Hello and thanks for stopping by. I’m an economist at the University of California, Davis, where I study the cannabis, food, wine, and beer industries. I look at consumer behavior, retail price trends, regulations, testing costs, legal vs. illegal markets, premiumization, and the economic impacts of policy.

I also write books. My latest book, Can Legal Weed Win? The Blunt Realities of Cannabis Economics, co-authored with my UC Davis colleague Dan Sumner, will be published by the University of California Press in June 2022.

Robin Goldstein
Robin Goldstein

In 2008, I published a book called The Wine Trials, which uses a large scientific blind tasting experiment (“Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?”) to show that when wine labels are hidden, ordinary consumers do not prefer more expensive wines to cheaper wines. The book was divisive. Many economists, wine bloggers, and casual wine drinkers enjoyed the book, whereas many wine snobs flew into an uncontrollable rage when they learned of the book’s basic premise. For example, the New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov published three separate rants against The Wine Trials, including a 900-word hatchet job that ran in the Times before Asimov had received galleys of the book—or even read a single page.

At the 2008 annual meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists in Portland, OR, I presented the results of an undercover investigative experiment where I won a Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” (honoring the world’s best wine restaurants) for an imaginary restaurant in Milan called “Osteria L’Intrepido,” whose “reserve wine list” was composed of some of the worst wines ever rated by Wine Spectator’s own critics. Page Six gives a funny account of the controversy and response from the magazine’s editorial director. Stanley Fish, in a New York Times op-ed, offers an interesting philosophical counterpoint against my experiment. I think Stephen Dubner tells the Osteria L’Intrepido story best in this Freakonomics radio episode and in his book with Steven Levitt, Think Like a Freak.  I’ve also been a regular contributor to the Freakonomics blog.

My freakiest project of all might have been the paper “Can People Distinguish Pâté From Dog Food?,” which provoked comedian Stephen Colbert to eat a tin of cat food on national TV. Recently I’ve been working some creative nonfiction writing (like my essay “Ping Pong Paradise,” published in Racquet  magazine), and on an upcoming book about American food and nutrition theory tentatively entitled The Bullshit Horizon.

I’m a lawyer by training, but I never practiced law full-time. After law school, I briefly worked as an associate at McKinsey & Company in New York. I left McKinsey to start a publishing company called Fearless Critic Media, which was acquired by Workman Publishing and eventually grew to became America’s second-largest series of print restaurant guides after Zagat. Here’s my full CV, my Google Scholar page, my Wikipedia entry, my LinkedIn page, and my Amazon.com book author page. I have posted full versions of most of my published academic papers in a separate post on this site.

I periodically do speaking engagements and cannabis-related consulting and economic expert witness testimony.

You can contact me here.