Prohibition Redux: Pennsylvania to Destroy Thousands of Bottles of Wine

Owner violated archaic liquor laws

Prohibition / AP

A Pennsylvania man's extensive wine collection is on the verge of destruction. The state plans to pour out thousands of bottles of wine, including many rare labels, after a police sting found the owner was selling the wine out of his home.

Pennsylvania is one of only two states where only the state is legally allowed to sell wine to the public, Bloomberg News reported.

Pennsylvania plans to destroy 2,447 bottles seized from Arthur Goldman, a Philadelphia-area lawyer who was charged this year with illegally reselling wine. While he has agreed to penalties, he’s fighting the jettisoning of his collection, which encompasses small-batch California producers such as Turley Wine Cellars, Martinelli Winery, and Kistler Vineyards.

Pennsylvania's liquor code requires that wine seized by the state either be destroyed or donated to a hospital.

The state seized the wine after assigning undercover agents to conduct an investigation into whether Goldman was selling any of his collection.

State police officers said that Goldman, 50, sold wine out of his home in Malvern, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia, court documents show. He sent an undercover agent a 97-page email of wines available for purchase, most of which weren’t available in the state. Goldman at one point showed two officers his basement, where they saw 90 boxes of wine, according to court papers.

This is the first time Goldman has been charged with illegally selling wine.

Goldman was charged in January with buying alcohol outside the state system and selling liquor without a license, and in August agreed to accept the penalties under a first-time offender program, said Michael Noone, Chester County First Assistant District Attorney.

Under the program, which doesn’t involve pleading guilty, Goldman must complete requirements such as two years of probation and 300 hours of community service, Noone said by telephone.

The wine that Pennsylvania plans to throw away is highly prized by collectors.

Much of Goldman’s collection reflects "small artisan producers" that only make limited varieties, said Tom Wark, executive director for the American Wine Consumer Coalition, a Napa-based lobbying group.

Wark, who said he has 25 years of experience in the wine industry, called a 2011 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch wine listed "one of the most sought-after Pinot Noirs made in California." Online prices for the wine start at $175, and it is only being offered by collectors.

Joel Mathis of Philadelphia Magazine labeled the ordeal unfair.

If the regulations and taxes on a product are so stringent, however, that they help create a black market for an otherwise-legal product—and that’s what happened here—then it’s likely those regulations and taxes are just a bit too burdensome to be considered, strictly speaking, fair.

Ever buy a bottle of, well, anything, in Delaware or New Jersey, then bring it home to Philly? If so, you know the experience was cheaper, more customer-friendly, better than the same experience here. But that also means you’ve violated the same laws that Arthur Goldman allegedly did.