It's a pox upon this state. A boil on the behind of every Pennsylvanian who enjoys a toot now and then. Our hooch is held hostage by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and its moonshine monkeyshines.
Thankfully, there is a savior in the Strip.
Since 1986, Mike Gonze has untangled the red tape strangling Pennsylvania wine consumers. Gonze is president of Dreadnought Wines in the Strip, one of about 50 PLCB-licensed wine distributors in the state.
Looking for a limited-production vintage? Or maybe a reasonably priced alternative to the usual critter-label standby? Perhaps you just need advice from a knowledgeable retailer.
At Dreadnought, customers can place a credit-card order ($50 minimum) with Gonze for desired wines. He'll fill out the paperwork, go to a state store and place the special order. The wine is ready for customer pick-up in two days.
"We make it easier for the consumer and the wineries that we represent," says Gonze.
In 1995, Gonze and Deb Mortillaro, owner of the adjacent retail store The Butler's Secret, which sells wine accessories, formed Palate Partners. Together, they market wine gift-baskets and have introduced a popular Wine-of-the-Month Club.
Wine snobs -- you know who you are, Mr. Pinkies Up -- do frequent Dreadnought Wines, but Gonze finds it more challenging to search for a good bottle for less than $12.
"Just because it's expensive doesn't always mean it's good," says Gonze. "Some of the less expensive wines are wonderful."
Many customers have walked into the store brandishing a list of recommended labels cut out of glossy wine magazines, he says.
"If a movie critic likes a movie, people rush out to see it because they think it's going to be great," explains Gonze. "It's all a matter of taste."
And cost. Gonze believes wine shouldn't be considered a luxury for the upper-crust set, nor off-putting to those with a slender pocketbook.
For $12 (no reservations required), Gonze and Mortillaro offer wine tastings on first and third Fridays, at their Strip venue. Participants can sample three whites and three reds, as well as nibble on bread and cheese. Dreadnought also offers classes and seminars, including the newbie-friendly "Wine 101."
"People are often intimidated by wine," Gonze says. "They think if they don't know a lot about them, they are afraid to ask questions."
But, there are no stupid questions. Except for, "Can I have a white-wine spritzer?"
Palate Partners/Dreadnought Wines
2013 Penn Ave., Strip District