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Making Moves

This super sommelier landed on Forbes’ 30 Under 30

We adore Christina Turley. The just-barely-30-year-old has an Instagram feed that sometimes makes us go, “Awwww.”  We love the #tbt photo of her in a crown and tutu, holding hands with her bunny-eared grandmother. And then there’s the one from late last month, when she posted a picture of an instruction card her mom left on her doorstep, along with a “Sayonara September” care-package of spaghetti, sauce, parmesan cheese, a half sour baguette, dark chocolate, and roses.  “Moms are the friggin’ BEST,” Christina wrote in her Instagram caption.

Sometimes, her photos also make us go, “Ooooh.” Especially all those bottles of wine she posts, which we just know are amazing.

Turley is, after all, a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, and she passed the WSET Advanced program with Honors. This year, at age 29, she landed on the Forbes 30 Under 30 for her work at the family business, Turley Wine Cellars, where the White Zinfandel she conceived sold out in two hours. And she cut her teeth in the wine business as sommelier at Momofuku Ko in Manhattan (at age 24!).

We’d bet good money that the wine she posts on Instagram is good wine. Really good.

So, yeah, we admire her as much as we adore her, and we trust her taste for sure.

Next month, Christina will probably have to make do with fewer care packages delivered to her doorstep by mom, as she’s moving from St. Helena in Napa Valley (a town of 5,814 in the 2010 census) to Presidio Heights in San Francisco.

I’m looking forward to the convenience of being in a city again, as well as the plethora of cultural events so close by.

Here, she dishes on the best of small town living and big city life in the Bay Area – and what she hopes someone will bring to her house warming party.

Christina at Turley Wine Cellars

Christina at Turley Wine Cellars

Girls’ Guide to Real Estate: Let’s start by talking about this big move you’re about to make.  St. Helena to Presidio Heights? What’s precipitating it?

Christina Turley: I travel a great deal for work, so being closer to the airport is a big part of it. Our winery has locations in Amador County and Paso Robles as well as Napa Valley, so I’ll be at least a smidge closer to the other two locations. Plus, as beautiful as St. Helena is, I lived for many years in Manhattan, and I’m looking forward to being in a city again!

GG: Describe the home you’re leaving. What will you miss most about it?

CT: I will desperately miss my little house. I’m in what’s called a “mother-in-law” unit, a small house behind a larger one on the same lot. It’s the perfect size for one person—efficient, well laid out, with a lovely little back deck. I can walk or ride my bike to town and most of my friends’ homes as well. After three years, it’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in the same place, and I’ve grown incredibly fond of its many charms!

GG: And what about the home you’re moving to? What are you most looking forward to?

CT: So much! Most of all, I’m looking forward to the convenience of being in a city again, as well as the plethora of cultural events so close by. The apartment itself is gorgeous as well, with great views. There’s even an actual dining room with a long table, so for the first time I’ll be able to host tastings for work and properly entertain for fun! There’s a working fireplace (!) and, after living in studios or “junior” one-bedrooms forever, it’s the first time I’ll have an actual bedroom door!

GG: How did you find your new place in Presidio Heights?

CT: The San Francisco housing scene is absolutely brutal right now. It’s a small city to begin with, and it’s being rapidly inundated with tech/startup folks and their more ample (and aggressive) funds.  I looked for months but was constantly thwarted until I was approached by a couple I knew through the wine world. They have a beautiful (rent-controlled!) 2-bedroom space, and want to move to Sonoma while still keeping a foot in the city.  Though of course we’d all prefer to live without roommates, it is an ideal situation for each of us; they’ll be in wine country most of the time, and I travel frequently as well, so there will not be much crossover. Furthermore, we understand each other’s work and priorities, and share similar lifestyles and tastes, though the wines we work with are all very different. I got incredibly lucky, and I’m really looking forward to our little well-rounded, wine-loving loft!

GG: Did you consider buying?

CT: I did consider buying, and I still am…but did I mention how challenging the San Francisco real estate scene is at the moment? Don’t get me wrong–I actually love all the start up and tech community activity in the city, and it feels like an incredibly innovative and exciting time to be in San Francisco. However, I can’t compete with their cash, not by a long shot. It will most likely be an extensive and arduous process, but I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for a small little gem—the most I could afford would probably be some kind of basement studio—but who knows? Maybe I could find a seller who likes wine!

GG: How does the real estate market in Napa Valley compares to that of San Francisco?

CT: San Francisco is by far the worse of the two, due to its size and desirability. I lucked out finding my deal through friends, but it was an exhaustive and frustrating search prior to that—people lining up for open houses, checks or cash in hand, bringing gifts to landlords, etc. Napa is bigger so there is a much wider range of options, though it’s gotten more difficult in recent years, especially in the smaller towns like St. Helena. Your money certainly goes farther here than it does in SF, but rentals in particular can be very difficult to find.

GG: Where do you see yourself living in five years?

CT: Ideally, I’ll be able to split my time between San Francisco and Napa Valley, and have small spaces of my own in each. I’ve always fantasized about living in a townhouse in San Francisco; the amenities and space of an actual “home” with the convenience and cultural access of the city. In addition, a modest country cottage in St. Helena to use whenever I’m working from the winery wouldn’t be too shabby either!

GG: Please share some of your favorite picks in St. Helena, those places worth the drive from San Francisco.

CT: The Restaurant at Meadowood is killer, the only other 3 Michelin star place in California besides The French Laundry. However, unlike TFL, Meadowood has a bar where you can enjoy snacks and a limited menu—so much more accessible, albeit still pricey. Cook is also a favorite for comfort food, and Goose & Gander has a fantastic cocktail program and cozy bar scene. The food at Bar Terra is hugely underrated and a great secret in my opinion, and I love the English muffins at Model Bakery. ACME Fine Wines is my favorite wine shop for interesting finds and learning about what’s new in the California wine scene, and Lolo’s often has some great consignment clothes. The garage and estate sales can also be pretty fruitful if you don’t mind digging a little!

GG: Ok, and how about Presidio Heights?

CT: Not entirely sure yet, since I don’t move until the end of the month! One thing I am really looking forward to is the proximity (only two blocks away!) to the Jewish Community Center, which in addition to having a gym, hosts all sorts of cultural events—speakers, lectures, performances, and more. It’s also a short walk to the historic Vogue Theater, which hosts some great independent and foreign films. As for restaurants and shops, I’ll be about a 15-minute walk away from Fillmore Street, which is home to some of my favorites.

GG: Before we close, please tells us which three bottles of wine you hope your friends bring to the house warming party?

CT: Champagne, Champagne, Champagne. I also wouldn’t kick out a nice bottle of white from the Jura or a Chenin Blanc from the Loire, either!

Photo credit: Studio 13 Designs

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Elizabeth Salaam
Along with her work as Senior Contributing Writer for Girl's Guide, Elizabeth Salaam writes for the San Diego Reader. Her work has also been published in Elle Magazine. | Most inspired by: Contradictions. | Favorite room in my home: The Master suite. The windows have views for days! | Best design idea I may never do: Adorn my enclosed toilet room with library book wallpaper and a chandelier. | Will never: Bungee jump. | Have always been: Rebellious. | Dying to: Live in a Paris flat with herringbone wood floors.
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