And You Were Expecting What, Exactly? (Thoughts On The PA Pay-To-Play Scandal)

“The most endangered species –
The honest man”

-Rush, Natural Science

In the great room of my house, there are two 5″x7″ framed prints in Chinese script, each of which represents one of the two “house rules” of the home shared by me and my daughter (it’s generally too big of a space for the two of us, but she understandably – and emphatically – did not want to move after I filed for divorce).

And yeah, there really are only two house rules at Chateau Dude. One represents Integrity, the other Honesty.

And yeah, we really do believe in and live by them. The fact that I feel compelled to write that last sentence is, I think, indicative of just how far through the looking glass we have come, socially speaking, in the USA, even in my relatively short lifetime.

And yeah, this will eventually get to the topic of wine, but that’s not the crux of this article (you have been warned). To get to that, we’ll need to review a couple of articles by W. Blake Gray that were recently published on [ full disclosure: I utilize their affiliate program ]. The first of these, Pay-to-Play Scandal Exposed, detailed the fallout from illegal bribes (including several thousand dollars spent on “adult entertainment”) offered by the likes of mega-distributor Southern Glazer’s to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to influence what alcoholic products were/weren’t carried on its state store shelves.

That story justifiably got a lot of traction. But it’s Gray’s follow-up story that, to me, is actually more important, and should have most of us outraged…

In that one, Digging Deeper in Pay-for-Play Scandal, Gray describes just how little justice has actually been served so far in this case (e.g., only four companies have paid fines to date, several PLCB staff potentially involved have not been charged, etc.). Not only is the lack of swift and meaningful justice not surprising, Gray sums up the collective thinking of the wine biz regarding this case – and the prevalence of illegal pay-to-play activity within the wine industry – near the end of his article:

“…most of this is probably happening in many spots around the country. We only know about Pennsylvania because wine and spirits are bought and sold there by a state monopoly.”

As wine lovers, industry folks, and just plain old humans who give a shit, we should be outraged at scandals like this. We should be pissed off that bribery and deceit are affecting (in secret) the choices of our favorite beverage in the Universe, in a supposedly free market.

But we’re not.

More likely, we’re just more f*cking exhausted than we are pissed off. I know that I am.

Look, I spent an embarrassingly long time having the wool pulled right over my eyes in my life, and while I’ve been called a good number of disparaging things in my time, “dumb” and “naive” has never been two of them. When I decided that enough was enough with the lies that were undermining my personal life, I was astonished at how flippantly people generally treated outright lying and deception. The attitude seemed to be “well, shit, everyone is lying all of the time anyway,” as if all lying were somehow equalized in scope, importance, and impact.

The problem is that attitudes like that one – enabling, cowardly attitudes of complacency – are cop-outs, and also happen to be dead wrong (e.g., see the Chateau Dude House Rules at the top of this article). Most people lie about something, usually when the stakes are small; but most good people do not actively deceive, especially when the stakes are large. When you do that, you’re probably an asshole, and from the looks of things, Southern Glazer’s and the PLCB have ample supplies of assholes, who were, in secret, determining to what beverages the people of PA should and should not have access.

The fact that we’re not surprised by any of this is a sad indicator of just how low our collective self-opinions and expectations regarding the truth have sunk (at least in the USA). No matter what your political stance, only a non-reasonable person would not recognize that we have recently elected one of the most publicly prolific liars in recent memory as President of the United States. One of the most popular, entertaining, and well-written wine websites at the moment consists not of investigative journalism or reviews, but is almost entirely insider-baseball style satire; while I love it, I’ve been unable to read it lately because it feels progressively less and less absurd compared to the absurdity that we accept around us daily.

The crux here, if there is one, is to demand better.

Not just from the wine business, though it would be great to have such a storied, enduring, fantastic, and civilized industry become an example of how above-board business can be successfully conducted in the USA. But also from ourselves; if you’re not angry, maybe it’s time that you did get a little angry. Not kick-the-dog angry, but just angry enough to clear out of the haze of complacency, and demand better conduct from both ourselves and the industry that we love.


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Love Lost And… Well… Lost (2017 Thoughts On The PLCB)


It’s with some hesitation that I mention to you that I was recently quoted in a article about my thoughts on the rebranding efforts of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, most of which were probably too obscenity-laden to print.

I’m not hesitant about the article itself, mind you, but I am hesitant about giving the PLCB any more attention at all, at this point. Primarily because there’s no love lost between me and the PLCB.

Actually, there’s no love between me and the PLCB, period. I hate the PLCB.

My friend Lew Bryson, also quoted in the article, puts it best when he describes the PLCB attempting to rebrand itself: “lipstick on a pig.”

To adequately describe how utterly f*cked up the situation regarding alcohol sales is under the state-run PLCB monopoly here in PA, I refer you to PA Rep. Adam Harris’s comments in a December article, in which he describes PA liqour reform legislation that went into effect in 2016:

“…the two key components that most people will notice is that they allowed for the sale of wine in grocery stores and other outlets and, beginning in mid-January, beer distributors will be able to sell down to the single unit, including allowing for mix-and-match sales of six packs.”

Well, whoopde-f*cking-doo.

Eighty-three years after the end of Prohibition in the USA, Pennsylvania residents can buy wine and beer in the same way that most other states have already allowed for decades. Maddeningly, almost incomprehensibly, that is touted as progress under the PLCB and monopoly system in PA. Nothing is said, of course, of the issues with prices, how in-state wine producers’ products are treated, overall selection, shipping limitations, store employee knowledge-levels, and quality of service; because, hey, you’re allowed to mix a six pack now!

The PLCB remains a nightmare for knowledgeable PA wine consumers, who will only constitute a growing number of the population, given how easily wine product information is disseminated and consumed in our current, ultra-competitive wine market. And the fact that it remains such an anachronistic but powerful body in that market ought to scare the entire wine segment, at least a little bit, because no monopoly is going to make doing business easy on the back-end (there just isn’t enough incentive for mutuality – think about it).

It’s long past time to retire this dinosaur, and privatize the tiers of the alcohol business in PA; not just for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s residents, but quite probably for the benefit of the entire wine industry.


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Love Lost And… Well… Lost (2017 Thoughts On The PLCB) from - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

Pennsylvania’s Latest Attempt To Alienate Its Wine Lovers

Pennsylvania’s Latest Attempt To Alienate Its Wine Lovers

In what apparently is Pennsylvania’s latest attempt to prove that it is, in fact, the single worst state in the Union for wine lovers, a recent ruling by Chester County Judge Edward Griffith has put the kibosh on saving a few thousand bottles of wine confiscated from resident Arthur Goldman (who was caught in a sting operation and charged with buying wine outside of the PA state monopoly system, and selling wine in the state without a license). Sorry, but getting angry makes me write run-on sentences, ok?

Through the ruling, the judge Griffith has paved the way for dumping of the confiscated wine (much of which is top-notch stuff), pissing off the state’s wine lovers. The ruling also denies a request by nonprofit Chester County Hospital to have the wine sold to benefit the hospital (presumably, pissing off everyone else in the state, too).

A quote from the judge:

“Since the liquor code makes no provision for condemned wine to be sold for any purpose, the wine may not be delivered to a hospital for sale.”

We cannot fault the judge for upholding current law, since that’s his job. And that law – the PA liquor code – exists, in theory, to control the flow of alcohol in Pennsylvania, and, you know, protect the children! Like the children that are served by… Chester County Hospital!

Ostensibly, however, the PA liquor code seems to be more and more a vehicle to protect the money coming in to the state’s coffers from the alcohol sales controlled by the PA Liquor Control Board. You know, the same board that serves PA’s wine-buying public by spending taxpayers’ dollars inefficiently; instituting expensive, failed initiatives that it’s unclear are even wanted by its customers; selling wine that has been shown to have high levels of arsenic; and committing fraud.

In other words, I don’t think that Pennsylvania is going to be upgrading its wine consumer advocacy grade of “F” anytime soon.


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Copyright © 2015. Originally at Pennsylvania’s Latest Attempt To Alienate Its Wine Lovers from - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!