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    Our Recent Top Exam Scorers

    Audrey Herd-Smith, IWS

    Congratulations to Audrey Herd-Smith, IWS, for passing the Italian Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Audrey:

    I have worked for Vineyard Brands a wine importer since 1992 to 2007 and then again since 2015 in New York.  I also worked as an Antinori Wine Specialist for Ste Michelle Wine Estates from 2007 to 2015. I have been in the wine industry since 1988 and of course so much has changed especially with Italian wines.

    I have a level 3 WSET. I really enjoyed the IWS program and have found it incredibly useful with a lot of information and very detailed and I believe the best available currently for Italian wines.

    I would love to enroll in the Burgundy master program.

    The IWS programs are very complete and offer an amazing level of education that goes beyond the basics and is very detailed and I look forward to taking as many as possible as we at Vineyard Brands represent producers from around the world and having an education on all of the regions is pivotal to the success of sales in this industry.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The IWS programs are very complete and offer an amazing level of education that goes beyond the basics and is very detailed.
    • Position Sales Manager, Manhattan NY, Vineyard Brands
    • Certifications WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Waka Takagi, FWS

    Congratulations to Waka Takagi, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Waka:

    As an amateur wine enthusiast, my wine study journey began by trying to “decode” the descriptive information written on the wine labels, mostly the Old World Wines, where they often do not display the grape variety used.  The more I studied, the more I learned that an incredible amount of work and passion lay behind one bottle of wine.  Since I have been relocated to Lyon, my focus naturally became on French wine.  Despite the difficult covid-19 times, I hope I can enrich my wine knowledge and tasting experience during my stay.

    I have studied and passed WSET Level 1, 2 and the written exam of Level 3. The FWS program provided additional knowledge on history, culture, geography and nature evolving wine making in France. It also gave me confidence to pursue my passion in the field.

    Once the pandemic has settled, I would like to take the WSET Level 3 Blind Tasting exam.  The FWS program can help guide me through various wine tastings in the region and I hope I can develop the ability to accurately analyze the wine.  

    The FWS program gave me an opportunity to specialize in French wine.  I would like to branch out my interpreting/translating work in the wine industry and promote unknown French wine to other countries.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The FWS program provided additional knowledge on history, culture, geography...It also gave me confidence to pursue my passion in the field.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications WSET Levels 1 & 2
    Read more...

    Jörg Philipp, FWS

    Congratulations to Jörg Philipp, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Jörg:

    I am a wine professional always looking for something new. My main field is the consulting of wineries for the Chinese market, as well as importers in China. My career started in a wine shop with over 1500 wines, because I was passionate about wine. Later on working for an importer and a Spanish winery. Many studies and certifications later, the result was Vinoria Wine Education to share all that passion and knowledge. My wish is to bring as many people as possible to enjoy wine.

    My certifications include:
    Certified consultant for German Wine (DWI)
    Certified Wine Business Consultant (IHK)
    WSET Level 2 Pass with Distinction
    Spanish Wine Scholar SWS (WSG)
    Certified consultant for Portuguese Wine
    South Africa Wine Education Course
    Certified Wine Evaluation Specialist by PAR®

    Honestly speaking I was never a big fan of French wines. This might be related to my Spanish DNA, but can’t really tell. Over many years I saved information about French wine growing regions, grape varieties, history, production methods and more, scattered around my brain. Every time it came to giving courses for French wines, I had the feeling, I was not really well prepared. Now I managed to find an education system and manual, that structured all of these thousands of pieces and added many more layers to the picture. I must admit it made really fun to study and can’t wait to drink my way through regions like Savoy, some obscure Loire areas and much more from South France, than I did until now.

    First of all I am finally feeling comfortable with French wine. Consulting in China always includes talking about wine from France. In the future this will be more detailed and the possibility to prove the business partners the knowledge base, is giving the clients more confidence in a cooperation.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I managed to find an education system and manual, that structured (my knowledge) and added many more layers to the picture.
    • Position Founder, Vinoria Wine Education
    • Certifications WSET Level 2, Spanish Wine Scholar
    Read more...

    Tommy Trull, FWS

    Congratulations to Tommy Trull, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Tommy:

    I'm currently Wine Director for Seaboard Wine Bar & Taproom, a growing company (three more locations on the way!) in Matthews, North Carolina. I curate the wine program for the company's locations, both retail and by-the-glass, as well as our online shipping program.

    In a previous life, I was a professional playwright and theatre professor. In my teaching, I focused on theatre history, which is intrinsically linked with the history of wine. My wife is a chef, and after an excellent job opportunity brought us from our home in Greensboro to Charlotte, I picked up some summer hours in a specialty shop, selling wine and cheese - and fell in love.

    To me, the story of wine is the story of human innovation, culture, and achievement. The contents of that bottle represents the culmination of science, agriculture, art, markets, indigenous culture, and so much more. In the study of wine, you truly study human nature.
    Also, it's delicious.

    I came to French Wine Scholar after completing WSET levels 2 and 3. I naturally lean toward the Old World, and found my hunger whetted for the intricacies of French wine. The Wine Scholar Guild has a great reputation for the depth of its curriculum, so I signed up.
    I was not disappointed.

    The French Wine Scholar program's intense course of study has given me incredible insight into one of the most complex and significant homes of viti- and viniculture on the planet. The attention paid to under-recognized regions like Jura, Savoie, and Corsica has proved invaluable. Not only has it expanded my understanding of wines both past and present, it has given me great context for how some regions come to prominence while others remain hidden gems.
    Perhaps most importantly, it has given me excellent guidance in curating my wine program at Seaboard. I pride myself on the diversity of my selection. I've been able to kindle great interest in grapes like Jacquere and Chasselas for customers wanting to branch out from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. My study notes help immeasurably with preparing for the weekly tastings I hold at Seaboard.

    Currently, I am in the WSET Level 4 Diploma program. The education I received from WSG has given me a huge leg up in understanding the wines not only of France, but of every wine producing region. I intend to continue my studies with both Italian Wine Scholar and Spanish Wine Scholar, and eventually to brave the Master studies as well.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The French Wine Scholar program's intense course of study has given me incredible insight into one of the most complex and significant homes of viti- and viniculture on the planet.
    • Position Wine Director, Seaboard Wine Bar & Taproom
    • Certifications WSET Level 2, WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Roberto Colombi, SWS

    Congratulations to Roberto Colombi, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Roberto

    I grew up in the country side of Italy, in a family that always loved wine and with several relatives already in the hotel and restaurant business.

    My passion for wine started at an incredibly young age; When I was a little boy, I used to help my father bottling wine that he had purchased in Demijohns (Damigiana in Italian).  Also my uncle is a trained Sommelier with the A.I.S. and I always looked up to him. My first trip to Vinitaly with him was at the age of 15, and after that day my goal was set, and I knew that I wanted to become a Sommelier one day.

    Today, my wife and I are working together in opening our first restaurant where the goal is to have an exiting and eclectic wine list with a great wine by the glass program.

    I took my first Sommelier level certificate with the AIS at 19 YO while I was working at Gvaltiero Marchesi in Franciacorta, Italy and shortly after I moved to England to work with Gordon Ramsay.  In the U.K. I took the WSET Level 2 in 2004 and the Court of Master Sommelier Level 1 in 2006.  In 2007 I came to the united states and in 2008 I was awarded Sommelier of South Florida with Starchefs.com.  In 2017 I went back to my studies and passed the Court of Master Sommelier Level 2.  In 2020 I passed the WSET Level 3 with the Florida Wine Academy and immediately after I enrolled, and successfully passed, with the Spanish Wine Scholar.

    Right now I’m enrolled with the French Wine Scholar and the plan is to take the Italian Wine Scholar as well.  The goal, is to prepare my self as much as possible for the WSET Diploma which if possible I would like to take with the Florida Wine Academy.

    The SWS open several windows for me.  First, I learned about wines that I have not studied before in other wine programs.  Second, learning about the History and the Geography of the Spanish wine regions, helped me understand how and why other regions in France, Italy and South America are connected to each other.  Also, I found so much quality, value and exciting alternatives to the mainstream grape varietals that I can’t wait to work on my next wine program so that I can add to the wine by the glass a Txacoli de Getaria from the Pais Vasco, a Treixadura from Ribeiro or a Bobal from Utiel Requena.

    Knowing about this beautiful region of the world will help my future studies with the WSET and the Court of Master Sommeliers.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I found so much quality, value and exciting alternatives to the mainstream grape varietals that I can’t wait to work on my next wine program.
    • Position Owner, Union Provisions
    • Certifications Levels 1 & 2 Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Levels 2 & 3
    Read more...

    Paul Van Calster

    Congratulations to Paul Van Calster for passing the Rhône Master Level exam with highest honors!

    About Paul

    Born 31/12/1954.
    My professional career  : 43 years in KBC (retailbank), from Junior Clerk to Office-Director with 12 employees.

    Wine-enthusiast since the beginning of the 1980’s starting with supermarket-wines and then always going up in quality… always attracted to know more  … always searching for reasons of taste, aroma’s, mouthfeel, …  trying to understand the wine.

    In 1989 I fell in love with the region Dentelles de Montmirail (Vaucluse, France) and the grenache-syrah-mourvèdre-wines. I go there yearly since 30 years for touristic vacation and visiting winemakers.  After my professional retirement, I decided to start with a small/local wine-business, specializing in wines of the Dentelles de Montmirail-region.

    Wine Education
    > First course was Amicitia Leuven ( 1989 - teacher Harry De Schepper).
    > COOVI-CERIA Anderlecht (1990/91 – teachers Harry De Schepper and Jef Bessemans), a course of 2 evenings during a  whole schoolyear. Wines of France one evening,  the other evening was for  winemaking processes + Italy and Spain.
    > Then 15 years of tasting…tasting ... tasting and focusing on France. Visiting almost all de French wine-regions.  Some small courses : Licata Academy (Italy) and Australian Wines.
    > PIVA Antwerp (2014-2016) wine-course 5 semesters (and at the same time finishing my career office-director KBC).
    > Starting my own small wine-company with direct import from the ‘vigneron indépendant’ in favorite region Le Pays des Dentelles de Montmirail.
    >  Wine Spirit Education Trust Level 3  ( 2018 - Winewise Antwerp) passed With Distinction.
    >  French Wine Scholar (2019 – Winewise Antwerp) with Highest Honors.
    >  FWS Master-Level Rhône  (2020).

    The Master-Level Program helps me to understand more the soil, grapes and climat and the link between them.   It gives me more ‘body’ in discussions with winemakers and clients.  

    Last thing I want to do is a  Tasting-course in ‘Université de Suze le Rousse’,  tasting of Rhône wines. 

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The Master-Level Program helps gives me more ‘body’ in discussions with winemakers and clients.
    • Position Owner, WIJNPASSIE DENTELLES DE MONTMIRAIL VOF
    • Certifications WSET Level 3, French Wine Scholar
    Read more...

    Yunkyung Lee, IWS

    Congratulations to Yunkyung Lee, IWS, for passing the Italian Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Yunkyung:

    I have worked as a Sommelier and Restaurant Manager in Korea and Singapore. Participated in a national Sommelier competition 3 times and took the 1st prize in the year of 2007, 2nd prize in 2008 and the 1st prize again in 2009. As a result, in 2009, I participated in the 1st Asia-Oceania Sommelier competition as the representative of Korea. Since 2010 I’ve been teaching wine and I have started to write my own wine book.

    In 2005, I started my first wine study in the Korean branch of ASI (L’Association de la Sommellerie Internationale), which hosts the “World’s Best Sommelier competition” every 3 years and the 3 different continental competitions (America, Asia-Oceania, Europe) every 3 years. After the one year course I received the certification of “Master Sommelier & Consultant” with a scholarship as the 1st prize award in the license examination. Then, I enrolled in the WSET programs and received certifications with distinction in level 1/2/3 of wine and level 1 of sake. And recently I’ve received certifications with Highest Honor in FWS and SWS before IWS.

    Through the IWS program I was able to learn much more about Italian wines which has been a goal of mine for a long time.  The IWS program added to my wine knowledge far beyond the basic level.  I intend to continue my studies of Italian wines at an advanced level.

    I now intend to start studying for the Diploma of Wine and level 3 of sake with WSET in London. My first motivation for enrolling to the IWS program was to strengthen my knowledge of wine before starting my wine diploma studies with WSET in London.

    Even though I already finished FWS and SWS successfully, IWS was not easy to study because of its long complicated history of Italia and its wines, surprisingly various grapes and numerous wine growing areas. But it was worth it in that I learned how Italian wines developed their unique characters with various grapes in different natural conditions; how they present themselves using exclusive local grapes plus common grapes shared with some other European wines; as well as the historical background.
    My successful completion of the IWS program has given me the courage to pursue more advanced wine studies.

    As stated above, my first motivation for enrolling in the IWS program was to strengthen my knowledge of wine before starting my wine diploma studies with WSET in London. I found many wine professionals who received the title of “Master of Wine” and/or “Master Sommelier” in the IWS program.  The IWS program delivered much more than I had expected.
     
    I particularly appreciated the section about Italian wine history, including how different people started and developed various styles of wine. Before participating in IWS program, I had known only little about that information from books.  It has given me the ambition to study more and the confidence to teach my students with my greater knowledge.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial My successful completion of the IWS program has given me the courage to pursue more advanced wine studies.
    • Position CEO and Educator, Wineleaders (online Wine Education)
    • Certifications Master Sommelier; WSET Levels 1, 2 & 3; French Wine Scholar; Spanish Wine Scholar
    Read more...

    Rene Reed, IWS

    Congratulations to Rene Reed, IWS, for passing the Italian Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Rene:

    I started taking classes so that I could communicate better with our Wine Sales Reps. I sometimes felt they would sell our Italian restaurant whatever their wine of the week might be.  I started taking classes and realized “The more I know about Wine, the more I realize I don’t know much.” This led to more classroom work and wine tasting groups. It also led to a greater appreciation of viticulture, terroir, organic and biodynamic wines, the supply chain — it is all pretty fascinating!!

    The North American Sommelier Association, Italian Wine Specialist was my first foray into wine academics and tasting. That was when I realized there was so much more to know and likely stuff that I would never know. After that, I had some local mentorship and I continued on with Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Level 3 and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications. I passed the Level 1 -Court of Masters.

    I loved the detail of the IWS program. I travel to Italy and the knowledge has deeply enriched my hunt for and enjoyment of some of the lesser known grapes of Italy. For our business, the knowledge has helped me to procure great Italian wines at good value pricing.

    IWS has given me more in-depth knowledge of my favorite wine producing country! I have confidence to purchase and recommend a wide variety of Italian wines to my customers and friends. Their enjoyment of wines from my curated list is my biggest reward.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial For our business, the knowledge has helped me to procure great Italian wines at good value pricing.
    • Position Co-owner / Wine Buyer, George’s Pastaria
    • Certifications Level 1 Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Stephen Gilgunn, FWS

    Congratulations to Stephen Gilgunn, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Stephen:

    I studied to be a chef in my native Ireland before moving to Paris many years ago.  After working as a chef in Paris I decided that I would like to work front of house and so I changed and worked various positions from bar tending up to bar and restaurant management, these positions of course acquired a knowledge of wines and that's where my interest in french wines started!

    About three years ago I started doing food tours in Paris and part of the experience included cheese and wine pairings, to further my knowledge I decided to do the French Wine Scholar diploma so I could learn about the intricate details of terroir, different climates  and wine making techniques per region and use that knowledge during a tour.

    This is the first wine course that I have done and I found it to be very thorough and informative and it has made me want to continue my wine education and to take my studies further and see what opportunities it could bring either in what I am already doing or even in the wine industry.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I found it to be very thorough and informative and it has made me want to continue my wine education.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    Read more...

    Thomas B Burckell, SWS

    Congratulations to Thomas B Burckell, SWS, for passing the Spanish Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Thomas:

    In 1972 my girlfriend, now wife of forty-two years, and I, were introduced to Spanish Wine as fifteen-year-old summer exchange students.  Since our first encounter my love for wine has continue to grow.  Enthusiasm has turned into a passion for all wines, but especially those of Spain.  The Spanish Wine Scholar program allowed me to turn my passion into tangible knowledge.  With each sip of Spanish wine, I now have a working knowledge of the history, the key people, the climates and soils, the wine practices and laws which make the flavors in my glass come alive and each taste more enjoyable.  

    My wine knowledge up to taking the SWS course has been self-motivated and self-taught.   To learn about wine, I am a firm believer that you must drink it!   I have been a thirty-year member of the American Wine Society, and president of our local chapter many times.  Our group is focused on wine education, so each month for the last three decades I have learned a little more.   This has also allowed me to do many wine presentations for our group as well as other groups.  Each time I do a presentation, I take it on like doing a term paper.  I always look for the back story on the wine, the owner, the land, or the grape.  I once did a presentation for 6 course meal prepared by a French chef to a very knowledgeable wine group in an historical setting.  I was a nervous wreck!  In my opening remarks a question from the audience only re-enforced my concerns.  A gentleman asked me, “What credentials do you have to do this presentation?”  I looked in the eye and said, “I am an avid consumer!”  To wine shop owners delight, that is still my mantra today.

    Recently retired, it is my dream to do more wine presentations for small groups and dinners.  Not necessarily for monetary gains, but to allow me to experience more wine and food pairings.   The SWS program has given me creditability and hopefully will open more opportunities to do more wine events.  Since receiving my certificate I was asked to do a Spanish Wine tasting at local wine shop, and also presented to our local AWS chapter’s monthly meeting.  Both these opportunities only re-enforced why I was so glad to take and complete the SWS program.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The Spanish Wine Scholar program allowed me to turn my passion into tangible knowledge.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    Read more...
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