With a retail value of 23.1 billion dollars and 215 million cases of domestic wine shipped across the country in 2013*, the American wine industry–its key regions, major wine brands and styles, viticulture and enology practices, laws, history and current status in the world of wine–is a must-know wine category for every retailer, distributor, exporter, wine educator, wine student and enthusiast.

Seeing the need for a program dedicated to American Wine, The Napa Valley Wine Academy launched The American Wine Study program this past May. The rigorous four-day American Wine Expert™ course takes participants through the epic history of trials, tribulations and breakthroughs of the American wine industry dating back to the 1600s and includes a close look at the state of the industry today including legalities and best marketing practices. Common winemaking and viticulture practices (cool and warm climate) are covered in addition to the major regions, brands and wines around the country. Dozens of wines will be tasted and discussed, providing participants with a good understanding of breadth of wines made around the nation.

Participants passing the exam on the final day of the course will be awarded the American Wine Studies™ (AWS) certificate and can apply the “AWS” postnominal to their professional credentials.

Time To Focus on American Wine

“It’s high time that someone focus on American wines from a certification standpoint,” says Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S, Founder and Chief Education Officer. “America’s wine regions are often a foot note in other global wine certification courses. As such we designed a certification course whose aim it is to cover the multifaceted American wine region landscape. We also thought it important to cover the rich history of wine in American because that history so profoundly influences the modern American wine industry. From enthusiasts to anyone working in the American wine industry–retail, restaurants, distributors, importers, really any trade job at all–this course will cement your existing knowledge and broaden your horizons giving you a command over the history and vast difference in viticulture and production across all 50 states.”

Building the Course

“It took us over 12 months to build the course,” says Catherine Bugue, D.W.S, Lead Instructor and Partner. “Much of this time was spent researching and designing the course in such a way as to make it relevant for our students. We used numerous sources from the main study guide, “American Wine” by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy, to Paul Lukacs’ “The Great Wines of America,” the Sotheby “Book of California Wine” and James Laube’s “California Wine” (among many others) and a large number of regional websites such PasoWine.com, SBcountywines.com, SantaMariaWines.com, SantaYnezWineCountry.com, SierraFoothillsWines.com, AmadorWine.com, EldoradoWines.org to newsletters like the one from New York Wine and Grape Foundation. We also used personal work, travel and tasting experiences, like notes from the last three TEXSOM conferences on Texas wines; volunteer experience in Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes AVAs, tours of Oregon and Washington wine country. And of course meeting with countless winemakers, winery owners, as well as with other wine experts.”

American Wine Study in the Future

“Our immediate plans include offering the course online so that it is accessible to anyone who would like to become an expert in American wine,” explains Bugue. “Our long term plans for this course is to take it on the road across the U.S. and Asia. We feel that the world is ready to learn more about American wine. Anyone who enjoys or sells American wine should seriously consider taking this course.”


“Michigan has a longer winegrowing history than many states: the French made wine along the Detroit River in the 1600s, and by the 1800s, the state had a booming wine industry,” explains Bugue. “It was a Texas horticulturalist who provided vinifera-grafted-American rootstocks to France in the 19th century, winning awards for helping the European wine industry with a solution to the phylloxera crisis. Fascinating history and stories in every state!”


“The Napa Valley Wine Academy’s American Wine Studies course offers a first-rate, comprehensive journey through the American wine industry. Led by passionate and knowledgeable instructors, students will walk away with a great understanding, and practical tasting experience, of our country’s wines.” – Linda Murphy

“Great course! Great instructors! This course is the only course that looks explicitly at American wines, and the wines tasted in class really solidified the topics covered in lecture. Really a great experience for anyone interested in what America has to offer in the wine world.” – Stephen S. from Tennessee, AWS Graduate

“The course was excellent! Whether someone is looking to get into Wine as a career or just learn about American wines, it was very thorough and a lot of fun!” – Donna M., AWS Graduate


Following the commencement of the Napa Valley course this coming year, classes will expand into other states across the country.



* Figures from The Wine Institute https://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/pressroom/04242014