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About Wine

Wine Education

Appreciation of wine is a hobby that may be enhanced by attending classes. These may be free, informal classes at a local wine shop or winery. Or, they can be serious courses that last weeks or months and culminate with an accreditation or university degree.

We recommend starting with a number of casual classes. This is a good way to  get more information in a fun, no-pressure environment. This also gives you the opportunity to determine your level of interest and what areas you would like to focus on (winemaking, wine growing, wine writing, wine service, etc.).

The most likely place to find casual classes are at your local wine shops, wineries and restaurants. You can also check with your local adult education programs.

If you wish to pursue wine education further, then you could move on to formal classes given by culinary schools, colleges or organizations specializing in wine education.

Information on some of the better such places is listed below:

California State University, Fresno

Cal State Fresno offers formal degree programs in wine-related areas. Their College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology has a department of Viticulture and Enology that offers B.S. and M.S. degrees in those disciplines. 

Court of Master Sommeliers

The Court of Master Sommeliers offers courses that lead to various levels of Sommelier accreditation. For the very best and most dedicated, the Master Sommelier Diploma is the ultimate educational goal. Master-level courses are available by invitation only. Successful completion of that program and the ability to use the letters “MS” after one’s name reflect the very highest level of achievement in the wine service industry.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (CIA)

One of the world’s premier culinary colleges, The Culinary Institute of America has three locations: Hyde Park, NY, St. Helena, CA and San Antonio, TX. They offer everything from casual courses for enthusiasts to certificate programs to full degrees in the culinary arts.

Each campus has certain specialties. The CIA at Greystone, in the heart of Napa Valley, has a greater focus on wine education. They have a wide range of wine programs with various levels of intensity and cost. It is also home to the Wine Spectator Restaurant which is very nice and staffed by students. 

Grape Experience

Grape Experience is a Boston- San Francisco-based company that provides a range of classes and wine tasting experiences on both the east and west coasts.

We have personally experienced their classes, having taken WSET Certification courses through them. We have found them to be extremely professional and thoroughly qualified. They use a range of instructors, each of whom is a long-time wine professional with an easy teaching style and a friendly manner. We could not recommend Grape Experience more highly.

Institute of Masters of Wine

This institution runs a wide variety of programs. But, their primary function is to promote the very highest level of wine education achievement, the Masters of Wine (MW). The MW program is extremely challenging. There are only 277 Masters of Wine in the world. Only a tiny percentage of people who begin the program successfully pass all of the exams. The MW is probably the pinnacle of education for those who would teach, evaluate, or write about wine.

International Sommelier Guild

The International Sommelier Guild is the professional body that accredits Sommeliers with direct instruction. Successful students become certified Sommeliers. There are various levels of achievement and accreditation which can be gained.

Sonoma State University

Sonoma State University, in California’s wine country, offers a Wine Business Program through their School of Business and Economics. Degree programs are available for a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Wine Business Strategies and for an M.B.A. with a concentration in Wine Business.

In addition to the formal degree programs, they offer professional development courses for those already in the business and also very short classes on a variety of topics related to wine business, such as labels, marketing, human resources, etc.

University of California, Davis

UC Davis is one of the world’s most respected schools for winemaking. Winery families from around the world, including Bordeaux and Burgundy, send their sons and daughters to study at Davis. While a full degree program may be more than some people are ready to pursue, UC Davis Extension offers a number of courses in wine that are suitable for the hobbyist winemakers or enthusiastic wine consumers. Courses range from Wine Appreciation to Viticulture and Enology.

Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

Founded in the United Kingdom, and the only wine and spirit education body approved by that country’s Qualifications & Curriculum Authority, WSET now offers course and tastings for wine and spirits in 47 countries. Successful passage of their Diploma program exam is a required prerequisite for pursuing a Master of Wine qualification.

We at NorCal Wine have taken accreditation-level courses from the WSET and have found them to be well-organized, a wealth of excellent information and an excellent way to get both a broad and a deep grounding in the world of wine.