When I set out to study wine, it wasn't obvious how to do it or where to go. I'd worked in a wine shop in San Francisco one summer when the proprietor was away and the wine clerks in charge opened fabulous bottles to taste — all summer long. Wine and food writer Colman Andrews had told me about the master of wine program, but at the time it was only in London and you had to be part of the wine trade to participate.
Now the word "sommelier" and the profession have entered the popular imagination — there's even a documentary, "Somm," that is ready to hit the theaters. And in L.A. there are several ways to study wine with the object of becoming a sommelier or wine professional.
The public education arm of UCLA offers an introduction to wine class and also a seven-course wine education and management certificate "designed for those who want a structured overview of wine." Courses include the introduction to wine class plus vintage I, II and III; the business of wine management; the wines of Bordeaux; and business ethics. Cost of the two-unit introduction to wine is $495. The complete certificate program adds up to $3,615. Wine educators include Shelby Ledgerwood, Paul Sherman, Patrick Comiskey, Neil McNally, Justin Gallen and Giammario Villa. For more information about wine courses, contact Joshua Gill at (310) 206-5075, or JGill@unex.ucla.edu.
UCLA, Westwood campus, (310) 825-9971, http://www.uclaextension.edu
The Wine House
In addition to a heavy schedule of themed wine tastings (Austrian wines, sherry and tapas, single malts, etc.) and a class for complete beginners, this West L.A. retailer offers classes for professionals and would-be sommeliers sponsored by the North American Sommelier Assn. One such course offered in June is designed around the Italian Sommelier Assn. curricula and is taught by native Italians and certified sommeliers. The cost for 18 hours of class time and tasting, plus an exam, is $590.
2311 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731, http://www.winehouse.com
North American Sommelier Assn.
The Los Angeles office offers a number of classes — such as master of terroir; master of Sangiovese; Sicily, a Mediterranean gem — for $290 and up with classes discounted for members. Master of terroir, for example, is a three-day class, 61/2 hours on each of the first two days and a two-hour exam on the third day, and it costs $495 (early-bird enrollment gets you a $100 discount). For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.