WGCU Host With the Most
Julie Glenn Knows Wine—and Coffee
he voice of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live call-in radio show entered the Starbucks at Gulf Coast Town Center in Fort Myers, just down the road from Florida Gulf Coast University, at precisely 9 o’clock on a typically sweltering July morning. In the cool of Starbucks, as the summer sun blistered the parking lot, Julie Glenn ordered a big latte with an extra shot. She did not use the word “venti.”
“I never order calling it a ‘venti’ because it makes me insane,” explained Glenn, who is also WGCU’s news director.
As a journalist, she values precision in language—whether it’s English or Italian. Venti means “twenty” in Italian, not “large.”
Glenn walked with her venti, er, big drink to a corner table to chat. She talked about coffee, wine, food and Italy, where she earned a master’s degree in communication from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and that doesn’t even include coffee grounds, a subject that didn’t come up in the hour the ex-barista spent in Starbucks. She’s come a long way from those barista days in Quincy, Illinois. As Glenn settled into her seat overlooking that hot parking lot, she discussed coffee choices. She admitted a fondness for sweets. “I never get low-fat anything,” Glenn noted. At home she likes caffè mochas. “It’s called caffè mocha but there’s no chocolate in it,” she added. No matter the size of a cup or its name, Glenn knows her way around coffee. Not only did she once work as a barista but she owned a coffee shop located inside an art gallery in an old bank building in Quincy. Glenn had worked in TV news before getting into the coffee business and then, after the foray into coffee, she returned to television. “Grew disillusioned with it again and quickly because the storytelling is not the kind of storytelling I wanted to do,” she explained. It was time for a big change, one that took her to Italy for a year. “I knew I wanted to do something different,” Glenn noted. “I didn’t know what. When you’re in that free fall, what am I going to do with myself? … I was in my 30s. So I decided I’d go apply to this school and if they accept me it’s meant to be and if they don’t accept me it’s not.” She was accepted. “I couldn’t believe it,” Glenn said. She learned a great deal about coffee, wine and food. To the rest of the world, Italian food is largely centered on tomato sauces. But the tomato is from the New World and was unknown in Italy before the 16th century. When explorers first took the strange red product to the Old World, folks in Italy weren’t sure what to make of it. “At first they thought it was poisonous,” Glenn said. “But they would give somebody a tomato plant as a gift for decoration kind of thing—much as you would give somebody a rose bush. They got over that pretty quick.” Coffee is another treasure that isn’t native to Italy. However, the Italians used their genius to enhance what could be done with it.
“ I kind of look at grapes like people. So chardonnay—if it were a person—would be a real estate agent with giant hair and tons of makeup.” —Julie Glenn
“They have rules about coffee in Italy,” Glenn related. “Cappuccino in the morning and if you have a cappuccino at lunch or after, they look at you like you’re a child. Like a bowl of cereal for dinner.”
Wine is also, of course, another beverage that Italians have perfected over centuries. “I actually learned more about wine in the United States when I came back because I sold wine,” Glenn said. “You have to know I learned a lot there [Italy], obviously.”
She recalled a trip to Germany where she tried a 1964 riesling in a restaurant that featured an Elvis impersonator for entertainment. How was that wine? “It tasted like it was old,” Glenn said. “It was surprising. It was still good.”
When she returned to the U.S., Glenn opened a wine shop in Quincy. And although some may be intimidated by wine, she doesn’t think folks should feel that way: “I feel people know more about wine than they think. It’s what you like that is the most important thing.”
Glenn offered amusing wine observations. “I kind of look at grapes like people,” she said. “So chardonnay—if it were a person—would be a real estate agent with giant hair and tons of makeup.”
It was time for Glenn to get back to WGCU, where presumably no wine awaited. “There’s a coffeemaker like every 20 feet,” she said of the station.
Just don’t expect to hear the word “venti” on Gulf Coast Live. Frequent TOTI contributor Glenn Miller is also president of the Southwest Florida Historical Society.