“…any food product that feels compelled to tell you it’s natural in all likelihood is not.”—-Michael Pollan
Thursday, August 22, 2013
How to Start Your Own Wine Tasting Group
I am often asked by beginning wine lovers, about to embark on their Journey to Discover Wine, amateur wine Frodos just learning their adult drinking Hobbits, “What’s the best way to learn about wine?” Oh, there are so many ways. One can enroll in a wine class at a local college, secure in the knowledge that the instructor knows more than you, and slightly less than the average Amish. Or, better yet, one can read wine blogs and simply be cured completely of the desire to learn about wine. This is often the best way to go. It’s not a good idea for you to learn more about wine. There are enough people already who know a lot about wine, no one wants you to join that pinhead club. Learn about mead. No one gives a crap about mead, so you’ll have the field to yourself. Mead is honey wine. It’s good for you, aids digestion. Particularly useful if you suffer from colon collapse, like bees do lately.
But the best way to learn about wine, I tell these intellectual Hobbits, is to form your own wine tasting group. “How do we do that?” these Dildo Baggins’ ask. Here, then, is a guide to starting your own wine tasting group.
No, “Soliciting Members” is not Anderson Cooper’s new CNN show. The first thing you need to do to begin your own wine tasting group is to find a handful of other like-minded wine loving novices who will actually show up for the tastings on a regular basis. Choose friends and other couples who make you laugh when they get drunk. I’m particularly fond of inviting women who like to kiss other women when they get hammered. Watching them with a nice glass of Syrah in my free hand is always fun. Remember, a wine tasting group might be about learning the flavors and structure of a variety to begin with, but as the night wears on, it’s all about wine’s wondrous effects on our inhibitions. Now we’re learning something! If you can’t find five other people who want to spend an evening learning about Tempranillo, fill in the gaps with migrant workers you find in front of Home Depot. Learn about wine and have your garage cleaned out at the same time! A word of advice: Do not let them get drunk and kiss.
Establish a Format
Once you’ve established a group of regulars, you’ll need to establish a format for tasting the wines. There are many formats to choose from, and your wine tasting group needs to find one that will make them comfortable. Many groups choose to taste the wines blind. Each member brings their bottle wrapped in a paper bag, concealing its identity. I know one group that doesn’t bother to conceal the wines, but, instead, wears the paper bags over their own heads. But these are, admittedly, really ugly people. They’re so ugly the bags have to be labeled Hazardous Waste. The more you learn about wine, the more you’ll realize how ugly people are drawn to it. Ever been to a big industry wine tasting? It’s like an Ugly Convention. The more you learn about wine, you'll find, the uglier you get. This explains sommeliers.
Other formats for tasting include tasting without your pants on, tasting from dog dishes, tasting directly out of the bottles (saves a lot of time on cleanup, which isn’t important if you have those Mexicans from Home Depot around), and pairing the wines with Cheese Whiz, or any kind of Whiz.
Every gathering of your wine tasting group will need a theme. Leave it up to the member who’s hosting that evening’s tasting to come up with a theme. With some tasting groups, everyone brings a bottle that adheres to the theme. Other tasting groups have the host purchase all the wines. This is dangerous. You throw a lovely “Wines of Burgundy” tasting, but that cheap prick you invited to the group because his wife likes to kiss other women, Mexican field hands, and pizza delivery drivers decides his theme is “Wines of BevMo.” At this point, it’s probably best to go back to Step 1. Screw it, you’re just never going to know much about wine.
Try to be creative with the themes you choose. Remember, the point of the gatherings is to learn about wine and then get trashed and forget almost everything. You can choose boring and predictable themes like varieties, or regions, or point scores. Or, you can be more imaginative. I always like a blind tasting of “Wines with Things Floating in Them.” I learned a lot from a tasting of “Wines Made By People with Anxiety Disorders.” I love Bonny Doon! The point is, wine tasting can be fun and imaginative. Don’t let reading about wine on the Internet fool you into thinking it’s not.
Relax and Have Fun
Just like book clubs are not about the books but about appearing to be smart, or a cover for infidelity, wine clubs are not really about the wines. You’re not going to learn anything from people equally as ignorant on the subject as you, get over it. You don’t know Viognier from Liquid Plumr, though one is an effective drain cleaner and the other one comes with an easy-to-pour spout. Don’t set your goals too high. Settle for a monthly get-together to get your drunk on. You’re not really going to learn that much about wine. After all, learning about wine is exactly like oral sex—just keep putting it in your mouth until you figure it out.
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
"...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.