The Capital Wine School was founded in 2008 by Master in Wine Jay Youmans. Jay seeks to offer the highest quality wine education and tasting instruction available in the Washington, DC area. Their classes and events are fun and unpretentious but offer the depth of knowledge and insight sought by those wanting to learn more about wine. All their courses place particular emphasis on tasting skills and the essential knowledge required for understanding wine.
The school offers a range of courses ranging from beginner to expert. They also provide individual sessions focused on a single topic, such as Introduction to Wine Basics or Brunello di Montalcino. The single-topic classes appeal to those whose schedules prevent them from taking a semester course. Capital Wine School (CWS) is primarily an affiliate school for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the Wine Scholar Guild.
The school has expanded to Leesburg, VA, in partnership with Lost Creek Winery and played host to the V.A. Governor’s Cup wine competition.
Jay Youmans has been tasting wine professionally for nearly 30 years. Along with the CWS, he owns Rock Creek Wine Merchants, a sales and marketing consultancy he founded in 2016. He also is employed by Bogle Vineyards as their Mid-Atlantic representative.
Jay has served as a wine judge for numerous wine competitions and has contributed to several books and magazines on wine. Over the years, he has conducted hundreds of public, private, and corporate wine-tasting events. Jay is an Advanced Level Sommelier (AS), a Certified Wine Educator (CWE), a French Wine Scholar (FWS), an Italian Wine Professional (IWP), a Bordeaux Wine Educator, a Burgundy Wine Educator, a Certified Specialist of Sherry, and Washington, DC’s first Master of Wine (MW).
The Governor’s Cup began in 1982 to identify the top wineries in Virginia. It was relatively informal, with judges tasting wine during a wine festival. In time, the program earned support from Virginia Wineries Association in partnership with the Virginia Vineyards Association and the Virginia Wine Board. By the early nineties, the program was thoroughly modernized. Since then, the Governor’s Cup has earned a reputation as the top winery competition in the U.S. Capital Wine School’s Jay Youmans has been running the Governor’s Cup since 2012.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation, registration, and licensing of any non-public school (including wine schools) is not required. However, approval from the District of Columbia Board of Education is required. Unfortunately, capital Wine School is not in its database of approved schools. This is not atypical, but it means they rely on the legitimacy of their vendors, Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Wine Scholar Guild.
In February 2020, the school announced a business partnership with Lost Creek Winery, which Jay had recently awarded a Governor’s Cup Gold Medal. The joint venture would hold wine classes and WSET courses at the winery’s tasting room (Echelon Wine Bar) in Leesburg. However, the pandemic shelved those plans.
Black Lives Matter & Sommelier Classes DC
In the Summer of 2020, the CWS announced a grant program for students of color. The school would cover the enrollment fees of six students of color for the WSET wine program. The school earned praise and national recognition for the move. They gained plenty of media attention, including the Washington Post. However, years later, there have been no announcements of any scholarships given. They also rank poorly in our inclusivity & diversity polling.
I found their classes to be very good. For folks who like WSET, I think this is a very good school. Personally, I found that NWS was a better fit for me.
Snobbery and incompitence is a lethal combination. That combined with the bad location and high prices means I will never be back.