WSET: The Beginning


In college, I got a job at my favorite bar, and it didn’t take long before I could barely stand to go in there anymore. The waitresses were still great-looking, the wings still cheap, the beer still, well, beer-ish, but it wasn’t the same.  Something that I enjoyed a great deal as recreation had become work, and it wasn’t fun anymore. It’s a simple concept, really, not far removed from the law of diminishing returns, and it applies to all kinds of things in life. For this reason, I have often felt reluctant to pursue formal credentials in wine, although tonight I took the first step.

Recently, I was asked to write a chapter of a book giving advice to teachers who teach about genocide. I acquiesced; I get asked to do this sort of thing quite a bit and the editor is a friend. My advice was essentially “Get a hobby,” although for publication the editor nuanced it a little better than that, I think.

I’m arrogant enough to say that my advice is very good, even important, and should be heeded. Genocide education, Holocaust education, can be all-consuming, and if you don’t have an out, some other passion to invest in, it can start to become quite unhealthy.  I’ve seen this happen, and admittedly it has happened to me, though long ago. My “out” if you will, my hobby, is wine, with running half marathons and watching sports playing a close second and third, respectively. In this way, wine is actually somewhat important to me, and therefore it’s very important to me that I don’t ruin wine for myself.

With that being said, I’m a lifelong learner, and I love being taught. I have four degrees and numerous fellowships, I take classes whenever the opportunity arises, and I seek out friends, ministers, rabbis, and anyone else I can think of who can teach me something. I can learn by reading, and I often do, but I find direct instruction and socratic discourse to be even more enjoyable. So tonight, I took the plunge: I signed up for a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level I class at the Napa Wine Academy, and booked a flight to San Francisco in time to get there to take a July 2 class this summer.

This blog series will last precisely as long as, well, as long as I last in WSET training, which will be as long as I find it edifying and enjoyable.  I’m an educator by trade, as well as by nature, and I’m not looking to change careers. What I am hoping to do is take something I truly enjoy and add to it an academic angle, wrestle with it a little, and deepen my understanding. I’ll study for Level 1 a little bit, I’m sure, and I’ll update you on that. Afterward, I’ll let you know what the experience was like. You can count on me for candor. And if I enjoy it, as I suspect I will, I’ll look into preparing for Level 2, 3, and 4 in due course, at which point this series may become something of a guide, or a prep course on what to expect. I can see myself retiring in twenty years and moonlighting as a sommelier to entertain myself once the kids (currently, there is one seven-month-old kid, singular) are out of the house. Or, if wine ever begins to feel like work, I may dump the whole endeavor like a glass of cheap Zin, straight down the drain. I suppose that only time will tell.

Cheers to knowledge, and to wine, and to the joy of learning! Thanks for following along.

Always my best,




4 responses to “WSET: The Beginning

  1. Best of luck! I’m a test and a half away from the Diploma (Level 4) and it’s been a gratifying and satisfying struggle. I think you probably could have jumped in at Level 2, and I say that only because I hope you’re not bored by Level 1 and decide to walk away. Great challenges await you if you stay the course. As you progress, you will not be bored, especially because you are, as you said, a life-long learner who loves wine. Let the infinite journey commence anew! Cheers, and welcome to the club!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom, I thought of that, but didn’t want to be too big for my britches! I’ll enjoy the level one and then, I’m sure, keep it up. Let me know how your next test goes! I’d love any tips! Cheers!


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