Where to Get a Wine Education

Like, say, the cosmos, wine is one of those topics that seems to inspire study for many people. “The more you know, the more you want to know,” explains Peter Marks, vice president of education at Constellation Wines and one of few Masters of Wine — that’s sort of the Mensa for wine experts. And then there’s wine’s fun advantage;  investigating stars and planets doesn’t involve a tasty beverage.

(This appeared in the San Jose Mercury and its affiliates on September 20, 2012. See main article here.) 

For those who want more than swirling and slurping wine in a tasting room, the supply of local wine education programs has been expanding.  Classes abound at some universities and junior colleges, while advanced programs — including grueling certificate-awarding courses — are being offered by some wineries and culinary organizations.  And there are a handful of wine consultants and specialized, private operations instructing eager students in the finer points of wine.

Yes, there are many winery tasting rooms and tasting bars at wine retail shops where lovers of the vine can sip up a storm.  A step up from that is public wine tastings — countless private tasting groups also exist in the region — featuring blind tastings or just friendly wine mixers devoted to the grape. A good place to see what’s happening is at LocalWineEvents.com and Meetup.com.

A wide range of other educational options, including demanding professional-level training, is available around the Bay Area.

International Culinary CenterOffering “total-immersion” classes for earning a Master Sommelier certification as well as “amateur” classes taught by Master Sommeliers and winemakers at the Campbell location.

Surf City Wine University – Sunday afternoon classes taught by Santa Cruz vintners, primarily focused on exploring specific varietals.

J. Lohr Vineyards – Classes held in the San Jose facility explore key varietals and wine regions.

Wente Vineyards – Working with the U.S. Sommelier Association, the Livermore winery conducts a five-day course to kick off earning an Advanced Certified Sommelier designation.

Society of Wine EducatorsSWE offers an interactive series of on-line study modules aimed at preparing students for the Certified Specialist of Wine exam.

San Francisco Wine SchoolThis private operation offers training for professionals, collectors and consumers, conducted in South San Francisco.

Planet GrapeA well-known Master Sommelier — aka, the grape goddess — conducts six-week courses geared toward raising attendees’ knowledge and confidence level about wine.

Savvy Cellar – This Mountain View retailer offers several popular wine classes taught by certified sommeliers, winemakers and other knowledgeable folks.

UC Berkeley ExtensionThese well-regarded classes are conducted during the spring, summer and fall terms. One upcoming class is “sensory evaluation of wines and their components.”

San Jose State UniversityPart of the Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism Management (HRTM) program is “HRTM 148 – Wine Appreciation,” which gives students an overall education about wine in the dining experience.  Although most attendees are enrolled in the program, some wine lovers audit the class.

Foothill College – A handful of informative wine classes is offered such as “Bordeaux, the art of wine blending.” Most are held at the Los Altos Hills campus.

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