My Life as a CIA Graduate Wine and Beverage Student
I arrived in the Napa Valley to start the Wine and Beverage Graduate Certificate program (WBGC) just as harvest season was gearing up, and it was an experience truly like no other. The intensity, the people dedicated to their craft, and the rich tradition were all powerfully inspiring. As crush season arrived, the stimulating energy and excitement across Napa only grew.
What’s so special about being a student here is that our program strikes a harmonious balance between teaching technical skills and experiential learning, all the while pushing us outside of our comfort zones. Similar to the process of making a glass of fine wine, day-to-day life as a WBGC student requires heightened focus, understanding, planning, patience, and proper execution.
On National Champagne Day, CIA Professor Christie Dufault demonstrates how to open a bottle of Champagne with a saber.
Students and professors alike possess an insatiable hunger for knowledge that is unique to the CIA. You can encounter any type of learning imaginable, like discovering a new food in the teaching kitchen, joining the beer club on a private brewery tour, and attending trade events both on and off campus. Throughout the program, we are led through more than 1,000 tastings, with a lesson in each glass. I often reflect back to harvest season, when accurately analyzing one component of a glass of wine was at first an imposing challenge.
Grape Geneticist and University of California, Davis Professor Emeritus Dr. Carole Meredith explains her grape DNA typing discoveries.
One of the most interesting aspects of WBGC life is the exposure to leading icons in the beverage industry. Our education features grape geneticists, master sommeliers, sake masters, viticulturists, winemakers, distillers, brewers, importers, exporters, marketers, tea and coffee experts, food and beverage writers, and wine ambassadors. Industry pioneers whom we once knew only through publications and movies come to campus from Portugal, Japan, Spain, Greece, Germany, France, Italy, and beyond to influence our education. The leadership of our professors instills an unmatchable sense of daily pride, passion, and intensity for wines and beverages.
John Williams, owner and winemaker at Frog’s Leap Winery, leads a tasting of his 1988 Zinfandel after sharing his expertise on dry farming wine.
Thanks to the program’s refined blend of incredible exposure, respect, compassion, and attention to detail, I’ve had a heightened learning experience and a daily sense of achievement. As I pass the halfway point of our 30-week program, the life cycle of the grapevine has reached its dormant stage. However, my 18 fellow students and I are as lively and hungry for knowledge as ever.
By Bobby Applegate
Bobby Applegate is a student in the Wine and Beverage Graduate Certificate Program at the CIA in St. Helena, CA. Growing up with family in the restaurant industry, Bobby went on to work in restaurants himself. He earned his bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management from the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware in 2016, where a beverage management course sparked his interest and a professor encouraged him to further his studies at the CIA.