Jonathan Houston, a student of Napa Valley Wine Academy, was one of three global recipients of the Laithwaite’s Prizes
By Napa Valley Wine Academy
Each year, three students from the UK, USA, and Australia who achieve outstanding results in their WSET Level 2 exam become eligible to receive funds courtesy of The Laithwaite’s Prizes to study a wine or spirit-producing region of their choice.
We are proud to introduce Jonathan Houston, a student of Napa Valley Wine Academy, who was selected as a nominee for the prize and asked to submit an essay. Houston was chosen as one of three final award winners.
With sincere congratulations to Jonathan for this great honor and achievement, we ask him a few questions below, and hope his journey into wine inspires you to aim high—because any student heading into WSET Level 2 reading this could be the next Laithwaite’s award winner!
Q: Congratulations, Jonathan! Tell us about yourself and why you’re taking WSET wine courses.
Jonathan Houston: Thank you! I am a drill sergeant in the United States Army and an Arabic linguist. I took the Level 2 course as my first step into the wine industry with grand aspirations to exit the Army, while working on my diploma, go to school for viticulture and enology, then work as a winemaker. My end goal is to own my own winery and specialize in Riesling and Pinot Noir.
Q: What excites you most in learning about wine?
JH: It is definitely geeking out on the soil. I love to dive into the effects a place has on wine. I believe great wine is made in the vineyard. I still have an exceptional amount to learn but the effect of soil and bedrock on wine is incredibly exciting to me.
Q: As you’re advancing in your studies, what is most surprising to you about wine in general? What aspects are eye-opening?
JH: I like to expand my knowledge of the world of wine with books and podcasts. The most eye-opening aspect of the industry is listening to winemakers detail their craft. Many have decades of experience and have developed specific ideas of what their wines should be. The thing I find most interesting is the varying ideas. Some dumbed-down examples are whole-cluster vs. crush and destem, more vs. less racking, new oak vs. neutral wood, etc. The most exciting part is the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many winemakers make exceptional wines with very different ideas of what their wines should be.
Q: How did you choose to study with Napa Valley Wine Academy?
JH: I found Napa Valley Wine Academy when I was researching the WSET. My experience with the school has been exceptional, the instruction top notch with a teacher whose vast knowledge was easily transferred to the students.
Q: Anything words of wisdom for our community about wine education?
JH: I would encourage people to find what they love and pursue it. Many would berate me for encouraging delusion and failure; however, you only have one life to live. Furthermore, if you are serious and passionate, your chances of success (measured in whichever way you choose) are significantly higher. I am about to step out into an unknown world and leave behind a line of work I know and do well. I am scared but I am exponentially more excited and hopeful.
Q: What was the bottle of wine that changed your life and got you hooked?
JH: My wife has an uncle in the wine business. I was a casual wine enthusiast but had not made the leap to oenophile. Well, uncle Dave gifted me a bottle of 1986 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon for my 30th birthday (1986 is my birth year). The aroma, mouthfeel, and taste of a fully mature, robust, Napa Cabernet blew my socks off. The now-empty bottle still adorns my entertainment center.