One of the impetuses for re-starting this blog is to document some of the changes in our food and drink habits during the pandemic.
We’ve been lucky in many ways over the course of the past year, one of which has been our ability to get the supplies we needed with only minor glitches.
The biggest issue has been getting wine and liquor which really highlights the problems with Pennsylvania’s liquor laws.
When we first moved to Philadelphia over 9 years ago, our only option for buying wine and liquor was the Fine Wines and Good Spirits stores run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Fortunately, things had been getting better a few years ago. Grocery stores and bars started being able to sell wine although it’s fairly expensive.
I spent 4 years in Las Vegas, NV, and Holly grew up and lived in Long Beach, CA until she moved here so we both had experience with much more affordable wines. Bottles that cost under $10 in our previous lives cost nearly $20 here.
In the early days of the pandemic, the state run stores closed. At first, their online store wasn’t available either. When it did become available, it was unable to keep up with the demand so even getting to their site took a lot of luck.
Eventually, the site was functional, but the selection was somewhat limited. We were never huge fans of their wine selection, and their site focused more on popular wines so the handful of wines we did like from them were not available.
As difficult as the PLCB can be for residents, it can be even more so for restaurants.
Our liquor laws are also pretty restrictive about having wine and liquor shipped here from other states. One of the changes made a few years ago was to allow wine producers from other states to ship directly to residents. This comes with a cost and paperwork. Luckily, a few wineries we like have navigated the bureaucracy and applied to be able to ship to PA. Holly has joined clubs for Caraccioli Cellars and Tablas Creek Winery so we get shipments from them a few times a year. We have been to the Caraccioli’s tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Holly had been to Tablas Creek many times when she lived in California. I was fortunate to get to visit as well during one of our California trips.
She also joined the Plonk Wine Club through which we get the occasional mixed wine club, white wine club, and even a mystery case.
I also started buying wine from Naked Wines which has a small selection, but it has enough to help us keep stocked up. We’re not big Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon fans and those make up the majority of their offerings. But a lot of their wines are from California which we tend to be fond of so we’re always able to put a case together. They are less expensive than some of the other options, and they ship quickly which is a good option to have for when we fail to plan ahead.
Our favorite wine bar, Jet Wine Bar, can now sell wine by the bottle so we’ve gotten wine from them as well.
Certainly, we are doing fine with procuring wine. But it’s crazy to think that even 5 years ago, we did not have these options.
Shipping options are even more restrictive for liquor so we’ve been mostly relying on the state run stores for that. They started shipping to residents which they hadn’t done pre-pandemic. There have been some limitations to and unpredictability of their selection, but we’ve been able to get what we’ve wanted for the most part.
Although we can’t have liquor shipped from other states, we can get it shipped from PA distilleries. We’ve gotten Revivalist Gins from Brandywine Branch Distilling and Bluecoat Gin and Vigo Amaro from Philadelphia Distilling.
Luckily, beer has never been an issue which seems a little odd considering how restrictive the rest of the alcohol laws are. However, as with wine and liquor, beer is more expensive here than the other places we’ve lived. Beer is available at grocery stores (as long as you don’t want to buy any before 11:00 am on a Sunday) and at many restaurants. We’ve occasionally gotten some beer when we’ve gotten takeout.
Recently, I joined the Craft Beer Club which has added a little more variety.
I’m curious to see what of these changes will stick after things return to something like normal.
Given our dissatisfaction with the selection at the Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores, I’m sure we’ll still order some of our wines online. Once we’re comfortable with going back to the stores, we’ll take advantage of the opportunity to get some of the wines we do like from them.
Considering we don’t have many options other than ordering liquor from the state stores, we’ll continue to get our liquor from them.
We’ve been getting the Craft Beer Club for only 3 months so it’s too early to tell if that’s something we’ll continue to get. As I mentioned, getting beer has never been much of an issue.
Certainly, not everything in our pandemic lives has gone smoothly, but in terms of obtaining the things we’ve wanted, we’re fortunate that buying wine and liquor has been one of the more notable difficulties.