Courtney Humiston ’11, Sommelier
Certificate: Accelerated Wine and Beverage program (AWBP)
Campus: St. Helena, CA
Courtney Humiston’s many years as a freelance writer and editor in New York City included a year-long stint covering the city’s dining scene for NBC. One of the perks of her job was the chance to sample culinary creations from some of the world’s top chefs and exposure to the wonderful and complex world of wine. The latter truly piqued Courtney’s interest. She decided to make a life change and moved to the Napa Valley in 2010 to study at The Culinary Institute of America in the Accelerated Wine and Beverage program under the tutelage of Christie Dufault and Bob Bath.
“Bob and Christie bring so much dedication and enthusiasm about wine and hospitality to the classroom; it is contagious! They are two of the most loved and respected people in the industry, and their knowledge and experience is second to none,” says Courtney, wine director and sommelier at Petit Crenn, the second restaurant by acclaimed chef Dominique Crenn. “I learned to taste systematically with focus and discipline, and to pay attention to what is happening in the wine. I learned about the fundamentals of wine and spirits, which has empowered me to ask the right questions and continue my education while I’m working in the industry.”
During her time at the CIA, Courtney worked two harvests and continued writing for such publications as The San Francisco Chronicle, The World of Fine Wine, Decanter.com, Sommelier Journal, La Cucina Italiana, and Sonoma magazine. “Being in the heart of a wine-growing region when you are studying wine is crucial,” Courtney explains. “Every week, we would visit wineries and vineyards, meet with winemakers, watch fermentations, walk the vines, and taste directly from barrels. This hands-on approach to learning really cements what you read about and helps you understand wine on a deeper level.”
Now a Certified Sommelier through The Court of Master Sommeliers, Courtney oversees the restaurant’s beverage program at Petit Crenn, which focuses on natural wines from France and includes a strong selection of grower Champagne, white and rosé wines, and French and local ciders. She works closely with Chef Crenn, the first female chef to earn two Michelin Guide stars in the U.S., and executive sous chef Aaron Thayer, pairing wines that complement the seafood- and vegetable-driven menu. The menu changes daily, inspired by Crenn’s childhood roots in Brittany, and serves as homage to her mother and grandmother.
In addition to her duties at Petit Crenn, Courtney is a wine consultant, wine judge, columnist for 7×7 magazine, and wine educator. “I believe in telling the story of wine, whether through a creative and thoughtfully written wine list, on the floor talking to guests, or through a magazine article,” Courtney says. “As a wine professional, I am committed to elevating the quality of wine and wine service in this country.”
Courtney was a fellowship recipient at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa, where she has appeared as a panelist, and, in 2012, was selected to be a Wine Specialist for the Concourse Mondial, one of Europe’s largest and oldest wine competitions.
“The networking and the connections I made at the CIA opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed,” Courtney says. “I left the CIA feeling very confident about tasting and a strong foundation from which to start my wine journey. And while for me, the Accelerated Wine and Beverage program was all about the education—not just the credentials—the CIA is great to have on your résumé and the college is a lifelong resource. The school is highly respected in and out of the food and wine world, and choosing to study there demonstrates a certain level of commitment to your career and to the industry. I think it sets you apart as a truly dedicated professional.”