Wine School in the Media

Philadelphia Daily News: Get a taste, and degree, for wine

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Philadelphia Daily News: Get a taste, and degree, for wine

The story was originally published by the Philadelphia Daily News on December 28, 2004 in the Features section on page 33. The article is reprinted solely for educational purposes.  It is intended to offer insight into the history of Wine Education in Philadelphia, and our place within that history.


Daily Newspaper

Get a taste, and degree, for wine

Philly school offers classes at all levels

If you don’t know a pinot gris from a pinot noir, resolve this year to become a wine pro.

With the popularity of movies like “Sideways,” a film about love and marriage set in southern California’s Santa Barbara County wine district, as well as increased interest among young professionals who are starting wine clubs and going to tastings, there’s no better time to sip and learn.

The Wine School of Philadelphia (2006 Fairmount Ave.) was established three years ago by a local wine enthusiast. A staff of certified wine educators teach a range of classes – beginner, intermediate and state-approved master levels – for everyone from the complete novice to the hard-core oenophile (defined as a “grape nut” in the online dictionary looking to earn a wine certificate, which demonstrates a knowledge of wine that is recognized by the state and in the restaurant industry.

Though the Wine School is the only school in the Philadelphia area with an exclusively wine-based curriculum, local community colleges and culinary schools also offer credit classes in wine education. There are also online classes for those seeking a wine certificate via computer.

The January class schedule at the Wine School includes an introductory evening on wine types and flavors, “Wine 101,” or the very basic “Introduction to Wine.” These one-night-only classes cost $34.99 a person.

For more in-depth instruction, there is a six-week, $425 wine basics class that explores wines and their distinctive scents and flavors. Those who complete the class earn the certificate, which is useful for those interested in becoming professional sommeliers.

The next certification class at the Wine School begins Jan. 11 and runs every Tuesday through Feb. 22.

Cookbook Author Keith Wallace on NBC.

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Cookbook Author  Keith Wallace on NBC.


Cookbook Author  Keith Wallace on NBC.

Philly Uncorked: Champange

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Philly Uncorked: Champange

Philly Uncorked was filmed at the Wine School of Philadelphia by Banyon Productions. Keith Wallace developed, wrote and co-starred in the show. He also co-produced the show with Banyon.

Philadelphia Inquirer: The newlywed cellar

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Philadelphia Inquirer: The newlywed cellar

The story was originally published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 28, 2010.  The article is reprinted solely for educational purposes.  It is intended to offer insight into the history of wine education in Philadelphia, and our place within that context.  Links to the original article and author are given below.

Daily Newspaper

The newlywed cellar

New wife, new wines: A groom gets $500 to lay in some liquid assets. Not an enterprise to be entered into lightly – so we call the experts.

Author: Craig LaBan

On the afternoon of his wedding day, Mike Hartman was getting dressed in the groom’s suite when the gifts arrived from Jamie, his wife-to-be. There was a rented live monkey with a trainer to keep him entertained (a treat for the chimp-loving Hartman). There was a scrapbook of a cross-country road trip they’d taken earlier in their romance. And then there was a note with the kind of poetry that would warm the heart of any young wine lover.

“I thought you would want to pick out some wines that will age just the right way. . . . And then we can enjoy them in the future and reminisce about this very special day!”

Best yet: It came with a to their favorite South Jersey wine store (near her family’s Shore house) for $500.

“It was an amazing gift,” says Hartman, 29, a Center City attorney who, with his wife-to-be, a nonprofit administrator, became enamored of Philly’s BYOB scene during his student-budget law school days.

But how to spend that gift? Hartman’s mind raced from Châteauneuf-du-Pape to vintage port, Oregon pinot noir, and perhaps Alsatian riesling. But the thought of actually buying them was almost paralyzing. Before he knew it, their first anniversary had clicked by.

“It was a daunting task, you know?” he said. “First, that’s a lot of money to spend on wine. Second, the added pressure of making the choices count – I still feel green about what I’m doing. I needed some assistance.”

Making those choices would be a challenge for even a well-seasoned wine drinker. So I turned to several Philadelphia wine experts for advice – plus specifics on how they would spend that $500 – and discovered a wide range of strategies, styles, and considerations for tackling such a happy conundrum.
The first question each one asked, though, was probably the least sexy: What is the storage situation?

“If wines are not stored in a reasonably cool, dark environment, they’re not going to hold very well,” says Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia. “Even two years out, bottles can be compromised.” 

Dealing with wine fridges or a genuine basement wine cellar is a project of its own that can easily devour hundreds of dollars. But it’s a necessary evil if you plan to lay an expensive bottle down for a decade or two.

Even if proper storage isn’t an issue, though, the very notion of aging wines for so long at home raised red flags for many of those I spoke to.
“I just don’t really believe that wine’s for collecting – it needs to be drunk,” said Vincent Sacco, the wine manager at Joe Canal’s in Egg Harbor Township, where the Hartmans went shopping.

In addition, though $500 is a lot of money, it can go quickly when collectible bottles start filling the cart, as most of the premier wines typically best suited for long aging – big, tannic reds from Bordeaux and California – can be astronomically priced. At Joe Canal’s, one could spend most of that gift certificate on a single bottle of Château Mouton-Rothschild ($429) or a Dalla Valle Maya ($399).

In this regard, part of the trick in making that $500 stretch becomes looking for wines that deliver complexity over time with a bit more value now. That requires spotting wines from emerging regions, like the 2005 DeLille Cellars “Doyenne Aix” syrah ($31.99) from Washington state suggested by Savona sommelier Melissa Monosoff; or catching new wines from proven vintners, like the 2006 “1.5″ cab from Shafer (renowned for its merlot), which at $74.99 is serious juice, but in only its fourth vintage and still ascending the price charts. Most experts chose a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of the greatest French reds that can still be had for around $100 a bottle or less.

For a purely romantic approach, Monosoff suggests targeting a vintage year that holds personal nostalgia (first kiss? first child?) or even a significant region (remember that road trip to Oregon?), and then building an age-worthy case from there.

Stylistically, though, some caution against going overboard on the typical heavy-duty reds: “Everyone’s tastes change remarkably over 10 years,” Wallace said. “You’re probably not going to like those big fruit bombs 20 years from now. . . .And most wines die within five years, largely because of how [they are made] today for roundness and easy drinking.” In fact, the average age of a bottle in the United States is 45 minutes between its purchase and the moment it’s drunk, says Robert Peters, a wine consultant at the Ardmore wine and spirits shop.

“People get seduced by the idea of all these collector-item wines,” says MO. “They’ll buy cases of the fullest-bodied, most tooth-staining reds money can buy, only to find down the road they don’t cook that way at home.” That is, big steaks, braised meats. “So they end up bringing them out with cheese.”

Consequently, Wallace and Old both suggest that young couples launch their cellars with a variety case of exploratory wines – a “tutorial box” – that have some aging potential (five to 10 years), but also exposes them to overlooked regions and styles that are worthy of further research. That could be a crisp Loire white (Pouilly-Fumé), a stellar German riesling from one of the Mosel’s great producers (J.J. Prüm), or a Bordeaux from a lesser-known vintner (Château Sociando Mallet, an Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois considered by some to be superior to many higher-ranked crus). In that spirit, vintage Champagnes and sweet wines, durable in the cellar and ideal for celebrations, had a presence on most experts’ lists.

Wallace, ever resistant to long-term wine aging at home, focused on keeping a cellar stocked with relatively affordable wines that will mature at three paces – bottles for today, for three to five years from now, and for 10 years at the most.

“The majority of people I come across at the school, when I show them 20-year-old wines,” he says, “they typically don’t like it. They’re delicate, and often more reminiscent of vinegars than fresh fruit. It puts people off.”

To get a good sense of what a decade-plus wine might taste like, though, Old suggests going for a “gran reserva” Rioja from Spain, where winemakers traditionally age the wines until they’re ready to be consumed – like the 1996 CVNE Viña Real, $34.99, available now in Pennsylvania.

Wallace is all for letting the professionals do the cellar work, with the assurance that most collectible bottles can also be bought at auction down the road. “Assuming you’ll have more money 20 years from now, you can just buy a bottle from your anniversary year – and pretend you held it!”

A wine sentimentalist Wallace is not. And neither is “drink it now” Sacco at Joe Canal’s. But that didn’t deter him from doing his best to help the Hartmans get started on their wine cellar, pulling out some prestige bottles when they finally arrived – with their second anniversary looming: “All right, babe,” Jamie said, “it’s time to spend the gift.”

Sacco helped them to well-regarded renditions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape (2006 Clos des Papes; 2006 Domaine Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre); a highly rated sister label of a California cult cab (2005 Jonata El Desafio de Jonata, by the producer of Screaming Eagle); and a lustrous Sauternes (2005 Chateau Guiraud), among others.

Lest anyone worry the Hartmans should sit too long on their newly stashed liquid riches, they uncorked Bottle 1, a Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, within just a couple of months to celebrate their successful bid on a first house.

“We sat at the table in our apartment and toasted our future and good fortune and all the memories that would come,” Jamie said. “It was fantastic.”

Draft Magazine: Getting schooled at the Philly Beer School

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Draft Magazine: Getting schooled at the Philly Beer School

The story was originally published by Draft Magazine on February 3, 2008.  The article is reprinted solely for educational purposes.  It is intended to offer insight into the history of beer education in Philadelphia, and our place within that context.  Links to the original article and author are given below. 


beer magazine

Getting schooled at the Philly Beer School

By Tara Nurin

“Philadelphia is to beer what Sonoma is to wine,” says Keith Wallace to anyone who’ll listen. Considering the source, the proclamation, perhaps incendiary outside Pennsylvania, might sound outright puzzling within city limits. That’s because in 2001, Wallace, a winemaker, wine columnist, and author of two upcoming wine books, founded and still runs Philly’s best-known vinology school. So why is he extolling his territory’s beer lust at the expense of its pursuit of viticultural knowledge?

Because, acknowledging a craft revolution, he’s invited beer to take a permanent seat at The Wine School‘s table.

Wallace’s partner, a burly bald man named Dean Browne, asserts the alliance as he introduces himself to a group assembled in one of The Wine School’s classrooms on an early March night.

“Welcome to the Philly Beer School,” he says. “Tonight’s topic is Illegal Beer.”

As Browne speaks, dozens of bottles of obscure brews from Scotland, Japan, and Delaware linger behind him, waiting to be poured into students’ glasses. Despite the encroachment of a poster for The Wine School and a wall-sized vintage advertisement for a defunct wine co-op on his lecture space, Browne spends the next two hours pouring samples of Gooseberry Ale and Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew, passing around baggies of juniper berries and wormwood, and dissecting in a jocular manner the history and legacy of pre-hopped beers.

This is how Browne, a brewer at Philadelphia Brewing Company (PBC), has occupied himself for many a Friday night since he and Wallace founded the Philly Beer School last March. The two met while Browne was taking a class at The Wine School and, sensing the opportunity to fill a vacant niche in a craft-beer-thirsty city, they partnered to open the Philly Beer School. Browne operates the beer school while Wallace maintains ownership of both programs.

“It’s wonky, it’s fun, and I noticed that brewers were going through my wine programs because there really wasn’t anything out there for them,” Wallace says via phone.

To that end, he and Browne schedule bi-monthly one-time classes like Beer Wars: Old World Vs. New World Brews and Beer and Homebrewing 101. Students comprise aspiring brewers, elderly couples, first dates, groups out for girls’ night, and sons treating their dads to birthday celebrations.

In just one year, Wallace says he’s taking in a profit and all of his classes are selling out despite no advertising budget, no quid-pro-quo with breweries, no public relations firm, and practically no local press. What he does have working in his favor is a dedicated repeat business, a solid pull from his wine school roster, and a regional pool of potential clients whose curiosity is piqued by an onslaught of mainstream craft beer news.

What he also has going for him is a unique identity as the only full-time beer school operating outside of academia in the U.S. Whereas other programs are either far more formal or far more casual, Wallace’s is the only business to exclusively offer regularly scheduled beer classes geared toward consumers and homebrewers.

Wallace intends to be the first to add another particular dimension to the beer experience, as well. To mark the first anniversary of the opening of the school during last year’s Philadelphia Beer Week, he plans to announce the creation of the nation’s only homebrewer certification program during this year’s beer week, which has been moved from March to June.

The course will start this fall and will consist of four weeks of classes and four weeks of immersive lab work at a brewery. The certification doesn’t afford recipients anything but bragging rights–yet–but Wallace says he’s developed wine certifications that have caught on throughout the industry.

“What we’ve done with The Wine School is build up our certifications, then people started adopting our programs nationally,” he says. “We tend to be the forerunner.”

As a pioneer in using education to simultaneously deconstruct and advance the mystique of wine and craft beer, Wallace knows better than anyone that there remains one key difference in approach, based on whether the conversation centers around Philadelphia or Sonoma County, hops or grapes.

“Keith has been trying to break down the walls of the snob factor in the wine industry,” Browne says of his partner. “We’re not trying to break down the snob factor here. We’re trying to build it up.”

All Things Considered (NPR)

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All Things Considered (NPR)

The story originally aired  on All Things Considered (NPR) on December 11, 2009.  The article is reprinted solely for educational purposes.  It is intended to offer insight into the history of wine education in Philadelphia, and our place within that context.  


All Things Considered

Time now for your comments about our program. My recent interview with Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia led some listeners in wine country to choke on their merlot. Mr. Wallace argues that our image of winemaking is outdated. He says, don’t think about beautiful chateaus surrounded by vineyards, think something akin to industrial mass production. Well, his description did not sit well with some of the California producers he named.
Randy Ullom is the wine master at Kendall-Jackson, which makes a range of popular wines. He writes: Contrary to your guest’s assertions, wines are not made in factories. They are made in wineries. Without defining what he meant by real wineries, he invented imaginary ones, images of huge silos in mass production and industrial processes, and then assigned them to wineries that are not like that. Kendall-Jackson, a family-run winery, for example, serves a huge demand for its quality wine, but handcrafts it one small, 60 gallon barrel at a time.
Jerry Lohr, who founded J. Lohr Wines, also felt Keith Wallace was off the mark. Our approach is the same as a small winery, writes Mr. Lohr. We just have more barrels, more tanks, do more pumpovers and have more bottling days to manage than our boutique wine-growing brethren.
Now, on to one more story – this time with some NPR history. Yesterday, we spoke to our colleague from the science desk, Joe Palca. He had the opportunity to attend the Nobel Prize festivities in Stockholm. Joe explained that it was not just a special trip for him, but also for our organization. He said it was the first time he knew of that NPR had gone to the ceremony. Well, not so fast, Joe.
NOAH ADAMS: Here’s a story that’s told perhaps (unintelligible), perhaps not.

NORRIS: That is our very own Noah Adams. Back in 1976 we sent Noah to Stockholm for the Nobel ceremony. Here he is giving us a sense of prize’s past.

NOAH ADAMS: In 1913, the literature award winner was the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. He arrived here at this spot, wearing white robes. He had a long white beard, wearing sandals, and was leading on a leash a goat.
NORRIS: We stand corrected on our institutional memory. And whether you were listening in 1976 or born after 1976, we don’t care, we want to hear from you. Send us email. Come to our Web site. Visit, and click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.
You’re listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Philly Uncorked: Sancerre

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Philly Uncorked: Sancerre

Philly Uncorked, developed and written by Keith Wallace for