Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pennsylvania: Playground or Prison?

The PLCB recently held a 'wine festival' in Pittsburgh (and Hershey and Philly). Blog reader David Mahler had this to say about it, a little rant he sent along (thanks, David!):

Pennsylvanians attending a wine festival are like prison inmates going to a fashion show. The prisoners can hoot and holler all they want as the spring collection parades down the runway, but stripes are stripes, and when the lights go out a prisoner, whether of criminal type or the Pennsylvania wine consumer type, knows there is only one authority.

Pittsburgh Wine Festival participants sniffed, sipped, and spit or swilled the objects of their desire April 30th at Heinz Field. Reportedly, nearly 3,000 festival attendees confronted wines from over one hundred and fifty wineries in a curious show of interest, considering that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board was, along with Comcast, a “presenter” of the brief annual event.

$125 would have bought you two hours of “Grand Tasting” sampling time (twice that money designated you a VIP and gave you four hours), and whatever pleased your palate was yours for purchasing at the PLCB's onsite store.

Two hours? What can you expect to discover in two hours? I call this a slurp to judgement: make a quick decision (the clock is ticking) and fork over your money.

Among other facets of the festival, the rubes-will-fall-for-this-one Chairman’s Selection wines normally featured in State Stores were marked down 10% from their usual prices. Prison analogy continued: “The suggested sentence for your crime is ten years. But we’re only gonna keep you here for eight!” Where does the Chairman come up with his “Quoted at” price? More importantly, is a bargain really a bargain when there is nothing to compare it to?

That's the last prison lingo of this writing: pardon me. I easily digress when working into a lather caused by the State store system. Back to the festival.

Whoops. Can’t go back to the festival, since I didn’t attend.

Was I turned off by the official press release that said “Rare cult wines will also be available for purchase?” Faddish devotion to hard to find wines? Not for me, though I admit I am committed to buying a decent bottle of table wine, imported by a savvy wine importer, and sold by a knowledgeable retailer who believes in return customers who are motivated by quality, value, and service, and not simply because there is no other choice.

We’re a sheltered bunch, we Pennsylvania wine-drinking residents who are forced to buy through the monopoly that is the PLCB. At least the PLCB hopes we are sheltered. If we’re not, then we’re apt to know that in states other than Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming, one need not put up with pretense at a festival to enjoy a world’s worth of wine options.


sam k said...

Holy crap, Lew. VIP WhiskyFest Chicago tickets are a steal at $140 more than ever, and get you FOUR HOURS of tasting hard spirits that can't even be imagined here in the Keystone State!! Then you can proceed to any number of privately owned liquor stores to purchase something that's totally unavailable here.

And if one store doesn't carry your whiskey of choice, the next one down the street just might. WHAT A CONCEPT!!

$250 for a wine tasting festival in a control state? And the Republicans think Obama's crazy?!?

Anonymous said...

2 Hours is a PATHETICALLY small amount of time for that kind of money, especially considering that even Philly industry tastings are free and last several hours...