, Savor. I went freelance in 2008, continuing to write for the PD and Savor, but increasingly too for magazines like the Wine Enthusiast, which hired me as a contributing reviewer of California wines last year. I also write for Zester Daily, an online food and wine site started by fellow newspaper wine writer Corie Brown.
[Q] When did you start writing about wine?
Full-time, in 2004, but before that I wrote occasionally about wine while I was the managing editor at 7×7 Magazine, mostly because I was living in Sonoma County already and loved any excuse not to have to commute down to San Francisco for a day. I also contributed to a Lonely Planet travel guide on the Loire Valley in 2001, and that was most definitely very much about a great wine region and its wines, which I still love.
3. What prompted you to start writing about wine?
I really came at it originally as a travel writer. I loved writing books for Lonely Planet, which sent me to some pretty crazy places over the years – northern Louisiana, Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana, to name a few. After 9/11, when I had to go to Boston to write a guide a week after the tragedy and then to the Loire Valley about a month after that, I started thinking, maybe I should write about my own backyard, especially since I had just moved up to Healdsburg from San Francisco and was eager to get to know the region better. It takes time. Getting to know Sonoma County and everything around it inevitably led to wine.
Also, friends had become winemakers, and I had visited them in France while they were doing internships. They were back in Napa and Sonoma starting to do their own thing. The whole wine world became very intriguing and as a writer, there were an endless amount of good stories to tell, from a lot of different angles – nature, agriculture, science and history.
[Q] What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?
I love the people, the history, the vineyard variations. I’m drawn to the vineyard side of things, but ultimately I think people respond to who is behind a wine.
[Q] How has your job changed since you’ve started?
The cool thing about wine is it’s always changing, but I do feel I’ve been working during the midst of a great transformation in how people communicate about wine. There’s been a great opening up of dialogue between winemakers and consumers. Of course it appears to be more challenging to make it as a wine writer financially in some ways – gone perhaps (or fewer) are the kind of full-time writing jobs I was lucky enough to get pre-blogs, Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, there’s more and more interest in wine overall and so different kinds of writing opportunities are opening up, from up and coming iPad magazines to who knows what’s next. But I still enjoy most the chance to write a solid feature where a story gets a beginning, middle and end. Hope that never goes away.
[Q] What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?
I could come up with a thousand answers, but the first that comes to mind is a chilled glass of Sancerre in the hilltop town of Sancerre in November of 2001 as the rain fell and a warm goat cheese salad was paired.
[Q] What’s your favorite variety?
Living in Sonoma for 10 years now I feel lucky to have tasted so many exceptional Pinot Noirs. I think it’s been the golden age of Pinot here. But I also love Syrah, Grenache, elegant Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and refined, not too over the top Zinfandel. Sauvignon Blanc is the white I tend to choose first, but dry Moscato and Vermentino are new discoveries. I pretty much like it all in balance, not so alcoholic that I can’t have 2 to 3 glasses over a night.
8. Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?
I do, from more and more regions, too. It’s the best part of my new job with Wine Enthusiast, discovering producers in areas I didn’t know as well who are putting out incredibly well-made wines at very fair prices. Lodi and Livermore have lots of examples of that, but so do Mendocino and Lake counties and I keep falling in love with new wines made in the Sierra Foothills too. There are still values to be had in Napa and Sonoma, as well, but I totally get that the price of doing business can be high and that even at a higher price point, there’s value.
[Q] What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?
I love the thought of iPad wine lists. The improvement in box wines is fun, too, as are the refillable barrels behind bars. I wouldn’t mind having one of those myself.
[Q] What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?
It’s so situational. Outside of that crottin de Chavignol and Sancerre, steak and Cabernet is hard to beat.
[Q] What are your interests outside of the wine business?
Travel, music and sports, probably in that order. And I’ll always say yes to a hike.
[Q] Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?
My mom, who despite being French still doesn’t know anything about wine except what tastes good to her. At almost 75 years old she’ll be hiking the Himalayas next month, something she’s always wanted to do. She’s fearless, always ready for the next adventure, ever ready to challenge herself up the next mountain. Plus she’s one of the most caring people around. In wine, Merry Edwards, Cathy Corison and Patti Fetzer.
[Q] For what would you like to be remembered?
For being open to wines from all regions and at all price points. And for always being open to learning along the way.