Victoria Bradley has been a player on Pittsburgh’s food and wine scene for more than a decade. After majoring in journalism at Brigham Young University in Utah, she became an intern for WHIRL Magazine, a lifestyle publication in Steel City.
Very quickly, a moment arose for her to show her value.
“Mario Batali was coming to Pittsburgh,” she recalls. “I really wanted to interview him. I bothered his publicist every day and she never picked up her phone. I sent her a package of magazines and a letter. I never heard from her. The day that Mario was coming to Pittsburgh she called me and said, ‘You have 40 minutes with Mario and he’s going to make you lunch.'”
That display of gumption earned her the food writer position at WHIRL when she was only 22 years old. Then, eight years ago, Bradley took over as editor in chief at Table magazine, a quarterly print publication famous for its beautiful design and passionate food coverage. Now it is time for another chapter: Bradley is heading for a new gig on the West Coast, but is taking her PA pride — and love for Pennsylvania wines — with her.
We chatted with Bradley about her career, how she fell in love with local wine, and the advice she offers to curious drinkers.
PA Wine Land Post: How did you first get into wine, and Pennsylvania wine in particular?
Victoria Bradley: My career in food journalism was how I started to drink and enjoy wine. It has always been a culinary experience for me. I approach it with the same love and curiosity.
A couple of years ago, I had a really eye-opening experience going to Lake Erie Wine County. I knew that’s where Concord grapes were from and that’s where Welch’s was from, and that’s what I expected. I was so surprised to see the variety of grapes and the variety of wines being made in PA.
It’s something that I ask people a lot: “Have you been up to Lake Erie Wine Country?” People talk about the Finger Lakes, but the Lehigh Valley and Erie are two great wine regions that are so close to home.
So people from Pittsburgh don’t always realize how accessible that wine country is to them?
It’s only two hours away! If you love dry wine, you love sparkling wine, and you love rosés, all those things are local to PA.
And in Pennsylvania, we don’t just grow wines that you know. There are great Merlots and Cabernet Francs that come out of Pennsylvania, but there are also unique little niche wines. To really support those growers, order wine off menus that maybe you can’t pronounce or you’ve never heard of. Ask local sommeliers to start carrying those.
Do you think in 10 years this will be different and that Pennsylvania wines will be more accessible or well known?
So I think two things are going to happen. One: Our vineyards are going to become destinations — host weddings, have concerts on weekends, and things like that — which will get people out to these beautiful places. Two: They are going to try the wines, they’re going to learn how to say “Chambourcin,” and they’re going to [start bragging] about our local scene.
Are there any places in Pittsburgh that you would send someone who’s interested in local wines?
Table publisher Christina French recently opened a rum distillery in the Strip District called Kingfly Spirits with her partner. They have started to carry local wines — she is a money-where-your-mouth-is kind of person.
One thing that I want to throw in — and I say this to my readers, too — don’t be afraid to look stupid. And definitely ask a lot of questions. “How do you say that?” “What do you like about it?” There’s no shame in asking questions.
How do you think Table manages to thrive, even as print publications across the country struggle?
Table has been around for 13 years. I think it works because it’s a coffee table book. It comes out quarterly and people collect them. I love going into homes and seeing all four issues lined up on their table.
I think that print survives with this model — our page count keeps growing — because seasonality around food is such a natural fit. And we really invest so much in the product. Not to brag, but we use really expensive paper!
Meanwhile, in the last five years, [the Pittsburgh] food scene has really gotten up there. We’re seeing our chefs nominated for James Beard Awards and things like that. It’s fun to grow up with this food scene. We made our food scene famous and they’ve also made us famous. We’re feeding each other. We spotlight chefs, restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries. And in turn those people have really put us up as experts.