Napa valley wine academy reviews

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Napa Valley Wine Expert Online Course™

What are the prerequisites? This course assumes that you already have an understanding of general wine making and major grape varietiesStudents should be familiar with common wine terms and concepts from previous experience or a general wine course.

Napa Valley Wine Expert is a deep look at Napa Valley it’s history, the most planted and important grape varieties, it’s16 nested AVAs, soil, and climates. For those who are already acquainted with a few of Napa’s wines and grapes, this course will broaden and deepen your knowledge your perspective and add some new ones to your working knowledge. There are twenty-two lessons, each presenting a manageable amount of relevant information about Napa Valley. The lessons are:

Check out the outline below for an overview of the course curriculum.

  • Getting Started
    • Instructor Bio
    • Welcome Video
  • Module 1 - History & Appellations
    • Module 1 Introduction
    • 1.1 | AVAs Defined
    • 1.2 | Nested AVA vs. Sub AVA
    • 1.3 | History of Napa Valley
    • Review & Quiz
  • Module 2- Napa Valley's Climate & Terrior
    • Module 2 Introduction
    • 2.1 | Climate
    • 2.2 | Topography
    • Review & Quiz
  • Module 3 - Grape Growing & Winemaking
    • Module 3 Introduction
    • 3.1 | Viticulture
    • 3.2 | Winemaking
    • Review & Quiz
  • Module 4 - Key Grape Varieties
    • Module 4 Introduction
    • 4.1 | White Grape Varieties
    • 4.2 | Red Grape Varieties
    • Handout | Comparing the Grape Varieties
    • Review & Quiz
  • Module 5 - Napa Valley AVAS
    • Module 5 Introduction
    • 5.1 | Mountain AVAs
    • 5.2 | Valley AVAs
    • 5.3 | The Non-AVA
    • Handout | Comparing the AVAs
    • Review & Quiz
  • Course Wrap-Up
    • Review
    • Final Assessment (Certification Exam)

About the Instructor

It's always nice to know a little about your guide so here's some information about me and my work experience, which I will share with you through the content delivered in this course.

I'm proud to say that I'm one of only 52 Masters of Wine residing in the United States. The prestigious Master of Wine (MW) title is bestowed by the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) in London.  The IMW promotes the highest level of educational achievement for the wine industry, which I received in 1995 when I became the 10th American to pass.  That year, I also became the first American to receive the Madame Bollinger Foundation Award, which is bestowed annually to the MW candidate with the highest blind tasting score.

Previously I served as the Vice President of Wine Education for Constellation Brands, where I oversaw education programs and content development for Constellation Academy. Before joining Constellation Wines, I was the Senior Vice President of Wine at COPIA:  The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa. I was responsible for all wine sales and education programs. Previous to working at COPIA I was the Chief Wine Merchant at, a wine Internet retailer serving more than 40 states. 15 years prior to that, I was Director of Wine for the upscale Draeger’s Supermarkets located in Northern California.

I graduated from the University of California at Davis, in 1976, with a B.S. degree in Food Service Management, with highest honors.  I attended a number of enology and viticulture classes that piqued my interest in the subject of wine and complemented my desire to work in the food service field.  I held positions as a chef and restaurant manager, upon graduation, until I entered the retail wine trade in 1981.

I am on the Education and Exam Board of the Institute of Masters of Wine, where I serve as the Panel Chair of the Practical (Tasting) Exam for the Institute of Masters of Wine and judge many international wine competitions. I am also a member of the Society of Wine Educators, and I teach wine classes independently and assist with many charitable fundraisers throughout the year.

Why you will LOVE taking this online certification class!

Receiving recognition is a pivotal moment for you. Once you have successfully passed the exam we will send you your certificate and badges.

  • Our digital certificate and badges are designed so you can share your achievement with a single click. You can share to 100+ social media platforms, and it's easy to add your achievement to LinkedIn.
  • Any digital certificates can easily be saved as a PDF with all of your certificate information in place. You can print your achievement and hang it on your wall if you really miss having a traditional paper certificate.
  • You can even embed your digital certificates and badges into your email signatures or website to share your achievements with their colleagues and clients.
  • Your certification your way

About the certification Exam: The online proctored exam consists of 50 questions (a combination of matching, fill-in-the-blank, map identification, multiple-choice, and spelling) that need to be answered in 40 minutes. Students must score at least 80% to achieve the Napa Valley Wine Expert Certificate and display the NWE postnominal after their name.

Napa Valley Wine Expert is entirely online, so it is available on your own schedule. Each lesson consists of a series of online reading assignments, interactive activities, videos, and quizzes. A timed feedback test is provided at the end of each lesson for students to practice for the exam and assess their understanding of that lesson’s topics. System Requirements: As this course is taught online, students will require access to a computer with the following minimum requirements: Internet Firefox 9, Chrome 10 or equivalent with Javascript enabled. Adobe Reader XI or equivalent. Adobe Flash Player 11. Internet access (broadband recommended).  A webcam is required for the online exam. When the course is over the student arranges with Napa Valley Wine Academy to take the Exam online.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the course

Is there a book with the course?
No, the course is entirely online, so students should take notes during the course if they want hard-copy study materials.

When is the course taught and how long does it take?
Napa Valley Wine Expert is entirely online, so it is available on your schedule. You can start at any time. The entire course will take most students approximately 8-weeks provided they spend 3-hours a week in the course. It is recommended taking it slowly and concentrating on each lesson individually, so you will have eight weeks to complete the course from the time you start.

Is there any wine tasting involved?
Tasting the wines of Napa Valley during the course is a great way to get the full measure of the course material, but it is not required. There is no tasting component to the final exam.

What is the final exam like and what do students receive if they pass?
At the end of Napa Valley Wine Expert course, there is a final exam. The exam is taken online, any day, any time. There is no additional cost for this exam. The test is 50 questions long, with a variety of question types.  Students who pass the exam will earn the NWE certificate and the right to use the NWE post-nominal. Most importantly, after completing Napa Valley Wine Expert, you will have a comprehensive understanding of Napa Valley’s AVAs, grape varieties, history, and terroir. Armed with this information, you will be able to confidently communicate, sell, teach, and buy Napa Valley Wines.

How does this course fit in with other wine courses?

For anyone pursuing an extended program of wine studies, Napa Valley Wine Expert is a great way to deepen your knowledge on the wine region fo Napa Valley. Situations vary depending on each individual’s background and goals, but we would generally recommend that those following the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) program take Napa Valley Wine Expert between the certified and advanced levels, those working through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) program take it after levels 3, and those in the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) program take it after doing the CSW.


Napa Valley Wine Academy, Napa, CA

All information on this page, including but not limited to price, cost, instructions, descriptions, and the content of a certification course, is presented for informational purposes only, may be an approximation, is subject to change, and may have been generated by third parties. Prior to enrolling in a course for a certification, please contact the proper school or certification administrators for information regarding certification requirements

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Certifications at the Napa Valley Wine Academy

Napa Valley Wine Academy is America’s Premier Wine School™. It is proud to be an approved program provider of the internationally recognized WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) wine and spirit and Sommelier courses across the US. We offer wine and spirit certification courses and workshops ideal for both the enthusiast and wine and beverage industry professionals alike. Whether you want to learn about wine or spirits, for business or pleasure, our certification classes, workshops, and tastings are perfect for you. Our academy combines the unparalleled knowledge and passion of our instructors with a friendly, approachable style.


In the heart of California’s most famous wine region is the Napa Valley Wine Academy, a well-rounded private education center for wine professionals. It offers courses from various universally recognized wine education institutions like the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET ) and the Society of Wine Educators.

Coursework here is both interactive and practical. They utilize in-class lectures and instructor-led field trips into vineyards and cooperates, as well as one-on-one winemaker talks to prepare their students. All this is geared to develop the candidate’s wine knowledge and tasting skills. They have other locations around the country, including one at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, Florida.

Tailored itineraries are just the tip of the iceberg.

Training as a sommelier is much more complex than merely tasting a couple of wines and learning the basics. The Napa Valley Wine Academy understands that all too well, with vast team experience to reflect that. Their accomplished lecturers deliver well-instructed sessions. Candidates will have Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, seasoned Oenologists, and lecturers engaging them through courses such as the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), French Wine Scholar Study Certification program.

Are you a beginner? Do not let all that intimidate you; all these courses are easy to master in their competent hands. Here’s a brief look at what each specialized course covers. For the Court of Masters and Wines and Spirits Education Trust, kindly click on the links to learn more.

Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

This is a class of convenience. Students can receive their lectures in class or online. We recommend it for novices or intermediary learners eager for a sound understanding of wine that will be a key factor in career progression and networking.

Advancing a step further, the academy offers the following regional courses on the Old and New Worlds of wine. Each specialized program is designed for students serious about intricates of wine at more than just face value.

French Wine Scholar Study and Certification Program

This course was developed and administrated by Wine Scholar Guild (formerly known as French Wine Society) with the French Ministry of Agriculture’s support. It is current and delves deep into the French wine industry, one of the World’s oldest and most prestigious.

Learn about the critical regions, styles, culinary and traditional influences that make up French winemaking. Students of wine who follow this in-depth curriculum and pass the assessment will earn the French Wine Scholar (FWS) post-nominal.

The American Wine Study Certification Programs

Coming armed with a rudimentary understanding of wine, its fundamentals and terminology will be convenient in this course which focuses solely on American wine. Recommended for professionals (or enthusiasts) working within the region, it delves deep into the American landscape, styles, regions, and official regulations. The information provided is accurate and always up-to-date with this ever-changing region.

IWC Level 2 Italian Wine Professional Online Course

Italian wine is widely viewed as America’s most significant import.

Italian wine is widely viewed as America’s most significant import. Selling Italian wines indeed becomes a whole lot easier. The course covers over 80 grape varieties. Italy is well known for having unique grapes rarely found outside this region.

The Napa Valley Wine Academy offers several other online wine classes, as well. Please see our list of  top virtual wine classes in America.

SOMM Review of the Napa Valley Wine Academy

Napa Valley Wine Academy $700

Napa Valley Wine Academy

Name: Napa Valley Wine Academy

Description: One of the top wine school on the West Coast, Napa Valley Wine Academy offers sommelier certification courses for the wine trade.

Price range: $50-$3000

Payment accepted: Credit Card

Currencies accepted: USD

Address: 2501 Oak St, Napa, CA 94559

Telephone: 855-513-9738

SOMM Review

When Copia when into bankruptcy in 2008, it seemed like wine education was at an end in Napa Valley.  In truth, it was only the beginning. With the rise of the Napa Valley Wine Academy, we have seen a complete rebirth of sommelier education in Northern California.  The instructors are of the highest caliber, and they offer programming from almost all the major sommelier certification vendors—one of the top two independent wine schools in America.

  • Accreditation
  • Sommelier Certification
  • Wine Trade Certification
  • Quality of Instruction


Diverse Accreditations

Located in Napa

Talented Instructors

Dynamic Classes

Brick and Mortar School


Drab Facilities

PowerPoint Presentations

Poor Online Options

Get to Know Napa Valley Wine

WSET 2 in Wine with Napa Valley Wine Academy 

Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

Why WSET 2?

There are a number of different wine certification courses available depending on what goals you have. After doing a bunch of research, WSET 2 seemed like the best fit for me. I classify myself as a super curious wine nerd that is already comfortable with the basics! 

Wine Certification Options

Here is quick explanation of each: 

Wine & Spirit Education Trust

- starts at a much more basic level

- considered the "feeder" program for the Master of Wine

- good for those looking to be an importer or distributor

- 4 levels from very basic to diploma

Court of Master Sommeliers

- big focus on service and customer interaction - think beverage director for a restaurant

- there are 4 levels to advance through

Society of Wine Educators

- mainly for those that want to teach wine and spirits classes

- there are 2 levels Specialist & Educator for each wine and spirits

Institute of the Masters of Wine

- viewed as the highest achievement in wine

- it's like getting a doctorate in wine and requires a research paper to complete along with a vigorous blind taste exam

 - 3 stages (min 3 years)

Check out this wine education courses guide at Wine Folly for more detailed info certification options.

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WSET 2 study materials
WSET 2 materials and tasting pin

The Right Path for My Wine Journey

Ultimately, Wine & Sprit Education Trust was the right choice for me at this point in my wine journey. If you're like me and already have a pretty decent background knowledge in the basics of wine, you should be able to do what I did and jump straight into WSET 2.

Everyone I talked to during my course that had taken level 1. They all said that it was a very basic course. So if you're like me and have had an in-depth wine tasting and a basic familiarity with the major grapes, you can skip it.

Choosing Napa Valley Wine Academy

After deciding that WSET 2 was the right course, I had to decide what provider to take it with. It was a pretty easy decision because I live in the Tampa area and the Napa Valley Wine Academy holds in-person classes here.

Super convenient! It's also held over the weekend at a really nice restaurant. Sounds like a great date night opportunity after class to me!

If you don't live in one of the 8 cities where Napa Valley Wine Academy hosts live training, they do have online courses. As another option, you can search for other providers on the WSET Global site. You can easily enter your location and what course you want and find a whole list of providers!

COVID Interruptions

As I mentioned, I WAS going to take the in-person Napa Valley Wine Academy: WSET 2 course in April 2020... but then coronavirus happened. No more in-person classes.

First, they offered the choice for online or alternative dates in the future. I really wanted the in-person experience and was not in a rush since this is 100% a fun hobby for me. So, I chose to push my date out until July.

With big gatherings still not happening in July, Napa Valley Wine Academy moved us all to online. My 5-week online course started August 7th and  ended September 11th. They provided a voucher to order a wine kit since we would not be tasting together. In addition, they also provided a credit back to use toward future course. Online course costs less than in-person.

WSET 2 Online Format

Napa Valley Wine Academy WSET 2 Online was set up as a 5-week course. It consists of study materials, 2 live webinars with an instructor, and a 6 mini-bottle wine tasting kit for the tasting assignments. 

*I believe that they have updated to 4 live webinars since I took the course. In addition, they also have added video lessons. Just a testament to their commitment to enhancing their content in the virtual space.

WSET 2 Study Materials

I received my study materials pretty early before the online class was scheduled to begin. This was because I originally signed up for an in-person course.

I was provided with :

  • the textbook: WSET Level 2 Award in Wines Wines: Looking Behind the Label 
  • WSET Level 2 Award in Wines Workbook
  • WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine Card with Wine-Lexicon
  • Access to a course in the Online Wine Academy that: 
    • Outlined learning objectives
    • Questions to think about while reading the text book
    • Practice quizzes
WSET 2 materials

After my in-person course was switched to virtual, I was emailed a voucher and instructions on how to order the wine tasting kit.  Our instructor also offered us a coupon code for a free year of Stewardship from This was really handy. I could order a few more bottles for tasting without having to pay shipping!


My course had a main instructor and an assistant instructor. Each instructor held their own webinar so that students had at least 2 options of webinar times. As a result, either instructor might return comments on your tasting notes.

While they seemed very knowledgeable, there was very little interaction between the instructors and myself. However, it is possible other students experienced more if they chose to reach out on a 1:1 basis.


There were 2 webinars scheduled for this course. The first one was an expectations and meet the instructor zoom meeting lasting about 45 min. She made sure we could all log in, had our materials, knew the wines we'd need, etc.

The second webinar was a tasting example/calibration. We did the first tasting assignment as a group. For this webinar, the instructor walked us through the Systematic Approach to Tasting. It took about 45 min on a Zoom call. 

That's it. No other instruction from a person unless you reached out with questions. If this had been the in-person course, there would have been 1.5 days of instruction. There lecture to go with the slides for each learning objective and opportunity for class discussion.

The slides were available in the Online Wine Academy. However, those and the workbook were a little bit useless with out the conversation and discussion to go with them in my opinion.

*As I mentioned above, it seems that NVWA has really beefed up the interaction and video options for this course since I took it in Aug/Sept 2020.

Tasting Assignments

There are 6 tasting assignments in the Napa Valley Wine Academy WSET 2 course.  Each tasting requires a minimum of 2 wines. 6 of those wines are included in the tasting kit and 6 others you will need to purchase on your own. 

When tasting the wine, you make notes based on the WSET Level 2 Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine Card with Wine-Lexicon that you were provided. Our instructor set up some virtual tasting groups for those of us that were interested. I participated and met with 5 other classmates weekly to taste via Zoom meeting and discuss the wines. 

Wines of the World tasting kit

You submit your tasting notes in the Online Wine Academy portal for review by the instructor. After a few days, the instructor sends comments back to you. I guess I make excellent notes, because I never got back any comments with corrections to my notes - though some other tasting group members did receive corrections.

Wine Tasting is NOT a part of the WSET 2 test. However, if you plan to move on to WSET 3, it a good idea to start practicing this format now because wine tasting is required for that certification.

Test Preparation

To prepare for the test, I took notes as I read the textbook. After that, I went back and answered the learning objective questions in the online portal - section by section. 

I also found it helpful to make some note pages with the information grouped in a different way.

Rewriting My notes By Region

The book is broken up by grape variety. In each section, it walks you through the basics on the grape and the breaks down how the grape is represented over the various growing regions.

I created some notes based on growing region and listed all the grapes found there and their characteristics specific to that region. It was a way for me to restructure the information that helped me pick it up and remember it better.

WSET 2 table of contents

Same info + presented 2 ways = better retention (at least for me!)

WSET 2 Practice Questions

Napa Valley Wine Academy offers a lot of practice questions in the online course portal. I went though the ones at the end of each reading section several times and took the mock full exam once.

There is also a practice test in the back of the WSET 2 Workbook. I found this one MOST like the way the questions were worded on the actual exam.

Another fun option I found to review questions was the YouTube channel for The Grape Explorer. Here you can find short, about 10-min or less videos about specific topics with a short quiz.  It was very entertaining! 

WSET 2 Testing

The test for the WSET 2 certification is made up of 50 multiple choice questions that are spread out over 6 different learning objectives. You have 12 months from the completion of the course to schedule a proctored exam.

Normally, with the Napa Valley Wine Academy for an in-person class, this test is given at the end of 2 days of class. Since I took this class in the times of COVID, if I wanted to take something in person I would have needed to wait until they offer the test in-person again. I did not want to wait, so I opted for the online proctored test.

What is the Online Proctored Test Like?

The concept of the online proctored WSET 2 test is simple enough. If you choose to sign up, there are very detailed instructions on what is required to ensure that testing conditions are fair. 

You take the test on a computer with a webcam filming you so that they can see that you're not cheating by talking to someone. Then, you set up an app that also records your screen - no cheating via the internet. AND you get a app for your phone and use your phone to video the room to show no notes or other items that might provide answers. 

It was annoying to set up, but ultimately did not take that long (about 15 min for me). There were a few times when I saw a spinning wheel on the screen while something was processing. And so, it was hard because you didn't really know how long to keep waiting or if something was frozen. However, I got set up and was able to go through the test without technical issues.

Waiting on WSET 2 Results

Due to the current working remote conidiations, WSET it took about 12 weeks for me to receive my test results. It seems, some classes took less time and some more for review before posting scores. I'm guessing that the variation in grading time had a lot to do with the class sizes and any work restrictions that happened during review due to COVID.  They were reviewing the video footage for each test taker to ensure no cheating.

You only need a 55% to pass and I felt very confident I did at least that well when I hit submit. You could kind of tell - this is an easy question, this one is definitely a hard question.

I'm pleased to say that I passed with an 85% or better and earned the the Pass with Distinction pin!


Personally, I would not take an online course for wine education with Napa Valley Wine Academy again. The material in the texts was great. That being said, I missed the interaction with other classmates. Even with the enhanced virtual interactions, I'm still not sure this format is right for me.

Since this is 100% a hobby for me, I can be picky about the experience I want with no need to rush a certification for a job.  I do have a credit with them still, and I am excited to sign up for the WSET 3 with Napa Valley Wine Academy - when we can be in-person again! 

Pin for Later!

WSET 2 study materials
WSET 2 materials and tasting pin

I love all things wine: drinking it, learning about how it's made, visiting where it's made, pairing with foods! I'm naturally curious, so back in 2013 during my first trip to Europe when I tasted my first glass of fantastic Rioja, I was hooked and had to start learning all I could on the subject. After a long time of friends asking me for wines to try or activities to add to their vacation itineraries, I decided to start a blog to write it all down. And that is how Wine, Dine, and Roam began!

Jess Walker


Wine academy reviews napa valley

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Get to Know Napa Valley Wine

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