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Four State Store Wine Picks From Townsend's Sommelier

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Wine pro Lauren Harris finds some winners on the dismal PLCB scene

Lauren Harris
Lauren Harris
Photo by Neal Santos

With the exception of a few premium collection flagships, venturing into a state-run Fine Wine and Good Spirits store is a daunting endeavor. The decor scheme brings to mind neon-lit K Mart on it's last legs, employees oftentimes don't know their syrah from Ciroc and the wine selection would surely get a failing grade from Robert Parker. In a town that's known for its award-winning BYOs, the state of wine in Philadelphia is a conundrum.

Photo by Caroline Russock

Photo by Caroline Russock

In order to find the best bottles that the state store has to offer, we're tapping some of the city's wine pros to walk us through the aisle, uncovering vintages and values from the mass market inventory that the PLCB is so very fond of.

First up: Lauren Harris, the sparkling sommelier that lines up beautiful bottles at Townsend on Passyunk and keeps glasses full at A Mano, the Italian Fairmount BYO from chefs Townsend Wentz and Michael Millon.

Although Harris lives in Fairmount, a full home cellar means that she's not a frequent customer of the 20th and Fairmount state store, and frankly, didn't have high hopes for the store's selection. Lo and behold, here are four options to choose from on your next wine/liquor run — all of which can be found at the 1935 Fairmount Avenue location.


Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir - $27.99

Harris explains that this Pacific Northwestern producer speaks to her methodology. "They're pretty uninterventionist," she says. "They practice sustainable farming if not biodynamic." The label talks about which clones were used to produce this light bodied, juicy vintage, when the grapes were harvested and how many barrels were produced.


Willamette Valley Vineyards Reisling - $10.99

The same producer makes a Reisling worth your while. "There's a lot of information on the back of bottle. This describes it as fruity clean and crisp which in hot weather sounds appealing to me," she explains. "Because of all of the other technical information [mentioned above], I trust them."


Paul Jaboulet’s Parallele 45 Côtes du Rhône - $15.99

<a href="">Jaboulet/Official</a>

"I would probably buy this if I was coming in here," she says of the infinitely food-friendly blend of Grenache and Syrah. While Jaboulet might be a "huge house", it’s one that has centuries of French winemaking history behind it. "Typically big name houses aren't my jam, but that's who I would trust when I don't see little boutique-y finds. That's what's in here a lot, big-name houses."


Lillet Aperol Spritz

<a href="">Aperol/Facebook</a>

It's Harris's state store secret weapon: a DIY cocktail that can be mixed table-side at A Mano, and one that pairs with the menu’s elegantly executed Italian plates perfectly. "If you have to buy something at this store, my recommendation would be to grab a bottle of Lillet, a bottle of sparkling wine and a bottle of Aperol and make it super fun at the restaurant with a round of Aperol Spritzes." The Lillet is Harris’s secret ingredient to this classic Venetian refresher and it adds lovely floral note to the effervescent aperitivo. It’s also a great way to kick off a meal at A Mano and something of a power move. "After all, you’re probably meeting friends that are definitely bringing wine," says Harris.


77-82 Whitechapel High Street, , England E1 7QX 020 7522 7896 Visit Website

A Mano

2244 Fairmount Avenue, , PA 19130 (215) 236-1114 Visit Website