Gravy be damned!

My mum likes cooking, but not enough to do it sober. That’s why, when Auntie H called to ask what she should bring for dinner, Mum said wine. Auntie H was hesitant; she said she didn’t know anything about wine, so I got on the phone and coached her through it. Well, actually I sat beside the phone gesturing madly while my mum claimed to be just joking about requesting wine. Dammit, we needed that wine, no matter what crazy bottle Auntie H and Uncle B might choose.

real de aragonWe especially needed wine because Mum had committed her annual profligate crime—she’d poured a bottle of LANGA REAL DE ARAGON over the turkey, torturing any liquids-only folk and animals (okay, just me) to suffer the sizzle of quickly evaporating alcohol off the browning poultry as whatever angels inhabit the LBHQ oven greedily guzzled their supposed share. It was horrible, people, but of course you know I’m getting used to it. Apparently it makes good gravy, but that doesn’t make it forgivable.

We did snatch one glass of LANGA REAL DE ARAGON, noting the 90-point Robert Parker accolade it wore around its neck before the cork got popped. Not bad for $13.99—could it be true, or was Parker just hammered when he made the call?

Don't let my mother do this to you, my fellow inebriates!

Don’t let my mother do this to you, my fellow inebriates!

It was true. OMG, my fellow inebriates, it was true. LANGA REAL DE ARAGON is crisp and subtle, wafting bright orchard goodness and biscuit notes. Fresh and lively on the palate, this Spanish bubbly deserved to be drunk, not sacrificed to the turkey. Gravy be damned!

Once the sparkling wine was gone I felt very morose. But luckily Auntie H and Uncle B arrived with their two monkeys and not one but TWO, count ‘em, two bottles of wine. Check it out:

Gnarly Head Zin 2011

Now, if I can only get the bottles open…

SHOT IN THE DARK CABERNET SHIRAZ (2010)—Pound it all at once or you might get bored, put the screwtop on, and find yourself sober enough to work out the next morning. And who wants that?

My Fellow Inebriates,

Upon learning Joe Weider had died, I had a sudden impulse to work out. After all, you don’t get to be 93 sitting on a barstool begging your parents for cheap rye.


But, hell, who needs to be 93 anyway? (Incidentally, for bears, 93 is more like 32.) If I live to be either, my parents will be long dead, and who will take care of me?

P and V??

P and V??


So the plan is to carry on drinking myself to death. Last night’s poison, SHOT IN THE DARK CABERNET SHIRAZ (2010), an award-emblazoned $13.99 offering at my local booze shop, appealed to my mother despite its contradiction between wine-show performance and price point. Finally optimism won out and it came home with us like an orphaned wombat.

We’ve been so-so about Australian wine lately. Yes, it’s awfully good for our general drunkenness and anti-longevity efforts. But Aussie winemakers are famous for harvesting overripe grapes or even adding sugar to wine to pump up its alcohol content, generating a boozy smokescreen for what are often “bulk” characteristics. Maybe we need to hit a higher price point (okay, we do). Or maybe we just haven’t been sufficiently diligent at avoiding:

  • Labels with stupid names
  • Labels featuring criminals
  • Labels featuring animals
  • Labels with eye-bleeding primary colors
  • Labels referring to churches, parsons, or other clergy with or without random qualifying adjectives

shot in the dark cab shiraz 2010SHOT IN THE DARK, while a stupid name suggesting half-assed viticultural efforts, nevertheless skirted all these other red flags, plus it came festooned with a row of awards, which ultimately propelled it into our shopping basket. Three-quarters Cabernet and one-quarter Shiraz, it benefits from decanting somewhat, although it ceases to develop new flavors after 15 minutes or so, at which point you probably want to pound it. Predominant aromas are sweet berries and a cloying grapey simplicity that is, in fairness, free of any chook or other barnyard shenanigans. Reasonably pleasant on the nose, it’s slightly more assertive on the palate, introducing herbs, oak, and eucalyptus. The mouthfeel is less dense than I’d have expected with this blend, coming off middling rather than dense. The finish is a bit forgettable.

SHOT IN THE DARK has garnered a lot of buzz, and perhaps these raves take into consideration its low price. I doubt I’m the only one staring at the emperor’s hairy ass—at least, my dad agreed this wine wasn’t all that—but the hype seems a bit over the top. It’s certainly not a bad wine, but as a centerpoint for conversation, without the distraction of food or conversation that sparkles more than my parents’, it ends up lacking. Most damning (at least in LBHQ terms) we didn’t finish this bottle all in one go. Instead we replaced the screwtop and went to bed. And that’s how I woke up sober and managed to work out for five minutes after hearing that Joe Weider was dead.

ROBERT OATLEY SHIRAZ (2009)—Fails to lure Glen Bear back to LBHQ

My Fellow Inebriates,

Glen Bear has disappeared.

Glen Bear attacking Miss P

Glen Bear attacking Miss P, 2006.

You may not remember Glen…. Big fluffy polar bear…hates summer, likes the freezer, could devour a whole seal if one flippered its way through the house….

I started looking for Glen last week when the temperature dipped under 0° (Celsius, my fellow inebriates, otherwise I would have been dead). Glen only really likes his environment when it’s freezing cold, and it’s the only time he’ll allow a cuddle. I needed him to warm me up. And that’s when I realized he’d vanished.

Scary, me, Glen Bear, and Carnivorous Duck, late 2006. Only Glen was happy about the snow.

Scary, me, Glen Bear, and Carnivorous Duck, late 2006. Only Glen was happy about the snow.

My dad said he moved with us for sure back in August. But I can’t really remember. The last time I saw him, the kids had stuffed him into some tight space—maybe a backpack or a box—but what happened to him after that? I don’t even remember which house we were living in then!

It’s sort of a good lesson about drinking, really. Being blasted all the time, I haven’t paid enough attention to Glen’s whereabouts. A big animal like Glen could lumber off anywhere. Polar bears have ridiculous olfactory sensitivity; he might have smelled a female down the street and gone off in pursuit.

Miss P says he didn’t go anywhere. She says Glen “doesn’t really walk.” I said of course not, of course Glen doesn’t walkhe has more of a four-legged gait.

Glen looks more like this when he drinks Polar Ice

Glen looks more like this when he drinks Polar Ice.

When Glen gets mobile, the floor shakes. He’s at least 50 percent bigger than Scarybear—a massive, awesome creature (also our under-recognized resident vodka expert).

So where is Glen???? The kids are curiously unconcerned. One thing is clear, though—if I’m to manage my anxiety, I’ll need some liquor. Not vodka, though—that would remind me of Glen. Maybe ROBERT OATLEY SHIRAZ (2009).

The Mudgee region is one of Australia’s less-advertised wine areas, known mostly for providing blending grapes for such larger wineries as Hunter Valley. ROBERT OATLEY SHIRAZ represents a Mudgee play for higher status. Let’s open it.

Glen has helped me open bottles occasionally, mostly by smashing them, but in his absence my parents had to help. First impressions are earthy, peppery, dense fruit with a hint of taxidermy. The scent does not radiate good behavior, but 14.1% is what’s needed to contend with an anxiety like Glen’s disappearance.

robert oatley shiraz 2009The first sip of ROBERT OATLEY SHIRAZ is a reinforcement of concentrated fruits: blackcurrant, tinned jam, decent acidity, moderate-to-aggressive tannins, and distant wombat farts. Which is to say: it’s not half bad. For you solidovores, it would pair nicely with savory foods, barbecued meats and such. For my “liquids-only” friends, it’s a bit of a chore on its own. Likely you’ll be comparing it to the last really good Australian Shiraz you enjoyed—and there are so many out there that comparisons will pop out immediately. ROBERT OATLEY SHIRAZ approaches the good-natured drinkability of its typical $20 Australian cohort, but it evinces too many conflicting and barnyardy notes to hang with truly awesome Shirazes. It’s just okay, and maybe even a little obnoxious.

Drinking a bottle of Shiraz did not sharpen our memories as to where we last saw Glen—not mine or my parents’. As for the kids, they think maybe he went with them to Nana and Papa’s. Or to school. Or no, maybe not either. They don’t care; they’re watching TV.