Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Easter, perfect pairings and LCB discounts

The kids are home. Company's headed over later. So it's time to open the best bottles laying in the racks in the cellar or chilling in the small upstairs refrigerator. Yesterday that meant uncorking a 2007 Naked Chardonnay from Chaddsford. Might duplicate that for starters today, perhaps opening one of the bottles we bought from Pinnacle Ridge. Or perhaps the Zafferano from Va La in Avon Grove. For our turkey dinner, we could uncork any number of Cabernet Franc bottles that we've bought from wineries around the region, including Stargazers in Pennsylvania and Woodhall in northern Maryland. Or we could add a little more color to the table with a bottle of Rose that we bought a few weeks ago during our visit to Waltz Vineyards in Manheim. The primary purpose of that trip was to catch a glimpse of the new tasting room and purchase a couple bottles of their signature, the Merlot. That's until we had a taste of the Rose and Chardonnay, which also found their way home with us.

Yesterday's match with steaks featured a bottle from the "state store," something I don't write about much on a blog that's focused on regional wines and wineries. But I had noticed during a couple of visits to premium collection stores around the region that some of the higher-priced bottles, those quoted at $60 or more, had been marked down to $19.99. Bought one last month outside Harrisburg, a 2000 Cims de Porrera Priorat, and several other wines quoted at $40 and $50 were marked down under $20.

Found a similar sale at the East York store on Friday, with bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Miguel Torres vineyard in Spain dropped to $19.99. The 1996 Mas La Plana hit it off perfectly with the slabs of meat that made a quick trip to the charcoal grill.

I'm a sucker for the "old stuff," certainly anything that I know was in the ground prior to 2000. Gave this wine a couple hours to open up by uncorking and then decanting. It was one of those with such an aromatic bouquet that you just wanted to stand there and inhale. Eventually we did get around to polishing off the bottle.

Checked in with Tony Jones (the chief of product management and pricing division for the state’s Liquor Control Board) and Steve Pollack (the head of the Chairman's Selection program) to find out how often they were knocking the price of some of these premium wines and, if I bought them, how quickly I had to drink them.

Jones said the sales are just a matter of controlling inventory. "We’re a retail business and all of our investory equates to dollars," he said, "so we like to see a good sell-through time frame. We like to see a product sell through in six months, ideally 90 days, but when it comes around six months and we're still seeing a good deal of intentory left on a product hanging around, that’s what motivates us to sell it through and move on to other products."

You'll likely find these significant markdowns at the premium collection stores only, and the new price will be uniform across the Commonwealth. Jones and Pollack noted that this particular wine, and other premiums priced to move, don't necessarily have to be consumed quickly. Maybe buy a couple and drink one now, then cellar others to open in 2010 and 2011 or beyond. They figure to show well for the next few years, at least.

Jones noted that state residents have access to more of these discounts through online sales at the LCB's premium collection site. Generally, he said, they'll pull the wines they need to move off the shelves and promote them online to customers who have signed up for e-blasts. Anyone purchasing these can designate which store they want the wine shipped to. The wine cannot be received at someone's residence or business.

"We expect to have another sale coming up after the wine festivals [at the end of the month and the start of May]," Jones said. "The majority [of sales we've done in the past] have been online only. [This sale] is probably only the second time we’ve allowed the inventory to stay in stores. We don’t want to tarnish the Chairman’s program by having a bunch of discounted items out there, so we move [them] online."