One of the original reasons I started this blog, just over three years ago now, was to post on the wines that were available at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) stores here in the wine-lover hostile Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Specifically, I was going to focus on the Chairman’s Selection program—the only somewhat saving grace of an otherwise failed system.
On Monday, I gave a brief overview of the program: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the second largest purchaser of wine in the world (behind Ontario, Canada) and it claims it uses its purchasing power to bring “great deals” to the customers of the state through the Chairman’s Selection program. (Although I have never heard an explanation why the same purchasing power is not applied to non-Chairman’s Selection wines, which are at least 10-20% more expensive than they are in neighboring New Jersey or Delaware.)
So the thought back when I started this blog was to occasionally post about what I thought were the better Chairman’s Selection wines since frankly, in addition to some of the “great deals,” the PLCB also purchases a bunch of swill.
Initially, I kept up with posting about those wines, but for whatever reason, I let that part of the blog wither away a bit.
Well, not any more (at least for now).
Up on the top of the page, in the menu, there is a section called “PLCB Wines” where I will keep a monthly updated list of about five reds and five whites (and a sparkler or two when available–the PLCB is woefully inadequate when it comes to stocking quality sparking wines). There will be hyperlinks to both the wine descriptions and the state inventory (I do have to say that given all the PLCB’s ineptitude, their online inventory is actually pretty good, although the employees often have no clue that the wine is actually in their store—I have had countless conversations with store personnel trying to convince them that they did indeed have the wine in stock).
One caveat: these are wines that I would probably try if I were to go shopping at the PLCB. I have tried a few of them (and indicate that in the note), but as a rule, I rarely go to the state stores any more since it is all far too depressing (and I have far too much wine to drink as it is).
So here is this week’s list, which you can also access by clicking on “PLCB Wines” in the menu up top.
$19.99 (Retail* $40) PLCB Code: 33627
Barbaresco is one of the “killer B’s” of Italian wine (along with the Barolo and Brunello). It comes from Tuscany and is 100% Nebbiolo (which I often find has similar characteristics to Pinot Noir). While I have not yet tried this wine, it is certainly one of those that is worth taking a bit of a flyer on–a really good price for a wine from the region.
$16.99 (Retail* $59.99) PLCB Code: 33548
This seems like a great opportunity to get your lips around some 15+ year old wine for not much investment. The wine is made from Tempranillo, perhaps the “national grape” of Spain. The best Tempranillos can age for decades, but I have not tried this, so proceed cautiously (and if the wine is off, be sure to return it to the PLCB!).
$14.99 (Retail* $22) PLCB Code: 33349
Another Tempranillo from Spain, but this seems to be less of a risk than the previous. Apparently, this is a more modern style wine, with more fruit and certainly ready to drink now.
$8.99 (Retail* $13) PLCB Code: 33638
This wine comes from the Corbières region in the Southwest of France. It is made from Carignan, which, when made in France, can be austere and somewhat tannic. This wine has a few years on it so those tannins will have likely faded a bit and should be approachable. For $9? Even if you don’t love it, you need something to pour when your brother-in-law comes over….
$17.99 (Retail* $32) PLCB Code: 33559
I tried this not too long ago and it is somewhat of a typical “fruity Zin” but it does have some underlying structure as well. At 18 bucks, this is a pretty well-made wine that will work well by itself or alongside some barbecue or a steak.
$34.99 (Retail* $48) PLCB Code: 33640
This is certainly a bit steeper in price than the others on this list, but this is a wine from one of my favorite Pinot producers in California. The screw cap should not fool you, this is a fantastic wine (I tried it the other night), that should only get better with some time.
$11.99 (Retail* $17.99) PLCB Code: 33404
I think that Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine might be one of the most under-appreciated wines. Certainly not the most introspective, but there is some fruit and minerality, yet above all else there is a driving acidity. I like having a couple of bottles of this around for either oysters or, better still, for a nice round of Kirs.
$17.99 (Retail* $26) PLCB Code: 33370
A Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, from a rather well-known producer. Riesling is perhaps the most versatile of white wines and not many do it better than the Germans (I would argue the Alsatians do Riesling better, of course, but we know that is how I roll).
$9.99 (Retail* $25) PLCB Code: 33575
A white Burgundy for $10? The PLCB claims that this wine is a $25 value and to be honest, I agree. We have had this a few times now and it is a no brainer at $10. A bit disjointed, but other than that, I would not hesitate to serve this in just about any situation.