While, as a wine lover, I have many times lamented living in an state where alcohol sales are controlled by the government, one good thing has come from living in the state that is the single largest purchaser of wine and spirits in the country. That good thing is the phenomenon that is the Chairman’s Selections program at the PA Wine and Spirits Stores.
As the newly elected head of the PLCB in 2002, Jonathan Newman sought to create a better wine and spirits buying experience for residents of Pennsylvania. It is he who began the process of establishing restaurant liquor licenses for use within grocery stores, established more in depth training programs for PLCB employees and worked to improve the appearance of the state run stores. He established wine festivals such as the one held annually in Pittsburgh. His desire for improvements led to the development of Premium stores with their advanced temperature controlled rooms to properly store fine wines.
One of the most significant programs that he established is the Chairman’s Selection Program. When the Chairman’s Selection program was founded, Newman would personally select fine wines and then leverage upon Pennsylvania’s purchasing power to secure them for Pennsylvania residents at phenomenal prices. With his departure from the board in 2007 current chairman P.J. Stapleton’s continuation of the program is one of the few beacons of hope left in the PLCB’s system.
Currently Chairman’s selections are available at the Premium stores and with limited variety at the Outlet Stores (such as the Oak Springs Road store in Washington). Generally, one or two Chairman’s selections can be found as featured wines at any of the smaller stores throughout the state as well. These wines can be found at price points as low as $8.99 and are highly scored wines of proven quality. The prices that they are offered for are generally much better than the wines can be purchased for anywhere else, including online.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the Donafugata Ben Rye Passito Di Pantelleria. This wine was a featured Chairman’s selection available at the Premium stores. The best price that I was able to find this wine for online is $34.99 and as a Chairman’s selection, the price was $26.99 which is a considerable savings. This week, I purchased Mumm Napa 2008 PInot Noir as a Chairman’s Selection at the outlet store. This wine retails for $35.99 and the best price I found for it online was $19.99. The price for this wine as a Chairman’s Selection was just $9.99.
The Chairman’s Selection program brings a lot of very nice wines into a very affordable price range for enjoying on any given weekend and makes it possible to serve very nice wines for special gatherings. It does, in fact, help to make fine wine more accessible to Pennsylvanians by giving them price motivation to try these wines. Many who would not have considered purchasing the Mumm Pinot Noir at $35.99 have no problem spending $9.99 on the bottle and are more likely to expand their palate and enjoy more varied wines. The next time you are looking for a great wine to serve to guests, be sure to take advantage of Chairman’s selections offerings. They offer an excellent value that you are unlikely to find elsewhere on many fine wines.