'Can I help you?"
I'm not sure which shocked me more: the first time I recall ever being asked by a Pennsylvania State Store employee if I needed guidance, or that Max Gottesfeld would actually help with such knowledge and zeal. The "wine specialist" in charge of ordering premium bottles at the 1218 Chestnut Street store, his eyes lit up at the challenge of finding an "interesting" Euro red under $20, then he led me on a richly annotated tour of his favorites, from Corsica to Sicily to a Georgian Saperavi "aged in amphorae!"
The winner, though, was Le Pigeoulet en Provence 2010, an expressive grenache-based red from Vaucluse for $17 by the Vieux Télégraphe family - a second-label deal at a fraction of its big Rhône brother's price: "You get a little bit of the 'garrigue' of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, but it's not quite Châteauneuf, you know?"
Yup. A State Store employee just tossed off mention of "garrigue," the famed herbal essence of Provence. Shock number three? Max Gottesfeld was spot-on.