Near Edna ValleyCWAS stands for California Wine Appellation Specialist, which is a relatively new certification created by the San Francisco Wine School, headed by David Glancy, MS, CSW, CWE, CSS, FWS (one of about a dozen people on the planet to hold both the Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator certifications and probably the only one to hold all of the above) for the express purpose of showcasing California Wines and making sure that there are people knowledgeable enough to be conversant on them.  I’m now one of those people. Boom.

Because of David’s certifications, I knew that he had some serious wine knowledge chops, and I didn’t hesitate to take on the challenge.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time, my budget nagged at me as I enrolled in the class in December. It’s the holidays, the end of the year, car registration and insurance are due, blah blah blah. But that was okay; I was just finishing the quarter at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN) and was prepared to continue to read, study, and write about wines until the certifications exams started up in 2014.  Well, this popped up and I jumped right on it.  I’ve always loved California wines, and was not about to pass up the opportunity to get my first credential.

“This will be easy,” I thought. “I know all about California wines. I’ll just skate through.”

Ha! Silly me!

Yes, I’ve been enjoying California wines for years, obviously at more than just a basic, what-are-we-going-to drink-tonight level. I’ve been a Central Coast advocate for years – way before Paso Robles was crowned Wine Region of the Year – and have actually visited wineries in Los Angeles County.  So I considered myself quite the California wine geek.


This was not a “skate through” course by any means.  It was challenging, it was thought-provoking, and most of all, it was very stimulating.  It took my already over-the-top interest in California wines and put it on steroids.  Now I can’t wait to finish my other certifications so that I can focus on what I want – to bring to people the fact that the wines of California are world class and it’s time we started realizing it.

The Judgment of Paris – Parts I and II – demonstrated that the wines of California could not only hold their own against the wines of France, but could beat them at their own game and age as well as they could, too.  And with French judges making those assessments (blind, of course), there could be no other way to look at California.  Suddenly the world of wine had a new benchmark, and it wasn’t Bordeaux. We have a world of amazing wines almost literally in our back yards that are there for the taking.  The prices and quality range from Two Buck Chuck to You’ve Got to be Kidding and with every level in between.  If you’re traveling from Las Vegas, many of these areas are within a few hours’ driving distance, and getting to many of these world-class wines doesn’t require a passport or airfare.  It’s not unusual to do an overnight road trip to a “Wine Country” and back over the course of a weekend.  Yes, it’s so close that even a tourist to Las Vegas could take a couple of days to visit Wine Country. How great is that?

And, by the way, almost the entire hundreds of miles of coastal region and inland of California is “Wine Country,” Napa and Sonoma notwithstanding.

I plan to create a list of the most ethereal wines of the year that I will publish in December.  And so far, only one of those wines is Old World – a 19-year-old Rioja.  The others? California. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. You just haven’t been drinking enough California wine.




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