In the Spotlight: Christine (Colella) Zubris ’04
For more than 15 years, Christine (Colella) Zubris ’04 led a successful career in the field of scientific software solutions. It was during that time when she discovered an interest in wine. She immersed herself in the science behind making a good wine, as well as the best ways to pair different wines with food and make them accessible for people to explore and enjoy. Today, she is the thriving owner of her unique wine bar and restaurant, Versi Vino.
1. It has been a wild and amazing ride for you since graduating from Lycoming College. Tell us about where you started professionally after walking through the Metzler Gate on graduation day, and where you are now.
As I took my initial steps of becoming a Lycoming alumna, I embarked on the three-and-half-hour drive back to New Jersey with my newly earned bachelor’s degree in chemistry and began the next step of landing a dream job.
I quickly realized lab coats weren’t for me. I wanted a career working with scientific research and development, but not one that required me to be in the lab every day. In August 2004, I went on a final interview with a company, IDBS, who create scientific software solutions to manage data and process workflow for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. In March 2021, after more than 15 years, many trips around the world, and earned leadership positions at IDBS, I handed in my letter of resignation to pursue my real passion — wine.
2. What led you to the decision to become serious about the study of wine?
I wasn’t raised in a wine-drinking family. My interest began in 2005 with a girl’s trip to New Jersey wineries. I mapped out a driving route to visit 10 wineries across the Garden State. I knew nothing about wine, but wine tasting sounded like a fun way to spend some time with my Lyco girlfriends. The New Jersey wine tour piqued my interest in wine — why were some wines so tasty, others decent, and some taste like dirt?
I immersed myself in wine books and began to read about grapes, winemaking, wine growing appellations, and wine laws. During my work travels, I began studying the wine list at every restaurant and took the opportunity to order a bottle with dinner (as long as I didn’t exceed my daily expense allowance, I was not breaking any rules). The bottle menu is always more exciting than a basic by-the-glass wine list.
3. Tell us how the vision for Versi Vino began, and how it’s evolved into one of “the best wine bars in the Philadelphia area,” according to The Inquirer in June 2021.
As my knowledge for wine increased, so did my expectation of the wine I was drinking. Why couldn’t I order a fabulous wine by the glass? Why was the “good stuff” only sold by the bottle? Why were wine bottle lists so lengthy? Who has time to flip through 50 pages of wine? I was still struggling to gauge which of the 15 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon would pair well with my steak.
These personal wine frustrations inspired me to create a wine pros and cons list. I assessed what I liked and disliked about ordering wine at restaurants, purchasing wine at retail stores, and tasting wine at wineries. The pro/con list became the guiding beacon for Versi Vino – how could I create a memorable dining experience and transform the list of negatives and enhance the positives?
With encouragement from my husband, Jason, I began working on a business plan. Three years later, we were open for business.
4. Lycoming College is hosting a regional alumni event at Versi Vino on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. What can alumni and guests expect when walking through the doors?
When you arrive at Versi Vino, you'll enter a world of wine like you never experienced before. You'll be able to choose from 39 global wines to taste from France to South Africa. As you're sipping on wine, you'll taste perfectly paired appetizers to allow guests to experience how wine impacts the flavors in food.
5. You are an incredible advocate for Lycoming College. From serving as president of the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) and teaching wine pairing classes for Alumni & Reunion Weekend, to your loyal and leadership giving, we appreciate all that you do for our alma mater. What inspires you to give back to the institution so generously?
Twenty-plus years later and I’m still as smitten with Lycoming College as I was when I first visited campus. My four year experience and the opportunities and connections the College provided made a substantial impact on my life’s journey. I give back by giving both time and financial gifts, but I also recognize that as a young alumna, you have more time than money to give, and as you experience career success, the opposite is true. Give what you can, but make sure you give something.
In the Spotlight recognizes members of our alumni community who are doing great things that have been influenced by their time at Lycoming College. Alumni Spotlight submissions are used at the discretion of the College and may be included in the monthly eNews as space and time permit. To participate, submit an Alumni Spotlight questionnaire.