Pouring out a passion for learning: South San Francisco school educates community about wine
Author & Photo by Austin Walsh
The Daily Journal
For all those who want to know more about the wine poured in their glass, the ideal institution just opened in South San Francisco to quench that thirst for knowledge.
The San Francisco Wine School offers education programs from a central location in downtown South San Francisco, 415 Grand Ave., to novices and connoisseurs alike who want to drink in a fuller understanding of wine.
And though the students can taste as they learn, the school is not a space for excessive imbibing.
“This is not a place to come and get your drink on,” said Kristin Campbell, chief operating officer of the San Francisco Wine School.
The school held its grand opening last month, after years of a nomadic existence traveling throughout the Bay Area hosting classes in restaurants, hotels, wineries and other guest venues.
The school is the brainchild of master sommelier David Glancy, who started it as a means of spreading his wine wisdom with professionals in the restaurant and service industry.
In its infancy, the closest space to a headquarters the school knew was being run from the Embassy Suites hotel in South San Francisco, before outgrowing the available capacity.
Now open in its new space, the school is able to offer a variety of courses designed to inform and educate wine drinkers of all sorts — from novices looking to develop their palate to experts interested in further expanding their already broad base of knowledge.
Glancy, who started in the restaurant and hotel industry before transitioning to specialize in wine sales and education, said his goal is to offer the courses and programs in an interesting as well as accessible fashion.
“We make it fun,” said Glancy.
He sometimes refers to his workshops and programs as “edu-tainment,” which exists at the intersection of education and entertainment.
Each class or program offers an opportunity for students to taste as they learn lessons about varietals and blends from the state’s rich selection of wines, as well as others from across the globe.
The sessions range from weekly online classes to intensive wine program management courses ending with an exam and can offer students an opportunity for various degrees of certification.
The classes can require students to dedicate between 15 hours and upwards of 40 hours to work toward their preferred level of training, as well as workshops only demanding between two to four hours of specialized education on specific realms of the wine world.
The school does not solely serve aspiring wine connoisseurs though, as it also offers education on beers, spirits, sakes and other drinks.
The new space in South San Francisco also works as a place to host private and corporate events, as well as food and wine pairings, restaurant staff trainings and even film nights presented with tastings.
Campbell said the school has thrived in the Bay Area, as residents are constantly looking to soak up more information about their passions.
The result of taking the classes is not just a more informed drinker, but someone who can share their knowledge as well, she said.
“We teach people how to be a better consumer,” she said.
Glancy said the school has done more than allow students to uncork their passion for learning, but also exposed them to wines from regions of the globe they had not previously tried, which inspired some to travel to those countries on a quest to taste more.
For the wine drinkers feeling prepared to take the next step from simply consuming to understanding, Glancy suggested the path of “maniacal studying, traveling, asking about what you are having and taste, taste, taste.”
He suggested drinkers look for patterns that run as similar notes through different blends, then identify what may be confusing or disorienting and attempt to understand the character of the wine better.
For him, Glancy said teaching the classes has been a great educator, as he is constantly impressed by the breadth of knowledge his students will step into his classroom with and the details they will challenge him on.
Glancy said his expertise grew not from an innate ability to taste wine differently than others, but rather a desire to learn as much as possible, which is a trait he hopes to pass along to his students.
Campbell said with Glancy’s talent and passion for instruction, combined with a diverse staff of experts working under him, the wine school intends to blend wine culture into South San Francisco and beyond, rather than keep the knowledge bottled up.
“We want to be a trusted resource in the wine industry where the community can come and enjoy all the things wine touches,” she said.
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