Wine School of Philadelphia
109 S 22nd St Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA
About the Wine School of Philadelphia
The school was an offshoot of the winemaking consulting firm Vinology LTD, run by Keith Wallace. After working in Napa and Tuscany, Keith decided to base his company in Philadelphia to be closer to his family. As a consultant, Keith often ran workshops for winemakers. A friend asked him to teach a wine class for non-professionals. Reluctant to do so, he originally said no. After a few weeks, he relented and taught the class. It was a hit, and Keith has been teaching ever since.
The school expanded into sommelier certification in 2005 and then into winemaking in 2012. Over 10K people have attended courses at the school. It is one of the most sought-after, with students from as far away as Connecticut and Washington DC attending sommelier courses. In 2015, the school became the development center for the National Wine School, one of the major sommelier accreditation agencies in the United States.
The school is located in Center City, Philadelphia. It earns high marks for its classes and location. In our opinion, the school is one of the most important in America, because it functions like a real school.
The definition of a school is “a place or building used for instruction, learning, and education.” Wine School of Philadelphia is only one of five wine schools in America to really fit that definition. Its facilities are by far the best we’ve seen. It also values education and the art of teaching: The instructors all have advanced degrees, and PowerPoint is prohibited. Most importantly, its classes value learning over memorization, which is a welcome relief.
Wine classes are offered at this school. At least three tasting classes are open to the public every week. Classes run from Wine 101, Exotic Wines, to Barolo; the school offers over 150 classes every year. Their schedule is packed, so don’t expect to be able to walk in. Classes are typically sold out at least one month in advance. According to our data, Wine School of Philadelphia is the most popular wine school today, possibly ever.
The classes have always gotten strong reviews. Many point to the fact that the founder of the school is a phenomenal teacher. Other instructors that earn high marks are Alana Zerbe and Zach Morris (who has recently opened up his own wine shop and restaurant). We have one caveat: a small minority of people do not respond well to their “zero-snobbery” ethos. On Yelp, several people complained that the instructor used a mild vulgarity during class.
Wine School of Philadelphia’s History
We found the origin of the Philadelphia Wine School to be fascinating.
Back in 1999, Keith Wallace graduated from UC Davis’ renowned enology program. He was hired as an assistant winemaker in Napa Valley and started working toward his dream of owning a winery. The trajectory of his career took a drastic change very soon after when he was diagnosed with epilepsy. After a few near-disasters and a half dozen broken bones, he had to accept that he couldn’t overcome his disability.
At first, he took consulting jobs at wineries, which allowed him to continue working in the field. His main client was a winery in Italy, which meant he would be spending a lot of time away from his service dog. He decided to move back home to the East Coast to be closer to family.
When Keith wasn’t traveling, he took a few odd jobs at wineries in the Philadelphia region. A local winemaker asked Keith to teach a class for his staff and the public. Then again. And again. Keith had found his calling. He started researching the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Court of Master Sommeliers. He enrolled in classes in New York.
He thought about applying for a teaching job in New York, but the culture at WSET wasn’t for him. He respected what they did but saw the future of wine education as more than just training for waiters and sommeliers. His end goal was a university-level wine diploma.
We sent out over 400 surveys to WSOP students, and nearly half returned the completed questionnaire. This was a remarkable turnout since the standard is a 15% rate of return. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive; high points were given to the instructors, the facilities, and the wine selections.
Some outliers held negative opinions of the school. A former instructor from the school criticized the school for canceling his health care six months after quitting. A former student did not like that the school has a strict no-smoking policy. A few people complained about the school’s rescheduling policy and their lack of phone support.
The complaints paled in comparison to the positives we received. Respondents commended the school for its curriculum and objectives. Many cited their wine education courses as the reason for their success in the wine trade. The school’s use of the National Wine School certification process was commended, especially by academics.