Monday, May 23, 2016

Jackson Family Wineries Buys HoseMaster of Wine™

Following on the success of its purchase of Steve Heimoff, Jackson Family Wines announced today that it has agreed to buy HoseMaster of Wine™. Jackson Family Wines owner Barbara Banke had this to say about the sale:

“I just like to buy people. It’s one thing to buy a guy’s label and then make a mockery of him. That’s a hoot. I laugh every time I run into Robert Pepi, or those Murphys and Goodes. I unload amazing amounts of plonk thanks to their fine names. But it’s even more entertaining to buy writers. Steve was my first purchase, and, you know, my boots have never been licked cleaner in print. Gus taught him something, at least. But Steve is one of those nice writers. When he was at Wine Enthusiast, he always gave my wines high scores. I felt like he wanted to be bought. The HoseMaster of Wine™ is a butthole, and I thought it would be wise to just buy him and make him say nice things about our wines. I tried to buy advertising for his site, but he doesn’t take advertising. What the hell kind of wine publication doesn’t take advertising as graft? Come on, that’s how the wine business has always worked. That just makes my job harder. I finally figured out to buy writers like him. HoseMaster of Wine™ is our second purchase, but it won’t be the last.”

Many in the wine trade have bemoaned the consolidation of small wine writers under corporate umbrellas, but others note that it’s a natural progression from free junkets, lavish dinners and boundless free wine samples. “Why shouldn’t successful wine bloggers sell the only thing they have of value, their reputation, to the highest bidder?” asks industry expert Peter Payola. “I think the HoseMaster of Wine™ deserves every penny he received, and I’m sure, just like Steve Heimoff, he’ll continue to insist he retains his objectivity and integrity, though both are clearly on loan from Ms. Banke. It’s the beauty of the internet age, really. Readers only insist on the surface appearances being believable. Truth is for suckers. Politicians have known this for centuries.”

Banke is pioneering a new kind of wine journalism. There have always been wine publications that hire competent wine writers to write stories on behalf of wineries who want some publicity and great reviews. These “Pay for Play” publications are often the major source of income for wine writers who would otherwise be waiting tables and printing business cards on their home computer that say “Sommelier.” Issues of magazines like The SOMM Journal are packed with articles that are transparently advertorials, written by wine writers (in the loosest definition of the words) who are not so much interested in a byline as they are in a buyline. It was Banke’s inspiration to cut out the middleman, and rather than pay the magazine, just buy the damned writer.

“Look,” Banke said, “those magazines are essentially vanity press. I mean, who reads that crap? Every article is 500 words in search of a toilet. They have the depth of a back label, but without the insight. You’d think those wine writers would have some pride. Yeah, I know, that’s stupid. I wanted some vanity press of my own, but I can afford better writers! I’m lovin’ it, and it’s good for business. That HoseMaster guy, he’s a clown, an opinionated know-it-all. But I can use him against those Foley wines, and the Constellation group, the fucking Gallos, and have some fun. I’d sic him on Treasury, but that’s like kicking a castrato in the nuts—adding insult to surgery.”

If Banke’s strategy is successful, it is sure to spawn imitators. Many think it’s just another of Barbara’s hobbies. Her late husband Jess Jackson was fond of horse racing and collected front runners. Barbara has made it clear, judging from recent purchases, that she also loves horse flesh, though of the sort between which the tail resides. Others think it was daring and brilliant to buy a wine writer or two and see if they can maintain their image of independence and disinterest. The move is just a logical next step in the company’s wine acquisitions.

“Jackson Family Wineries is not just known for its large collection of winemakers and wineries,” says wine industry analyst Peter Payola, “they’re also known for their fine museum quality collection of Master Sommeliers, who reside in Banke’s private estate zoo, their own career Hearse Castle, but who also travel the world performing tricks for actual working sommeliers, wine buyers, and others with mental disabilities. It’s wonderful to see how many of the MSs can fit into a little tiny car! I think Jackson Family Wineries will continue to acquire Master Sommeliers, though, frankly, they have almost no resale value.

“Buying Steve Heimoff was a stroke of genius,” Payola continued. “He’s no fool. He can continue to endlessly wax emetic about wines produced by Jackson Family Wineries, proclaim Trumpishly that he can’t be bought, that he is only doing what he does for his supporters, but Banke can rest assured he won’t crap where he sleeps. He’s got a doggy for that.”

Other wine writers have been rumored to be on the auction block. Hell, let’s face it, every wine writer is on the auction block. Astrologically speaking, wine writers are born under the same sign—For Sale. As this is written, dozens of “objective” wine journalists are on junkets paid for by large wine companies or collectives, participating in the wine business’s version of “The Amazing Race.” Log onto their blogs, read the thinly-disguised, prepaid propaganda of their amazing wine journeys and discoveries along the way, and see if you can discern, “Where’s Dildo?” Wherever the wine writers travel the wines are “overlooked,” “underrated,” and “the next big thing.” When these wine writers travel, they have to travel light—no sense packing your palate.

Objectivity and integrity in wine writing are basically the tonsils and appendix—strictly vestigial organs. Only somebody else pays to have them removed.

Who will be the next big acquisition by Banke, or one of the other major players? Buying the HoseMaster of Wine™ was a risky move. He’s been described as a “loose cannon,” especially by people sitting next to him on the bus after his breakfast burrito. But Jackson Family Wineries has a long history of savvy purchases in wineries, Master Sommeliers and winemakers. Though most would argue you need a satirist on your marketing payroll like you need a beaver on your rugby team.

The HoseMaster of Wine™ could not be reached for comment.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Walrus and the Winemaker

The sun was shining on the vines,
  Shining with all his might.
He did his very best to raise
  The sugars to great height—
And this was odd because it was
  The middle of the night.

The Cab was ripe as ripe can be,
  High 20’s was the Brix.
“I can add some acid later,
  And some water to mix.
And then a lot of new French oak
  Should fool those stupid pricks.”

The Walrus and the Winemaker
  Were walking close at hand.
They laughed to think about the way
  wine ratings were pre-planned:
“A Hundred Points! A classic wine!
  The scores we share are canned.”

“If seven chimps with seven scales
  Gave ratings for a year,
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
  “That they would be less clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Winemaker,
  And shed a bitter tear.

“O, Suckers, come and walk with us!”
  The Walrus did beseech.
“We promise that we’ll take the time
  To clarify and teach!
Ignore our silly numbers, it’s
  Our adjectives we preach!”

The eldest Sucker looked at him,
  He dearly loved a rating.
A wine that scored a hundred points
  Was cause for masturbating.
Big scores to him were mother’s milk—   
  And critics were lactating.

“I sucked the teat of Spectator
  And nursed on Robert Parker.
Galloni’s nipples must be sore,
  I’m sure that Boone’s are darker.
I’m such a chump,” the Sucker said,
  “Each one’s a carny barker.”

But more young Suckers hurried up
  Enchanted by the numbers.
The Walrus published countless ones,
  Their pointlessness encumbers—
That sort of shit is usually the
  Provenance of plumbers.

“I hate the scores, their emptiness,”   
  The Winemaker abjured.
“I only use them in my press,
  Of this I can’t be cured.”
And not a single Sucker saw
  He was a lying turd.

And more consumers followed them,
  Then more and more and more.
And thick and fast they came at last
  And purhased just by score.
This made the Walrus very rich,
  The Winemaker a whore.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
  “To talk of many things:
Of points—and pics—and paid placements
  Of what your dollars bring—
And why integrity matters some,
  But dollars fucking sing!”

“But that can’t be,” the Suckers said,
  “The numbers are so clear.
They help us buy the wines we want
  Without an ounce of fear.
And ignorance is bliss, you know,
  When you take it up the rear.”

“’Tis ignorance,” the Walrus said,
  "That makes you lovely Suckers.
Come follow us and praise our skill—
  The wines all taste like Smucker’s!”
“They do,” the Winemaker had to say,
  “You stupid motherfuckers.”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
  “To play them such a trick.
To make them spend their hard earned bucks
  On numbers that mean dick.”
“Oh well,” replied the Winemaker,
  “It makes the business tick.”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said,
  “I deeply sympathize.
The wines you make are dull and crap,
  And based upon my lies;
You only live to hear my scores,
  But here is the surprise:

“I taste your best wines only once
  And then I’m in a hurry.
I’ve tasted hundreds on that day,
  My senses are quite blurry.
But I really do not give a crap—
  I’m both the judge and jury.

“The scores I give are etched in stone.
  They cannot be debated.
You’re fucked because I say you’re fucked,
  You’re highly overrated.
I’ve found a new guy on the block—
  The public’s never sated.

“You’ll never get big scores again,
  Your numbers will be less.
I’ll give high scores to those who know   
  To kowtow to the Press.
You live by points, you die by points—
  In Peace, I hope, you Rest.”

“O Walrus,” said the Winemaker,
  “I’ve had a pleasant run.
I scored a lot of Parker points
  I had a load of fun.
The wines I made were not that good—
  Yet I sold every one.

“So I don’t mind those days are gone,
  No, not the slightest bit.
Let’s take the Suckers home,” he cried.
  But silence greeted it.
And this was scarcely odd
  Because he’d killed the piece of shit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

EPHEMERA: The HoseMaster Answers Three Questions on Vinolent

I received an email a week or so ago from a Brit named Joss Fowler who writes a wine blog called Vinolent. Great word. For many years, Joss has been soliciting answers to Three Questions from noteworthy people in the wine business. A brief stroll through his Three Questions archives reveals a pretty impressive list of folks who have answered the three questions. For some bizarre reason, Joss wanted to screw that up by asking me to participate. I liked the premise, I liked the site, and I liked the company I was going to keep, so I answered Joss' Three Questions.

You can find the very brief post here:


Joss has some very kind words to say about my work in his introduction, for which I am very grateful. I've mentioned this before, but the Brits seem to be more enamored of the HoseMaster of Wine™ than the folks around here in wine country. Not sure why, though they have a long and honorable satiric tradition, from Chaucer to Swift to Monty Python.

Thanks, Joss, it was a pleasure.