Prior to taking courses in San Diego State University’s Business of Wine Professional Certificate program, wine enthusiast Sonia Hyncik described her level of expertise as the ability to identify which wines she liked.
“That was about it,” said Hyncik. “Everything else outside of that realm didn’t matter because I didn’t like it, so likely it wasn’t worth exploring. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Now I relish discovering new wines and varietals from around the world.”
Hyncik, along with husband Didier Beauvarlet, also went on the program’s first ever educational wine cruise — a seven-night adventure along the California and Baja Coast aboard Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess. With program instructor and sommelier Lisa Redwine as their guide, the group of 15 maiden voyagers enjoyed private wine pairings, seminars, and a group wine-pairing dinner on board; and private winery tours in Napa, Santa Barbara, and Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe.
Hyncik answered a few questions about the cruise as well as the program, which she described as a “life-changing.”
What was your objective in taking SDSU’s Business of Wine program?
My goal was to enhance my knowledge of wine in general and learn how to appreciate it. Now I would like to pursue further wine studies to eventually work in the industry.
How did you find out about the program?
I stumbled upon the program while searching for wine classes in San Diego in the summer of 2015. I signed up for Exploring Wine, not sure what to expect. It was a fun and eye-opening experience that gave me enough background to want to pursue a certificate.
What do you think are the program’s biggest strengths?
First of all I appreciate the evening courses, which fit beautifully into my schedule. But also the program is fun, the instructors are passionate about what they teach, and it’s wonderful to see new courses being added as the program continues to grow and evolve. I also believe the program is a great networking vehicle for wine enthusiasts and industry professionals alike.
Can you share some pearls of wisdom you learned about wine or the wine making process?
From our late friend and instructor John Alonge: “Every bottle is an adventure.”
How do you plan on applying the knowledge from this certificate to your career?
Knowledge gained from this program allowed me to pass the WSET Level 2 exam. I’m enrolled in the Introductory Sommelier, WSET Level 3 and the French Wine Scholar courses, all of which I will take in early 2017.
Did you make any networking connections?
Yes, I’ve met fellow students on similar journeys and professionals looking to enrich their wine knowledge.
Would you recommend the SDSU’s Business of Wine program to others?
I have been doing so ever since enrolling. It’s a terrific program. It’s been life-changing for me because I discovered a new passion, a possible new career, made new friends in and out of the wine business, and learned to appreciate wine as more than just a cocktail. Wine is ancient, sacred, symbolic, but also modern, trendy, international, and an exploding industry in San Diego!
What was your overall impression of the 7-Night Educational Wine Cruise along the California and Baja Coast?
We loved this trip and are so glad to have participated. The cruise on its own would not have been as fun without our group, our sommelier, and the wine seminars and tours. Our group was really delightful — everyone loved wine!
Had you and your husband every done anything like that before?
This was not our first cruise but it was our first wine cruise — a completely different experience.
Do you have any highlights to share about the onboard private wine pairings, seminars, and group wine-pairing dinner?
We enjoyed a beautiful group dinner onboard and the meal was beautifully paired with wines by Lisa Redwine. In Santa Barbara, we enjoyed a private dining experience at El Encanto where Chef Denizot prepared a lovely wine pairing menu for our group: halibut ceviche with Sauvignon Blanc, Australian rack of lamb with Syrah, honey semifreddo with Prosecco …. Perhaps the best experience on the trip! Our wonderful cruise organizer, Adam Martindale, planned this one-of-a-kind shore visit for us.
Any highlights from the private winery tours in Napa, Santa Barbara, and Valle de Guadalupe?
On the Napa excursion, we had a private tour of Whitehall Lane Winery — what a superb way to begin the day, sipping glorious Cabernet Sauvignon, overlooking the golden vineyard in the sunlight! In Santa Barbara, we visited several urban wineries and tried some unique wines. Of particular interest was a sparkling Riesling at DV8 Cellars! In the Valle de Guadalupe, we tried wines at Tres Valles, Clos de Tres Cantos and Lechuza, finishing off with a delightful lunch at Javier Plascencia’s Finco Altozano. What memories!
How knowledgeable and fun was your guide Lisa Redwine?
Having Lisa Redwine — our own sommelier — traveling with us was such a luxury! We benefited from her on-the-go wine expertise and were able to ask many questions during the trip and seminars. Lisa hosted two private seminars on the trip, where we learned a great deal about emerging wine regions and what ideal conditions must exist to grow and produce wines along the West Coast.
Overall, how was the mix of education and pleasure?
It was a perfect balance of learning, dining, relaxing, and socializing.
Would you recommend next year’s cruise to others?
Absolutely, this is not to be missed.
Now in its 13th year, the Business of Wine continues to be one of SDSU’s most popular professional certificate programs. Hundreds of students — from enthusiasts and foodies, to servers and food and beverage directors — have dramatically expanded their knowledge base with a professional-level education.