After 15 years of living in Iberia, we can look back with pride at a very long and satisfying list of adventures, experiences, and travels. We’ve soared all over Europe to taste homemade foods in the comfort of people’s homes, old wines in even older cellars, swanky bars in the limelight of the cities, and everything in between. It’s been amazing, but the time had come to settle…
Back in the Iron Age, I worked my way up into an executive chef position. I’m not talking prehistory (that would be a feat) but when all food was cooked using the raw power of hot iron grills under massive exhaust hoods. I left the kitchen back in the 90’s, just before a quiet revolution was about to begin.
Actually, it had already started in the 1970’s in France, but it wasn’t until the first years of the 21st century that it started making its way into commercial North American kitchens. The technique, called sous vide cooking, remained virtually unknown outside of the professional chef community, despite how fundamentally it changed cooking.
This is a cookbook that should be on every home cook’s shelf. Chef Chris McDonald has a firm …
You can now earn a specialized sommelier certification in a single month.
This Spring, the National Wine School is unveiling a bold new qualification for the wine trade: the Single Semester Sommelier Program (SSSP).
The program offers a versatile curriculum tailored to the professional needs of each student. New qualifications include Certified Winemaker, Spanish Wine Specialist™, International Wine Scholar™, Certified Sommelier-Instructor, Wine Law Specialist™, and many more.
Spanish Wine Specialist Program
In April, we are offering the Spanish Wine Specialist™. The program is open to everyone, even if you haven’t taken the Core Sommelier Program yet. It also can be applied towards your Advanced Sommelier Certificate or even your Master-Level Sommelier certification.
This past year was a fantastic one for those of us living in Pennsylvania, at least for wine. The first independent wine shops started cropping up all over the state, and a handful of state-run stores finally found their footing (go here for our new list of the region’s top wine stores).
We reviewed over a hundred amazing wines, along with the two thousand bottles tasted during wine classes in 2017. We distilled those down to our top 10 favorite wines of the year. To be our top picks, wine could not just be fantastic; they had to be offered at an amazing price, as well.
Some of these wines are probably sold out by the time you read this. If you want to be kept appraised of all the best wine deals in the Fine Wine and Good Spirits …
Each element of our tasting kit is custom designed by the executive director of the school. The package includes a BYO wine bag, a lead-free crystal wine glass, sommelier corkscrew, silver pen, and tasting book. Wine is not included in the kit.
In this issue: Our Guide to the Best Wine Stores in Philly | Top Wine Picks and Reviews | Gift Ideas for Wine Lovers
The December Newsletter
Friends, the holidays are upon us. It’s time for all of us to transform into hybrid Santa-Sommeliers. To start off the Holiday newsletter, I’ve crafted a super-corny jingle for you: Pop the corks and spread the cheer: Let us be part of your holidays this year!
Worst. Poem. Ever. I’ll stick to teaching about wine. If send us your wine neophytes, I promise to send them back enlightened. If you send us your nascent sommelier, and I’ll turn them into a master. Heck, send us your incorrigible wine snobs, and I’ll gift them a bit of vino humility. Or just send them a gift certificate, and your job is done.
FYI, make sure to gift a class or two for yourself. I’d …
In our 18 years of operation, we’ve learned a thing or two about teaching wine classes. I love my job, but it’s the caliber of our students that really makes it worthwhile. I am deeply grateful that so many of you are willing to register for classes months ahead of schedule.
But I also know that is deeply aggravating for many of you, as well. Not everyone can organize their schedule months in advance. I’m the same: I can barely make a restaurant reservation a week in advance. Sure, if you want to come to one of our super-popular classes like Champagne, Exotic Wines, Wine 101, or Boutique Napa Valley you are going to have to sign up ASAP. But there are other classes that are designed just for you, our core friends and students.
Wines for the October Sommelier Smackdown with Hai Tran
2 pounds red skin potatoes, quartered
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp fine salt
2 shallots, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup crushed tomatoes
¼ cup white wine
1 cup mayonnaise
For the Sauce:
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, and tomato and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow the mixture to cook, then blend in a food processor until smooth, blend in the mayonnaise and chill for half an hour. This sauce can be made a day ahead, which will allow the flavors to meld.
For the Potatoes:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss quartered potatoes with half the oil and place onto a baking sheet in the oven. Bake for …
The National Wine School is opening up it’s new Wine Scholar and Advanced Sommelier programs to our students. First up is the Food & Wine Scholar program, which is being held on Mondays, from October 16th to December 4th, from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm.
This is a sale only for our newsletter readers! Use Coupon Code oct17 to get 25% off any class at the Wine School of Philadelphia or the Philly Beer School. This sale ends on October 17th and is valid for any two-hour class we offer. Not valid for multi-day courses. …
I am always scouting for great wine writers, and I think I just discovered a fresh new talent. The blog Psyched for Wine is written by master-level sommelier candidate who is also a clinical psychologist. Ever wonder about the effect that psychology has on wine sales? If you are in the wine trade, you should. If you have friends who work for a winery, you should forward this link to them. I’ve read each and every blog entry, and it’s already influencing how I train winery staff.
The author focuses on the tasting room experience. For wineries, the tasting room is the most important contact they have with the wine drinking public. It’s where lifelong fans of your wine brand are created. I if you have friends who work for a winery, do them a huge forward and tell them about this remarkable new blog.
This August, the Wine School of Philadelphia is hosting it’s 10th annual Summer Wine School. It’s the only course of its type offered in the United States: a one week accelerated course that ends with a level three sommelier certification.
Summer School is a fun and engaging program, but it’s based on cutting-edge research. The proof is in the pudding. By the end of the week, students will be a better wine tasters than 75% of all sommeliers. If not, they can retake the entire program for free.
Students will be fully immersed in wine education: tasting wines, discussing flavors, and learning to develop their palates in a science-backed program. The lead instructor of Summer Wine School is Alana Zerbe, the school’s Director of Wine Education.
This August, the Wine School is hosting it’s 10th annual Accelerated Summer Wine School. Earn your sommelier certification, taste great wine, and meet other people who share your passion.
It’s a week that will change your life. During Summer School, we offer the Foundation and Intermediate certifications in a single intensive week. You can also combine both of these classes into the CORE wine program and earn your sommelier certification via the National Wine School. For our postgraduate students, we offer our Advanced Old World Master Class.
Everyone loves getting fed. You could whip up a three-course meal, but that’s not a quick gift. If you want all the glory without all the work, ditch the first two courses and jump right to dessert. Throw in some great wine, and you will be a gift-giving rockstar.
White Chocolate is a fantastic foil to Cabernet Sauvignon, especially bottles from Paso Robles. Another favorite at the Wine School is Banyuls (the French dessert wine) with Chocolate truffles.
Here’s a sommelier secret: Brachetto d’Aqui is pretty much the best wine for any and all chocolate pairings. It’s fizzy, frothy red wine with a dollop of residual sugar. Chocolate-covered bacon? Brachetto d’Aqui! Flourless chocolate torte? Brachetto d’Aqui! …
Framingham 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (NZ) This boutique winery has been pushing out classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc since 1994. It’s a standard in our Wine 101 classes for nearly as long. It’s well made and lays on the exotic white fruit and cantaloupe. The herbal and fresh grass on the nose is unmistakable. $11.99 in PA, $15 elsewhere.
Firriato 2015 “Jasmin” Zibibbo, Terre Siciliane (IT) I read a review of this wine by a local critic that called this wine “sweet.” I think someone mistook a full bodied white wine with a high glycerol content for residual sugar.
Zibbio is an exotic grape, that tends to veer towards jasmine aromas, hence the name. It’s got a core of green apple with a velvet texture. It’s finish is briny, reminiscent of green olives. If you are going to …
This article originated with a text from a friend.
Wondering if you’ve got a preferred source for wine cellar racking. I remember your setup and I figured with you being a cheap Scotsman you might have an opinion on the subject. I was going to buy the wall mounted racks but the wife gave me paranoid about if falling out of the wall.
Tom got his start at the Wine School over a decade ago, and now works for a national wine company. He could have been a master sommelier if he wanted to, but he went into wine technology instead. Our conversation about building wine cellars ended up becoming this article.
Do You Really Need a Wine Cellar?
If you aren’t planning to lay down wine for a long time, don’t worry about building a wine cellar. As long as you aren’t abusing your wine, your wine will keep for a …
Do pencils grow on trees? This is the ripest graphite I’ve ever tasted. It’s also got an awesome diabetic bondage thing going on: boysenberry, chocolate, and oiled leather. The mint and thyme in the finish tones down some of the aggressive tannins here.
PA Wine & Spirits Stores, Chairman’s Selection $24.99
Glenelly 2013 “Glass Collection” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch (South Africa)
A standout newcomer to the PLCB wine shops. Licorice and black pepper jump out of the glass. The black fruit reduction. The body is lush and thick with savory eucalyptus. A hint of cigar box and chocolate smoke on the finish. Unctionless delight beyond it’s price point.
PA Wine & Spirits Stores, Chairman’s Selection: $12.99
Night Harvest 2013 “John George” Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River (Australia)
If you haven’t experiences wines from Western Australia, …
I’m the guy who looks at all of your questions in our customer support forum. Whether you need help with your job resume, or have a question about bottling limits or just need help with a gift certificate, I’ll help you out.
When you communicate with us, you go straight to the top. You don’t get lost in a phone tree, you don’t need to escalate to middle management. You don’t wade through a sea of bureaucracy. You chat with me or Phil.
Sometimes people wonder why they have to post online just to ask us a simple question. Wouldn’t it be easier to discuss this on the phone? I am not sure.
If we offered phone support, I’d have to step back. I just don’t have the knack for it. We’d hire an admin to take on customer support, and our prices would have …
Here’s something for the wine geek in your circle. Vinous has published a cutting-edge series of vineyard maps. These are not whimsical maps crafted to be hits on social media. These are precise vineyard maps that will be the standard for a generation. Hard-core cartography went into these maps, and are available for six appellations within Napa: Pritchard Hill, Oakville, Stags Leap, Rutherford, Howell Mountain, and Yountville. Vinous Napa Valley Vineyard Maps
Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History
Author Steven Grasse is an interesting man. He’s the Philly native who invented Sailor Jerry rum and Hendrick’s gin. He is also the guy behind the re-boot of Narragansett beer (my favorite part of the movie Jaws), as well as the owner of two new distilleries: Tamworth Distilling in New Hampshire, and Art in the Age right …
Wine is a significant part of every holiday celebration. We serve them at dinner parties and give them away as gifts. As the holidays are upon us, here are some wine-buying tips.
Hosting a Dinner Party
For intimate dinners of up to five people, splurge for a few $35 bottles. For larger parties, I suggest wines that cost less than $20. For suggestions, check out out a few wines we have featured recently on our blog. For pairing suggestion, take a look at the bottom of this article.
What to Bring to a Holiday Party
Giving a bottle of wine as a holiday gift is tricky, but how much to spend is the trickiest. Let’s make is a little simpler: there are really on four price categories, and you just need to choose one.
$10. Tasty but unsophisticated wine.
$15. Good quality, but stay away from the big brands.