“For something to be funny, the audience has to be in a position to sense the truth of it. It has to be primed. Satire can crystallize what’s already in the air, but it can’t really put it there.”--Garry Trudeau
Monday, June 10, 2013
What I Learned About Blogging in Walla Walla
I wrote this piece in July of 2010 and, at the time, it caused quite a stir. I think it was mostly the photo. The conceit was that this particularly unattractive wine blogger wrote a list of what he learned at the Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Walla Walla that year. After every Poodle Conference, the blogosphere is alive with mediocrity, list after list of "What I Learned at...," and I guess I'd been having a bad week. Apparently, I have a lot of those. And the piece seem appropriate given the recent WBC in Canada. Anyway, it's always a joy to see THIS guy again, and revisit obscure cultural jokes about vuvuzelas.
learned so much at the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I had this totally
original idea to list the Top Ten Things I Learned! It just came to me.
I swear, I don't know where it came from. Maybe I'm channeling one of
the many geniuses I met in Walla Walla. You would not believe how many
geniuses were there. Steve Heimoff was there (he's like a SuperGenius!
He sounds just like Stephen Hawking! Not the physicist, just some guy
named Stephen, hawking.), Lettie Teague was there (she's such a genius
she writes for the Wall Street Journal, which is a newspaper just for
geniuses and doesn't even have comic strips!), Andrea Robinson was there
(she's such a genius she's got these wine glasses that make wine taste
so good you think you're drinking out of Riedel instead of a Riedel
ripoff! Wow, how smart is that?), there were geniuses everywhere! I
haven't met that many really, really smart people since I applied at the
DMV. I learned so much about blogging, and I'm really excited to share
it with you. I know a lot of you couldn't really afford to go to the
WBC, so I'm hoping these insights will be helpful. I wouldn't have been
able to go either if I hadn't sold all of those samples wineries have
sent me the past six months. Oh, don't worry, wineries, I'll still post
tasting notes on the wines! I'm not stupid. I wrote down all the back
labels and I'll go from there. It will be just like I actually tasted
them. Anyway, here are the Top Ten Things I Learned at the WBC!
1. To be a good wine blogger, you not only have to learn about wine, you also have to learn how to write!
Not sure I signed up for this. Isn't it enough that I know a little bit
about wine and took typing in high school? Those seem like solid wine
blogger credentials to me. Now it turns out I have to find my "voice." I
don't even know what that means. People can't hear me on this blog. I
don't need a voice. I have Twitter. Which is like vuvuzelas--if you
played them with your asshole.
2. Just reviewing wines doesn't make for a good wine blog.
Then why do they give an award to Best Reviews on a Wine Blog? I'm
going to go with this lesson, but I still think people are really
interested in my reviews. And why wouldn't they be? Nobody knows more
about Wines under Eight Dollars than me. I think the problem is bloggers
who talk about really expensive wine and about wines from grapes nobody
has heard of, like Mourvedre. Who the hell has heard of Mourvedre?
Wasn't that the guy who created "Jeopardy"'s real first name? What turns
people off is talking about great wines. Come on, people, let's stick
to what wine bloggers do best--recommending reliably mediocre wine!
3. I'm really famous. Everywhere I went around the hotel, people knew me. It's like I had a name tag. Oh.
4. There were wine writers before Robert Parker.
Apparently, this is true. But most of them were British and white and
had a hairy wah and a huge Johnson. But they are the past and we are the
future, and somehow we're supposed to feel good about this.
5. Marketing people are really nice, but you can't trust them.
This is kind of hard to believe. All the ones at the conference were
really, really nice to me and only said good things about my blog and
how good I am at matching wines with reality TV shows, which is
something I thought of myself and is really way more clever than
matching wine with music or old movies. Like with "Biggest Loser" I said
you should drink K-J Vintner's Select Chardonnay because it's really
fat and hopeless. And why wouldn't I trust marketing people when it's
marketing people who gave the Best Writing on a Wine Blog to marketing
people who write fluff about wineries and wines they represent and are
major sponsors of the WBC and also sponsor the European Wine Blog
Conference (where I hear the girls go topless!)? That seems fine to me.
Theirs really was the Best Blog. And it's not just a blog, it's paid
advertising! It's a blogger ideal. I guess they mean don't trust
marketing people who don't have a blog.
6. Bloggers don't like criticism.
That's what so great about blogging. We're all nice to each other. It's
like we all have the same defective gene. Except that HoseMaster guy.
But I'm guessing he's just mad about his hairy wah. Plus, I hear he's
been in prison for identity theft. He stole Hitler's.
7. Publish as often as possible. I
kind of knew this anyway, but it's good to have it reinforced. Content
needs to be slapped together as quickly and as often as possible. It's
quantity not quality. With enough quantity, quality will come. We know
this from Harlequin Romances and Cook's Champagne and Orson Welles. So
don't sweat the facts, don't worry about originality, just crank it out.
Whew. This one I can do. 8. Walla Walla is the Lady GaGa of wine regions.
I made this up, but it's really catchy. Walla Walla=GaGa. And there are
so many other similarities. Lots of fancy packaging with basically
nothing inside. And next year we won't be talking about either one of
9. Speed tasting wines and posting about them is fascinating and educational.
For example, I learned that most red wines taste exactly the same. Kind
of like spit does. And that tasting notes are best when written quickly
because you can just use the same words over and over and nobody really
notices. For fun, I often write descriptions, and then shuffle the
descriptions and the wines so they don't match! Know what. It's hard to
tell the difference. And it turns out that's what most wine bloggers do!
Now they tell me. That's how you know you have good tasting notes,
they're interchangeable. This is liberating and should cut the time I
spend on my blog in half, so I'll have five extra minutes to read
Catavino and thrill at the prose.
10. Credentials can be fabricated.
This is the most important thing I learned at the WBC. Your readers
know a lot less than you do, so knowing what you're talking about is
irrelevant. It's that you say stuff often and with a unique voice. So
now I'm going to be the Selma Diamond of wine bloggers! And if someone
stops by your blog and does happen to know more than you, you can delete
their comments. But how likely is that? With a stunning dearth of
talent, just look around, wine bloggers don't get comments.
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.
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
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"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
"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."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.