Mary Beth Vierra

Certifications: Certified Wine Educator, Italian Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Ambassador, California Wine Appellation Specialist,
Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Specialist of Spirits, MA in Rhetoric.

Mary Beth is a Certified Wine Educator, consultant and founder of Crush Course, offering wine training for sales teams and wine discovery experiences to wineries, corporate groups and enthusiasts. She lives in view of the vines in Healdsburg, at the confluence of Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley AVAs.

Mary Beth’s five years in Italy in a “previous life” deepened a natural love of wine and food. Years later back in California, she began a dream 11-year career managing wine and spirits education for E & J Gallo Winery, developing and delivering product training for sales staff and trade customers, and leading deep-dive educational tour/events through California, Washington and Italy. She brings tools from previous careers in corporate training, university instruction and language teaching to her current passion for wine

Mary Beth is fluent in Italian and is often a virtual host for Italian importers, presenting in both Italian and English. She is a recent contributing writer to the Slow Wine Guide USA, adjunct faculty for the wine program at Santa Rosa Junior College, and a wine writer
and wine judge.

Get To Know Mary Beth

What is your favorite wine region to visit?

Today I’ll say the Alto-Adige, Italy. The surroundings at the base
of the Dolomites are stunning, and the wines are fresh, bright and delicious, made even more so sipped with those views. The food there is phenomenal—Austria
meets Italy—pairing wonderfully with their whites. They have a wine (and beer and cider) road. Just follow it around the turns and the apple trees. I can’t get enough though of the wine region that surrounds me—Sonoma County. There’s still more to discover and the terrain and terroir is so diverse.


What is your favorite class to teach?

I love teaching many classes. I hold a special love for the Italian Wine Scholar programs (well, anything Italian, wine and food!). I have fun teaching people about the dynamics of food & wine pairing and classes that uncover regional and wine style differences.


What's your most memorable wine experience?

A few years before visiting Haro in Rioja, I had read about the rare 1964 López De Heredia, Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco. I mentioned it to my boss when we were visiting the winery and he bought it for our group dinner. The series of flavors that kept evolving in the glass was such an incredible discovery that I had several “moments” through the evening, even tearing up with the emotion. Yea, it was memorable.


Why did you decide to become an instructor?

Teaching is a way to deep-dive into subjects that interest me. Being a perennial student, it gives me a reason to go deeper, to understand
enough to see how the dots are connected, to then be able to explain it more simply. Every time I teach the same topic, I learn or understand more deeply, because
I’m discovering new ways of explaining to new audiences.


What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?

The first time I had a Chateau d'Yquem at a dinner I was hosting:  1995 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes paired with pan-seared foie gras and sauteed peaches and chestnut honey drizzle on butter-toasted brioche. It was a revelation. The balance of acidity and fruit-rich complexity in the wine with the savory-fruit-fat of the dish was divine.


What's the biggest challenge in your job?

Cutting out lots of cool and interesting information and stories to fit the essentials into a short class!  Similarly, trying to decide which “only 3” for example, regions to cover or wines to sample. I want to share all the good stuff!


What other passions beside wine do you have?

Dancing. I’ve gone through phases of devotion to Argentinian tango,
west-coast swing, salsa and wild about country 2-step and swing. Just moving to music with good percussion. Also—discovering delicious dishes, travel, and swimming under water.


Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.

I finally made it to Lake County recently, touring the High Valley
AVA with the Shannon Family, and tasting their two highest level (and certified organic) brands—Clay Shannon and Ovis. They blew me away with their complexity, depth, and acidity yet fruit richness. The Sauvignon Blanc of both brands were phenomenal. The Ovis Nero d’Avola (Sicilian grape) and Petit Verdot and Clay Shannon Red Blend knocked my socks off. All are from high hills overlooking the

Also, I’ve been fascinated lately about a vine-growing method: the
turn to regenerative agriculture and the preservation of soil microbiomes for healthy soils, letting the vines live in environments most naturally adapted to their native environment, allowing “weeds” to grow, and low-touch viticulture. Then witnessing the resulting wines. They have the most character, personality and ‘wow’ structure and flavors – all because the vines are healthy and happy.


What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or region in the

There are many. One I always think of are the wines of the Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Lambruscos (both
the delicate and robust) are incredible food wines, as are the white Pignoletto. I’ve tasted phenomenal Malvasia di Candia Aromatica wines from the
Colli Piacentini, and the structured Albana Romagnola. This region knows its food, often rich and gloriously cheesy, creamy, meaty and fatty (descriptors
that could be used for favorite American cuisine) and these wines are a perfect accompaniment, with acidity and bubbles to cut and wash it all down.

Mary Beth's Favorite Blogs