Sommelier Certification in Philadelphia

Philly is Wine Country! 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 more significant percentage of people in the wine trade than any other city of its size and more active wine clubs and organizations.

Considering that Pennsylvania is infamous for its tight control of wine sales, the Philly wine culture is inspirational. This roundup highlights 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.

Rankings of the Top Wine Schools in Philadelphia

The following is our ranking of wine schools and sommelier programs in the Philadelphia region. Sommelier courses offered at each school are included in the Review, including the Court of Master Sommeliers, Society of Wine Educators, Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and the National Wine School programs. We also have a complete list of accredited sommelier programs in the United States, as well as articles on sommelier salary and jobs.

Whether you are looking for wine-tasting classes or sommelier certification in Philadelphia, there are a range of choices. Several of these schools also offer sommelier certification online.

Ranked Highest to Lowest


The Wine School of 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. In addition, the school gets high marks for student satisfaction, accreditation, and classroom fundamentals. Sommelier Courses offered: All sommelier courses up to Master-level.

Full Review: Wine School of Philadelphia Reviews

Fine Vintage LTD

Finally, a WSET school in Philadelphia offers basic education, decent instructors, and a quality institution behind the marquee. Unfortunately, the Ewing siblings have had a chokehold on WSET programs in New York and Philadelphia for too long. So 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 Reviews

Phillywine.com

Established in 1998 by Neal Ewing,  Phillywine is the oldest wine school in Philadelphia. If the name “Ewing” sounds familiar, it’s because his sister is Mary Ewing-Mulligan, the International Wine Center’s founder and Wine for Dummies co-author. The school has changed hands, but it’s admittedly meager reputation remains unchanged.

Full Review: phillywine.com

Main Line School Night

The Main Line School Night is a long-standing adult education company; Founded in 1938, it started offering wine classes in 2002. Classes are 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 weekly and average around $100/per person. The subject matter is diverse, from classes on Champagne to Mulled Wines. Instructors are hired from local wine shops and schools. 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

Several wine schools have closed in the past few years, some due to a change in management (Tria) but primarily because of the pandemic (Pinot Boutique). The following schools in Philadelphia either closed permanently or no longer offer classes. Despite these closings, the wine education scene in Philadelphia is still growing.

What Am I Drinking?

Serena Zelezny ran this Wine School in Bryn Mawr, a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. It was one of Philly’s newest wine education spots, opening on April 22nd, 2017. With classes like “Box or Bottle?” and “Wine, Wealth & What to Wear,” this seemed like a fresh and fun newcomer to the wine scene. But, sadly, it ended up as another failed retread of hostility and incompetence.

Sommelier Courses offered: None

Vinocity

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

Our reports indicated that the classes were breezy and light, good fare for beginner students. The instruction could sometimes be stilted and off-note, but we expected these wrinkles to be ironed out with time.

Update: Currently Not Running Classes. The owner is now teaching for 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 was probably good for the school’s wine program: those classes had been poorly received and attended. The school still offers its wine course to the public, however.

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

Another negative was the high tuition. The cost of taking a Level One program there was more than it cost to earn up to a Level Three certification in other local wine schools. As an accredited college, Walnut Hill could have offered top-notch education, but it failed to deliver that promise.

Sommelier Courses offered: None

The Restaurant School no longer offers sommelier certification courses in Philadelphia.

Tria Fermentation School

As of 2015, the Fermentation School no longer offered 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, 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 regional wine schools, most notably Philly’s Wine School, but clearly felt he could take the concept to new heights.

The Fermentation School did not run sommelier training programs, nor did it run classes by a set stable of teachers. Instead, McCaulley brought winemakers and brewers to speak directly to the audience. While this method of instruction was more promotional than educational, the experience was critically acclaimed.

While it was not a sommelier school, it acted as a training center for Tria staff. Some classes, including the Tria Wine 101 class, were open to the public.

Sommelier Courses offered: None

Pinot Boutique

Pinot Boutique ran a wine school in Philadelphia’s posh Old City neighborhood. It was one of the longest-running wine schools in the city, with over a decade of operation since 2006. At first, the school was operated by members of the Wine School of Philadelphia.

However, programming and class quality dropped since those first years. The owner’s reputed relationship with at least one crucial journalist propped up Pinot Boutique’s brand. However, our review of their classes gave them a failing grade.