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Vanessa Conlin Passes Theory and Practical Portion of Her Master of Wine Exam

Posted on September 07, 2018

NAPA, CA. --Napa Valley locals Vanessa Conlin, Guz Zhu and Curtis Mann, and Denver resident, Natalie Breaux, heard news this past week that very few wine professionals around the world hear: they had each reached the major milestone of passing both the theory and practical (tasting) portions of their Master of Wine exams through the Institute of Masters of Wine.

Only 380 people in the world hold the title Master of Wine (MW) as of Fall 2018. Those seeking the title must pass a rigorous 4-day exam that includes a blind tasting of 36 wines and 13 closed-book essays.

Conlin, Breaux, Zhu and Mann all instruct WSET and other certification courses at the Napa Valley Wine Academy, while also working in various segments of the industry.

“This milestone is more than well-deserved for each of these instructors. We are extremely proud to be working with Vanessa, Natalie, Gus and Curtis, and thrilled to have these experts share their knowledge with our students at the Academy,” states Catherine Bugué, Director of Education at the Napa Valley Wine Academy.

The Master of Wine titles will be officially bestowed onto Conlin, Breaux, Zhu and Mann by the Institute of Masters of Wine following their submission and acceptance by the Institute of a final research paper.

Conlin is Head of Wine at Wine Access, an online resource based in Napa Valley and serving consumers all across the United States. She instructs various evening and weekend WSET courses and hosts successful corporate and private client events with for her powerful combination of in-depth wine knowledge and gracious presentation skills.

Breaux is manager of the boutique wine shop, Little’s Wine & Spirits in Denver, Colorado where she is also head educator for the Napa Valley Wine Academy’s Denver location, instructing all courses from beginner to advanced. She is known for obtaining high pass rates from her students, including for the rigorous WSET Level 3 advanced course.

Breaux comments, "I take my students' education as seriously as my own. Progressing through the Master of Wine qualification has given me a broader, deeper understanding of the global wine industry and a greater capacity to help my students succeed in their educational goals."

Zhu is Chief Educator at the Napa Valley Wine Academy, sharing his immense knowledge and engaging instruction with all levels of students, including the expert-level WSET Diploma classes. Zhu was born and raised in mainland China. Before coming to the U.S. he had 5 years of wine education experience with Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting based in Beijing. Zhu also holds a Masters in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis.

Zhu states, “The Master of Wine study journey taught me how to respect and appreciate the world of wine. Each wine, no matter where it came from or what the price is, has its own unique position and story. As a Chinese native, I look forward to building more connections between the Chinese wine industry and the rest of the world through wine education."

Breaux, Conlin and Zhu join an esteemed roster of Masters of Wine who all share or have shared their expertise instructing at the Napa Valley Wine Academy: Mary Margaret McCamic MW; Matt Deller MW; Peter Marks MW, Tim Hanni MW, Nova Cadamatre MW, Christy Canterbury MW, and Bree Boskov MW.

Mann is Director of Wine & Beverage for the Raley’s supermarket chain, where he has elevated offerings to include wine categories that thrill every type of wine lover, including those seeking a wide variety of brands and appellations for various exam preparations.

“It was a long journey (that is not over yet)”, states Mann, “but I learned a lot about how to effectively analyze wines and ask the right questions to winemakers. It has helped me grow tremendously as a buyer and an instructor.”

“One of our core philosophies in founding the Napa Valley Wine Academy was to provide our students with excellent instruction from wine professionals and experts,” explains Napa Valley Wine Academy CEO Christian Oggenfuss, “and we are both honored and humbled to have these highly skilled and knowledgeable instructors teaching at the Academy.”

For more information about the Napa Valley Wine Academy and its numerous courses and experiences, visit napavalleywineacademy.

For more information on the prestigious Master of Wine program, visit

Region: Napa & Sonoma
Job Function: Winemaking

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