Celebrating a major milestone for three instructors

Napa Valley Wine Academy Celebrates A Major Milestone for Three Instructors

This past week, three Napa Valley Wine Academy instructors heard the news that very few wine professionals around the world hear: they had each reached the major milestone of passing both the theory and practical (tasting) portions of their Master of Wine exams. Vanessa Conlin, Natalie Breaux, and Gus Zhu each instruct WSET and other certification courses at the Academy, in addition to presenting at corporate and private wine seminars and events.

“This milestone is more than well-deserved for each of these instructors. We are extremely proud to be working with Vanessa, Natalie and Gus, and thrilled to have these experts share their knowledge with our students at the Academy,” states Catherine Bugué, Director of Education at the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

Only 380 people in the world hold the title Master of Wine (MW) as of Fall 2018. Those seeking the title must pass a rigorous 4-day exam that includes a blind tasting of 36 wines and 13 closed-book essays.

The Master of Wine titles will be officially bestowed onto Conlin, Breaux and Zhu by the Institute of Masters of Wine following their submission and acceptance by the Institute of a final research paper.

Just two years ago, the Napa Valley Wine Academy celebrated two other instructors’ major achievements when Mary Margaret McCamic MW and Matt Deller MW obtained their Master of Wine titles from the Institute, joining fellow Academy educators: Peter Marks MW, Tim Hanni MW, Nova Cadamatre MW, Christy Canterbury MW, and Bree Boskov MW. The Academy has seven (7) Masters of Wine on its instructor roster, and two (2) Master Sommeliers, Tim Gaiser MS and Sur Lucero MS.

“One of our core philosophies in founding the Napa Valley Wine Academy was to provide our students with excellent instruction from wine professionals and experts,” explains Napa Valley Wine Academy CEO Christian Oggenfuss, “and we are both honored and humbled to have these highly skilled and knowledgeable instructors teaching at the Academy.”

Zhu is Chief Educator at the Napa Valley Wine Academy, sharing his immense knowledge and engaging instruction with all levels of students, including the expert-level WSET Diploma classes. Zhu was born and raised in mainland China. Before coming to the U.S. he had 5 years of wine education experience with Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting based in Beijing. Zhu also holds a Masters in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis.

Zhu states, “The Master of Wine study journey taught me how to respect and appreciate the world of wine. Each wine, no matter where it came from or what the price is, has its own unique position and story. As a Chinese native, I look forward to building more connections between the Chinese wine industry and the rest of the world through wine education.”

Conlin is Head of Wine at Wine Access, an online resource based in Napa Valley and serving consumers all across the United States. She instructs various evening and weekend WSET courses and hosts successful corporate and private client events with for her powerful combination of in-depth wine knowledge and gracious presentation skills.

Breaux is manager of the boutique wine shop, Little’s Wine & Spirits in Denver, Colorado where she is also head educator for the Napa Valley Wine Academy’s Denver location, instructing all courses from beginner to advanced. She is known for obtaining high pass rates from her students, including for the rigorous WSET Level 3 advanced course.


Breaux comments, “I take my students’ education as seriously as my own. Progressing through the Master of Wine qualification has given me a broader, deeper understanding of the global wine industry and a greater capacity to help my students succeed in their educational goals.”

Congratulations to these Academy instructors!

For more information about the Napa Valley Wine Academy and its numerous courses and experiences, visit napavalleywineacademy.com

For more information on the prestigious Master of Wine program, visit https://www.mastersofwine.org.



Cancellations of confirmed in-person course enrollments and workshops are accepted up to 60 days before the start of the course. An administration fee of $50 plus the full cost of the study materials and exam fees will be deducted, and the remainder of the course fee refunded to the payee. Separate WSET exam cancellation/transfer rules apply.
Transfers of a confirmed enrollment to another course are accepted 60 days before the course start date with an administration fee of $50.

Cancellations less than 60 days before the in-person course start date or course no shows forfeit any refund/transfer options unless students can provide medical documentation. If medical documentation is provided, students can be transferred to a later course. No refunds will be applied.

Course Transfers cannot be carried forward to the next academic year (which commenced on January 1).

Students are highly encouraged to purchase separate travel insurance.

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