LUCKY COUNTRY SHIRAZ-GRENACHE (2009)—You deserve it, and so do my dad and Dan Ariely

My Fellow Inebriates,

By the end of his weekend bunkbed-building project, my dad was sweating. He totally deserved a beer. After all that effort, I thought he deserved something really extraordinary, but instead he chose a can of crappy (well, not crappy—at first I liked it, but then I had it again and I didn’t so much, expect that it’s good for getting gooned) beer. Seriously, if that’s what my dad gets for putting together a JYSK bunkbed set in under two hours, he has some self-esteem problems.

lucky country shiraz grenache 2009If it were up to me (and it never is) we’d at least shake the piggybank out for some LUCKY COUNTRY SHIRAZ GRENACHE (2009) from Australia’s famed Barossa Valley. Now, maybe the $17.99 price tag was a deterrent after my parents had shelled out $240 at JYSK. But how could it be? As financial ignoramuses (and they are), my parents should have been fully susceptible to the “anchoring” effect of just having spent a wad of cash. Spend $240 and suddenly $17.99 doesn’t seem like much. Ergo, there should be a bottle of LUCKY COUNTRY sitting at LBHQ right now, on its way to being empty.

It’s true—experiments have shown that consumers are highly suggestible when it comes to price points. Dan Ariely and Drazen Prelec did an experiment in 2006 in which they had MIT students bid auction-style on random items such as bottles of wine, computer accessories, and textbooks. But before they bid on a particular item, all students were asked to write down the last two digits of their social insurance numbers.  Then the auction took place and the students made their bids.

Dan Ariely obviously knows his stuff.

Dan Ariely obviously knows his stuff.

Weirdly, the students whose SINs ended in higher numbers (i.e., 97, 93, etc.), than students with lower-ending SINs (23, 16, etc.) ended up making higher bids for miscellaneous items. And not marginally higher—346 percent higher. Just writing those two SIN digits on a piece of paper had, the experimenters surmised, primed them to consider higher real-world numbers when it came time to spend actual money on an item at auction. Ariely and Prelec labeled these numbers anchors, and went on to point out that anchoring happens all the time, with all kinds of purchases. (These findings and plenty of other fascinating ones are detailed in Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.)

For instance, if you ate groundhog stew for dinner tonight, prepared from a roadkill specimen you found by happenstance for zero dollars…well. When you found yourself pricing ribeye steak at Safeway a couple of days later you might choke at paying $5.99/lb, deal of the week or not. Your groundhog was free, which tethered your mind to the idea that all meat could be free, and now Safeway’s offerings don’t seem so hot.

But if you recently spent $100 on an organic non-medicated turkey and wasted basted it with sparkling wine for Christmas dinner, now a $19 package of steaks doesn’t seem like such a burn.

Leaving me to reiterate: Where is our bottle of LUCKY COUNTRY???? Ripe and plump with Barossa Valley fruit and considerable tannins, this 2009 Shiraz-Grenache blend is promiscuous with blackberry, chocolate, and earthy notes. Its loose structure makes it a little sloppy going down, but so lush with black fruit that…who cares? It has depth if not definition, and the finish is lingering.

BarossaValleymapBarossa Valley is one of my favorite wine regions, and in our ‘hood $17.99 is a steal for a decent red from that part of Australia. If there are nicer wines from that area, they tend to cost $4-10+ more—the land of diminishing returns for buyers with budgets like my parents’. And let’s face it, we bought our bunkbed at JYSK, not Pottery Barn. Its price tag can only have ratcheted Dad’s spending anchor so much.

Another plus for LUCKY COUNTRY: You won’t find a critter on the label, marsupial or otherwise. Producer Michael Twelftree doesn’t go in for the mass marketing typical of Aussie wines. His wines are made the old-fashioned way, blended in small batches and minimally filtered. Which is to say, even if my dad had bagged a groundhog the other day, LUCKY COUNTRY wouldn’t have sprung to mind as an accompaniment.

Who needs food, anyway, people? Just get your mitts on some of this awesome and affordable Barossa Valley wine, and drink it as is.

Six more weeks of winter? How about “no more weeks” for you, groundhog?

My Fellow Inebriates,

I had nothing to do with this. I don’t eat solids, especially fellow mammalian pests. But if one of those pesky vermin is going to prognosticate more winter, it might as well put a target on its furry back.

Groundhog Stew

  • 2 lbs groundhog, preferably one that’s seen its shadow
  • 4-5 cups  vegetable stock (do not be tempted to use wine)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • Potatoes
  • Bunch parsley
  • 1 bouillon cube
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sage
  • 1/2 tsp thyme/rosemary/whatever
  • Ketchup if it still doesn’t taste right
  • More broth if it’s too thick

groundhog in saucepanOkay, so you solid-foods eaters know how to make a stew, right? Chop up all the vegetables and fry them in oil or butter. Then add your “wild game.” This is a good day to find groundhogs. If you see a local news van, they probably have one still hanging around after their annual “soft news” Groundhog Day feature. They’ll probably just give it to you. After all, they can get a new one next year, and they’re not that cute.

It may seem really wrong to cook up a groundhog, but chances are you’ve eaten all kinds of fellow mammals. Be really quick, and use a sharp knife so it doesn’t suffer. (OMG, that’s hard to really write—blame my evil typist.) Remember to get a groundhog, not a bear (my friend Scarybear looks sort of like a groundhog). And…hey…enjoy yourself.

Oh wait, I forgot the most important part!

You need wine.

Groundhog meat is red and sort of gamey. Choose a big, bold red with lots of tannins. This is the time to bust out a good Cab or Zin—maybe even a Shiraz with some sort of marsupial on the label.


COPPER MOON SHIRAZ—Cheap stress relief when you almost lose your Chihuahua

OMG, we almost lost Chihuahua today. In the hurried exchange at the ferry terminal, Mum and Dad remembered to pick up the kids but left behind an Important Gym Bag containing Chihuahua, Fluffy Chihuahua (its newer doppelganger), Cookie (nondescript but beloved puppy) and Purple Bunny, who has been with our family as long as I have. OMG!!! The family drove away, leaving the bag in Arrivals.

Only when Nana sent a text to let Dad know there was also a pie in the bag did the family realize there was no bag. Panic set in. They left urgent messages with BC Ferries Lost & Found, scarfed down lunch at the restaurant where they were catching up with relatives they hadn’t seen in two years, and flew back to the terminal where, thankfully, the bag was waiting.DSCN2457

Thank goodness those animals are safe. Bedtime would have been a nightmare—it wouldn’t have happened without those animals in safekeeping. And thank goodness—as my dad said on the way home—we don’t live in a place where a bomb squad would have been called in to blast Chihuahua & Co. to smithereens.

But mostly, thank goodness I didn’t have to see V and P upset about their precious animals. Not that I mind being the occasional Comfort Animal—but I couldn’t have filled the void left by those yappy creatures.

Not without losing stuffing at least.

Not without losing stuffing at least.

copper moon 750mLBottom line: big stress, big relief. Which calls for wine. I’m thinking—since we burned $25 extra in gas today—we should buy some cheap wine. Maybe COPPER MOON Shiraz, which we first tried on Vancouver Island. Available in three sizes, starting at $8.69 for 750 mL, this Canadian offering is soft and drinkable—thoroughly inoffensive, but not at all playful or suggestive of any particular character.

Even if you’re not stressed out, COPPER MOON would be fine for you solid-foods eaters as a dinnertime accompaniment, and chances are you wouldn’t guess its low price. By extension you could foist it on dinner-party hosts without arousing their suspicions about your parsimony; with its tasteful label and mellow notes, they wouldn’t be the wiser—unless of course they’d espied the big honking box at BC Liquor Stores for $27.99. And who really skulks around the liquor store that much?

I know, I know…It’s how I cope with stress.