CIA Napa Valley Offers Food, Wine Lessons

A wine class at the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California
A wine class at the Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California

By Kaitlyn Silva

California’s Napa Valley is famous around the world for its fine wines, and the area is also known as a center for the culinary arts.

Visitors to the valley can learn all about the cultivation and preparation of fine food and wine at a local campus of the nation’s most prestigious culinary institute.

The Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus in St. Helena, California, is shifting the role of the wine country spectator into the role of the creator and entrepreneur of fine foods and wines through a series of short classes offered to non-enrolled guests.

Each class is taught in state-of-the-art facilities created especially for food preparation and wine tasting, among other things.

Saturdays at the CIA

For weekend passers-by, the CIA Greystone offers two-hour cooking or wine classes with a distinct edge every Saturday. Each 12-person class features a unique theme, with cooking options from Flavors of the New Spanish Table to Street Foods of the Middle East in cooking classes and eight different classes based solely upon specific types of wine.

The classes give food and wine lovers the opportunity to explore and understand their culinary options in a way that they never could in the finest of restaurants. Since multiple classes are offered in both the mornings and evenings, it’s possible for a traveler to complete a course in food and a course in wine before dinner.

The CIA's Greystone campus
The CIA’s Greystone campus

Sophisticate Your Palate

If a traveler is more interested in an in-depth look into fine foods, they have the option of taking part in the Sophisticated Palate program.

Spanning from one to two days depending on the course subject, the classes consist of lectures, hands-on cooking, and field trips to scenic private estates such as olive groves, vineyards, and wineries.

“For instance, I went on a tour in which the class went to an olive grove on a woman’s private estate and the professor lectured about why a good olive oil costs so much and why you’re not supposed to sauté your vegetables with it,” said Tyffani Peters of CIA Media Relations.

These courses can get pricey, but you’ll be fully equipped with a professional white chef’s coat and a complete set of knives that you can keep to use at home.

Sampling the wine, checking for the subtle differences.
Sampling the wine, checking for the subtle differences.

Wine, Wine and More Wine

Chances are travelers aren’t coming to America’s wine country just for a sample of the food. With this in mind, the CIA’s west coast base created the Wine Immersion program.

The two- to five-day courses are meant for adults seeking to further their knowledge and perhaps their career through studying the dynamics of wine from its history to the business behind the drink.

Ultimately, the courses can be helpful preparation for individuals looking to take the Certified Wine Professional exam. There are two separate wine immersion programs from which individuals can pick and choose classes.

Career Discovery

Career changes are never easy. So what would you do if you were offered a trial run of the career of your dreams?

Greystone’s Career Discovery program is designed specifically for people looking into a longer stay at the Culinary Institute of America to develop culinary career skills. Besides cooking delectable foods, students will be schooled in the basics of the hospitality industry and receive helpful tips from the professionals.

Programs focused on fine foods are more expensive than those based in the study of wine and food service, but all of the eight-hour, four- to five-day courses promise a quality look into a possible career.

Spectator Sport

For visitors who would rather enjoy culinary delights than create them, the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant offers prefixed menus to guests, featuring a series of appetizers, known as “temptations,” for the whole table to share and a main meal, all of which vary from day to day. Experienced students as well as master chefs create the food.

The Wine Spectator is also the exclusive home of a sparkling wine called Querencia Brut Rose, making the restaurant a necessary stop for true wine enthusiasts.

A cooking class at the CIA
A cooking class at the CIA

If you’re curious about what goes on behind the scenes at such restaurants, the CIA offers two or three cooking demonstrations every Monday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The $15 tickets for such events can be reserved online, by phone, or at The Spice Island Marketplace ticket box on the day of the event.

There are also occasional demonstrations from special guest chefs, but these tend to be more expensive than the consistent, school-run presentations.

You can find out more about the Culinary Institute of America Greystone campus at

Kaitlyn Silva



Kaitlyn Silva is a freelance writer living in Boson, Mass.

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