Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PLCB search

Bad. Claret? who calls it claret in the states? Some pretentious wine writers and, yes the PLCB. But this is just one example of the way they treat wine at the PLCB. Have a look here, and then pull down the wine types. California Burgundy, Chianti from Cali and New York? this list is stuck in the 70s. It would be way too much trouble to have a decent search - I dunno let's try type , country for a start, then maybe through in varietal (new world) or area (old world).

Yes, I know you can search by code, and by golly, that is powerful (if you knew the @#$% code). So what am I complaining about - I did find three nice examples this weekend a chilean pinot noir, california pinot grigio and a low end red. Now, I really enjoyed the Molina Pinot Noir, but while the label clearly says casablanca valley, the state store system insists on using a different location. Even the website for the wine agrees that they by grapes from the Casablanca Valley. The Luna Vineyards, which makes one of my favorites, the Canto, is making a nice fruit laced Pinot Grigio.

Friday, June 6, 2008

PLCB Raises Advertising to a new, and lower, level

Well, I signed up to have the PLCB tell me more about the great deals they have, so I get emails from them - my fault I know. With eager anticipation I click and review the selections - $90, $50, $75, and yes, $150. It doesn't matter what they are, I am not buying a $90 bottle of wine for dinner tonight. But wait, let's click further and see if there are more reasonable suggestions you know, bargains. Nope, not there either.

Since it's not against the law to receive emails from wine retailers in other states or even the internet, and I do. Here I find some real people can afford with bottles priced between $10-25. Deals. Something I can afford to sample tonight.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are some deals in PA. A few. I found a Chianti Classico Riserva for $11.99 in West Chester. But I have to really look for this stuff (I have other posts about trying to find anything in these stores). And once they're gone - forget it. No more. Not even the same wine for the next round. One of my favorites, the Luna Canto, was on sale last year, wonderful, round, mouthfilling wine with spice and tobacco...just amazing with dark chocolate. Gone. Their merlot is here, and I'm sure it's ok, but the Canto. Nope.

But the advertising for expensive stuff, very few people can afford, continues. Here is one I get from Frank's in Delaware which makes more sense.

Wine on!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Casino's - YES; Wine, fugettaboutit

PA is continuing to make criminal's out of law abiding citizens who are looking for a good wine experience. This state continues to prove it can completely mess up one very easy way to boost the economy. Handing retail enterprise over to the private sector for a commodity that sells is not the way to improve the economy. It's much better to rake in absurd profit margins on poor service.

We can have casino's and turn the Turnpike into a private enterprise - but wine - nope. Still too worried about selling that $150 bottle of Stag's Leap to minors. But I'm sure the kiosks will solve that problem.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

PLCB provides kiosk solution

I just noticed on the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board's website that the PLCB is soliciting bids for a vendor to supply automated kiosks to supply wine to the public in places the state monopoly is not. The stated reason for the PLCB in the first place is to prevent wine from getting into the hands of minors. A human can't open a store and adults can't get wine shipped to their homes but a machine, apparently, can tell the difference between a minor and an adult. Oh, this is good.

If I didn't live in PA and with this wine nightmare, I would think this RFP is complete fiction. The simplest of solutions would be to license stores to actual humans (although I think liquor licenses are controlled locally in PA so this might be their way around this). Let the human decide what kind of wine to sell, order it thought the state, I guess, and let the human provide answers to questions. I am not a fan of the current system, but I'm pretty sure the machines will not answer questions about wine better than the current set of employees. On second thought...

The most entertaining part of this RFP starts on page 49.

Am I completely off base on this? In these economic hard times, wouldn't one way to stimulate the economy be to open up another market?

I'll take your response off-air.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nat Decants...and pours

I just finished Natalie MacLean's book "Red, White and Drunk All Over". Ms. MacLean, a Canadian from Ottawa, has a web site full of useful information for beginner oenophiles. The book distills all of this knowledge and experience into 274 pages and its a good read. Much of the book feels familiar, but Natalie takes you on a tour of the wine world with a palpable excitement. I could feel myself talking with her on several occasions, and as she is a certified Sommelier, this is a great experience.

The feeling, in my early wine experience is that I felt I could talk to her seriously about the subject. She gallops (no other word to use here) from vineyard to vineyard, through grapes, styles and regions, writing, glassware, wine stores, and other wine fans. I really enjoyed the exposure to Seghesio winery as it happens be one of my favorite Zins. And then there is the controversy of Pavie; Robert Parker, Jr. and Jancis Robinson's feud about scoring and taste. There is no right and wrong here, only the luxury of influencing millions of wine enthusiasts. While there seemed to be a slight tilt toward Ms. Robinson's perspective the two sides of the argument seemed well represented. The whole question of scoring always comes up when Parker's name is mentioned, and it's mentioned frequently in this book, but there is no one on the planet that has done more to provide wine with an accessible route to picking up the evening vino. Walking into a wine store and seeing hundreds of bottles of Cabernet or Bordeaux, his scoring provides a immediate shortcut. Make no mistake, I've read that he wants you to discover your tastes and read the tasting notes, but because the system rang familiar with the American audience this 100 point scale became a quick hit. Mr. Parker's scoring provides many (maybe, too many) people with a short hand for discovering wine.

Ms. MacLean is a descriptive and enthusiastic writer with the pop and fizz of a soda. Almost like reading a description from the kid entering the candy store, finally; excited and fascinated all at once. She gives you good information on various subjects enticing you can dig into these areas, but you need to be careful not to miss them.

For the beginner this is a definite read, for those who are not quite beginners, it feels familiar, but definitely enjoyable. Experienced folk will like it because there will be a match in experience or because they can appreciate that Ms. MacLean has opened up new territory for a new class of wine drinkers. Enjoy this book like the first glass that opened your eyes to a world beyond a label.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Comment from the Employees

Well I received this reply from an employee at one of the state stores. While I'm not sure I can agree with everything this person says I can sympathize with his (her?) situation. State employees are limited in what they can do while working. They are limited by the state and by the union. Wine knowledge is probably very low on the priority list for the day's tasks.

I'm not blaming the employees. These are honest, hard working folks who are doing a job. They sometimes get reprimanded when they are not stocking and shelves and are, in fact, helping customers (I've seen this happen). If the boss isn't around then you may have a better chance at a conversation.

The simple fact is that the state has no business selling any kind of liquor. They claim that this is to prevent under aged drinking yet they allow citizens to own liquor licenses to sell alcohol to the public through restaurants, beer distributors (another rant!) and other qualifying establishments. I don't see that going away any time soon.

A simple answer would be to licenses the state stores to independent folks just like they do restaurants, and to enforce the liquor laws. Then the stores could stock inventory that made sense for that market and stock more variety. Heaven forbid restaurants have wine lists they want instead of what they can get in through the state store system. Customers patronizing stores based service and selection and not hand cuffed by some bureaucrat in Harrisburg.

Wait, I can hear it now: but we hired a wine expert to help us!! Yes ONE wine expert for the entire state. I not sure but it may be possible there are different markets in the state. Markets better served by locally owned stores and independent merchants. I've seen stocks on the website of fine wine that sit for months in a store in north central PA and I can't get it because the stores can't (won't??) ship between stores.

As for my friend who responded - I'm up to 4 very friendly wine savvy employees who risk getting reprimanded every time they stop and talk to a customer. Best of luck, pal.

Cheers -d

Monday, January 14, 2008

Visit to the Wine Store

Stopped in a lunch today to "window shop" and came across a fairly talkative state employee. My experience in the PLCB stores has been that people are people, just not wine people. Some are terse, some are friendly and I've run into 2, exactly 2, who know anything about the subject. I have talked to twice that (yes, four!) who don't even drink wine. Aren't there other jobs they can do in the state?

Anyway, the nice man gave me a few thoughts and I picked up a few on my own.
- Hahn Estates Meritage, 2005: $15.99
- Adelsheim 2006, Pinot Noir $33.
- Alderbrook 2003 Dry Creek Zinfandel, $10.99
- Trilogie, 2006, Argentina, $10

Now, the Hahn, as far as I can tell, is more expensive in PA than other places but the reviews are good so it might be worth the few bucks more. He gave the thumbs up on the Trilogie as it has been selling well.

Also, I noticed the 2003 Larose-Trintaudon is in. If you like Bordeaux blends and don't know which to try, you really can't go wrong with either this or Greysac. Both of these are regulars at the state store and are about the same price point ($18) so you may find different vintages in your store.

Back to pick up a few...

Wine Reviewed in PA