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Getting schooled at the Philly Beer School

“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.

Frontpage Hero for Wine School of Philadelphia

Altadonna 2010 Nero d’Avola

Altadonna is a project by the well-known father & son winemaking team of Stefano and Niccoló Chioccioli. Their portfolio is a line of pan-Italian wines sourced from northern to southern Italy. While such …

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

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.

Associated Press: Wine vending machines make their debut

Numerous attempts at reform have been turned back by special interests intent on keeping their slice of the pie. So simply stocking Chianti and cabernet on supermarket shelves is not an option under the state’s post-Prohibition liquor laws. The liquor board has tried to be more consumer-friendly in recent years, including opening 19 full-service state stores in supermarkets. The board touts the kiosks as another step toward modernization – “an added level of convenience in today’s busy society,” liquor board Chairman Patrick Stapleton said in a statement.

Not everyone is swallowing that line. Craig Wolf, president and CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, questioned the machines’ efficacy in preventing sales to minors.

Keith Wallace, president and founder of The Wine School of Philadelphia, described the kiosks as well-intentioned failures with limited selections and overtones of Big Brother. “The process is cumbersome and assumes the worst in Pennsylvania’s wine consumers – that we are a bunch of conniving underage drunks,” Wallace wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “(Liquor board) members are clearly detached from reality if they think these machines offer any value to the consumer.”

Philadelphia Inquirer

Direct sales invigorate wine-lovers

Local wine aficionados love to grouse, often with good reason, about how state regulations can sometimes stand between them and that coveted vintage.
But they are divided over whether a favorable decision in a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court would do much to make more varieties available, or cheaper, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The court is being asked to decide whether states can limit direct, winery-to-wine-lover sales.
Keith Wallace, president of the Wine School in Philadelphia, had 53 phone messages the day after the Supreme Court heard arguments, and knows that oenophiles are watching the case.

Wallace spends $30,000 a year on wine. He said that recent innovations by the Liquor Control Board mean that “you have an enormous selection available.
“The problem is that the price point is often 10 to 30 percent higher than anywhere else,” he said.

The best-case scenario, he said, would be a Supreme Court decision that dealt a mortal blow to the state-store system.

But the odds are that Pennsylvania’s unique system, criticized for decades but politically resilient, will survive relatively unchanged.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Sommeliers: A rare vintage

At the five-year-old Wine School of Philadelphia, located in Fairmount, 60 students are taking sommelier courses, even though director Keith Wallace decries the profession as “the worst position on the face of the earth. At most places, they’re glorified restaurant managers, talked down to and condescended to.”

Beverage managers, responsible for all libations served, make “marginal income,” between $30,000 and $40,000 after long hours, Wallace says, “at the very top, you can make $60,000 to $80,000,” but the hours are punishing. “The wine industry itself is an amazing place to work,” Wallace says. He directs students to industry positions, advertising for a large wine company, importing, running portfolios for distributors all offering the possibility of better pay, travel, nights and weekends off. (Contrary to assumptions, there are import and distribution jobs in Pennsylvania, but only one buyer.)

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