My name is Vanessa Harris. I was born in Portland, OR on July 14, 1983.
In high school, I lived abroad one summer in Nantes, France with a French chef and his wife who was equally skillful in the kitchen. In the mornings, I watched on TV as Lance Armstrong went head-to-head with Jan Ullrich in the Tour de France. My host mother took me to town to see the cyclists whiz by. I munched on chocolate Lu cookies and saw Lance in the yellow jersey. In the afternoons, I played soccer in the field next to the house with the youngest, my 9-year-old host sister, Julie. She was so grateful to have a sporting companion. I was grateful to have such a patient grammarian by my side.
On my birthday my host father prepared a multi-course tasting menu at his restaurant. I ate country paté for the first time which was both terrifying and exciting. It smelled like a barnyard-a delicious rustic aroma. My host mother was delighted and shocked that a young American girl so enjoyed their farm-to-table menu. I had my first sips of wine at that Bastille Day dinner.
At home in the evenings we dined al fresco on rabbit or chicken and a grated carrot salad dressed with lemon, parsley and olive oil and a long, crunchy baguette. One night when my host mother was collecting plates, she asked me if I was done eating and I replied, “Oui, j’ai fini.” My French family burst out laughing. I was confused. Julie moved to demonstrate her understanding. She picked up her knife and dragged the dull side slowly across her neck, falling to the ground, flailing and quietly gasping, “J’ai fini! J’ai fini! J’aiii finiii” stretching the last syllable to the last breath of her fake death. I was done eating, but I had just said I died. Oops.
It was a short stay, but I was hooked. My parents reinforced this lifestyle at home by making everything from scratch. I could only dream about Lunchables and Capri Sun. My love of food and travel was quickly followed by wine discoveries. Our household always supporting the homegrown, Oregon pinot noir and pinot gris were adopted early as our home state’s wine industry exploded. Chablis and Barolo made appearances at dinner parties, too. Alas, I see now that there really was no alternative except for me to enter the food and/or wine business.
Since that stay in France, I have earned a degree in magazine journalism from the University of Oregon J-School and made an academic pursuit of my interest in wine. I completed a year-long course in wine tourism through the University of Salamanca at Zamora. I passed the Wine & Spirit Education Trust London (WSET) Levels 2 & 3 and am now on to the Diploma. I am also studying a Certificate in Winemaking through UC Davis, which is kicking my butt.
I live in beautiful Portland, Oregon. I have recently launched a wine retail site, harriswine.com, where you’ll find all my wine discoveries for purchase.
Vanessa, Proprietor, HarrisWine.com