Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Expensive Winos*
By Michael

Thankfully, the Walmart gingerbread houses
did not taste good enough for the girls to
eat, they became fish food.
I have a drinking problem. Hell, Windy and I both have a drinking problem. There’s no denying it.

It wasn’t with us in Mexico. In the peak summer heat and humidity, I could put down four or five ice cold Tecates in a day, each refreshingly teased with lime and salt. Total cost? About 58 cents a pop. When the weather cooled, a fair bottle of red wine could be had for three to five bucks.

In the U.S., our drinking problem began, but it wasn’t a surprise; we’d lived there, after all. And remembering we’d have to pay $11.99 for a 12-pack of beer was tempered by the fact that it was much better beer. Thanks to Trader Joes, our wine cost remained stable.

We arrived in Victoria, B.C. with beer and wine stores aboard that lasted into our third month. Then it was time to replenish.

The Strath is the closest liquor store to the marina and it’s pretty fancy. I opened the black French doors and stepped in from the cold. The magnitude of my drinking problem was evident right away. There wasn’t a 12-pack of beer for sale under $25 Canadian. I didn’t see a bottle of wine priced in the single digits. Then I caught my breath: I was still in the heart of the tourist shopping zone, of course these prices are absurd, this isn’t where the locals buy alcohol.

We enjoyed the cousins' visit. Their parents
kindly brought a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream,
but their mom drank nearly all of it
while here.
Five blocks away and out of tourist-landia, I found it. Swans Liquor Store on Pandora. The floors were linoleum and beer and wine were displayed simply, stacked in the boxes they were shipped in. Handwritten sale signs were everywhere. I ventured in to find a bargain.

But there were no bargains. The prices were barely a tick below The Strath. I pulled out my credit card anyway.

We brought our last bottle of wine to a friend’s boat for Christmas. I’d consider stopping drinking, but not until the kids are older—could I possibly cope with the demands of parenting without the promise of a glass of wine in the evening?

People told us we were crazy to head north for the winter. They warned us of the cold and the rain. But nobody prepared us for the high cost of beer and wine. And we expect our drinking problem to continue through this coming fall, with little hope of price decreases as we sail north. If you visit us, please bring a bottle.


* A nod to Keith Richard’s band by this name. I just finished Richard’s fascinating autobiography, Life.

Where did we go wrong? Frances: "I didn't want to waste my time
telling a fake Santa what I want for Christmas when I should be
writing to the real Santa about what I want." Eleanor: "I'm too
old for that."


  1. Funny post, Michael. We'll be thinking of you when we're back in La Paz next week drinking those cold Mexican beers. We'd definitely bring you some spirits if only we were heading that far north. Good luck and good sailing in the new year. We hope you have a lot of family and friends visiting bringing gifts of beer and wine to the good ship Del Viento!

  2. Government Liquor stores are usually cheaper than the private ones...

    1. So I've learned, but still! And at Swans, the clerk showed me the signs they had on dozens of items advertising a price below that of the government stores. Ugh.

  3. Our last dregs of wine, with the exception of our "oh shit" bottle (that's another story), are in the fridge now. Oh yes, Australia was oh so good for wine values! I haven't seen any for sale since we left in Sept., unless you count the crap bottle (<$10 in Oz, selling for $35 in PNG) spotted in one town. Unless we suddenly take a liking to arak, Indonesia's answer to moonshine, the evening cushion to a long day of parenting is going to be hard to come by!

    1. "The Oh Shit Bottle" sounds like a good title for a Totem blog post.

  4. BC Govt liquor stores are absolutely better priced -- there is a store a few blocks up Menzies (by Thriftys). But, yes, still higher priced than 2-buck-chuck. Chilean "Cono Sur" is decent for $9.99/bottle.

    Higher liquor taxes are just one way Canadians (ALL Canadians, not just the rich) get better health care... [that outta set off a few fireworks...] ;=)


  5. And there are the "U-brew" stores - you show up, give them some money and in 6 weeks about 20+ bottles of wine are waiting in a carboy for your to bottle yourself. You have to bring your own bottles so get drinking.

    Works out to < $5 / bottle for the cheaper wines and maybe a bit more for the premium offerings. You'll get decent table wines out of it but nothing special.

  6. Once a boozer, always a boozer (goozer!)

  7. So sorry to not have warned you Mike (although it may fall under the general comment of "Victoria is expensive"... I hadn't realized you were shopping at the Strat - BC Gov't stores are better priced - that's true. It's still painful on the wallet though, we kind of forgot about it after a year in Mexico... ;)

    1. I probably would have thought you were exagerating and we'd have come anyway. We did finally find a California boxed wine, an old vine zinfandel that we like and the price comes to about $9 a bottle--but drawing a glass of wine from a plastic tap attached to a cardboard box is not right, but the price we'll have to pay. Talk to you soon, Michael


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