Get Ready for Chairman’s Advantage

chairmans-advantage plcb
Will these signs grace stores in the near future?

For several years there’s been talk in Harrisburg of splitting the PLCB Chairman’s Selection program into two distinct entities, one a lower-end, bulk buy program, focused on bargain basement deals in the $5-10 category, the other the Chairman’s Selection program we already know, slightly re-branded to focus more on the $10 and higher wines, known otherwise as ultra premium (aka $10-15) and luxury ($15+).

The new category would focus mostly on mainstream brands, wines one might typically find for $8-12 elsewhere. Past Chairman’s picks that were thrown around as potential candidates were those such as the popular Pillar Box Red Blend (which was lovingly priced at $6.99 a few years back) or wines like Beringer Sauvignon Blanc and others of that ilk.

Though the split would be mostly price-based, some imports under $10 (or whatever the price point is) will still land in the Chairman’s Selection line. My best guess is wines that’re more esoteric – such as the Sella & Mosca Terre Rare Carignano Riserva 2008, which’ll hit stores in the near future for a mere $8.99 – won’t be a match for the bulk buy category. In this case it’s a weird grape – Carignan(o) – from an obscure region – Sardinia. (If it’s anywhere near as good as the 2005 vintage that was on CS a few years ago, however, stock up. But I digress…)

Anyway, when I asked Chairman’s Selection head buyer Steve Pollack about the progress of this initiative in the spring, but he told me it was all but dead. Whether he was just being coy or the program has merely joined the dozens of others on the zombie bandwagon is unclear, but as of autumn it’s back in full force and about to launch for real under the name Chairman’s Advantage.

Though details are only beginning to emerge, here’s what we know so far:

The trademark Chairman’s Advantage was registered to the PLCB in August of this year.

Update [4/20/15]:

  • The program will feature a maximum of 4 wines at a time: 2 whites and two reds
  • These items will only be available in certain stores.

The first three wines were approved for the program in October.

They are:

Castello di Gabbiano Solatio Rosso 2012 ($7.99)
Solatio means “sunny” in Italian, and the producer promises a wine of similarly bright personality in this entry-level Super Tuscan blend (50% Syrah, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Sangiovese) that receives minimal oak and is meant for early drinking. Considering it is priced at $10.99 at Canal’s in Mt. Ephram, NJ, our discount does look to be quite an advantage.

Talbingo Hill Shiraz South Eastern Australia 2014 ($6.99)
I couldn’t find much information about this one online – just a few wine clubs selling the 2010 vintage of the reserve Shiraz for $17.99. No winery website at all suggests this is a label slapped on some bulk wine and at this price it’d be hard to be surprised. Though if it really is the same wine that sold for $18, that’d be some serious buying power at work.

Bootstrap Zinfandel Lodi 2013 ($8.49)
There wasn’t even one scrap of information about this one, other than the mention on the PLCB website. Interestingly, the highest priced of the bunch.

One of the things people often tell me most when we discuss buying wine is their quest for a house wine – that inexpensive pick they can stock up on and drink every day that’ll keep them interested and won’t break the bank. Though the quality offered in this new program remains to be seen, Chairman’s Advantage could just be the savior for all those house wine yearners out there.

Of course, it could also be just another place for unwanted juice.

Only time will tell! Stay tuned to PA Vine Co. for updates as details emerge.

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