Yes, it's true. Walmart received approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to put wine vending machines in stores across the state.
So, how does it work?
Pronto wine kiosk by Simple Brands
The wine bottle kiosks can hold up to 700 bottles and 50 different varieties, which can be purchased by credit card. You must be over 21, swipe a state-issued ID or driver's license, and pass a breathalyzer on the spot (with a reading of .02 or lower) to purchase the wine. The kiosks are monitored by a state employee sitting somewhere in Harrisburg using closed circuit television.
Many have asked, "Why doesn't Walmart just sell it themselves?" The answer: Because they can't.
Wine can't be sold in grocery stores in Pennsylvania. Strict licensing laws mean individuals can only buy wine and liquor for home consumption at state-owned stores staffed by public employees. Several attempts to reform the laws have been blocked by special interest groups. But luckily for the thirsty, it's completely legal to circumvent the law with a high-tech gadget. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "a vintage idea".
The question we should be asking is: Why must the sale of wine be handled in such a roundabout way? The lengths that the wine lovers have to go to in the name of making wine more available seems downright ridiculous.
Winetasting.com cannot currently ship wine to Pennsylvania, nor is it allowed to ship to 11 other states in the U.S. So long as wholesalers and distributors maintain strong lobbying groups to protect the status quo, arcane Prohibition-era laws will remain on the books. And technological workarounds like this will be needed, all for the simple pleasure of enjoying a glass of wine.
Watch this video for more info:
On Friday, Ann Littlefield and I participated in a very enjoyable visit from the members of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, who are currently touring the 2008 vintage to San Francisco (Jan. 21), Los Angeles (Jan. 22), Chicago (Jan. 24), Boston (Jan. 26) and New York City (Jan. 28).
I always enjoy the opportunity to compare a wide group of the best, organized by appellation, across an entire vintage. There is no other large-scale traveling tasting like this, that gives one such a complete picture of the vintage, in an important region like Bordeaux.
This year, 95 producers were available with selections to choose from, giving one the opportunity to taste 108 wines (including both the Blancs and Rouges from Graves and Pessac-Léognan producers). I was able to taste through everything in about two and a half hours.
The Winetasting.com team's conclusion on the tasting is that it is a relatively light vintage that favored the Left Bank, particularly St. Julien and Pauillac. For those Bordeaux drinkers like myself, who prefer lighter, more food-friendly Bordeaux, there are a number of attractive wines in this vintage with good acidity and balance. They should afford good early drinking, and will probably be showing up at pretty reasonable prices, compared to what we've been seeing from Bordeaux in recent years.
My favorite white Bordeaux was a usual suspect: the regularly excellent Domaine de Chevalier Blanc. My favorite Sauternes was represented by Aline Baly of Chateau Coutet out of Barsac, France. I had lunch with this charming lady at Morimoto's in Napa on Thursday afternoon, and I look forward to working closer with her and bringing some of her wines to you during the next year.
Most of the wines in this tasting are already quite approachable, and are consistent with wines that we have available at Winetasting.com from past vintages, such as:
Château du Piras 2004 Premieres Côtes de Bordeaux
Crimson color, powerful aromatic nose with touch of red fruits. Rich, full and round, with delicate tannins Finishes with a good length. Silver, Best Buy, 2009 World Wine Competition.
[BOR661] $14.99 - Sold out!
Aromas and flavors of cassis, berries and crushed strawberries. Silver: Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2006. Bronze, Recommended: 2010 World Wine Competition.
Chateau Pavie Macquin 2003, Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux
In his 95-point review, Robert Parker says: "Huge fruit on the attack is followed by a powerful, masculine wine with huge extract, high tannin, low acidity, and formidable power."
[BOR664] $81.99 - Sold out!
Both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast give high marks to this layered and powerful Bordeaux blend.
[BORWST9] $218.99 - Only 10 in stock!
|Photo by Orin Zebest|
Francis Sanders has done a great job as our blog spokesperson for the Geerlings & Wade brand. As we fold the Geerlings & Wade tradition into Winetasting.com, his role will continue to be instrumental to our long-term success. His voice and influence will continue as one of the many faces of Winetasting.com, as his perspective is much appreciated today and every day.
In the words of Francis:
I'll resist pulling a Bullwinkle J. Moose here, one of my favorite childhood incidents (no wonder my parents needed something stronger than wine). Co-creator Bill Scott, voicing the puppet host of NBC's 1961 The Bullwinkle Show, told the young audience "to take the knob off the TV set so you’d be sure to stay tuned." The angry network told the press that 20,000 or so kids had wrecked their family TV sets, my brother and I among them.
If I could only wield that kind of power moving people to the Winetasting.com blog ... and am actively taking suggestions on how to do so ...
Francis, if anyone could convince so many people to pull the knob (or pop the cork), it would be you.
Thanks for all you do!
Vice President & General Manager
In my long tenure as Geerlings & Wade's wine director (years before we became part of Winetasting.com), I was occasionally summoned to the telephone to help a member of the call center answer a difficult wine question or speak with a customer who specifically asked for me by name. That's how I first spoke with Patricia Neal.
She wanted my personal opinion, rather than our in-print descriptions on some wines she was considering. She needed wine for a function and more serious, less commercial, food-friendly values with some cellar potential for her admittedly modest personal use.
The wines that day pleased her; she used our own Hamilton Estates Merlot and Glass Ridge Vintner's Select Chardonnay for whatever that function was, and a price-sensitive Chateauneuf du Pape alternative that I liked better than the others, plus the same criteria on an Alsatian white ... food and wine savvy questions.
Since then, a few times per year I would get called to the phone because Ms. Neal wanted to talk with me. She always contacted me via the call center rather than my direct line – and made sure that the person who received her call and fetched me got the credit for her order.
I admit it, I was smitten. No way was I ever going to miss a call from that husky voice, copied by Kathleen Turner and umpteen others. She was the Mother in The Day the Earth Stood Still! Even after multiple strokes, learning to speak all over again and at an advanced age, she still possessed that wonderful instrument.
She always remembered what we had chatted about during the previous call and routinely inquired as to the (often precarious) health of my parents, in addition to doing our business. Being on the telephone with Ms. Neal was like talking to a mega-cool aunt who just happened to be my personal link to the tail end of the golden era of Hollywood, through to the breakdown of the studio system.
I only had the chutzpah one time to ask her about her career, about working with Kazan, who named names, on A Face in the Crowd. Then I told her how, as an impressionable lad, the scene with her dragging Andy Griffith into her hotel room by his collar was the most provocative thing my young eyes had seen. Instead of obtaining the obvious restraining order, she thanked me for knowing the film.
Patricia Neal died Sunday.
Though she compared portions of her life to Greek tragedy, she was a fighter. She suffered a nervous breakdown, nearly lost her infant son in a taxi accident, lost her daughter to measles in 1962 and suffered a series of strokes in 1965. The Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville still helps patients recover from strokes, spinal cord and brain injuries.
The Fountainhead, The Day the Earth Stood Still, A Face in the Crowd, Hud -- her 1963 Oscar-winning role opposite Melvyn Douglas and Paul Newman -- all are worth the price of admission. After her strokes, she made it back to the screen in 1968, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance in The Subject Was Roses. She also starred on Broadway and earned three Emmy nominations.
The next "old movie night" we host at our home -- we do this regularly with a small group of classic film fans -- will include The Day the Earth Stood Still, and with the meal, we'll serve two wines that she would have bought for herself . Food-friendly, they over-deliver and will improve in the bottle: the 2008 Louis Reffelingen (ALS123, $19.99, in stock soon), a Riesling from Alsace, and the 2006 Camp des Garrigues, Vacqueyras, from the Southern Rhone (RHO164, $24.99).
I could never bring myself to call her anything less formal than Ms. Neal. Knowing her paramours included Dashiell Hammett and Gary Cooper was intimidating enough.
She was my favorite "old G&W" customer. It was an honor to serve her.