Text by Jillian Dara
Images courtesy of Vanessa Price
“Not gonna lie. Life is better with a beach and a bottle of muscadet,” says Vanessa Price, who is on a mission to unlock the mysteries of wine one glass at a time.
Price has a passion for grape juice and all the people who make it, sell it, and live it. The creative director and founder of The Vinum Collective, Price is a wine writer for New York magazine, an instructor of a popular wine class at Columbia University and for The Wine & Spirits Education Trust, as well as author of “Big Macs & Burgundy: Wine Pairings for the Real World,” a book based on her column for Grub Street. According to Price, she’s “worn every hat in wine,” including wine importer, distributor, and sales representative.
Her brand is refreshingly cheeky and working with talented photographers, cinematographers, and storytellers, she specializes in creating and conceptualizing bold, colorful wine-savvy imagery and other content for clients. The goal: to make wine approachable, less stuffy and fun. Wine creates community, according to Price, and everyone’s invited to love wine as much as she does.
“There is so much information swirling around and it all seems to matter, but how do you put it all together to form a clear picture that is decipherable and applicable in any wine scenario?” Price says. “We should all feel empowered to have opinions about wine without having to be wine experts. I believe there are a few fundamental concepts that are the foundation of understanding all things wine. If you can wrap your brain around these, it can open up the ability to be confident in choosing and tasting wines for yourself.”
Price first caught the “wine bug,” as she calls it, while working at a winery in rural Kentucky. Ironic, considering that as the granddaughter of evangelical ministers, her parents didn’t consume alcohol in her presence until she was an adult.
Without access to backyard vineyards or summers in Provence, Price was self-taught, which is how she quickly recognized this lack of context, which she deems as the biggest challenge surrounding wine education.
“I believe that we as an industry speak about wine in a way that has done a disservice to our non-wine industry wine-loving counterparts,” Price says. “We all love the flavors and experiences of wine as well as the stories and the facts – but there always feels like there is a divide between the ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots’.”
After following her passion for wine, Price moved to New York City in 2007, starting as a sommelier on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. From then on, it was a crash course in education and sharing what she learned.
In 2017, Price’s ceaseless desire to contextualize wine culminated into founding (alongside her childhood best friend, Michelle McSwain) The Vinum Collective.
A popular column for New York magazine’s Grub Street led to a book deal for what is now a national bestseller, “Big Macs & Burgundy.”
As Price recounts in the introduction, “there’s an entire planet full of people who love wine as much as I do but have never had the opportunity to learn about it the right way—through informed experimentation.”
Price spends most of her time traveling between New York City and Los Angeles, where McSwain is located.
When they’re both on the West Coast, Price shares that the duo always stop at Wally’s for wines to shoot with.
“We make sure they are things that we personally love because once they are open, the only thing left to do is drink them,”Price says.
Another favorite is Venice Beach Wines, which Price describes as having the ultimate neighborhood vibe with a casual, intimate bar where there’s always a dealer’s choice option for wine flights. That’s a plus, because it allows you to discover new wines without having to risk ordering a whole bottle.
Scopa, Kismet, and Bar Bandini, where wine flows on tap, are a few other venues where you may find Price and McSwain sipping when not shooting in LA.
Back east, you’ll find Price working on two physical concepts: a high-end restaurant concept called Mavericks, in Montauk, NY, set to open later this year, and a North Fork vineyard on Long Island. Don’t be surprised to see Price pairing a glass of cabernet with a cheeseburger from In-N-Out the next time she’s in LA, however.
As Price would say, wine not?