Windows on the World Wine School

The Most Famous Wine Book in the World

Wine School Book
Purchase at:
Barnes and Noble
Sherry Lehmann

Other Books
Wine Journal

What Others Have to Say:

About Kevin Zraly

Kevin ZralyAuthor and Teacher
Windows on The World Complete Wine Course

  • Recipient of 2011 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Wine Director of Windows on the World from 1976 - 2001
  • Author of the Windows on the World Complete Wine Course book: Over 3 million copies sold, Ultimate Wine Companion, Kevin Zraly's American Wine Guide, Kevin Zraly's Wine Journal, A Glass Half Full: A Cellar Master's Journey Through Life and Wine
  • Founder and instructor of the Windows on the World Wine School, with over 500 students per year. Over 20,000 students have completed the course to date.
  • Culinary Institute of America's Board of Trustees member since 1990.
  • Winner of the James Beard Award for Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year in 1993.
  • 2009 recipient of Sante's Wine Professional of the Year Award.
  • Recipient of the European Wine Council Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Kevin has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, GQ Magazine, and Newsweek.
  • Kevin has appeared on the major television networks in the United States including The Early Show on CBS and Live! with Regis and Kelly on ABC.
  • Director of the Sherry-Lehmann/Kevin Zraly Master Classes and Wine Club.

What others have to say:

“Zraly is the most talented, effective and entertaining wine teacher I have met.”

—Michael Apstein of The Boston Globe

“Zraly is down to earth and tried to take the mystery out of wine buying.”

—Thane Peterson of Business Week Online

My Wine Education

In 1971 I taught my first wine course called Wine and Cheese 101. Starting at age 20 I visited all the vineyards of the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lake District of New York. In 1972 I hitchhiked across the country and visited all of the major wineries in California. As a junior in college I was able to convince the college administration that they should offer an accredited wine course. After much discussion they agreed! That class began in my junior year and I continued to teach both classes until graduation. The first accredited (2 credits) wine course in the State University of New York was entitled: Wine History, Types, and Production. After college I spent a year traveling to every major wine region in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Portugal. In April 1976, I was lucky enough to be hired by the restaurant guru Joe Baum (The Four Seasons, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, The Rainbow Room..) who said to me, “create the biggest and best wine list New York has ever seen.. and don’t worry about how much it costs!” Within two years Windows on the World had the largest wine list in the United States and sold more wine than any other restaurant in the world.

The restaurant atop 1 World Trade Center was a private club at lunch. In the Fall of 1976 I began a wine course for our club members. Members were also encouraged to bring guests and within a few years we had more guests than club members. This was the humble beginning of the Windows on the World Wine School. Since 1976 over 20,000 people have graduated. The Wine School has continued uninterrupted for 36 years through the bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993 to its destruction on September 11, 2001.

My Restaurant World

During my 40 years of studying wine, I have always been associated with the restaurant business. It's the best way to taste great wines at somebody else's expense! From 1970-1976 I was with a New York Times four star rated restaurant called the DePuy Canal House, 25 years with Windows on the World, and for four years with the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group. Since 2002 I have partnered with the legendary wine store Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits and have conducted over 60 master wine classes. In 2010 we launched the Sherry-Lehmann/Kevin Zraly Wine Club.

My Daily Wine Drinking Habits

As a father of four children, ages 13-21, I do not have a “great” bottle of wine every night. I choose my dinner wine in the following manner: upon entering my home I first look at my wife and try to figure out what kind of day she has had. Upon entering my home and eyeing my children one by one I have a better idea of whether or not I will be able to really enjoy a great wine with my meal. If any of you have children, I think you know exactly what I am talking about. The reality is, five out of those seven days, I am selecting wines that retail for under $30 a bottle. So the key for my personal wine consumption has always been in trying to find the $10 bottle of wine that tastes like a $20, and a $20 bottle of wine that tastes like a $40, and the $100 bottle of wine that tastes better than some of the thousands of dollars that I have spent on a single bottle of wine.

My Wine Philosophy and Other Things

  1. Wine is my passion.
  2. I have always followed the KISS (Keep it simple) method of teaching and writing about wine.
  3. There has never been and never will be a “wine expert.” With over 6,500 different wines available to the American consumer, 60 wine producing countries and over 35 billion bottles of wine made every year, I am overwhelmed with the amount of information, vintages, pricing, etc. and it's not getting any easier! (Then I drink a great bottle of wine and everything becomes less stressful.)
  4. I have been a wine collector for over 35 years and spend over $100,000 a year on wine.
  5. I have planted grape vines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) three times in my life, 1974, 1981, and 1992 (all failures). However, I tried again in 2006 and made wine from those grapes in 2010!
  6. I have several vintages of wine that I have personally made still aging in my cellar.
  7. Although I am primarily a red wine drinker, I will usually choose a Sauvignon Blanc over a Chardonnay with my first course. Exception: White Burgundy
  8. I prefer bigger style red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Syrah (aka Bordeaux, Napa, Rhone, etc.) and the reds of Tuscany with my Sunday Italian dinner.
  9. I wish that I had known more about my olfactory system when I started my wine journey such as the following:
    • Scientists and experts agree that smell accounts for up to 90% of taste.
    • Allergies, injury, illness, and having sex are just some of the reasons our noses can become temporarily or permanently clogged.
    • Women have a better sense of smell than men.
    • How many tastebuds do you have? Some of you have more than others. The average is 10,000
    • How much saliva do you have? Only you and your dentist know! Saliva is crucial in the flavor of wine and food.
    • Each nostril can detect different smells and both do not work at full capacity simultaneously.
    • The 2004 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to two scientists for their research on the olfactory system and their discovery of more than 10,000 different smells!
    • Like an athlete, at what age do you peak when it comes to smell and taste? Answer: 32
    • Physiology, environment, diet, and certain drugs all play roles in how you smell and taste.

Bottom Line: There are no answers when it comes to tasting (actually smelling). I live by Mark Twain's commentary,

“There are no standards of taste in wine, cigars, poetry, prose, etc. Each man's own taste is the standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard.”