I’m looking California, and feeling Minnesota…

There is an image in Soundgarden’s video for “Outshined” with a guy walking in a life-sized hamster wheel. For those of us not passionate about our jobs, or those who feel like every day is just the same rat race day in and day out, online learning is the perfect answer to the prolonged drudgery of life.

For those with a genuine interest in California wine study without the time to sit inside a class, or travel to the West Coast, the San Francisco Wine School’s California Wine Appellation Specialist® program provides the perfect outlet and opportunity.


CWAS® Course Description

Taught by San Francisco Wine School Founder and Master Sommelier David Glancy, the California Wine Appellation Specialist® is a comprehensive, formal education program, that features up-to-date material that is next-to-impossible to find from other resources. Curriculum and instruction include:

1) Identification and interpretation of USA and California wine laws
2) Discussion of history and impact of California’s American Viticultural Areas
3) Detailed investigation of California’s wine production
4) Examination of the various climates, soils, grapes, and wineries of each region that make it distinctive to the California wine landscape

The Program is offered in 3 formats

CWAS® 3-Day Credential Program – Location Varies
CWAS® 9-Week Credential Program – South San Francisco
CWAS® Online 9-Week Credential Program – Online Virtual Classroom

The course content is very good, and I find I really enjoy learning about the various soils and micro-climates of each appellation. - ACP
The SFWS approached me with the opportunity to take the online class tuition free, so I could evaluate program, and write about it if I choose. Each week of the 9-week credentialing program includes a detailed instructional component with narrated maps and slides and guided discussions with other students about various aspects about the California wine appellations and California wine industry. At the end of each week we have a quiz to test learning objectives set out at the beginning of the module.

The Program covers the appellations from North to South. We started with the North Coast AVA, and covered Mendocino, Napa Valley, Lake County and the Sierra Foothills and Sonoma with discussions of the sub-appellations within each. Next week we move on to the Central Coast AVA beginning with San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz & the Delta.

Classes When YOU are Available

I really like the on-line availability of the course, because it means I can access the instruction and discussions at my leisure, be it 1:00 p.m. or 1:00 a.m. Monday through Sunday. The course content is very good, and I find I really enjoy learning about the various soils and micro-climates of each appellation. I took another course from another provider that costs much more, and to me did not provide nearly the detailed content, or stress the importance of how much the climate and soils affect the wine.

Sure we talk about “terroir” but this class is really bringing it home, so to speak.

Lively Class Discussions

The class room discussions are a great source of information. While we are only required to respond to the instructor and comment on a couple other student’s answers each week, some discussions get quite lengthy. People from other locations with different experiences provide insights about wines available in their area, as well as different perspectives. An update last week reports that to our instructor’s 3 discussion questions, we have provided 300+ responses to date! The Week 3 discussion is STILL going on with lots of great ideas on marketing and branding for Lake Country and The Sierras. Comments do not have to be long, they can be a succinct 100-200 words or an in-dept analysis (though the in-depth analysis has not been required for the assignment).

Can you imagine the Google rankings if that kind of discussion was going on about a blog post?

California Wine Appellations Tasting Assignments

For the in-person class, instructor David Glancy selects all the wines. But due to the nature of the on-line class, students who are located in different geographic locations are given guidelines because we do not all have access to the same California wines. So we select the wines ourselves.

While tuition is comped, I purchase or use review samples for the wines for the tasting assignments each week. The course figures a wine cost of about $25 per bottle on average per student, but students are encouraged to use tasting groups or choose wines by the glass. For Mendocino, I spent about $35, for Napa, I chose a sample and a wine in my “cellar.” For Lake County, I chose a wine from the small availability at a nearby wine shop and my own cellar for Calaveras. For Sonoma, I again chose a previously purchased wine and a sample.

So far, my favorites are a 2010 Black Sears Howell Mountain Zinfandel and a 2009 Petite Sirah from Twisted Oak’s Tanner Vineyard.


Even with samples, I’m probably still going to average about $50 a week, because there are some California appellations where I have not received samples or purchased wine previously. If anyone would like to suggest wines for up coming class weeks (or send me some to review), here is our remaining schedule:

– Week 5 (July 7) San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz & the Delta
– Week 6 (July 14) Monterey & San Benito
– Week 7 (July 21) Paso Robles & the Rest of San Luis Obispo
– Week 8 (July 28) Santa Barbara & Beyond

Week 9 (August 4) We study for and take our certification exam. A passing score of 80% or better awards certification.

The tuition portion of the on-line program is $1,000 due at registration or 4 bi-weekly installment payments of $260.

I highly recommend this class to any blogger, educator, or wine industry professional who wants to further their career and knowledge of California. The instructors are experts in their field ... as well as entertaining and personable. - Thea Dwelle, author, Luscious Lushes, A Wine Blog.
The 9-week live program is $1,200 for all eight in-depth California Wine Appellation Courses with guided tastings of over 60 wines, the CWAS® Credential Exam, CWAS® Manual and “The One” set of four professional tasting glasses. (We received a set as part of our WBC-or-Bust Road to Walla Walla Tour and gave away another set here.) Individual courses are $125 each.

The 3-day intensive program is $1,450 and includes 22 hours of instruction, tastings of over 60 California wines, continental breakfast and lunch daily plus the online credential exam. An installment plan is available. You can read a review about the 3-day program from our good friend Thea here.

A new online program starts August 4 and runs through October 5th. I encourage anyone interested in learning much more in detail about California wines to sign up here, before all the spaces are filled!

Shortly after I finish my CWAS certification exam in August, I will head up to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to see Soundgarden on tour with Nine Inch Nails. I’ve seen NIN twice before, and am looking forward to my first Soundgarden show! Here’s the video that inspired this post:


The WineWonkette

Posted in Best of AWB, Featured, Posts, Video, Wine News

Amy Corron Power View posts by Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and legions of twitter, Instagram and Facebook friends and fans. Amy holds certifications through the International Sommelier Guild, and is also certified, with honors, as a California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). She is a member of the Guild of Sommeliers, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events. Amy is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, and was most recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.
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