Thursday, August 29, 2013


Labor Day Weekend is the last gasp of summer, and, I'm sure, a very slow time of year on wine, or any other, blogs. So, guess what?! A damned rerun, that's what. The oxymoronic "Best of HoseMaster." It's a pretty good episode, and I've already removed the commercials so you won't have to fast forward through them.

It's a tribute to Joe Roberts that he's still around and dominating the wine blog world more than three years after I wrote this parody. I'm also fond of this piece because it generated the insult from Ken Payton that I quote in the left hand column under "What the Critics Are Saying." Say, whatever happened to that know-it-all windbag? Despite this silly parody, Joe and I have become friends and mutual admirers. So, here, from April 2010, is 1WineDoody.

It's One Wine Doody time,
It's One Wine Doody time.

If you are new to wine,

You'll like my blog just fine.

It's One Wine Doody time,

It's One Wine Doody time.

I'm just a wine cut-up,

You wish would just shut up.

Hi Boys and Girls! I'm 1WineDoody! You've probably heard of my brother Howdy. Some people have a hard time telling us apart. One of us is small, with a happy grin plastered on his face, a big clown for a sidekick and everything he does is because someone is pulling his strings! The other one used to have a TV show with Buffalo Bob. Welcome to my blog! I'm here to teach all you kids about wine. So many of you think wine is intimidating, that it takes years to understand. Why that's foolish! Look at me! Please, look at me. Down here!

It doesn't take an expert to teach you about wine. Look, I've got a CSW after my name! That's a lot longer than an MS or an MW, a full third longer! And I wrote it on big letters at the top of my blog. I learned this from Safeway. "Certified" is a word that is powerful despite the lack of meaning. You put "Certified" in front of some words and, well, that makes it better. "Certified Angus!" "Certified Public Accountant!" "Certified Wine Specialist!" What do all those things have in common? If I give you the first four letters, kids, can you finish the word? OK, what they have in common starts with B-U-L-L****!

You're going to like it here at 1WineDoody. Everyone does! Certified! 1WineDoody is nice to everybody. If I'm not here praising every wine blogger I meet, well, I'm on other blogs contributing brief little word essays that pay tribute to their wisdom. And I believe in brevity, boys and girls. Everything you need to know about wine is on the surface, just like people. Right there on the surface, like a little layer of scum. And that's what I will teach you about wine, boys and girls, just the stuff you skim off the surface.

OK, here are today's Twitter notes about wines I've received from all my clown friends, all the Clarabeaus and Clarabelles that run winery marketing departments. Notice how at the end I've given every wine a grade! This is so you know what I actually think about the wine because the words probably won't tell you. Other wine bloggers, who are certified talented and really nice people, use the 100 point scale, which you my fans know from being at the lower end of it. Points are too complicated, you have to kind of think hard about them, and I don't want to give just a few points--that's not how 1WineDoody is! So I give grades! You know grades, right, boys and girls? They're like 100 point scores only nicer. I don't know about you, but a "C" was always pretty good as far as I was concerned. "C" is average! And 1WineDoody is nothing if not Certified Average. I'm just a Certified Average Joe. Now on to the notes!

  • 08 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma County): If my dog smelled this he'd be looking for a leaky pussy. $12 C+
  • 07 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): I played in a band like this once, a lot of noise and drunk girls. $75 B
  • 08 Trimbach Pinot Gris (Alsace, Baby, that's right, I drink Alsace): Brought to mind Christopher Cross' "Sailing," only didn't make me seasick. $20 A-
  • 05 Jean Milan "Terres des Noel" (Champagne): Can I get you some antibiotics for that yeast infection, Baby? $75 A
  • 06 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley): If ABBA were a wine, this would be their Dancing Queen. Rare, but easy to find. $60 B-

Isn't it amazing how I can just keep cranking these reviews out? And like I told you, just the surface, kids, just the certified surface. Oh, I know more than I'm showing, I'm humble. I hardly ever mention my musical talents, my gorgeous wife,1WineJudyDoody, or all the letters after my name. And you never hear me talking about how my wine blog friends are really influential--Steve Heimoff and that GoodGrape guy (Good Grape was my favorite flavor of Funny Face drink, along with Loudmouth Lime) and Dr. Vino, who has even more letters after his name than I do! 1WineDoody isn't here to waste your time with information! Oh no, not unless I'm killing a post recycling some publicist's wine event information. Then I go on and on about details.

Nope, boys and girls, 1WineDoody is all about making wine fun! That's why I'm the #1 wine blog around. I'm nice, I write in short sentences and I always assume my boys and girls are just Certified Average and listen to puppets.

Monday, August 26, 2013

10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About...Splooge Estate

If their vineyards could talk, they’d bore the crap out of you.

No. 1. The Rarest of Varieties

Splooge Estate is planted to many of the rarest grape varieties in the world. These varieties are so rare that so-called “critics” are simply unqualified to judge them, resulting in meaningless “scores.” Assholes. Among those grapes is Swiss Colombard, a more neutral version of its French cousin. And being more neutral than French Colombard is like being more insipid than Pinot Noir Rosé. Swiss Colombard is notoriously immune to the effects of biodynamic farming, which is why the Splooge Estate Swiss Colombard is named “What’s the Matter, Horn?” The estate is also home to Petite Verge, known for being the saddest grape variety. Though the women on our mailing list can’t seem to get enough Petite Verge. They often ask, “Is it in yet?” Splooge Estate also has the only known plantings of Tempradillo, which we crush by running it over with our cars.

No. 2. The Moon is Our Mistress

At Splooge Estate, careful attention is paid to the lunar calendar. Especially the one with nude biodynamic chicks. (Not women, actual chicks. The nude chicks prepare special biodynamic formulas for the roosters—the famous cock teas.) Splooge Estate pays careful attention to phases of the moon in all of its farming decisions. Science is so last millennia. What makes a wine special is a wine grown according to the dictates of the moon. This makes perfect sense when you consider that the moon has gravity on its side whereas the sun only has light, warmth, and the fact that we’d be dead without it. Plus, the moon is more romantic, and romance sells wine.

No. 3. Wines with Feeling

Many people now make wines that are Authentic. Lots of wineries proclaim that their wines are Honest. Not like those other Lying Bastard wines. But only Splooge Estate’s wines are Certified Sensitive®. Their wines have been proven to have genuine feelings, feelings that can easily be damaged by casually cruel remarks like, “Jesus, this wine smells like stink finger.” It’s important to remember that any Splooge Estate wine you try that isn’t to your satisfaction may be your fault. You may have insulted its integrity, which can throw a Certified Sensitive® wine off, make it smell like it peed its own pants. Splooge Estate wines are not just Natural, Real, Honest and Authentic, indefinable words that you have to trust simply because the winery uses them, Splooge Estate wines also have feelings, and will thank you to keep your stupid wine opinions to yourself.

No. 4. Pricing is Whimsical

The owners of Splooge Estate, Richard and Carlotta Splooge, initially tasted their first vintages against the best $40 wines they could find. “Our wines were clearly equal to the best $40 wines, and mostly superior,” says Lotta, “and we were going to price our wines at $40.” “But then,” Dick chimes in, “we thought, why not taste them alongside wines costing $100! Turns out, they were as good as those wines too. So we were able to justify charging $100. Whew! That was a close one. We nearly undercharged for our wines. Now we’re in the classic Forty Dollar Wine for A Hundred category that all the best California wines are in.”

No. 5. It’s the Farming, Stupid

No expense is spared in farming the Natural, Honest, Authentic, Real, Genuine, Precious, Energetic, Vegan, Licensed Massage Therapist, Empathetic wines of Splooge Estate. Many of the techniques are unique to Splooge. For example, each vine is given a name. Vineyard workers are required to take roll call every morning, ask each vine how it’s feeling. If a vine is not feeling well, it’s given the day off. The naming and personal care of the vines instills self-esteem in the vineyard. It’s widely accepted that vines with low self-esteem produce wines that are often abused, and alcohol abuse is a big problem in this country. If vineyards had more self-esteem, there would be fewer alcohol-related deaths on our highways. Splooge Estate is leading the way in producing wines that find the true balance between low self-esteem and being Certified Sensitive®. In this way, the wines reflect the personalities of Natural Wine's most vocal proponents.

No. 6. Climate Change is Another Name for Opportunity

Lotta Splooge points out, “We could try to sell our wines on quality, but nowadays people just want to know how wine is made, its impact on the environment. So we don’t worry about quality or taste, we worry about the process. At Splooge Estate, Quality is Job Two. Our customers, the folks who insist on Natural Wine, they’ll overlook faults in the wine. What they won’t overlook is insincerity. We spend unspeakable amounts of money on appearing sincere.”

No. 7. Other Wines Suck   

Splooge Estate has been the Natural Wine leader in pointing out that Other Wines suck. “It’s not that they mean to suck,” Dick Splooge ejaculates, “it’s just that they don’t know any better. And if we in the Natural Wine community don’t point out that other wines suck plough horse dong, we’re doing them a disservice.”

No. 8. Sulfites? Never Heard of ‘Em!

Splooge Estate has taken the position that adding sulfites at bottling takes all the fun out of wine. “We like bottle variation,” says Lotta Splooge. “Why buy a case of twelve bottles that are the same when you can buy a case of Splooge Estate ‘What’s the Matter, Horn?’ and get twelve completely different experiences? And, as a bonus, when you drink a bottle of Splooge Estate wine you’re helping to repopulate the microbial soup in your intestines! Yes, take it from Hollywood celebrities, Splooge in your intestines is good for you!”

No. 9. Did We Mention, Other Wines All Suck?

There are two kinds of wine. Natural wines that express terroir whether your lousy palate can discern it or not, and which represent all the greatest wines on the planet, and other wines which totally suck. And the best part is, you don’t even have to taste them side by side in a blind tasting to know which is which. Just buy the wines that say they’re Natural. Just like professional baseball players, wine producers don’t lie.

No. 10. What You Drink Says A Lot About Who You Are

In a world that you’ve played your part in ruining for future generations, a world ruined by your greed and consumption of precious resources, do you really want to be seen drinking wines that aren’t like Splooge Estate? Natural and Honest, Real and Sincere, Authentic and Certified Sensitive®? What kind of a monster are you? The nice people at Splooge Estate hope you rot in Hell.

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.

Soliciting Members

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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Now Pronounce You Stolpman and...


Stolpman Vineyard Wines I’m Using to Write About Me
Stolpman Vineyards 2012  Rosé Santa Ynez Valley $16
Stolpman Vineyards 2012 Viognier Santa Ynez Valley $22
Stolpman Vineyards 2010 L’Avion Roussanne Santa Ynez Valley $38
Stolpman Vineyards 2011 Syrah Estate Grown Santa Ynez Valley $30
Stolpman Vineyards 2011 Syrah Originals Santa Ynez Valley $38
Stolpman Vineyards 2011 Angeli Santa Ynez Valley $68
Stolpman Vineyards 2009 Sangiovese Santa Ynez Valley $36
Stolpman Vineyards 2011 La Cuadrilla Santa Ynez Valley $22

Working as a sommelier is more about handling customers and awkward restaurant situations than it is about selecting the wines for the list and successfully selling them. Assembling a couple of hundred wines from the tens of thousands available isn’t really that challenging. However, there’s a reason so many wine lists seem random—they are. Thoughtfully conceived wine lists are rare, and there are lots of reasons for that. In a restaurant that’s been around awhile but is struggling to stay open, the list is often made up of wines from suppliers to whom the restaurant doesn’t owe any money yet. I smell those lists all the time when I’m dining out. Also, these days, it’s often the case that the sommelier takes himself too seriously and sees the list as a way to educate people to his own palate, teach them the wonders of natural wines, of wines from obscure regions, or of wines made from grape varieties that score a lot of points in Scrabble. I’ve often laughed out loud at that sort of pretentious and self-glamorizing wine list. Yet the real challenge of being a sommelier is dealing with the unexpected. An M.S. exam cannot teach any of that.

Richard Thomas, the actor who’s had the “John-Boy from ‘The Waltons’” albatross around his neck forever, was a regular customer of mine. He’s knowledgeable about wine, and always ordered something good with his meal. One night, he was dining with his wife and another couple, and he ordered a bottle of red and a bottle of white for the table. It was an especially busy evening, but I opened his wines promptly, and he asked for an ice bucket for the white. I collared the brand new busboy in the service station and told him, “Will you please put the white wine in an ice bucket for table 152?”

About ten minutes later I was walking near Thomas’ table and I noticed he was waving frantically for my attention. Normally quite pleasant, he could be a handful, so I was a bit nervous. “Yes, Mr. Thomas,” I asked, “what can I do for you?”

“You can pour me some more white wine.”

“Certainly.” But the wine bottle wasn’t in the ice bucket. “Do you need another bottle?” I asked, though I couldn’t imagine they’d killed the first bottle.

And then I noticed.

“Oh no, don’t tell me…” The new busboy, taking my instruction a bit too literally, had put the bucket of ice next to table 152, picked up the expensive bottle of Chardonnay, and, quite seriously and ceremoniously, emptied the rest of the bottle into the ice. I laughed, but no one at the table seemed to think it was funny. Then I walked over to the service station and grabbed an empty wine glass. I set the glass on Thomas’ table, picked up the ice bucket, and, holding back the ice with a napkin in my hand, I poured myself a nice glass of Chardonnay. I swirled it, took a sip, and proclaimed, “It smells like peaches, a bit of pineapple, and an unemployed busboy.” Everyone laughed, and, of course, the wines were on the house that night. And John-Boy didn’t tear me a new one.

I have no idea why Stolpman Vineyards’ wines made me think of that story. Except another thing that happens to sommeliers that we have to deal with diplomatically--the customer who one day says, “You know, I just released my first wine and I’d like you to taste it.” It’s equivalent to a customer saying, “I’ve taken on dentistry as a hobby and I’d like to give you a free root canal.”

Tom Stolpman was a very regular and valued customer at Pacific Dining Car, an attorney with his name on the door at a prestigious law firm in Long Beach. The restaurant was crawling with attorneys. Really didn’t matter how often we sprayed. I had known that Tom had purchased a big hunk of land in Santa Ynez Valley and was growing grapes. He’d been selling his fruit, but it seemed he had started his own label as well. And he wanted me to try the wines, and, “if I liked them,” put them on the wine list. A customer of his stature, it didn’t matter “if I liked them,” they could taste like Paula Deen’s toilet donut and I’d buy them. Luckily, the wines were pretty good (not nearly as good as they are now). Not great, but fine. I have no idea who made those original bottlings, it was pre-Sashi Moorman (maybe Peter Stolpman can chime in here and tell me), but I agreed to serve them by-the-glass, knowing full-well Tom Stolpman’s lawyer colleagues would gladly buy them if only to give him a hard time. And so I believe I was one of the first sommeliers to buy Stolpman wines, if only to have them judged by a jury of his peers.

Peter Stolpman, Tom’s son, offered to send me a selection of Stolpman wines for my enjoyment.  (I just checked the Stolpman website and it seems Peter just got married on July 27th! Wow, congratulations, Peter! The HoseMaster wishes you and your gorgeous bride health, happiness and boundless good luck. I’m pretty sure my invitation was intercepted by the NSA.) Seems Peter reads my humble blog, likes it (one of my valued eleven readers), and is just reckless enough to take the chance I’ll write about the wines in a favorable light, though that was never part of the deal. So why not? Just looking at the Stolpman name on each bottle triggered an avalanche of memories for me. Well, in my case, maybe mudslide is a better metaphor.

The fun of writing these occasional wine reviews is in seeing and tasting a lineup of wines from a single producer, and having the luxury of sitting with each through a meal. It’s really interesting to see if there are more hits than misses in the winery’s portfolio, taste what their strengths and weaknesses are, get a sense of their house style. I think I know how hard wineries work at their wines, so I try to pay attention to each wine, and to each wine as it relates to the other wines under the same label. After tasting through all the new Stolpman Vineyards wines Peter sent me, I ended up impressed with nearly all of them.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about the Stolpman 2012 Rosé because it’s rosé. I hate when folks overanalyze rosé. That completely destroys the fun of it. It’s like overanalyzing The 3 Stooges—they’re funny to you, or they’re not. Don’t get all Pauline Kael on me. The Stolpman Rosé, of Grenache and Sangiovese, is delicious, almost savory. With seared Ahi (remember the 3 Stooges bit with the maharajah? “Oh, Maha?” “Aha?” We imitated that a lot as kids), it was quite lovely. It has just what I want out of rosé—it’s clean and refreshing and yummy. I've had a ridiculous number of really lousy California Rosés, most of them stupidly overpriced. So if you love rosé, buy the Stolpman. It's gorgeous.

Are you like me? Do you get scared when you see Viognier on a label of California wine? I always think, “What the hell is this wine going to taste like?” Viognier has run its course as the fashionable wine of sommeliers (What is that white wine now? Grenache Blanc? Ribolla Gialla?), and, while it can be awfully pretty, it seems sort of dead in the water to me--the Natalie Wood of grapes. The Stolpman 2012 Viognier didn’t win me over. It has some nice Viognier varietal character, peach and apricot, but I found the texture rather unappealing, and the finish struck me as slightly, and unappealingly, bitter. That can be Viognier, too, but this wine seemed very disjointed to me. It’s quaffable, but I don’t think it wins Viognier any new friends.

I can still remember the first truly great Roussanne I ever tasted. It ranks as one of my wine (Oh, Maha?) Aha moments. I attended a fancy release luncheon thrown by Chateau Beaucastel for the wine trade, this must have been early ‘90’s. As we arrived for the luncheon, we were handed a glass of white wine, the first release of Beaucastel’s now legendary bottling, their Roussanne “Vieilles Vignes.” I was floored. This wasn’t just the best Roussanne I’d ever tasted, it was one of the best white wines I’d ever tasted. The Roussanne ended up being the talk of the luncheon, overshadowing the amazing Chateauneuf-du-Papes they were pouring, which is no small accomplishment. It’s been a while since I last tasted Beaucastel’s Roussanne “Vieilles Vignes,” but if you ever get the chance, it is worth going out of your way to taste it.

Now, Stolpman 2010 “L’Avion” Roussanne is, after all that, damned good. It’s about as ripe as you can get, yet it has tremendous energy. Roussanne has a tendency to flabbiness (takes one to know one), but the Stolpman, while fleshy and concentrated, never comes off that way. It’s so perfectly Roussanne, honeyed and spicy, and it has wonderful length. I always think of Marsanne as a superior variety (for no apparent reason), but the “L’Avion” is superb, and a fine example of Roussanne, of how wonderful a wine it can make if handled properly. This wine has precision and energy. How does one define “energy” in wine? To me, it’s a quality of persistence on the palate, the brightness of the fruit reappearing with every sip, the vividness of the flavors lingering long after you’ve swallowed, a feeling that the wine isn’t just laying there like a bad date. Really terrific Roussanne.

California Sangiovese may be the red Viognier. I’d hate to think that anyone forms an impression of either of those two varieties based solely on wines from California. Fine examples do exist, I’m thinking Alban Viognier and Noceto Sangiovese (and the tiny production Villa Ragazzi Sangiovese), but they are fewer and farther between than the teeth of a crack addict. The Stolpman 2009 Sangiovese would have fooled me in a blind tasting, or a bland tasting, for that matter. It certainly didn’t remind me of Sangiovese. It came off as overblown, and seemed very manipulated, like a Real Housewives reality show. I wanted to like the wine, but, while it might be a nice red wine, it didn’t ring the Sangiovese bell for me. In a weird way, it seemed like an Italian wine trying to be more like a California wine, and failing. Yeah, I know, I don’t know what that means either. In the case of this wine, I think it’s about personal preference. I suspect others will like this Sangiovese far more than I did.

The Stolpman 2011 La Cuadrilla is a wine you should buy for a number of reasons, not the least of which
And a cool label, too!
is it's delicious. Better yet, profits from the wine go to the vineyard workers at Stolpman as their year end bonus, an idea I love, and a wonderfully classy gesture on the part of the Stolpmans. The blend is Sangiovese, Syrah and a splash of Grenache, and it drinks like a cross between Cotes du Rhone and a simple Italian red quaffer, a little Sangiovese from Umbria perhaps. It has the nice dried cherry character of Sangiovese, and lots of pretty herbal notes as well, lavender and sage, almost that garrigue quality you find in the Cotes du Rhone. Very bright and very fresh, it's lighthearted wine, one you just want to sit around and drink. And for a measly $22! There's just no reason not to drink a wine like this. And, for you liberals out there, a great way to feel better about yourself!

Peter sent me three different Syrahs under the Stolpman label, and I was impressed with each of them. The wines are all from the 2011 vintage, the kind of cool vintage that makes for the most interesting Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley, I think. When I was drinking the 2011 Stolpman Syrah Estate Grown I kept thinking, “What a nice bottle of Syrah.” It has lots of flavor interest, is keenly layered, and tastes like Syrah. I wish I thought that of more bottles of Syrah I taste. I very much liked the feel of the tannins in this wine. I wish I understood more about how tannins are structured in fine wines, how the kind of fine tannins in this bottle is achieved. It adds grace to the wine, which drinks very nicely now, but certainly promises to be much better in a year or two, and then age quite nicely.

But as good and as delightful as the Estate Grown is, the Stolpman 2011 Syrah Originals is a big step up. Made from the oldest vines on the Stolpman Estate, this wine shows the wonderful effect on Syrah in such a cool vintage from such a normally warm place. There’s a freshness here to the blackberry and white pepper fruit that makes your mouth water. It’s juicy, and it enlivens your palate. Absolutely classic Syrah, one that doesn’t try too hard, has pinpoint balance, and never wanders into jamminess. If I measured success by how fast I drank the bottle, here’s the winner. It’s funny, but even after seven years absent from the sommelier game, I often ask myself the question, “Would I buy this wine for my wine list?” Which is more pathetic than relevant. But the answer is, yes, unquestionably.

Finally, and don’t I make my wine reviews an ordeal, there is the breathtaking Stolpman 2011 Angeli. This is great wine, a description I use only rarely. I, somehow, had the sense to decant it, and even as I was pouring it into the decanter I was enamored of it. It is beautifully measured, spicy with underpinnings of herbs (a bit of whole cluster fermentation, I would guess), great breadth and depth, expansive and very elegant. It just drinks like everything went right in its production, from the acidity the vintage delivered, to the richness of the fruit, the graceful use of oak, and the talent of the winemaker. But you don’t think that when you drink it. You just think, yeah, this is really good. The finish, as with any great wine, is electrifying. You could take a sip, reread this ridiculously longwinded post, and still be able to taste it. If you love Syrah, you should spring for the 2011 Angeli. It’s worth every penny. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

DIAL M.W. FOR MURDER--A Really Good Bladder Press

It's been a long time since I wrote a chapter of my continuing, shaggy dog/pulp fiction/detective novel Dial M.W. for Murder, but the disappearance of Avril Cadavril has been haunting me, so I decided to find out what happened to her. Those who want to start from the beginning can go to my Compost Heap (in the left hand column) and read the previous nine chapters of Dial M.W. that lead up to this. Some babes worth looking at! I made a silly attempt at a recap in the first paragraph, but, as regular readers know, plot isn't the strong point anyway.


Chapter 10 A Really Good Bladder Press

Here it is Chapter Ten and I hadn’t had sex with a woman yet. Oh, there were plenty of babes around, they kept showing up at my door like horny Jehovah’s Witnesses asking me if I’d found Jesus, which I had, he was outside Home Depot waiting to get a paying gig. Only the first bombshell, Crystal Geyser, was dead, plugged by an unknown M.W. candidate in drag. Not Jancis Robinson, though he was still on my suspect list. The love of my life, Avril Cadavril, was missing, and every clue I had to her disappearance led down a blind alley. I was getting really tired of blind alleys. Just once I wanted to be led down a Wine Spectator alley, you know, an alley that’s supposedly blind but isn’t really. Only I might run into James Laube in that alley digging through dumpsters looking for his reputation. I’d also been instantly attracted to Mallory O’Lactic, though that may have been because she was wearing Avril’s bracelet, the one I’d given Avril, the one that had been left on my desk after Mallory, and the guy who’d thrown her unconscious into my office and minutes later clubbed me into a coma, had also vanished. And now I had yet another damsel in distress, Biola Dynamic, in my office, her slight lisp somehow sexy, every syllable sibilantly escaping her lips like the slow leak of hot air from Harvey Steiman, or the warning hiss of an angry snake, if there’s a difference, with an interesting story of being asked by some unnamed M.W.’s to kill Mallory O’Lactic. I needed a vacation. Two weeks in Avril, wet bar included, the HoseMaster bedroom—sweet.

While I was summarizing this so-called plot in my head, Biola was killing the time looking at the photos on my desk. There aren’t that many. I’m not really a sentimental guy. There’s my autographed photo of Rudy Kurniawan, signed with his usual tagline, “Things go better with Koch.” And a very rare and collectible photograph of Nicolas Joly with his mouth shut. But Biola was staring at my photograph of Avril Cadavril.

“Who is this?” she wanted to know.

“That’s Savanna Samson, a former porn actress who makes Brunello. Spends three years with wood. So does the wine,” I lied. “I met her at a wine judging. Man, can she gargle.”

“No,” Biola said quietly, “who is she? I know her. I was just in a limo with her. She’s beautiful, and she smells like Chuck Roast. Chuck Roast, M.W. You know him?”

“Beefy guy?”

It seemed everyone who’d been in that limo had been in my office the last couple of days. Crystal, Avril,
Avril Cadavril and Chuck Roast
Mallory, and now Biola. I needed to find out who everyone was in that limo, and who’d rented it. But there are more limousines in wine country than there are Republican winery owners—both are hard to see through, but when you do, all you see is sex, money, and soundproof glass to keep out the chattering of the 99 Percent. And I also needed to track down Tiny, find out what he’d taken from Avril’s office when I’d found him there going through her papers. Somehow, Tiny was in on all this. He’d do anything for money, and anything else for Nacho Cheese Doritos. But I also needed to make sure that Biola didn’t disappear from my life like Avril, Crystal, Mallory and self-respect had.

“No, not really. He’s kind of skinny. Chuck Roast! Surely, you’ve heard of him. The first American to earn both an M.W. and a Tony Award?”

Of course, I’d heard of Chuck Roast M.W. And, damn, was he good in “La Cage aux Folles.” He created the character of Blanche. Sort of dull, but that’s what you’d expect from “Folles” Blanche. But there was something about Biola Dynamic I didn’t trust. Maybe it was the lisp. It seemed fake, like the bubbles in Sofia sparkling wine, or like Obama giving Rush Limbaugh an award—two ways of introducing gas. But I needed Biola, I needed her to lead me to Avril, and I needed her to help me find out who was killing M.W. candidates, and why. And I sure as hell needed a woman to have sex with by Chapter Fifteen, and the pickin’s were getting slim.

“Is he the guy who wants you to kill Mallory O’Lactic?”

Biola went silent. She turned her back to me, still holding the photograph of Avril, staring down at it. It sounded like she was weeping. I took the opportunity to look her up and down. From behind, she reminded me of Napa Valley. The seams of her black nylons running parallel up her legs like Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, smooth and straight most of the way, but then getting bumpy. Might be the ass fault. Her skirt covered the valley between her lush Spring Mountain and her slightly more exposed Howell Mountain, and I knew I’d happily dedicate a lifetime trying to grasp each of them, until I knew from the very first whiff their distinct terroir. But the further I went, the more I could feel the chill of Carneros, and I began to feel guilty for seeing Biola as just another sexual appellation for me to learn the boundaries, began to feel that, like the wines of Carneros, I was just another brut dying to be disgorged.

I walked over to Biola and put my hands on her shoulders. Her silky smooth hair had the texture of Dehlinger Pinot Noir, and I detected the slight aroma of her perfume, Savannah-Chanelle No. 5. Pretty cheap crap for a budding M.W. to wear, I thought.

“Don’t worry, Biola,” I told her, “I’ll help you. I’ll take care of you.” There he was, that stupid knight in shining armor who showed up whenever a babe with long legs and a nice set of lung balloons needed assistance. I snuggled up as close as I could behind Biola, my arms wrapped around her waist, my body pressed against hers as she continued to quietly sob. Sometimes the best thing for a gentle crush, I thought, is a bladder press.

And the next thing I knew, it was Chapter Fifteen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What If I Stop Writing This Crap Again

What if wine competitions had 4236 judges and 50 wine entries? If a wine received a Double Gold (meaning every judge awarded it a Gold Medal), would douchebags still declare the results worthless? If 4231 judges decided a wine was Gold, and one self-important judge decided it was Bronze, who would be right? If none of the 50 wines entered won a Gold Medal, would any of the judges be invited back the next year? Even the winemakers? What if all 50 wines were the same wine? And what if it received ten Golds, fourteen Silvers, eight Bronzes, and the rest didn’t receive any awards? Which medals would it use in its advertising? What if the winery put all three medals, a Gold, a Silver, and a Bronze, on the award-winning wine bottles? Would three times as many stupid consumers buy it?

What if the Master Sommelier exam had four parts, and the final part was a personality test? Can you name one who still would have passed?

What if Pierce’s Disease was spread to vineyards by winemakers with nipple rings? Would there be any healthy Ribolla Gialla vineyards? And what if the women winemakers with nipple rings also spread it? Would wineries be spraying for nipple rings? I know I might.

What if when yeast fermented grape juice, it created alcohol and released N2O? Would you drink Champagne before serious dental work? Would cellar workers suffer even more from brain damage? Would Champagne tastings be filled with people laughing uncontrollably and wetting their pants? How would that be different? Would every wedding toast make people laugh for a change? Would everybody in Reims fall down a lot? Äy bet they would.

What if someone trained a dog to smell the presence of MegaPurple in wine? How many Napa Cabernets would pass the sniff test? And how many would blame “that bitch” for low scores, not even meaning the dog? And what if the dog got excited and indicated a Natural Wine had MegaPurple added? How would you know it was MegaPurple and not that the Natural Wine smelled like dog butt? How would the dog know?

What if wineries were forced by the United States government to add a warning label that reads “Contains Esters?” Would people think every wine was kosher? Would morons complain that, “Esters give me headaches.”? Would the wine experts with blunt force head trauma who patronize every wine shop in America declare, “You know, when I was in France, none of the wines had esters.”

What if wine clubs required intelligence tests? Would there be any?

What if famous, highly collectible wineries decided to produce their own fraudulent wine bottles for auctions? Wouldn’t that be smart? Cash in on the stupidity of auction buyers from countries that start with “Ch.” Not Chad. They could print up extra labels, buy some juice on the bulk market, slap it in some magnums, and make a killing. Who would know? For eight bucks, they can get Acker Merrill to sell it. Perfect provenance, immaculate condition, and bingo, the wines are just like Falun Gong members—stuck forever somewhere in a Chinese cellar. And, really, aren’t many of them already making fraudulent wines? They just don’t bother to use fake labels.

What if corks were made from the bark of willow trees instead of oaks? Then after you got really drunk, you could just boil the cork and make some aspirin for your hangover. This is genius, so, remember, I thought of it first. I don’t think there’s such a thing as an Advil tree.

What if, instead of ancient Egyptian kings, large format bottles were named for war criminals? “Hey, I just bought a Hitler of ’09 Lafite!” “Yeah, well, I’m drinking my Pol Pot of  ’75 Caymus Special Selection tonight.” “I can top that—I’ve got a Rumsfeld of ’85 La Tâche.” Perhaps magnums would be referred to as, “A bottle in the hand is worth two in the Bush.”

What if you made wine in space? Would wine writers describe its mouthfeel as weightless? Would it be a Zero Gravity flow winery? If you made an orange wine, would you name it Tang? If you made sparkling wine and popped the cork, would you be able to hear it? Would they make a movie that had a tagline, “In space, no one can hear you disgorge?” Would it have to be about wine, or could it be about bodily functions?

What if they had named the movie about four narcissistic bozos trying to pass the Master Sommelier exam for the effect it had on people who viewed it, would it have been called “UniSOMM?”

What if tomorrow everyone stopped reading wine blogs? How would we know?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring

I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a miracle. I never expected anything like this to ever happen to me. I attended the revival meeting innocently enough. I simply wanted to witness this strange and burgeoning cult firsthand. Experience the hypnotic and numinous leader in the flesh, just one in the sea of her admiring acolytes. I didn’t expect to be converted, to be healed of my many enological sins. But those hours in her company, listening to her speak, recognizing her inarguable spiritual truths, have brought me to the Light. Many have called her a charlatan, a nimble-tongued purveyor of half-truths, a self-proclaimed prophet of the pure, who preys upon the dimwitted dipsomaniacs and the mouth-breathing Millennials, whose calls to consume only the Natural, the Real, and the Authentic are clarion calls to the weak-minded and easily befuddled. I was one of those who berated her. No longer. I have seen miracles with my own two eyes. I have awakened as if from a long, sulfite-induced coma. I am newly baptized in the Natural Wine Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring. I’ve been reborn.

My epiphany began under a large tent on a warm summer’s eve somewhere in the South of France. As I entered, the congregation was singing Natural Wine gospel songs. “Fight the Good Sulfite,” “What a Friend We Have in Chauvet,” and “For He’s a Joly Good Fellow,” were sung with heart and conviction. The tent was filled with love—love, and anticipation of Aimee Semple McFeiring’s long-awaited entrance. I was welcomed with warmth and open arms, and a glass of natural wine that had a nose married perfectly with the overpowering aroma of the devoted deodorant-free throng. The worshippers grew quiet, the hymns stopped, the lights in the tent slowly dimmed to the oxidized color of a sulfite-free current release, and Aimee Semple McFeiring walked slowly onto the stage.

It was only then I noticed the people gathered at the very front of the crowd, just a few feet below Aimee Semple McFeiring, their eager and open faces turned to her brilliance. “Brothers and sisters,” McFeiring exclaimed, “is there anyone here who wants to be cured tonight?” What happened next is almost too unbelievable to relate; and if I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it either. But as Steiner is my witness, every word I write is true.

Wine people with every kind of horrible affliction, those people in front who had seemed the most eager to see McFeiring, began to line up on the steps leading up to the stage where Aimee Semple McFeiring was bathed in that oxidized glow, a glow which seemed to radiate from her purely natural hair color. At first, the sight of all of these terribly deformed wine lovers was horrifying to behold. The first man in line was wearing a Hawaiian shirt with the Trader Joe’s logo, and at the sight of him the congregation gasped and collectively turned their heads, a few attempting to muffle the sounds of gagging. There was a middle-aged, Humpty Dumpty-shaped woman wearing a shirt that had shiny beads spelling out the words “Got Wine?” I tried not to stare, but it was horrible to behold, and I was riveted to the sight, amazed at the woman’s courage to appear in public looking that inhuman and disgusting. A man was holding up a copy of The Wine Advocate, dog-eared and covered in highlighter, and people left a wide swath around him as though he might give them a disfiguring communicable disease, something with scales, a deadly form of 100 Point psoriasis. There were no fewer than a hundred of these pathetic souls in line, and from their dishevelment and grotesque appearance, I knew many of them were winemakers.

“Do you believe, brother?” Aimee Semple McFeiring asked the poor, misguided soul in the Trader Joe’s shirt (a woman next to me whispered to her friend, “He drinks Charles Shaw,” whereupon her friend wet her pants in fear). “I believe! I believe!” he shouted. And with that his Hawaiian shirt vanished, simply vanished, I have no idea how but for the power of Aimee Semple McFeiring, and he donned the hair shirt of the true believers in the Natural Wine Church. (McFeiring told him it wasn’t necessary to wear the hair shirt, but he replied, “It’s cilice I can do.”) Well, it’s not really made of hair, I learned, but of old filter pads cast aside by reformed winemakers. The grotesque woman in the “Got Wine?” shirt crawled on her knees to Aimee Semple McFeiring. There were tears in her eyes as McFeiring placed her right hand on the top of the woman’s head and shouted, “Be gone, Satan! Go back to Hell, Shanken! Leave this woman, Spawn of Heimoff!” The woman’s eyes rolled up in her head, she dropped unconscious to the floor, the crowd inhaled deeply as one. Then she began to levitate. McFeiring’s hand was still on her head, and it was as though she were lifting her with the strength of her will, with the power of her belief, with the pureness of her vision for the True Wine. And when the woman awoke, now alert and on her feet, her shirt now read “God Wine.”

But the man with The Wine Advocate was a different problem for Aimee Semple McFeiring. He held the issue in front of him, arms fully extended, and it was clear that McFeiring was frightened. She hissed, a long, sibilant syllable that made the congregants gasp. “Be not frightened, brothers and sisters. There’s no need to fear the forces of evil as represented by this steaming pile of lies.” She approached the man. “Do you believe, brother?” she whispered, the crowd growing silent in witness to her passion. “I want to believe,” the man replied, his arms beginning to tremble, “but I don’t know that I can.” “Put the ratings from Hell down!” Aimee Semple McFeiring commanded. The man’s voice broke, tears streaming down his cheeks, “But how will I know what to drink? Without the Book of David, and the Book of Neal, and the Book of Lisa, I’ll have nothing!” “You have nothing now,” Aimee Semple McFeiring said, and with that The Wine Advocate burst into flame. The man screamed and cast it aside. His loneliness was palpable, the emptiness of his life flashed across his face. Aimee Semple McFeiring walked slowly to the man. She slipped one strap of her dress off of her shoulder, in the dim light of the tent her breast was exposed, and the man suckled at her breast. A woman behind me whispered, “He drinks Cornelissen Rosé from her teat, it’s the greatest Natural Wine there is.” After a few pulls, the man stood straight up, he seemed six inches taller, and he glowed! Light radiated from his every pore. The tent lights were dimmed, but you could have read “Naked Wine” by his Light. It was a miracle.

And that night I also saw the Light. There is no wine but Natural Wine. All the rest is lies. To let it pass your lips is a sin. But we’re human, Aimee Semple McFeiring teaches us, and we sin. Chauvet died for our sins, so we will be forgiven. But we must strive to be without sin, to taste only what the Natural Wine Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring says is Authentic and Real and Natural, or we shall forever live in Ignorance and worship False Wines. I, for one, believe.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Molesworth Wins the Pulitzer Prize for Wine Reviews

I was thinking about writing a piece about overblown, fatuous wine reviews, and, serendipitously, found a review of James Molesworth's over at Wine Spectator that was an exemplar of the style. On a whim, I read about six of his reviews--it didn't take any more than that--from the past couple of months, all from the Highly Recommended wines section of the site. Five of them were superbly pretentious, the sixth merely self-parody. So, without the permission of the Columbia School of Journalism, I took the liberty over at Tim Atkin to award Molesworth the first Pulitzer Prize for Wine Reviews. I think you'll find the notes from the Awards Committee to be wonderfully enlightening.

I hope you common taters will feel free to light up Tim Atkin with your thoughts, or leave them here on the back porch as you usually do.

Tim Atkin MW

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Three Hundred

According to the stats on my Google Blogger dashboard, this is my 300th post for HoseMaster of Wine™. A few of them were reruns--“Best of HoseMaster,” an oxymoron if there ever was one. But I also wrote more than fifty posts on the original incarnation of the blog, now expunged from the Intergnats, so 300 is a fair number. And a big number. It’s my excuse for a bit of self-indulgence. Consider yourself warned. This will be dull.

I have some regrets about my work here. I wish I had taken it more seriously. So many of my pieces were written in haphazard fashion, and are painfully sloppy to me in retrospect. When I go back through my Archives (a fancy word for what amounts to a compost heap), I am usually embarrassed. There are pieces I’m proud of, but, for the most part, my work has been driven by the need to just get it done, get something posted, keep up with my gluttonous blog. My excuse was that I was writing for free. The truth is, I was lazy.

Writing satirically about wine, and the wine business, combines the two things I have loved most in my life—comedy writing and wine. I began writing jokes around the age of 10. Once a week, at Lowell Elementary School, children in the fifth grade spent an hour at “religious studies.” Amazing, right? The Catholic kids went to one classroom, the Jewish kid (yup, one kid) was in another, the Christian kids yet another. I wasn’t of any denomination, had never attended a place of worship of any kind, unless you count Dodger Stadium. So I was allowed a free hour to do whatever I wanted in the classroom, as long as it was quiet and harmless. I wrote. I wrote jokes, and I wrote science fiction stories featuring the amazing Dr. Cucumber. Yes, Freud would have had a field day with Dr. Cucumber. Thanks to not believing in any God, I became funny.

Writing is serious business to me. I think about it often, and I care about it deeply. I write, at some level, because reading takes us out of time. When you read, as you are reading these words, time recedes to the background, and, for those hours or minutes you are reading, you step outside of time and live in your memory, all by yourself, in places where time no longer matters. Nothing else does this. When I write for HoseMaster, I write to take folks away from their lives for a few minutes to laugh. I know what it’s like for you. You read my crapola with a growing anticipation of when your laughs will come—sometimes, they never do. You aren’t thinking about your marriage or your job or your toothache, you’re hoping a laugh will come by soon. And even if I don’t make you laugh, even if I make you angry, or squeamish, or disgusted, you’ve stepped out of time for those moments and, I hope, become yourself for a bit. You choose what you laugh at here—my cruelty, my silliness, my absurdity—but you choose to come here, of all the places you might choose, to escape time for a few minutes, and I’m deeply flattered.

I don’t get writer’s block. There’s no such thing. It’s as imaginary as Gold Medals and perfect 100 point wines. My father worked in factories his entire life, and he never once had “assembly line block.” Writing is work. Avoiding it is easy, and has its pleasures. I can go on writing HoseMaster until I reach 10,000 posts, though I won’t. And I won’t ever have writer’s block. There are ideas around us all the time, right there, right in front of our eyes and noses. We have only to give them voice to give them life. I don’t believe anyone walks away from their blog because they’re out of ideas. They walk away because it doesn’t seem worth it, or because they have no audience. In many ways, it’s not worth it. I want to walk away at least once a week. But then I’ll write a joke that seems lovely, even perfect, and I want to feel that feeling again. Where the joke comes from, I don’t have even the slightest idea. The best ones seem to arrive on imaginary stone tablets, handed down from a comedy God. I simply proclaim them. And when those jokes are delivered to me, it’s a unique experience. It’s rare, it’s always unexpected, and it’s addictive. So I keep writing. Writing has always been worth it to me.

Writing comedy and satire comes from a place of anger and self-loathing. When I was much younger, this caused me no end of pain. I’d write comedy for ten hours, and be filled with sadness and rage for no readily apparent reason. With age, I’ve learned how to channel all of that, use it, control it, and not suffer from it as much. Yet I often worry about how my words might affect the people I lampoon. Satire requires fearlessness, but that doesn’t rule out insecurity or worry. I try never to pull punches, but I also try never to throw sucker punches. I believe that my targets have earned my weapons, though I’m too often guilty of using a grenade launcher when an arrow would have been adequate. The worst sorts of people in life, and I’m referring to the Rick Perrys and Sarah Palins and Ann Coulters of the world, are still human (the wine biz doesn’t really have the equivalent of those sorts of cretins). Like everyone, they deserve forgiveness, yet they also invite scorn. It’s my lot in life to deliver scorn. I leave forgiveness to people better than I. 

Wine has always been seen as a gentleman’s sport. Like any sport, it’s often filled with scoundrels, liars, posers, hypocrites and charlatans. Only in the wine business, one is not supposed to point all of that out, at least not in public. I’m not a crusader, not by any means. I’m merely the Fool. But I try to choose how I approach my subjects carefully, try to go after the scoundrels, liars, posers, hypocrites and charlatans with the sharpest razor, while gently prodding those others I make fun of who just don’t know any better. I think the responses I get to my pieces tell an interesting story of how accurately I accomplish this. When I seem to have hit a jugular vein, the reaction is usually a kind of collective cringing. When I miss, perhaps cross some sort of line, the reaction is often a stunned silence. I learn from those reactions. Satire only works when the tone is right, gentle on one occasion, ferocious on another. Get the occasions confused, and it falls flat. I’ve fallen flat too often for my own liking. Yet more regret.

I have no illusions about my reach. My audience has grown over the past couple of years, but it’s still meager. Nothing about wine or wine reviewing or wine writing will change because the HoseMaster was here. There are inmates on death row with more fans. I don’t write HoseMaster to become famous in the wine business—that’s a fool’s errand, one being pursued by no end of nitwits who comment on STEVE! to boost their recognition. I don’t write it to get free wine, which is lucky because I’m pretty much a failure at that (though I have been gifted by regular readers who make wine, and it’s a lovely gesture to exchange my creative abilities with theirs). I don’t write it for money, though Tim Atkin is kind enough to pay me a bit for my pieces on his blog. I think I write it to see what I’ll say next. Or, more accurately, to see what the HoseMaster will say next.

Most of you will agree, I’m certain, that there is so little worth reading on wine blogs. The vast majority of the ones I’ve looked at are dismal—tired, talentless and trite. A collection of journeys meaningless for their collective banality. When I began HoseMaster of Wine™, three hundred pieces ago, I spent a lot of my time making fun of wine bloggers. I have no idea why. It’s the wine business, the marketing people, the professional wine writers, and the celebrity sommeliers that deserve more scorn. And so my focus has gradually shifted in their direction. Not that it matters. Yet no matter how cruel or insulting or demeaning my pieces can be, I have great fondness and love for the wine business, far more than almost anyone I know. My only talent of any kind, superficial as it might be, is writing jokes, satire, comedy, meretricious pantagruel… For me, every one of my pieces is a love letter to wine.

300 down, who knows how many more to go. I wonder, all the time, how much longer I can channel the HoseMaster. I wish people understood that the HoseMaster is not me, and I am not the HoseMaster. But wishes are the dreams of the hopeless. Meanwhile, thank you for allowing the HoseMaster into your heads twice a week. I don’t hear from very many of you who regularly read this blog, but I know you’re out there. I have no idea why, but you’re out there. I guess, just like me, you’re wondering what the HoseMaster will say next.