Wine School & Tastings

About Kent

SWIRL is a proud patron of Westside Liquor





Certified Wine Educator

Kent Benson has been designated a Certified Wine Educator by the Society of Wine Educators, the nation’s premiere wine education society. Kent is the only CWE in all of Minnesota.


The Society of Wine Education confers the CWE designation only on those who successfully complete a rigorous examination, which tests the candidate’s knowledge of viticulture (grape growing), winemaking, wine chemistry, grape varieties, wine styles, food and wine pairings, wine laws, wine tasting, and wine regions of the world.


The CWE exam consists of: an 85-question test; an essay on a topic revealed only at the time of the exam; and a blind tasting of 16 wines, in which candidates must identify grape varieties and geographic origins, as well as faults. Kent is among the select few (15%) who passed this demanding exam in their first attempt. There are only 120 Certified Wine Educators in the world.


Court Certified Sommelier

Kent is a Certified Sommelier as conferred by the Court of Master Sommeliers, the world’s most prestigious and widely recognized sommelier organization. Certified Sommeliers are tested for proficiency in wine and spirits, blind tasting, wine and food pairing, and table service. At Level I, Kent attained the highest score of the 60 people who took the exam.


French Wine Scholar

Kent has been conferred the title, French Wine Scholar, by the French Wine Society. Kent is also the official French Wine Scholar program provider for Minnesota, teaching the Society’s French Wine Scholar curriculum and helping others learn about the great wines of France.


Wine Location Specialist (with Distinction)

As a Wine Location Specialist, Kent has demonstrated a comprehensive knowledge of two of the world’s unique and most prestigious wines: Champagne and Port. The Center for Wine Origins conducts the Wine Location Specialist exam, conferring the “with distinction” designation to those few with the highest scores.


Additional Training

Kent has successfully completed the International Sommelier Guild’s Fundamentals I & II courses, as well as the French Wine Society’s Master Level courses for The Rhone Valley and Provence.





Through his many wine classes, private tastings, magazine articles, and public appearances, such as at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Kent has helped countless people increase their knowledge and appreciation of wine.


In the Fall of 2012, Kent worked as a member of the winery crew at Wild Horse Winery in Paso Robles, California, gaining valuable, hands-on experience in everything from barrel-downs to pump-overs.




· In addition to his regular “Wine Savvy” column in Central Minnesota Style, Kent’s writings have been published in The St. Cloud Times and the nationwide periodical, Wines and Vines.

· Honorable mention in the 2007 Wines of South Africa Essay Competition

· Runner-up in the 2008 Wine Australia AusWISE U.S. wine educator competition

· Member of The Wine Century Club—for those who have tasted wines made from 100 or more grape varieties

· Member of the Wine Education Network





Kent believes the enjoyment of wine is greatly enhanced by knowledge. The more you learn about wine, the more you will appreciate it and the more wine can become a fun, pleasurable, exciting part of your life.


Kent also believes knowledge is best acquired while having fun. Kent’s classes and tasting events are designed to be enjoyed, not just endured. So, be prepared to have some fun while you learn!