One year ago I revived the ol' HoseMaster and started my wine blog over again. On the anniversary of that first post, I wanted to step out from behind the curtain and say a few things. It has been a very interesting year, minus a three week hiatus, filled with bombast, tomfoolery, raillery, pantagruel, persiflage, mockery and buffoonery. And very little regard for human decency. My kind of year.
When I began HoseMaster of Wine, I knew that it would take me more than a year to get my tired old comedy writing muscles back into fighting shape. The HoseMaster, as I call him on this blog, is an old and familiar voice to me, one I've shaped and been shaped by since I was a teenager. I am not the HoseMaster, and he is not I. In the course of writing this blog I have encountered lots of people in the real world who are surprised that this is the case. The HoseMaster exists to channel that part of my brain that thinks all of life is a comedy, and that there is no target that cannot be insulted, demeaned, leveled and disemboweled. As a longtime student of comedy and satire, I am in love with its traditions as much as I am in love with wine, maybe more so. But when I look back at my earlier posts I see how much of a struggle I've had to find that familiar voice, that voice that haunts my waking life, that evil Jiminy Cricket that whispers jokes into my ear. So thank you for putting up with me. I'm still not there yet.
It's been a year of Vornography and 1WineDoody and Mis(s) Feiring--hell, at least one of them took it in the spirit with which it was written. And I've managed to insult many wine bloggers with far less talent--Harlots, chicks with Brix, chicks in caftans, chronic people of color, and so many others. The HoseMaster expresses my genuine horror at the vapidness of the Internet, the sheer collective stupidity it displays, the sorrowful replacement of quality with quantity, the debasement of authority and experience, the very death of truth. Yet I hope it comes out funny. There are very few days it's funny to me.
It was also a year of M.S. Conspiracy and Grape Guides and my misguided attempts at literary parodies, Saramago and Castaneda. I love the silliness of comedy as much as I love aggressive satire. Wine is the great creator of silliness and truth, so it seems a fitting way to honor it. The genuine joy of doing HoseMaster is discovering for myself what the next post brings. In the past year I think I've made myself laugh about four times. This is probably your experience as well. And it's the stupidest stuff that makes me laugh. The coroner's name in M.S. Conspiracy, Avril Cadavril, still makes me laugh out loud. In my life I have spent countless hours, an unbelievable number of hours, writing jokes, alone, in a quiet room, on a pad of paper, on a typewriter, and now on a computer screen. I have always believed the well would one day run dry. Many would argue that if Timmy fell in my well Lassie wouldn't have to worry about him drowning. Sadly for so many people, I've never suffered writer's block. Ideas fill my head from when I wake up in the morning until I fall into a drunken stupor, around noon. I assure you, it is the purest from of ecstasy I know to sit down and take dictation from the HoseMaster and have it end up like "BLANDNESS." It is for those moments I sit down twice a week and channel the HoseMaster. He's my Comedy Channel. But he's a pain to live with. I hate the guy.
I have had a very long romance with wine. Wine ripped me from the arms of comedy writing as a profession and seduced me into a lifelong affair. At least I wear protection. I know a lot about wine, I think of myself as a skilled taster, but I also know enough about wine to know that I know very little. During the past year I've also flirted with reviewing wines, with the Million Point Scale, with What's the HoseMaster Drinking. But wine reviews mean very little if you don't know the person reviewing the wines, if you haven't tasted with them, understand their background and biases. So I just decided to stop. No one, and I mean no one, cares what I think about wines. And, frankly, I see wine after crappy wine touted on wine blogs that I wouldn't serve to Glenn Beck's prostate. One of the truisms about wine is that you cannot be an adequate judge of wines, assign them numbers or smiley faces or idiotic songs, if you haven't tasted the greatest wines on the planet. You simply cannot know how high the bar is set, you have no frame of reference. Your opinion is as worthless as the blog it's written on. It's the blind judging a beauty pageant. And while every wine blogger has the right to express his opinion, only an idiot would listen to it. What wineries who send wines to wine reviewing bloggers believe is that there are mostly idiots out there. They may be right.
To my surprise, the HoseMaster has become instantly recognizable, a presence in the insignificant world of wine blogs. I am amazed. I am Tweeted about, FaceBooked, speculated about, and both admired and abhorred. I see HoseMaster popping up all over the place, in comments and posts, mentioned with the understanding that most everyone will know who he is. I'm beginning to be recognized at wine tastings, the curse of having an uncommon surname. It seems to have even become something of a badge of honor for the HoseMaster to satirize or insult a wine blogger, though someone might mention that to Alice Feiring. It's alternately flattering and scary. But I do take it as a compliment, and I'm not especially good at taking compliments. It speaks to the strength of the HoseMaster's voice, something I am only nominally responsible for. Enough people identify with his brand of outrage that he's become a real character in people's lives. That is the scary part.
Finally, I am so grateful for all that the HoseMaster of Wine has brought to my life in the past year. 130 posts later I still can't believe how lucky I've been, how much I value this little community--the people who frequently comment, and all of the rest of you who don't want to. I don't know about other wine bloggers, but for me, HoseMaster of Wine is an end in itself. I'm not looking for free trips or free wine or a book deal or an award or adulation. As crazy as it seems, I do this for the sheer joy of creation. Nothing has come of it, nothing will come of it. After my first post of this past year, "I'm Baaaaack," an anonymous commenter said that instead of insulting everyone and making fun of the wine world I should use my talents to contribute to the conversation. I like to think I have.
What is it that the average wine lover wants from a glossary of grape varieties? Now ask yourself, what does a below average wine lover want from a guide to grapes? Considering my audience, I've chosen to answer the latter question. He wants short sentences and easy to understand words, he wants opinions disguised as facts, he wants simpleminded opinions he can memorize and pretend are his own--in other words, he wants to be an average American. Well, friends, let's not aim too high. Let's speak to the Lowest Common Denominator. Let's aim at wine bloggers, the great democratizers of wine, the voice of the people, or, truly, the voice of the poodle, those truly generous souls who give of their copious free time, time that they would not have had they any actual friends or lives, to speak to us of their great love, their undying love, the love they cannot stop speaking of no matter how hard we wish they'd stop, their love for God's greatest gift. Themselves. Themselves in Wine and Music, themselves in ghastly photos, themselves in caftans, themselves in almighty Wordpress, holy Blogger, Not my Typepress. The HoseMaster's Guide to Grapes is dedicated to all of them. Volume Five returns to the land of white grape varieties. I'll speak slowly.
Gewurztraminer is the wine nobody reaches for when having a nice meal. Gewurztraminer is the first choice of sommeliers everywhere to be left off the by-the-glass list. Sure, we've got Gruner Veltliner, we've got Roussanne, we've got Arneis by the glass, but Gewurztraminer? Nah, that's for sissies. It smells like your grandmother's perfume if your grandmother was a hooker for SnoopDogg, or Hugh Grant. The most common descriptor for Gewurztraminer is "lychee," even though the vast majority of people using that adjective have never tasted lychee and think it's related to Tai Chi and smells like old Chinese people sweating. The only Gewurztraminer that sells is Navarro's Gewurztraminer from Mendocino and that's because it's actually Snapple not wine. But Gewurztraminer is considered to be a Noble Grape in Alsace, a region with notoriously low standards. Think of Alsace like the Wine Blog Awards, and then think of Gewurztraminer as the blog Bigger Than Your Head, and you get the idea. It's just the best they can do. Sure it sucks, but, hey, it's better than nothing. Gewurztraminer is like other people's personal lives--you don't mind sticking your nose in it, but you're sure as hell not taking it home with you.
Interesting facts about Gewurztraminer:
It's easy to pass a Breathalyzer test if you're drunk on Gewurztraminer, the machine thinks you're wearing too much after shave. The bad news? You have to get drunk on Gewurztraminer.
Gewurztraminer means "spicy meatball" in German. In Italy, it's simply called Traminer, which means "I surrender."
Gewurztraminer is often the suggested pairing with Asian cuisines. Which makes sense if you think it's a good idea to pour oil on fire.
Other names for Gewurztraminer:
VicWertztraminer The G-Spot Old Spice
Pronounced "semi-yawn," in actuality, it's a total yawn. In California, Semillon is often found in Sauvignon Blanc, as though it were a gerbil. In Bordeaux, it is one of the three white varieties allowed, making it one of the Three Muscadelles. It is also widely planted in Australia where it makes wines that are uniquely capable of embarrassing Australians, something even Olivia Newton-John had a hard time doing until she starred in "Grease." But it is in Sauternes where Semillon does its finest work. When it's covered in mold. Sort of like the great Chilean writer Roberto Bolano who gained most of his fame after he was dead. In Sauternes, Semillon is harvested covered with botrytis cinerea, nicknamed the Noble Mold because it was originally discovered between Ann Noble's toes. Semillon makes up about 80% of the blend in the amazing dessert wine of Chateau d'Yquem, the other 20% is the Euro. So here's the key to enjoying Semillion in a simple rhyme: If there's no rot/Drink it/NOT!
Interesting facts about Semillon:
It's often confused with Sensimilla, but only by those who smoke and inhale.
In double blind tastings, Semillon is often confused with the bottled water.
Australia is famous for its "Bottle Aged Semillons," so named because no one buys them. Except Olivia Newton-John.
Other names for Semillon:
S'Nores Earwax Chateau Ygack
Most people believe Roussanne is the big, fat, ugly comedienne once married to big, fat, ugly Tom Arnold. Easy mistake to make. Both the grape and the comedienne are highly susceptible to powdery mildew and rot. But Roussanne is the big, fat, ugly grape of the Rhone Valley and was once married to John Alban, another tragic mistake. Actually, wines made from Roussanne tend to be rather delicate and elegant, like Elton John, only Roussanne ages well. Randall Grahm was one of the first to plant Roussanne in California, only it was Viognier that was in the witness protection program. Grahm finally admitted he'd been Condrieued. Roussanne has become a trendy white wine grape in California because it is difficult to grow and makes wines that other winemakers admire. The public hates it, which also makes it a popular choice for snooty winemakers. Roussanne is among the most ageworthy of white wines and dominates the cellars of people who want to leave worthless wines to their heirs.
Interesting facts about Roussanne:
The name is thought to derive from the French word "roux" which means "russet" and refers to the way the variety is about as interesting as potatoes.
In the Savoie region of France Roussanne is called Bergeron because it is about as interesting as Dan Berger, who is starchier than potatoes and as thin-skinned.
Roussanne in California is predominantly planted in the Central Coast where the powdery mildew leaves it alone in favor of the hicks who live in Paso Robles.
Other names for Roussanne:
Grahm is Crackers Rosie O'Donnell Roosanus (Australia)
I like to think I'm funny. But wine blogs are rampant with delusional people. In fact, without the delusion that people care what other people think there wouldn't even be any wine blogs. Wouldn't that be nice! But I had quite the epiphany today. I thought I was funny, I thought I knew how to write great satire. I was pretty proud of some of my work here at HoseMaster of Wine. But I have been humbled. Truly and completely humbled. I feel like Donald Trump just fired me. I feel like James Laube just gave me 75 points. I feel like Rand Paul called me a genius. I'm humiliated. I'm not nearly as funny, I don't have a whisper of the satirical gift, as the folks at the Wine Blog Awards. Their nominees for their Annual Poodles are brilliantly satirical. I tip my Hose to them. I merely aspire to that kind of comedic brilliance, I have never achieved it. I simply can't stop laughing. Bravo!
Every great satire begins with a brilliant premise. The nominations for the Poodles is no exception. Here's the premise: a completely irrelevant and useless consortium recruits eleven unqualified judges, pretends they have the credentials, no, the authority to hand out wine awards, convinces the by-definition criminally vain wine bloggers that their awards have merit, and thereby creates a buzz about their meaningless and powerless group! It's sheer genius. Now, first off, you have to make the Poodles Judges anonymous. Anonymity conveys power and authority. This is why terrorists wear masks when they behead journalists. Unveil them and they're recognizable as powerless cowards. Anonymity makes them seem scary and omniscient, a sort of God come to life, like either a vengeful Zeus, or Tom Wark. So when the Poodles are awarded, remember it's just the terrorists winning; and when the masks are removed the Magnificent Eleven will be revealed, IF they are revealed, as the misfits and outcasts and trolls you expect. Meanwhile, it's satire worthy of Paddy Chayevsky. You Poodle nominees will have to Google him.
But the premise of the satire isn't the payoff. The payoff is in the details, and, well, I am still giggling at the details, the nominees themselves. It is an astonishing achievement, and one I shamefully confess I envy, to be able to insult not just wine bloggers in general, but professional wine writers as well! It isn't easy to take them both down a peg, I know, I try all the time. But the WBA folks accomplished it with their Poodle nominees. My congratulations to them. It takes pure genius to nominate a published, professional wine writer of Steve Heimoff's stature (let it pass, let it pass) alongside ChronicNegress in the Best Writing Category. Who should be more insulted? The ChronicNegress or the Chronic? Oh God, I shouldn't cheerlead, but, please, please, please let the Negress win. I went to visit ChronicNegress and, well, then the true brilliance of the satire became apparent. This is a woman writing about herself in the third person! Wow. It's like Rickey Henderson in drag writing a wine blog competing against the California Wine Critic for Wine Enthusiast. AND, AND, AND, the Washington State Wine Critic for the Wine Enthusiast. Dammit, why didn't I think of that?! It's positively Swiftian. And I call myself funny.
The HoseMaster went to the WBA site to see the nominees for the 2010 Poodles and the HoseMaster was stumped. The HoseMaster was sure that the Terrorist judges would recognize the writing talent of Alfonso Cevola and Samantha Dugan. But the HoseMaster was disappointed. They were not there. Then it dawned on the HoseMaster. The HoseMaster isn't the only one writing satire! The Poodles are all about satire. A satire of awards, the HoseMaster realized, it's a sendup of awards! HoseMaster almost fell for it. Now HoseMaster can't stop laughing.
I guess "demonstrate a command of the English language" means you write about yourself in the third person. Or you write eloquently about your own importance to the wine business in the first person. Or you're a conglomerate of marketing people writing a blog together to promote your business and educate people about how important it is to use Social Media, which you sell, to promote the wines of, well, the wines of your clients (Catavino?! Fucking hilarious. Marketing propaganda as literature--I am so pissed I didn't, sorry--HoseMaster is so pissed HoseMaster didn't think of that.) Toss in the Aussie guy to make it an International category, though, really, after a Negress, that's sort of overdoing it, but, hey, satire is all about going over the top.
An Aussie and a Negress go into a wine bar. The Aussie says, "Hey, are you Maori?" "No," she replies, "the Negress is single. Is that a shrimp on the Barbie or are you just happy to see me?"
And just when my sides are beginning to feel normal again, I get to the Best New Wine Blog Poodle. Here the setup conveys the comedy, "Should present a credible appearance as a new entry in the realm of wine blogging, based on graphics, title, depth of posts, etc." That's just classic! The priorities are just right. First comes graphics. What's more important to the culture of wine and writing than graphics! Well, the title of course! Swirl, Smell, Slurp, the oral sex blog! Now we're talking depth of posts. Sheesh, it's like "The Karate Kid" for people who think movies are for brainiacs. It should be against the law for married couples to write blogs together--it just encourages bulimia. DrinkNectar is here too! The little kid with head trauma has a wine blog with great graphics (come on, did Mom help?) and a cool title. Hey, look NectarDrinker, that girl over at Swirl, Smell, Swallow is cute. Go ahead, don't be shy, tell her she's purty! You know more about wine than her pathetic husband--go for it! These are just two of the nominees for prettiest site and coolest title. A Long Pour, well, true, more than a paragraph with this guy is really, really long. There's in depth and then there's, look at me, I'm an Alder Yarrow impersonator. You know, the Poodle folks could have gone the easy route and actually nominated some interesting new blogs (can't think of any), but, no, they sustained the satire, no mean feat, with these graphically striking sites. I know, let's give Best New Actress to the one with the biggest tits! As long as her name is cute too.
Best Overall Wine Blogs. Oh, man, not sure HoseMaster can get through this with a straight face. Well, there's 1WineDude, who has shitty graphics and can't write, but he gets a lot of hits so let's nominate him. Frankly, he gets the most free junkets and free wine and free stuff, so we need to give him a Poodle for being the Ideal Blogger. It's why we give Kevin Costner awards--it ain't easy being successful with so little talent. Dr. Vino? He's the CNN crawl on your homepage, but with complimentary adjectives! And for the cheap comic laugh, which every satire has to go for every once in a while, what's funnier that The New York Cork Report? I'm still laughing at that. Best Overall Wine Blog! It's clearly written by a cadaver. Man, that's funny. And just when the tears clear from my eyes I'm blindsided by the hilarity of PalatePress. Yup, the site that takes all the second rate bloggers who don't even get a mention for a Poodle, molds them together into one big overbaked blob, and, voila, the Domino's Pizza of wine blogs. You know what you get when you order from PalatePress--it's bland, it's flavorless, it's nothing but filler, but at least it's cheap. And then there's the Cellarist, the SF Chronicle's Jon Bonne, the guy who thinks wine blogs are over, a guy who openly hates wine blogs. Cool. A satire needs an ending.
The Awards that guarantee the meaninglessness of Wine Blog Awards gives an award to the guy who proclaims the meaninglessness of wine blogs. It's brilliant and it's perfect.
I'm off to Northern Italy for the "Where did Teroldego?" event put on by the Sustainable Heroes of Italian Teroldego. This is a new organization to me. Frankly, I don't know S.H.I.T. However, in my capacity as one of the finest wine bloggers on the planet I am invited to countless wine festivals and events all over the world. It's not easy to choose which events to attend. But I have come up with a solution. I attend the ones that pay the most money for me to show up. No, they don't give me cash. But it costs them quite a bit to cover my airfare, hotel, gambling addiction, propensity for hookers (though I do prefer the cheapest ones, if only to educate my olfactory buds) and laundry. You'd think this would guarantee my praise of their wines. You'd be right. Except if I go and there's an actual wine expert there, then I just parrot his opinions. I mean, come on, let's face it, no one's heard of Teroldego. I thought it was the island next to Trinidad. Turns out I won't need my snorkel. Except for the cheap hookers.
Yes, I am going on a junket, though they told me I was taking a plane. Aren't junkets those slow Chinese boats? No? Oh. I'm going on the S.H.I.T press junket, though I'm about as much a member of the press as Octomom is a member of the human race. I looked it up, like I had to for Teroldego, and the word "junket" comes from the Old English for a reed basket that was used to carry fish. So now I know why I was invited along with all the other bloggers. I'm a widemouth basshole.
The S.H.I.T. producers are anxious for their wines to gain further exposure. So they asked around about who the most influential writers are on the Internet. None of them were the least bit interested, so they asked a bunch of bloggers to visit them and taste and write about their wines. They'd already booked the hotel anyway. It will be a crash course in Teroldego for us, and a good dose of American ignorance for them. I'm excited to learn all about this mysterious grape. I'll be one grape closer to joining the Wine Century Club! It's long been my goal to taste more grape varieties made into wine than I have IQ points, and now that I'm up to 45, I'm but 7 grapes away from my goal! And if there's a Teroldego Gris, which you'd think there would have to be, I'll be even closer.
This wine journalism thing is really cool. I went out and got a WSET credential (Wine Studyin' and Elevator Training), a CSW (Certified Sycophant in Wine), and passed my First Level of the M.S. Exam (Fun With Corks--How to Look Like A Walrus), so I qualified to have my own blog filled with opinions and facts I made up on the spot. Now here's the really cool part. Turns out you don't have to go to school to get a journalism degree! Who knew? No, it turns out that if you type, you're a journalist. This explains a lot. Like Alice Feiring and Tim Fish (hey, no wonder he gets so many junkets, he's a fucking Fish!) and Leslie Sbrocco. So, look at me, I'm a wine journalist. I'm going to Northern Italy. Which is right next to Trinidad, I'm pretty sure.
Look for my daily reports about my trip. You'll be able to live vicariously through my crappy photography and tales of fascinating seminars I'll be nursing my hangovers through. I know one thing. Those Teroldego guys better not be using a lot of oak on their wines. If there's one thing I know, it's too many wines in the world use too much oak, and I'm not afraid to point it out. That's just me, I have one opinion and I never get tired of it. Just because you've produced a wine from your family's vineyards for seven generations, that doesn't mean I can't teach you a thing or two. I'm not just going to roll over and say nice things about your Teroldegos because you invited me on a press fish basket. No, I'm going to be critical, I'm going to educate you about wine bloggers. We're not to be trifled with. We don't get rich writing a wine blog. We do it for passion, we do it for our twenty-five regular readers, we do it because our voices need to be heard. We do it as a way of learning more and more about our favorite subject--ourselves. We do it to learn about wine, there is so much I don't know. For example, I don't know S.H.I.T.
"The Wine Blog Awards judging is almost done. Yes, we had originally planned to have the judging complete by now with the public voting to be opened this Monday, May 17. However, the task blossomed a bit this year: more categories, more nominations, and more judges. Each judge has to sift through many, many blogs and we are waiting for data back from only a couple judges."--Wine Blog Awards Website
I'm sorry. It's my fault. I probably never should have agreed to do it. But I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be interesting. I'd spend long, contemplative Spring afternoons lost in a world of wine and language, savor the wisdom and knowledge of thoughtful and insightful people. I thought it would be hard because there would be this wealth of talent that I would have to whittle down to a mere five nominations per category, but that it would be a good kind of hard, like the New York Times crossword puzzle or a 57-year-old's morning erection. But now the nightmares won't stop. I'm afraid to fall asleep. My waking life has become unbearable. And the voices...My God, the voices won't stop. So many voices, so little to say. Make them stop! Please, for the love of Asimov, make them stop!
Sometimes I think it's the couples wine blogs that haunt me the most. "He loves wine, she loves fashion.." AAAAAARRGGHHH!! Somebody stop them! We don't care! You can't make us care. Your lives aren't interesting. I don't have any idea who told you they are, maybe your high school guidance counselor when you were twenty-five, but, believe me, they're not. And the pictures, the endless pictures, the endless fashion pictures, if you're idea of fashion is early Knott's Berry Farm, it's just more than I can bear. It's not a wine blog, it's Vanity Fair for female serial killers mixed with wine opinions for the addlepated. But they're not the only ones. Is this some sort of new advice couples therapists are dispensing to troubled marriages? Start a wine blog together! "She's a wine expert, he just loves the smell of jockstraps, won't it be fun to follow along as she teaches him to love wine!" NOOO! It won't. It's a nightmare. Teach him in private. Really. We don't want to read about it. Write a blog about him teaching you about something, humility maybe, and leave us alone. Oh God, my head...
I see these Wineabees everywhere. There was a time, back in the golden days of civilization, before the Internet, when people learned about wine quietly, by reading books, by traveling, by attending tastings. They didn't proclaim their ignorance for everyone to read. They didn't form big bands of wine ignorants and endlessly praise each other. "Great post, Thea! Hope to see you at the Wines of Trannies event in the City. Can't wait for those Post-Op Pinots. You rock!" "Great post, Sonadora! I love everything you write. You taste the cheapest wines! You rock!" I've had to read through these blogs and I can't get the voices out of my head. I didn't sign up for this. I hear hundreds of these voices, but they all sound the same. I walk down the street and I hear a sad little voice say, "...comes with a natural cork closure..." and I want to jump off the curb in front of a truck. Did Hugh Johnson ever utter the words, "comes with a natural cork closure?" Has Jancis Robinson ever declared, "This Sancerre would go perfectly with the latest Lady GaGa release?" Did Gerald Asher ever devote 1000 words to what wine goes with Hostess Ho-Ho's? I read through dozens of wine blogs and now there's this constant drone in my head, the kind of drone that goes with brain cells not dying, but committing ritual suicide.
So I thought I'd try a site that sounded like it might be porn. You know, NectarDrinker.com, or something like that. That sounded promisingly sick. But, no, it's not, it's just more of the same dreck. Only this guy, this guy is like the kid who was hit in the hammer by his weird uncle when he was seven and now he goes up to everyone he meets and says, "You're really pretty," and a wet stain develops in his pants, which is only a sign of freshness in baked goods. He just goes to every wine blog and comments, "You're really pretty. I love your blog." And he wants to be Gary V., models himself after the one guy who's living proof that Darwin was right except he should have said "descended" not "ascended." This NectarDrinker wants to package himself. I'm all for that, so long as it's in an airtight package.
It's just that these voices won't stop. The constant whine of the untalented, the voices of the democratization of wine. I hear them nonstop, I can't get them out of my head after sifting through all that tedious prose, those mind-numbing wine descriptions, the incessant noise of their rallying around each other proclaiming their God-given rights to express themselves and their uninformed and dull opinions, a Tea Party of Wineabees drowning us in their witless prose and borrowed opinions. Those voices haunt me. What happens to wine when everyone's an expert, when everyone's voice is heard? I don't know. I can't hear anything amid all the clamor. I can only hear the corporate marketing people laughing.
Oh, the Tea Party of Wineabees declares, if you don't like it, don't read it! We can do what we like. Just don't read our wine blogs. We like what we do, and we like what our friends do, we don't need you, we don't need your scorn or criticism. And, like any respectable Tea Party, on the face of it they have a point. For what's American about criticism? The Internet, wine blogs, they're not about criticism. Criticism is Socialist. The hierarchy is clear and only a fool tries to buck the system--opinion first, facts a distant second, talent just now turning for home. The Tea Party of Wineabees is untouchable and right and we value only the first and foremost of the Internet hierarchy. And we are legion. You have seen the future and it is mediocrity, and you'd better learn to accept it. The old status quo has to go. The hell with them. It's our turn now. Some people like to stand on the shoulders of giants, we prefer to be the midgets who use the giants' genitalia as a speedbag.
Sorry. The voices are getting to me. I've tried to read through all the nominated wine blogs; God knows I've tried. I even read the ones who nominated themselves, the hammerheads who look in the mirror and say, "You're so pretty" to themselves. But the voices only get louder and louder and I fear I'm losing my mind. But I hang on, I hang on knowing that wine blogs, like so many dwarves, won't live long. The voices will finally fade. And all that will be left is just the abandoned sites, like so many strip mines that have polluted the landscape and poisoned the people nearby.
I first met the old Don Jon, Master Shaman (M.S.) and former host of several rare parasites, of the great Taqui Nation, at a bus stop in Lodi. I was there while in a witness protection program having successfully testified against Lorena Bobbitt in the famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest controversy, which I'd done with relish, which is more than you can say for her. Don Jon took one look at me and seemed to peer into my soul, which is when he removed my watch and wallet. A friendship was born, and it was through Don Jon that I discovered the Road to Wine Enlightenment and became a Wine Warrior. Don Jon was the Wine Road Runner, and I was his Wile E. Peyote.
The Taqui Nation is the guardian of all wine knowledge, and has been since Jerry Mead went to the great Wine Pow-Wow in Poway, which is where Taqui believe all wine warriors go when death claims them. They believe there are only a few certain wine deaths--cirrhosis, poor storage, and being floor-stacked at Trader Joe's (Trader Joe was one-sixteenth Taqui, though his eponymous stores couldn't be Taquier). The Master Shamans of the Taqui are the teachers and mentors of all who desire to walk the Road to Wine Enlightenment. It is only because Don Jon saw in me a true Wine Warrior, a man of the vine, a wine lover gifted with pure vision, that he accepted me as one of his students. That, and I blackmailed him for having stolen my wallet.
I was to become a Master Shaman myself, versed in the Taqui lore of wine and tested over and over again by my mentor, Don Jon. But it was a difficult journey, one where I was forced to drop my foolish notions of reality, like wine blogs matter, and see the wine world in the way of the Taqui. So much of the wisdom of Don Jon has been lost. So often I was in an altered state of consciousness, an alternate universe, which was a lot like French Laundry only the service wasn't as good, though it was equally hard to get a reservation, and never on a Saturday, unless you're blowing a sommelier, even for a Taqui, who'd been raised on a reservation. My notes from those sessions are indecipherable, like an Alice Feiring blog post. But I did manage to record some thoughts from Don Jon about the Road to Wine Enlightenment. It all begins when you accept that everything you've read and heard about wine is a reality that does not exist. Especially in the Wall Street Journal.
"The first thing you have to accept is that all paths lead to the same place. Nowhere. All wine knowledge is passed along to you in order to get you Nowhere fast. And then it is your path to continue to spread that knowledge so that others can get Nowhere. This is the point of all great wine books, and the point of all wine classes and wine blogs, to lead you by the hand, one incorrect thought at a time, to your final destination in wine knowledge. Nowhere. It is only once you have reached Nowhere that wine enlightenment will be yours. For wine is everywhere and yet Nowhere, like the Jonas Brothers, those douchebags."
"Every opinion, everything anyone tells you about wine, even a Shaman, is subjective. Except your own opinions, which are always objective. The Wine Warrior does not suffer disagreement from others. That is not the path to Wine Enlightenment. The Wine Warrior has one foot in the world of fools and sommeliers, though they are equivalent, and one foot in the alternate world which is true Wine Enlightenment. He is the bridge to Enlightenment, though many are more like dark chocolate tunnels. The Wine Warrior has seen Nowhere, and it is being a Las Vegas sommelier. The Wine Warrior states his opinions about wine, about winemaking, about the culture of wine, and he is always correct. Others do not matter, they are but pustules on a Taqui butt, irritating and full of pus. This is the Road to Wine Enlightenment, the denial of others thoughts and opinions. Your opinions are sacred, your credentials impeccable, those who disagree are hopelessly lost in a reality they cannot see is mistaken and their comments should be ignored. This is the Taqui way. You are an M.S., others are simply stupid. And stop Bogarting the peyote."
"All wine is natural wine. Unless it is Meritage; then it's decidedly perverted. The Wine Warrior does not fall for the notion of natural wine, a notion promoted by women who want their wines untouched but their makeup and hair dye tested on the Lepus tribe. Wine is for man and should be controlled by man. Man is wiser than yeast, though he doesn't smell as good after a long hot day eating. The Road to Wine Enlightenment does not go through the land of Wine Superstition. These are beliefs meant for knaves and boneheads who believe Nature is always best. I ask you, if Nature were always best would we need personal vibrators? The belief that you can tell a natural wine from another wine is simple hubris, foolish self-deceit, a kind of willing idiocy. Natural wines do not have a different 'energy,' a higher quality, more 'complexity,' this is ancient human self-loathing in a New Age package. The Wine Warriors, the Enlightened Ones, do not believe this for a minute. Great wines are like great men, they are a product of thought and work, not left to grow by their own whims. Natural wines are not better than other wines, they just come with more solemn and holier-than-thou baggage. The Road to Wine Enlightenment does not have a natural wine offramp. Hey, was that you? Sheesh, get some Beano."
There is more, so much more, on the Road to Wine Enlightenment, the Road to Nowhere. Perhaps the Master Shaman will return...
Hello Hey What are you doing? I'm sleeping, what does it look like I'm doing? Playing with yourself Oh, that. I was just thinking about somebody Yeah? Who? My wife You're married to Oprah? Who are you? Who do I look like? Well, honestly, you kind of look like Ernest Gallo No, I look exactly like Ernest Gallo. Funny, huh?! So you're Ernest Gallo, in my bedroom, in the middle of the night Yeah, funny, right? Aren't you dead? I'm not dead. Ernest Gallo is dead. I just look like him, I'm not him Will you just leave me alone? Until you're finished with Oprah? I was just about to slip her one of Her Favorite Things The short version Hey OK, look, I just came here to tell you that they're all just fine Who? Who? Who? Fuck, you're stupid. John, your Mom, Josephine, Lucy Lucy was my dog Yes, I know. They're all fine They're all dead OK, I read your blog, I know you say nothing but stupid things, mostly for the attention, attention your favorite tiny thing doesn't get you, but, really, now you're getting into a whole other level of stupid, a far deeper stupid, Gary V. stupid, Gruner Veltliner stupid--hey, ever notice I gave them the same initials? after all, they're both tasteless and a waste of time--even Sarah Palin stupid. Yes, they're all dead and I'm here to tell you that you don't need to worry about them, they're all fine Couldn't you have come as Sasha Grey or Sasheen Littlefeather or Little Richard? Ernest Gallo is funnier OK, thanks, I'm glad to hear John is OK. He just died last Thursday. It's good to hear he's fine, and Mom and Josie. And Lucy Lucy always dig holes everywhere? She got it from me Figures OK, can I go back to sleep now? I'm here, talking directly to you, you can ask me anything you want to know, and you just want to go back to bangin' Oprah? She's the queen of daytime television Fine. I'm outta here No, wait, maybe I do have some questions for you Shoot What do you think about wine blogging? Oy. OK, between you and me, I'm thinking of putting a stop to it Really? Why? Listen, wine is one of my favorite things--fucking Oprah--I mean wine is something I truly love, one of my most inspired creations. It's ingenious! And I give it to you bozos and you ruin it with all your talk, all your endless and uninspired chatter. You all think you discovered the truth about wine! Wine has been around for thousands of years, hell, I taught my stupid Son to make it, though he added too much water, a lot like those extracted Pinot Noirs they're making in California now that Robert Parker loves--by the way, have you seen him? I know he's dead, but I haven't seen him. I think he may have gone to Hell, which is basically right around Yountville--anyway, your stupid wine blogs preach about wine, "educate" people about wine, follow you on your idiotic "journeys" to discover wine and basically ruin the whole Gallodam thing for everyone. I'm so sick of it lately I just might get rid of wine altogether, you know, do my usual plague thing. Do you think locusts are too, well, Biblical? I'd say jejune Yeah. That's why the moths and the sharpshooters and the root lice--Man, I love a good pestilence But we love wine. We really love wine Then shut up about it But half the fun is talking about it, showing how much we know, bragging about which wines we've tasted, blowing it up into something critically important in order to make ourselves feel better about having wasted our lives learning about it Yeah, I know, my bad. I never should have let it go this far. But you kids were having so much fun, I just couldn't find it in my heart to stop it. But this blogging thing, it's annoying. I mean, have you read them? I'm talking about the most popular ones. Have you read them? They're garbage Hell is right near Yountville? Well, there's Hell and then there's Hell. Yountville is right near Wine Hell. Where I send fools to spend their eternal lives in nightmarish tasting rooms, and other fools to spend eternity building shrines to themselves. It's a hobby, but I enjoy it. But we were talking about blogs Why pick on blogs? What about all the other wine publications? Oh, they're doomed, trust me. I didn't stock 'em with halfwits for nothing. Does anyone actually read that crap? No, they just scan the numbers. Numbers! I didn't give you numbers to use them to score wine! No, I gave numbers to you so you can calculate batting averages, compare penis sizes, write 'em on bathroom walls. Not attach them to wines. Unbelievable But I like some wine blogs But you're an idiot Hey, I didn't ask you to come here Yeah, you're right. Never mind. Anything else you want to know? I don't know. I've always wanted to know if there's baseball in the afterlife Well, OK, I can answer that. I've got some good news and some bad news OK The good news is, Yes, there absolutely is baseball in the afterlife The bad news? You're pitching on Thursday
For Dr. John Peters (1935-2010), a great and interesting man.
I'm looking for the Gertrude Steins, the k.d. langs, the Dizzy Deans. Wines that have a nasty screwball. Which I can relate to. I want my wines natural. Think pubic hair. Think armpits. Makeup is OK, only a little, but no animals tortured. Unless they're my critics who don't get it. I write only for me, about wines for me. But I'm driving a bandwagon. Under the influence, but a bandwagon nonetheless, and I want everyone to be on it. Except Parker. He'd have to sit on the left side and everyone else would have to sit on the right. Balance. Like wines. I seek balance. Think tightrope walker. No balance, they're dead. Naturally. So I'm a wine cop. With no authority. Except my own. I'll write you a nasty ticket if you make wines that aren't natural. I'll throw the book at you. My book. I wrote a book. You have it. It changed you. It changed everyone. I'm a wine messiah. Follow me. I know people. I'll mention all of them. Most are famous. Others should be. Who cares? I'm famous, I'm a wine cop, I'm a messiah. I'm so lonely.
I was asked to speak at a seminar. I'm the leading authority on Natural Wines. No. Make that I'm the Only Authority on Natural Wines. I'm asked to speak often. I changed the world. Like Gandhi. Like Martin Luther King. Like the Exxon Valdez. The only disasters I like are natural too. Earthquakes. Tsunami. Gamay.
I don't like giving speeches. I like giving commandments. Thou shalt not sulfur. I remember Jesus said, "Sulfur little children..." That was wrong too. Where was I?
In a room, issuing commandments, signing books. Michel Bettane was there, he's a wine critic also. He's French. I like the French, they're so natural. He had nose hair like a wire brush. I wrapped my fingers in it. He asked me to sign my book for him. My book. You have it, I know, it changed everything. I was happy to sign Bettane's book but the pen was filled with synthetic ink. Not ink from an octopus or a squid or pasta. I could not sully the book. I pricked my finger and signed in blood. It felt good. Natural. I thought of Carole King. Maybe it was Bettane's nose hair that reminded me of her hair. Jewish hair. Natural hair. "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman!"
I probably shouldn't have sung it out loud.
I signed the book, With Love, Alice. Bettane smiled. I'm so lonely.
Others were there too. Mostly famous people to hear me. Maybe not famous to you. Not yet. But famous to me, and I assign fame only for myself. To myself. I'm a fame cop. Always copping the famous. Many great winemakers were there. Did I mention this speech was in France? I love France. I surrender to the French. No one's ever done that before. Usually the other way around.
I hope that doesn't offend my French friends. But I speak the truth. Someone has to. The wine world is filled with liars and cheats, and, well, then your wine is filled with lies and cheats. Is that what you want in your stool? Shit, I said stool.
Yet another lie. Another commandment. Thou shalt only use wild yeast. I almost typed wild Yeats. He was a poet. And a good one. He was at my speech. But he's dead. Ironic. He often wrote of the dead. I signed a book for him too. "To Bill" I wrote "you were far too cultured for my taste."
No wine can be natural if it wasn't fermented by wild yeast. Though yeast all over the world has been infiltrated by cultured strains and there is no more wild yeast. I don't care. I have my standards, my commandments. Pick out the cultured strains like they pick out illegal aliens in Arizona. It can be done. I can tell when I taste. I know when a wine was done with cultured yeast. It speaks to me. In an English accent. I hate the English. The accent is fake, like my writing style. The wines taste fake. You just know. You do. Ask anybody who agrees with me.
Francois Ghitaine was there at my speech from Domaine Hornswaggle. His wines are natural. When I visited Francois he proudly showed me his cement vats for fermenting. Cement vats are making a comeback. Why? They are better for the wine. There is concrete evidence. Get it? Concrete evidence! Funnier in French. Francois even goes so far as to ferment the wine in the vats before the cement has even set. The flavors of the ground, the rocks, are in his wines. His Petit Manseng is wet cement in a glass. It's perfect. I took a finger and wrote my name in it. "Alice" I'm so lonely.
I was last at Hornswaggle when only Francois' wife was there, Brigitte. She cooked for me while I spoke to her in short sentences. Very short. I asked her about their biodynamic lifestyle. She was blunt. Francois is a pig. She told him to bury his damned man horns in the vineyard stuffed with the manure he'd brought into their lives. I spoke more short sentences to her. She cooked. Eggs, from a virgin chicken. Over easy. Just how I wanted them. And her. She left weeping. The eggs were runny, like her nose. But the wines are brilliant. I'm brilliant.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"...that guy Hosemaster has real talent...if you ask me sign him up for Comedy Central...he's the funniest guy since Adam Carolla's hilarious book...IN 50 YEARS WE WILL ALL BE CHICKS..."
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."