Building The Wine School of Philadelphia

Wine School of Philadelphia

The New Wine School at 109 S 22nd Street

Third Time’s a Charm

The new Wine School of Philadelphia is open! It’s just one block north at 109 S. 22nd Street in Center City, between Sansom & Chestnut Street. It takes the best of the old location and adds lots of amenities. For example, we now have a fermentation lab, a lounge, two restrooms, and a cooking demo facility. I can’t wait for you to see it.

You may be wondering why I put myself through designing and constructing a classroom for a third time? 

Since founding the Wine School fourteen years ago,  it’s been my belief that a wine school needs a physical space of it’s own.  The bricks and mortar act as a crucible for creativity. Great things can happen here because the Wine School is a real place, not a conference room rented by the hour.


A Retrospective

As many of you might remember, our first home at 2006 Fairmount Avenue was quite the pioneer in an otherwise burned-out shell of a neighborhood. Luckily, the urban renaissance brewing in Philly took hold in 2006, and we benefited from a nice little BYOB scene, plentiful and safe parking, and bars pouring more Belgians than we could handle.

Despite its humble size and a Scotsman’s budget, I introduced some design elements there that were really cool. One example was creating a floor-to-ceiling chalkboard. Another was the 20 ft. world map behind reclaimed church pews. And I started at least one trend  in the Philly restaurant scene:  those walls of  wooden wine crates. I originally thought it up the idea in 2003 to soften echoes in our classroom, but it also looked awesome.

After five years — and the founding of the Philly Beer School — we needed to look for a larger space. It was bittersweet leaving Fairmount, a neighborhood that had grown along with us.

Our move to Rittenhouse was a big gamble: There were no guarantees that schooling folks in wine education could pay the bills in one hell of a chichi place. But we couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a new home in a historic Victorian mansion replete with stunning finishes, original fireplaces, and two grand classrooms.

My renovations at 127 S. 22nd street were  extensive. The space had great bones, but was in desperate need of some TLC. Here’s a little before and after that shows the transformation:

Another gamble was agreeing to share space with a recording studio upstairs. Correction: a recording studio run by our landlord. As time went on, that gamble that didn’t pay off.

It took me a long time to accept that we would have to start over somewhere else. I had taught hundreds of classes at 127. I had my wedding reception there. But as we got closer to renewal time, it was clear that a move was inevitable.

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