Pennsylvania is hardly the first state where you would expect innovation in wine retail. The state’s Liquor Control Board owns all the retail outlets and the distribution in the state. Generally monopolies are known for limited selection and high prices, not innovation.
Yet that is exactly what might be in store for Pennsylvania wine enthusiasts as the state has proposed to allow 100 “wine kiosks” around the state. To the tape:
The kiosks, a type of temperature-controlled vending machine capable of holding 500 bottles of wine, would be placed in grocery stores and other places [malls], according to request on the LCB’s Web site. They would offer about a dozen different types of wine.
Before you think this is where all the minors are going to go before the prom, each kiosk will have “fingerprints and biometric readings” for age verification. Yikes! Retinal scan for retsina.
Making wine more accessible is a good thing. I hope for all wine loving Pennsylvanians that the selection is great! Get a little Bollinger before heading to Borders? Malbec and a movie? I wonder if they will have stemware. Or perhaps TetraPak wine so the bottle doesn’t break while being dispensed.
Would you like to see them in your state?
In 2006, Astor Wine moved from Astor Place. Granted, it didn’t move far–just one long block away. The store’s owner was able to buy space in the handsome De Vinne Press building so they should be there a good, long while.
I visited the store when it first opened (and many times since then), but I recently went where I’d never been before: underground! Through a secret stairway behind the cognac display if you push the wall on the third shelf from the bottom…OK, there’s actually an open staircase with a conveyor belt on the side of it right behind the tasting bar.
The basement storage area is even larger than the store and extends under Lafayette Street! Lesley, my guide, said that the storage space at the previous location was even bigger, extending multiple levels below ground.
A room in the cellar is climate-controlled and they put the good stuff in there. Another walk-in, restaurant-style fridge has the sakés in it.
To power the cooling units as well as the store and portions of the building, Andrew Fisher, the owner, has purchased two Capstone microturbine generators. In short, they are powered by natural gas and produce both electricity and heat, allowing the store to live off the grid. Mayor Mike likes microturbines.
Despite the mayor’s enthusiasm, city bureaucracy has kept the microturbines unhooked for over year since they were installed. The gas meter has not been connected and the gas turned on. “Every time we ask ‘when,’ we get an answer of 2 weeks,” Fisher wrote me via email. Do turbines improve with age? Doubtful.
More photos after the jump. Read more…
First up, Moore Brothers. The chill-hounds at Mo Bro keep the entire store at 56 degrees. So how cold is their basement storage? I asked them if I could see it–and…wait for it…it’s 56 degrees too!
Bill, an employee of the store who happened to work in refrigeration for 16 years before getting into wine, explained that they have four cooling units split into several zones to cool the three stories.
Does it cost Mo’ money? Yes, to the tune of 50 cents a bottle, Bill said.
The basement storage area consisted of cardboard shipping boxes ready to go be filled. Shipping is hard for these folks given their cold fetish. Bill said they basically don’t ship during the summer.
They also had, as you would imagine, cases of wines imported more or less directly from boutique producers in France, Italy and Germany. They get all of their wine from one importer, Fleet Street, who is as fanatical about 56 degrees as they are.
Are you in Paris today during the 24-hr public sector strike and wondering what to do? Why, set up a wine-drenched itinerary of local wine shops! Check out my brand new map of Paris wine stores–and wine bars that sell wines to go!
I give you the scoop on over 40 places including my faves, ranging from neighborhood places to super-luxury stops. If you’re a local looking for “natural” wines or a tourist looking for wines you can’t find at home, click through to start setting up your own itinerary for your next visit!
Is one of yours not on the map? Drop me a line with the address and why you think it should be included.
Academic researchers Alan Wiseman and Jerry Ellig studied wine retail prices in Virginia before and after the Supreme Court decision. Care to guess which period had the higher prices? Indeed, prices fell 26 – 40 percent with greater interstate trade in wine. [Journal of Politics, pdf]
SIPPED and SPIT: wine discounts in France
The annual “foires aux vins” are taking place in hypermarkets around France. Consumers rejoice when markups can fall to as low as zero – five percent. Meanwhile, those in the trade grumble about other retailers scooping up the fine wine and reselling it for more later. In all, a quarter of French wine sells during these Foires according to the AFP story.
SIPPED: Pinot Noir. Go Ca-na-da!
The quest for North American pinot noir has moved north–1,100 miles north of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley to British Columbia. Hotter summers and milder winters have brought better grapes such as pinot noir to places like the Okanagan Valley, half way between Calgary and Vancouver. Now it’s a race against the frost to harvest. [WSJ]
SIPPED: late sampling
The 100 wines available by the glass at Artisanal will be half-priced after 10 PM. Starts next week. [Grub Street]
SPIT: Brunello di wha?!?
Author of historical fiction, Ken Follett, has a new 1,000+ page doorstop out. Let’s hope he gets his wine references right this time (we’re all up on our 14th century English wine, right?) since he admits that he erroneously invented the “Brunello Di Moltepulciano” in his last book.
SPIT: Claridges in London
The next time they go to London (by sailboat?), Treehugger admits a boycott of the Claridges hotel in London. Why? Because of the carbon footprint of the bottled water, now with over 30 choices including a liter from NZ for £50. Claridges’ Renaud Gregoire told the Evening Standard that “water is becoming like wine. Every guest has an opinion, and asks for a particular brand.” What the heck, given my earlier bottled water ban, I think I’ll boycott Claridges too! Feel the pain of my non-visit, Claridges! [Treehugger]
With a theme of Portuguese table wines, WBW 38 has been wrapped up with 30 contributors around the web. Great map! [Catavino]
Have you ever had a question for me? Hit the “contact” button above! Tom Wark had twenty questions for me that I answered in a Q&A. Check out my answers at his blog. [Fermentation]
The venerable wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann moved and I couldn’t wait to check out the new digs. After all, with so much innovation in New York City wine shops, I was eager to see how the management of this patrician shop capitalized on the opportunity to do something different with their new space at Park Avenue at 59th Street.
They didn’t. It’s lighter, with windows on two sides now. But it’s still compact, now with less friendly displays.
On my visit, two things caught my eye as I browsed. Read more…
Great carafe: Le Comptoir du Relais. We enjoyed a great lunch (excellent salads all around) at Yves Camdeborde’s hot spot right by the Odeon. The wine highlight was a one liter carafe of “KO” Puzelat cabernet franc for 15 euros! (find this wine) Amazing. It’s pretty much gone from NYC where the wine was available for $23 a bottle in a store, making that carafe all the tastier. If only US restaurants could have this quality of wine this cheap. Sigh. (6th arr; 33 1 44 27 07 97)
Great lunch: Chez Michel. Thierry Breton cooks the food of his home region, Brittany, in this homey place in the shadow of a church near the Gare du Nord. We had excellent white asparagus, mouthwatering clams and mussels cooked in a rich, herbed broth, and the largest–and very tasty–rice pudding I’ve ever seen. Solid wine list. Prix fixe: 30 euros. (10, Rue Belzunce, Paris 10e – +33 1 44 53 06 20)
Great wine shop: Caves Augé Manager Marc Sibard stocks some great bottles in this cramped shop (now actually owned by the same owners as Lavinia). The emphasis is on natural wines and it is a treasure trove for wine geeks. Be sure to ask for things if you don’t see them since there is also a large storage area in the basement. Great spirits selection, particularly Armagnac. Read more from my visit last year. And be sure to check out their blowout tastings with producers in the spring and fall. 116, Boulevard Hausmann, Paris 75008
Another great wine shop: La Derniere Goutte. American owner Juan Sanchez presides over a small but well-chosen selection of wines from the growers themselves, including Champagnes. He has weekly tastings with visiting producers on Saturday afternoons. And being a good American, he opens the shop on Sundays. English spoken by everyone in the store. 6, rue de Bourbon le Chateau, 75006 Paris
Best falafel sandwich: l’As du falafel (rue des Rosiers, Le Marais). Great street food, which made me want to sit down and pair it with wine. 4 E 50. I tried come of the competition on the street and the lines in front of l’As are there for a reason.
Best ice cream: Berthillon. Though the now ubiquitous “Amorio” chain does a nice job, their floral presentation of the gelato seems to have slipped since last year as the number of outlets have increased. We tried a chocolate and a mint from Amorio and Berthillon on the Ile Saint Louis and Berthillon won each category. Deep dark chocolate! Fresh mint! A no-brainer. Although the original Berthillon store is closed most of the summer (!), the ice creams are sold throughout the city through various resellers.
Best mille feuille pastry in Paris: Pierre Hermé. Mrs. Vino and I were lamenting the downgrading of the mille feuille pastry as it no longer appeared to have quite the “thousand” layers of its billing. Thanks to a tip from our friend Mike, who is a Pierre Hermé junkie, we discovered their deux mille feuille–inflation! Swallow your pride about not wanting to look like a touron (tourist-moron) and ask for a fork. See if you can make it past the square in front of the church St. Sulpice before you tuck into this absolutely delicious treat. 72, rue Bonaparte 75006
More of my wine odds ‘n ends from Paris and France.
Some of these places may be closed in August.
Darrell Corti has banned the sale of high alcohol wines in his food and wine emporium in Sacramento, CA according to a story on AppellationAmerica.com. Corti says:
At our store, after a tasting on the 29th of March, I put on top of the Zinfandel section, “This is the last tasting Corti Brothers will do for over 14.5 percent Zinfandels. These wines will no longer be sold at Corti Brothers. There will be no exceptions…They (high alcohol wines) make you very tired. My idea of a really good bottle of wine is that two people finish the bottle and wish there was just a little bit more. Some of these wines with high levels of alcohol — you can’t finish the bottle. You don’t want to finish the bottle.”
What do you say? Is Corti a hero or a villain?
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