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.