Sommelier Certification in Philadelphia

Reviews of All Wine Schools in Philly and the Main Line

Sommelier Certification in Philadelphia


When researching this article, we were both impressed and surprised by the wine culture in the city of brotherly love. By our count, Philadelphia has more wine schools per capita than anywhere else in America, although not all offer sommelier certification. The city also has a larger percentage of people in the wine trade than any other cities of its size and more active wine clubs and organizations.

Considering that Pennsylvania is infamous for its tight control on wine sales, the Philly wine culture is inspirational. In this roundup, we highlight all active wine schools in the city and surrounding areas, big and small. Not in Philly? We have reviews of all major wine schools in America.

The following is our ranking of wine schools and sommelier programs offered in the Philadelphia region. Sommelier courses offered at each school are included in the review, including Court of Master SommeliersSociety of Wine Educators, Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and the National Wine School programs. We also have a full list of accredited sommelier programs in the United States.


Philly’s Wine Schools

Ranked Highest to Lowest


Wine School of Philadelphia

Sommelier Certification in Philadelphia

Founded in 2001, this is one of the oldest wine schools in Philadelphia. Run by a former winemaker, the school offers professional programs and a deep roster of wine classes. We rate this school as one of the top sommelier schools in the country and the highest-rated school in Philadelphia by a long margin. The school gets high marks for student satisfaction, accreditation, and classroom fundamentals.  Sommelier Courses offered: All Sommelier Courses.

Full Review: Wine School of Philadelphia

Fine Vintage LTD

Fine Vintage LTD

Finally, a WSET school in Philadelphia offers an actual education with decent instructors and a quality institution behind the marquee. For too long, the Ewing siblings have had a chokehold on WSET programs in New York and Philadelphia. We are thrilled that Dave Rudman, the Executive Director of WSET Americas, has given Fine Vintage LTD the green light to open up a wine school in Philadelphia.

Full Review: Fine Vintage LTD



Phillywine.com

phillywine.com

Founded in 1998 by Neal Ewing,  Phillywine is the oldest wine school currently operating in Philadelphia. If the name “Ewing” sounds familiar, it’s because his sister is Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the founder of the International Wine Center and the co-author of Wine for Dummies.

Sommelier Courses offered: WSET

Full Review: phillywine.com


Main Line School Night

Sommelier Certification in Philadelphia

The Main Line School Night is a long-standing adult-education company; Founded in 1938, it started offering wine classes in 2002. Classes are at various locations in the wealthy Philadelphia suburbs,  including the Creutzburg Center in Radnor and the Beaumont Retirement Community in Bryn Mawr.

They do not run sommelier courses. Classes are held several times a week and average around $60/person. The subject matter is diverse, from classes on Champagne to Mulled Wines. Instructors are hired from local wine shops and schools; currently, this is Victoria Miller of Vinocity. Students in classes are largely from the Main Line suburbs and skew older than those in the city. Rob Peters is a long-standing instructor and is well-liked and respected. His knowledge level and ability as an instructor are above average. Classes run by other instructors can be a mixed bag.

Full Review: No Review Yet

Closed Wine Schools in Philadelphia

A number of wine schools have closed in the past few years. Some, from a change in management (Tria) but mostly due to the pandemic (Pinot Boutique). The following are schools in Philadelphia that either closed permanently or are currently not offering classes. Despite these closings, the wine education scene in Philadelphia is still growing.

What Am I Drinking?

what am i drinking wine school

Serena Zelezny runs this Wine School located in Bryn Mawr, a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia.  It is one of the newest wine education spots in Philly, having opened on April 22nd, 2017. With classes like “Box or Bottle?” and ” Wine, Wealth & What to Wear” this was looking to be a fresh and fun newcomer to the wine scene. Sadly, what we ended up with is another failed retread of hostility and incompetence.

Sommelier Courses offered: None

Full Review: What Am I Drinking?



Vinocity

vinocity

This small school focuses on private wine events but also offers classes to the public. The school was founded in 2014 by Victoria Miller, an alumnus of the Wine School of Philadelphia.  The school does not have a permanent location; Classes are held at Twenty-Two Gallery, an art gallery located at 236 S. 22nd Street in Philadelphia. Interestingly, this is only several blocks away from Ms. Miller’s alma mater.

Our reports of this school are that the classes are breezy and light, good fare for beginner students.  The instruction can be a bit stilted and off-note at times, but we expect with time these wrinkles to be ironed out. Classes average around $60/person.

Update: Currently Not Running Classes (See Main Line School Night)

Sommelier Courses offered: none.

Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College

The school used to offer wine classes to the public, but no longer does. This is probably a good thing for the school’s wine program in general: those classes had been poorly received and attended. The school still offers it’s wine course to the public, however.

The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College currently offers the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) certification under its “Professional Wine Institute” banner. Its offerings in wine education have evolved over the years, but also have suffered from mismanagement and lack of focus. In an earlier incarnation, the school offered certification from the ISG, WSET, and NWS.

Another negative is the high tuition. The cost of taking a Level One program here is more than what it costs to earn up to a Level Three certification in other local wine schools. As an accredited college, Walnut Hill could offer top-notch education, but so far it has failed to deliver on that promise.

Sommelier Courses offered: None

The Restaurant School is no longer offer sommelier certification courses in Philadelphia.

Tria Fermentation School (Permanently Closed)

As of 2015, the Fermentation School is no longer offering public classes except for the occasional Tria Wine 101

In 2006, the Tria Fermentation School opened with a bang. Even before a single ticket was sold to the public, Food & Wine Magazine listed it as one of “America’s 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences”. Even sitting in its classroom was a stellar experience, having been designed by the architecture firm Terra Studio.

The school was the brainchild of Michael McCaulley, the wine director of  Tria, a local chain of upscale wine bars. He was influenced by the success of other wine schools in the region, most notably the Wine School of Philadelphia, but clearly felt he could take the concept to new heights.

The Fermentation School does not run sommelier training programs, neither do they run classes by a set stable of teachers. Instead, McCaulley brings in winemakers and brewers to speak directly to the audience. While this method of instruction is more promotional than educational, the experience is critically acclaimed.

While it is not a sommelier school, it does act as a training center for Tria staff. Some of those classes, including the Tria Wine 101 class, are open to the public.

Sommelier Courses offered: none.



Pinot Boutique (Permanently Closed)

Pinot Boutique

Pinot Boutique runs a wine school in the posh Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia. It is one of the longest running wine schools in the city, at over a decade (2006).

However, the quality of programming and classes has dropped off since those first years.  The owner’s reputed relationship with at least one important journalist has propped up Pinot Boutique’s brand. However, our review of their classes gives them a failing grade. For the full review, follow this link: Pinot Boutique Review.

Sommelier Courses offered: none.

Full Review: Pinot Boutique (OUT OF BUSINESS)


Wine Schools in Philadelphia currently without reviews:

  • Mount Airy Learning Tree
  • Carlow Cookery
  • Crossing Vineyards

*These courses are also used for Advanced CMS/WSET exam prep.

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Summary

Philadelphia is home to a diverse collection of wine schools, more than any other city, except NYC. The level of instruction is very variable, but also higher than any other city. We wonder what heights this city could achieve if wine sales weren’t controlled by the state.

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