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    Our Recent Top Exam Scorers

    FWS

    Kazuyo Okamura, FWS, SWS, IWS

    Congratulations to Kazuyo Okamura, FWS, SWS, IWS, for passing all three Wine Scholar exams with highest honors!

    About Kazuyo:

    Since I lived and studied International relations and Diplomacy in Paris as a student, I have been a huge wine enthusiast. Later I have worked in the financial and media communication world, I moved to Chile and studied wine and spirits in the Escuela de Sommeliers and with a program of the Court of Master Sommeliers in South America – then I started WSET, now on the way to become a DipWSET. As I always enjoy cultural links with historical backgrounds I have also obtained certain spirit related certificates. Until today I have visited around 70 countries for my research and experiences – and hope I will be able to become a contributor to the Wine world in the near future.

    Meanwhile I have been preparing and passing WSET diploma exams I have parallelly studied FWS, IWS and SWS. These have helped me a lot to gain detailed knowledge and historical and political background showing what had happened and is happening behind the scene as well as the critical facts from a different perspective. I have highly appreciated the courses which provide various learning options including members’ webinars as well as comprehensive materials, videos and quiz. I am sure the acquired knowledge and skills are to become part of my base which can be applied to practical situation going forward.
    Santé, Salute y Salud !

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial These have helped me a lot to gain detailed knowledge and historical and political background.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Kevin Day, FWS

    Congratulations to Kevin Day, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Kevin:

    I am first and foremost a wine writer, and the editor-in-chief of my own wine publication centered on French and Italian wine called Opening a Bottle, which has around 180,000 readers annually. Inspired by what I learned through the Italian and French Wine Scholar programs, I decided to start hosting informal virtual tastings with friends to share what I’ve learned, and to just have something to do that is social over the pandemic. Since September, I have shifted this to more formal sessions via my website, Eventbrite and Zoom. Ticket sales are helping to raise revenue for other contributors to write for Opening a Bottle, so I can broaden my scope beyond France and Italy.

    I fell into a passion for wine like most people: through a transformative travel experience. For me it was first in southern Tuscany in 2008 at a horizontal tasting in a wine bar in Montepulciano of multiple vintages of Poderi Sanguineto. It was there that the lightbulb went off: that each year’s conditions could be tasted in the glass. But things really took off four years later when my wife and I returned to Italy with two close friends and spent a week in Barolo. Talk about immersive learning! At the Barolo museum, they offered a comparative tasting of wines from Barolo’s different soil types, and that made me realize that wine can be the ultimate storyteller of nature and humankind’s interaction with it. I also realized that I needed to take my travel writing/travel photography aspirations and apply them to wine. I launched Opening a Bottle shortly thereafter, and have devoted much of professional life since to wine writing.

    I passed the Italian Wine Scholar Program with Highest Honors in 2019, and then the French Wine Scholar Program with Highest Honors in 2020. I gravitated to these two programs because they have a strong cultural/historical perspective, which I enjoy, but also they were very specific. I’m looking to fully know certain aspects of wine, and this is certainly the case after completing these programs. I also didn’t want to lose my voice as a writer when it comes to tasting notes and describing wine. I have a bit of a personalized approach, and I didn’t feel a need to change that with some of the other wine study programs which standardize the wine tasting approach.

    I am going to take a break for now. What I really need to do is learn Italian and some French. I have a desire to execute a book project after the pandemic, and it’ll require travel to some off-the-beaten path wine regions in Italy. Knowing Italian will be essential to pull it off.

    The FWS program has played a key role in establishing the greater context of French wine — why certain historic events led to the wines we have today, why the geography has dictated certain practices here and there. It’s a more holistic understanding of French wine, rather than the cobbled together understanding I had from hundreds of different sources.

    But on a purely consumer level, I am also excited to taste French wine now with this education as a backdrop. I’m having a great time exploring Corsican wines this month, and hope to hunt down some wines from Southwest France after the holidays. There is still a lot to explore. The journey never truly ends!

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I am also excited to taste French wine now with this education as a backdrop...The journey never truly ends!
    • Position Editor in Chief, Opening a Bottle
    • Certifications Italian Wine Scholar with highest honors
    Read more...

    Joseph Zapata, FWS

    Congratulations to Joseph Zapata, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Joseph

    Experienced wine professional with a career that began as a sales associate at top independent wine retailer K&L Wine Merchants. From K&L I moved on to become an assistant wine buyer at pioneering online wine retailer Wine.com where I was a member of a wine buying team that helped to shape the landscape of Internet wine sales. Beyond wine retail, career highlights include distribution and supplier sales as a Bay Area Key Account Specialist for Wine Warehouse (a top 10 US wine distributor), a Western Regional Sales Manager for iconic Paul Hobbs Wines, a National Sales Director for Napa Valley Schweiger Vineyards where I managed three-tier sales/marketing operations for the entire US, and a Beverage Director for Auberge Resorts Collection Forbes Five-Star Solage Napa Valley and its Michelin starred restaurant, Solbar. I am currently working on a unique wine project in Lake Tahoe, where I am now based, that will launch next year.

    Wine Certifications: Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Certified Wine Educator (CWE), the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier. I achieved these certificates prior to the FWS. The FWS has enhanced my knowledge, forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and study regions I would not have otherwise focused on in that depth, i.e., SW France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence, Corsica. It would have been a great supplement for me between passing Certified Sommelier and CSW and studying for the CWE.

    I am currently enrolled in and studying for the CMS Advanced Sommelier exam which I will sit for in July 2021. The FWS was a nice compliment to my CMS Advanced Sommelier France studies. While it is a much different type of study/exam, the FWS format allowed me to look at France more systematically, dig deeper into certain areas, and be able to gauge my progress and expose weak areas that needed more attention. I plan to tackle the IWS, SWS and possibly some of the master-level programs once I pass the Advanced Sommelier. I also plan to pursue the Master Sommelier Diploma.

    I think it is a great supplement to my current studies with the CMS. Other top intermediate level programs such as SWE, WSET, CMS do not go into that level of depth. If you’re a CSW, WSET 3 or Certified Sommelier pursuing an advanced level certification such as CWE, WSET Diploma or Advanced Sommelier, I think it is a nice way to enhance your foundation knowledge and be able to approach one of the respective higher level exams with more confidence and ability.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The FWS has enhanced my knowledge, forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and study regions I would not have otherwise focused on in that depth.
    • Position Former Beverage Director for Auberge Resort Collection, Solage Napa Valley
    • Certifications CWE, CSW (SWE), Certified Sommelier
    Read more...

    Maxime Dubois, FWS

    Congratulations to Maxime Dubois, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Maxime:

    My passion for wine came quite late. Although French, I came from the part of the country dominated by apples, home of Calvados and (perhaps) the best cider in the World: Normandy. As I developed a passion for the restaurant industry and decided to study restaurant management, I discovered this whole universe that wine had to offer to me! A never-ending source of discoveries and pleasure!  

    In 2017, I decided to eventually leave the restaurant industry and co-create a project called Food Vinebrations. It took me to 15 countries around the World to meet food and wine producers and sometimes work with them to get a more hands-on knowledge.  Of all places, I fell in love with Vietnam where I came back in early 2019 to join the team of Celliers d’Asie & Red Apron as Marketing Manager & Wine Educator.

    I truly discovered wine and its World of knowledge while studying restaurant management at Ecole Ferrandi in Paris. Back then, we were solely focusing on French wines, with brief mentions of International iconic appellations like Chianti or Rioja. After graduating, I moved back to Ireland where I had worked before, to manage a newly opened Wine Bar & Restaurant called the Dublin Wine Rooms. Upon arrival, I realized that, if French wines were important, they weren’t exclusive. To develop my knowledge of other wine producing countries, I have passed the Introductory & Certified levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

    In 2019, I have passed my WSET Level 3 with Distinction (I am now a WSET Educator in Vietnam & soon FWS Instructor). As I was discovering more and more areas of the Wine World, I realized that if a good overall knowledge was important, a precise and detailed knowledge of Historical leading producers was vital. That’s when I enrolled for the FWS, and it truly delivered beyond my expectations!

    The FWS is a very precise and exhaustive program, providing all the tools to apprehend the wines of France and their diversity. It’s been a great adventure to prepare for it, and I really enjoyed both the manual and the online resources!

    One thing though, studying for FWS really made me want to study IWS & SWS too! While most programs focus on overall knowledge of the whole wine World, it’s great to find a program that gives very specific details and in-depth knowledge.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial It’s been a great adventure to prepare for it, and I really enjoyed both the manual and the online resources!
    • Position Marketing Strategy Manager / Wine Educator, Celliers d’Asie / Red Apron
    • Certifications WSET Level 3, Introductory Sommelier Certificate, Certified Sommelier
    Read more...

    Luigia (Erh-Shan) Tsai, FWS

    Congratulations to Luigia(Erh-Shan) Tsai, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Luigia:

    I’ve been working in the wine industry for 12 years since 2008, at the beginning I didn’t know anything about wine and I thought I could still do that job well (as a marketer) I soon realized I was wrong, that’s why I started learning wine in more systematic ways.

    Sometimes I was told that attending classes is a waste of time and money, but my learning experience tells me that, no matter how many books you have read and how many bottles you have tasted on your own, learning from someone else is always beneficial! Now as a brand ambassador / wine educator, I really enjoy sharing what I have learned, and I’ll keep learning and sharing.

    I’ve been studying for WSET level 4 Diploma, I feel FWS provides a very handy tool for me to learn through French regions in depth.   

    I really love the textbook which contains a lot of images that I had not seen before, although I’ve passed the exam, I’ll still use this book as a guide for me to go through French wine regions. I particularly enjoy the history part, which brings me plenty of why, how and when questions, this encourages me to dive deeper into the wine world.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I really love the textbook...although I’ve passed the exam, I’ll still use this book as a guide.
    • Position Brand Ambassador, Treasury Wine Estates
    • Certifications WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Mariana Peres, FWS

    Congratulations to Mariana Peres, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Mariana:

    I am a wine enthusiast, I once heard that studying wine is addictive, I couldn’t agree more!

    I have passed this year the WSET level 3, I started the French Wine Scholar simultaneously.

    I am currently enrolled in Spanish Wine Scholar and I intend to start the WSET Diploma next year. I believe FWS helps a lot, the information and material provided is amazing!

    The more you learn the more you want to learn!

     

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The information and material provided is amazing!
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications WSET Level 3
    Read more...

    Rich Vanderheiden, FWS

    Congratulations to Rich Vanderheiden, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Rich:

    I am Rich Vanderheiden from Scottsdale Arizona and a wine enthusiast. My wine passion and journey began in the 1970’s in the State of Nebraska where I was a bartender and wine steward while in college and law school. My travels in the last 45 years include visiting several wine regions in France, Italy, Spain and Greece as well over 300 wineries on the west coast of the United States. Upon retirement 10 years ago, I started getting more intellectual about wine and obtained credentials with the Court of Master Sommeliers ( Level 1) and Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. During the shutdown over COVID-19 in April, it seemed an ideal time to pursue the online French Wine Scholar program along with 80 others from around the world. The FWS course content and instruction was excellent and provided a challenging and rewarding wine experience. I decided to do the course not just to pass the exam but  to dig deep to master all French wine regions. Now I am focused on doing a WSG immersion trip to Bordeaux as soon as possible and taking when available the new German Wine Scholar program.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial The FWS course content and instruction was excellent and provided a challenging and rewarding wine experience.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications CSW (SWE), Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1
    Read more...

    Jenny Landers, FWS

    Congratulations to Jenny Landers, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Jenny

    I am a wine enthusiast. I have had a love for wine most of my adult life. Years ago, when I moved from NYC to Seattle, I fell in love with the wineries and tasting rooms of WA state. Since I have moved to California, and there is no shortage of wine exploration in the lovely state of California! I love planning trips to other parts of the world around wine regions, and hope to get to do so again soon!

    I have a Certificate in the Business of Wine from San Diego State University, WSET2 with Distinction, and am currently enrolled in the Spanish Wine Scholar course. I absolutely loved zooming in on France with the FWS, and really enjoyed the Wine Scholar Guild format.

    FWS has inspired me to travel to regions I have not been to yet. I have been to Champagne, Burgundy & Alsace. I look forward to planning a trip once it is safe to travel again. I’m thinking the Languedoc Roussillon and the Loire. Now that I’m studying Spain, Green Spain is calling me as well!!

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I absolutely loved zooming in on France with the FWS, and really enjoyed the Wine Scholar Guild format.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications WSET Level 2
    Read more...

    Sudhakaran Ram, FWS

    Many congratulations to Sudhakaran Ram, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Sudhakaran:

    I have been a wine enthusiast for a long time (over 25 years). I have always been fascinated with food/wine/liquors and spend a lot of time reading about this and exploring food/wine around where I live. I am blessed to be living in SF Bay Area which has provided plenty of opportunities for exploring food/wine. My wife traveled through France/Germany/Austria visiting her relatives.  She wanted me experience Alsace since she had a wonderful time there. That was my first trip to Europe and I was blown away with the culture of every region having its own food/typical wine and tons of varieties of liquors. Subsequent trips to France and other parts of Europe added to this fascination. I started to collect wine/liquors from France and old world. I always focused more on other varieties than the famous international varieties of wine. This showed me what wine could be and how to enjoy it from various terroir.

    For the most part I have primarily been doing self-studies and learning about the great vineyards, famous regions, great producers. I bought a number of books on wine and studied them. I was very interested in knowing what types of wines were made in different regions. Most of my focus is of old world. In addition, I always was reading local newspaper/wine magazines about wines, wineries, up and coming regions, etc. Every opportunity I got, I tried to go visit local wineries and events to learn. I was also interested in identifying great producers making age worthy wines. This led me to start collecting a few wines, with the focus on well-made wines that aged well (both whites and reds). In addition to self-studies, I always planned my vacations around wine destinations. On one such vacation, I travelled to Bourgogne and Champagne and spent time there visiting small villages and wineries and experiencing the food/wine culture. These are absolutely fascinating since you learn a lot about the nuances of the regions when you travel there. For instance, my wife’s aunt took us to visit a Recoltant-Manipulant in Grand Cru Ambonnay was fascinating. We could sit in their home and learn about their wine philosophy and enjoy their Champagne.

    Last year one of my high school buddies from India (who is also heavily into wine and wine studies) told me about FWS and recommended that I would love the program. French wine was always on top of my studies and I immediately decided to join the FWS program offered at SF Wine School. I was absolutely thrilled with the program. Even though I knew a lot from my studies, the program provided me with a depth of knowledge about various regions, their history and the wines that was a huge complement to what I knew before. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and the history and details of AOC, grapes, terroir and food. FWS also exposed me to details of smaller regions which I normally would bypass in self-studies – places like Jura/Savoie/Southwest. This combined with the exceptional wines poured for tasting during the classes really showcased knowledge that I would not have experienced on my own.  FWS was something I enjoyed and I hope to take other certifications (IWS/SWS) in the future. Hopefully, I will be involved in the wine trade in the future – such as wine travel or wine import/exports.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I was absolutely thrilled with the program...I thoroughly enjoyed the class and the history and details of AOC, grapes, terroir and food.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    Read more...

    Nanci Teruko Inamura, FWS

    Congratulations to Nanci Teruko Inamura, FWS, for passing the French Wine Scholar exam with highest honors!

    About Nanci:

    I am a wine enthusiast. Since I started drinking wine, I always wanted to study the subject to better understand the flavors, the winemaking process, climate, soils and everything related to this World. Whenever I drank wine with my friends, I would always wonder: why does this wine have this flavor while the other wine from another country with the same grape is different, and etc…  So, my curiosity led me to this path of study. I started to look for wine classes and never stopped studying since.

    I took the WSET3 three years ago. In the future I would like to take your Italian Wines course.

    I think FWS program is more complete if you compare it to others, like WSET for example. You plunge into the history, and everything related to each region. In the future I want to start working in this business.

    Additional Info

    • Testimonial I think the FWS program is more complete...You plunge into the history, and everything related to each region.
    • Position Wine Enthusiast
    • Certifications WSET Level 3
    Read more...
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