Episode 136: Wine, Education & Writing With Wine Scholar Guild’s Lisa Airey, CWE, FWS

Episode 136: Wine, Education, & Writing With Wine Scholar Guild’s Lisa Airey, CWE, FWS

The Wine Scholar Guild’s Education Director, Lisa Airey, CWE, FWS, joins us for an afternoon of cocktails, tea, wine and conversation. We’re talking about credentials, certifications, wine courses, careers, immersion trips and education tips – a few of our favorite things that can elevate the enjoyment of wine. Lisa also lets us in on her secrets to her success as a novelist.


In Our Glasses

Lisa:  Imperial Gyokuru tea. One cup of this green tea is the equivalent to a vitamin B12 shot. It’s nice to have something healthy after a stressful week. This tea has more high notes, and is more delicate that standard green tea, and ¼ teaspoon that can be brewed about five times. Be careful not to use boiling water on the leaves; let the water rest for a minute. The aromatics are released when the water isn’t boiling. Brew for about 45 seconds.



Steph: Allegheny Cocktail (from Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons)

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • ¼ oz blackberry brandy
  • ¼ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a chilled martini/cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.



Bodega Garzon, Tannat, 2014, from the Maldonado wine region of Uruguay.

Tannat is often called the “black grape” due to its deep color, high levels of anthocyanins (purple color) and phenolic compounds (like tannins).  This is a full-bodied wine loaded with black fruit, but was not as astringent as one would think.

Let’s just say there is a “Tannat Grape Gab” in this podcast’s future. You (and forvo.com) have been warned.


Interview with Lisa Airey, CWE, FWS, Education Director, Wine Scholar Guild

Lisa Airey, CWE, FWS, Education Director, Wine Scholar Guild

Lisa has 13 years of experience working in the wholesale industry selling wine and training both distributor salespeople and restaurant staff. For the past 11 years, she has developed and/or expanded international study and certification programs for wine trade first with the Society of Wine Educators and now currently with the Wine Scholar Guild. She was knighted by the French government in 2016 (Ordre Mérite Agricole) for her contribution to French agriculture (namely, the French Wine Scholar program).

Lisa created an Australian Wine Academy for Pernod-Ricard-USA, provided the content for Banfi Vintners’ online study modules on up-selling and food and wine pairing and wrote a weekly wine column for Patuxent Publishing and its syndicate of newspapers from 2005-2012. She earned her Certified Wine Educator credential in 1995 and, as high scorer, received the Banfi Award that year. She became an Accredited International Bordeaux Tutor through the CIVB in 2006 and a Certified Burgundy Instructor through the BIVB in 2008.

She is a Maryland Master Gardener and author of two novels (published by Aakenbacken & Kent, NY).

Lisa’s Story

Lisa started her wine career in the 1990s with the wholesale industry in Maryland and worked in sales and education. She loves every aspect of the wine industry. She believes “it’s a career in which you can grow old … and a career you transition to after you retire.”

When she first got into the industry, there were essentially no credentials in the U.S., outside the Society of Wine Educators, and the WSET was just getting its toe-hold. Her CWE (Certified Wine Educator) post-nominal helped her advance her career (and paycheck), and she’s a strong believer in certifications to bolster what people new to the world of wine lack in experience.

Now there are so many choices with respect to credentials! Lisa’s advice on navigating the confusing credential conundrum is to think about what you want to do in the industry. For example, service and hotel or hospitality careers can benefit exceedingly from sommelier training. Educators should consider the CWE route. One can now specialize in French or Italian wines. The bottom line: each educational program has its own strengths.

We also believe that many of these programs complement each other with respect to depth and breadth of educational aspects. Lisa added, “The more well-rounded you are in wine, the better and stronger you are. It allows for some job-hopping, too.”

The Wine Scholar Guild

The Wine Scholar Guild actually emerged in 2005 as the French Wine Society in Washington DC, an organization to promote French Wine and culture through education. It was events-based, originally, and then transitioned into providing study, education and certification programs. As the Italian Wine Scholar (and soon, the Spanish Wine Scholar) programs were developed, the organization re-branded as the Wine Scholar Guild.

They tapped into a hunger for trade and consumers who were serious about learning the intricacies of French wine culture. Now the Wine Scholar Guild offers Master-Level courses on various French wine regions, which are integral to the immersion trips. It should be pointed out that the Master- Level Certificates are not post-nominal conferring certifications, they are certificates. However, they are rigorous study programs nonetheless, and taught by Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and other industry experts to sharpen regional specialization knowledge.

A Novel Idea

We didn’t let her off the hook from talking about her novels. Lisa started writing stories for her daughter who was studying in England while completing her master’s degree in Archaeology … and she was homesick. The first book Lisa wrote for her was a paranormal romance, based on her daughter’s interests. She cautions that it does have to do with werewolves, and she has gained a serious following!

We “Amazon stalked” her and the reviews and raves over her character development and depth knocked our socks off. When asked how she had time, in addition to all her other duties, to write novels, she said, “I mostly do them when I’m not out in the garden. From about this period, late fall, to very early spring is when I do the writing – when the days are short and the nights are long.”

Another little secret Lisa let us in on: she hasn’t watched TV in 12 years, and doesn’t even own one.  “When you take TV out of your life, you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll have on your hands.”

Traveling with the Masters

The wine study immersion trips were developed several years ago to provide on-the-ground training for (generally) people who are enrolled in the Master-Level programs. They have first-rate tour guides, such as Essi Avellan, MW, who takes people to Champagne; Jane Hunt, MW, takes people to Tuscany; and Andrew Jefford, who will be taking people to Burgundy next June. When you have award-winning wine writers and industry experts heading these groups (which are limited to 18), the most amazing doors open up and the experiences are unparalleled.

When you sign up for a trip, you’re automatically enrolled in the Master-Level program for that region. These trips are not, she emphasizes, for beginners. The idea is to have everyone on the trip equipped with a rock hard wine knowledge foundation that is commensurate with the other trade folks and enthusiasts on a trip. All of these trips sell out, but many of them sell out quickly!

The Wine World is Small

While the WSG doesn’t have beginner programs, there are certainly benefits to membership. Some perks include webinars with wine industry experts, as well as a library of the recordings on all aspects of the wine industry, such as aromas and wine faults. Discounts on all educational offerings, access to member forums, and pronunciation exercises are also available for members. We had to giggle when Lisa stressed the importance of not referring to Château Lynch-Bages as “Château Lunch Bag” if you are heading to France for a visit.

Speaking of which: For one week after this show (through 22 November) listeners can go to Wine Scholar Guild’s website and get 15% off manuals, study programs, and membership by using the code W25Wine.

The French Wine Scholar program, while not a beginner program, does require a baseline of fundamental wine knowledge (like the Certified Specialist of Wine) for success. However, whether choosing to study online or locally through a program provider, Lisa stresses this is not an exclusionary or elitist program. Additionally, there are many learning tools and support systems in place when you’re ready to start your journey to pair with your desired learning style.

We could practically hear Lisa smiling as she added, quite emphatically, “The wine world is small, and we’re a good group of people who really enjoy each other, and learning, and wine, and the culture that comes with it. It’s a great group and we want more people in it!”

And for more smiles, you’ll want to listen to her embarrassing wine story at about 39 minutes in. Hint: sparkling wine explosions and more giggles included.

Contact Lisa:

You can contact Lisa directly at lairey@winescholarguild.org.

There are also facebook and twitter pages for the Wine Scholar Guild if you’d like to connect there.



Our next book is a recommendation from Patron and friend Cathey Love in Tennessee. It is the autobiography A Glass Full of Miracles by Mike Grgich.

We love this suggestion Cathey posted on our Facebook community page because of two reasons: Mike’s daughter, Violet Grgich, was a guest on this podcast a year ago in Episode 79; and 2017 marks Grgich Hill’s 40th anniversary.

Also, with regard to the devastating California wildfires, Grgich Hills is safe and open for business.


  • Please use the #W25BookClub on social media!
  • You can easily order the book right here.
  • The Book Review Episode will air on December 21st

A Toast to Marcie

Normally we don’t get very serious on the show.

However, in lieu of our usual “Shoutout” segment of the show, we would like to thank our listeners for indulging us in a special toast.

Val doesn’t often wax emotional about her personal life on the show or social media, but the same week her fiancé lost his father, her lifelong friend, Michelle, lost her sister Marcie to cancer. Incidentally, Val lost her father to cancer earlier this year.

So when Michelle sent Val a photo of Marcie wearing a T-shirt that said, “Bucket List Complete! Suck it Cancer! I win!” to the very last event on her bucket list, a Depeche Mode concert, Val promised her friend of 46 years a special shoutout.

We wanted to raise our glasses to Marcie, a special, smart, spunky woman; we wanted to toast to friendship, those special people in your life – however long you are lucky enough to have them – and to not waiting for “someday” to live your life on your terms.

On this show we often say, “Life is short. Drink the good bottles.” And dammit, we mean it. Cheers ~


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