First you should be true to yourself on whether you want to be a professional in all or many aspects of wine, or a more versatile and educated wine consumer, or simply a hobbyist who is interested in pure learning and knowledge. Once you know that, you can select a program that is “right” for your needs.
There are plenty of local programs (may be that can help get you started, but if you are more focused and seriously minded there are wine and culinary schools that teach wine and entry level programs.
Do you know someone who wants to work in the wine/spirits/hospitality industry but they just don't know where to start? All of the certifications and programs out there can be a bit intimidating when you first start out. The Bev Specialist Certificate made available by the Society of Wine Educators is a wonderful place to start (full disclosure, I am a member and a big fan of this organization).
The Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC) is an entry-level, beverage knowledge program designed to fulfill the needs of the hospitality and culinary industries and their employees. The Beverage Specialist Certificate can also be used as an entry-level course for those planning to pursue higher levels of wine, beer, or spirits certification.
The HBSC provides a broad base of knowledge, covering all commercially relevant beverages, not just wine or spirits. The program’s content covers: coffee, tea, beer, sake, cider, perry, wine, and spirits. Details about sensory evaluation, tasting notes, and service standards for each beverage type are included as well as a chapter on the responsible service of beverage alcohol.
As an added thought, I’ll place a little “plug” right now for SWE. This year’s conference is almost in our backyard being held in Rochester NY (near the NY Finger Lakes). Those of you inclined may want to consider attending or, at the very least, learn more about it. Nice way to tie in a trip some to great regional wineries (pictured below is from Bet the Farm Winery, Kit Kalfs, the “guy” in the picture, at one time lived in our NE Ohio area ). Did you know that NY State is home to the 4th largest number of wineries, behind CA/WA/OR?
In addition, enjoy touring an areas full of nice surprises i.e. Corning Museum of Glass, Watkins Glen, or even within a short drive to Niagara on the Lake.