Monday, March 4, 2019

How I Taste

Admittedly, that's a scary blog post title. Maybe one that John Wayne Bobbitt might use. Though I understand his wife was under a gag order, so maybe not. No matter. As a recovering sommelier, I have often been asked how to taste wine. I think everyone has to learn their own way of tasting wine, but, as a matter of interest, I thought folks might like to know how the HoseMaster of Wine™ tastes wine. I wouldn't recommend my techniques for beginners, meaning those studying for the Master Sommelier pin. 

The first part is posted here, but to read about my legendary wine tasting technique in its entirety, you'll have to take the quantum leap over to Tim Atkin's wonderful, newly remodeled site. I particularly like new sauna, and indoor bullfighting arena. I would encourage you to leave your usual witticisms and ill-fitting toreador pants on Tim's site. But, if you must, feel free to leave comments here, right behind the newly reupholstered Jancis Robinson shrine.

The first, and maybe most important, step is to put on my tasting clothes. You cannot produce consistent tasting notes wearing different clothes all the time. Duh. The best critics know this, which explains why Richard Hemming MW is always in a ball gown. You just can’t underdress for the finest wineries. Wearing a different set of clothing for different varieties is acceptable, however. For example, if you want to wear a track suit every time you taste Merlot, that’s fine. Merlot is Old Man Wine anyway, so a track suit makes sense. A pee stain is a nice touch.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The HoseMaster of Wine™ Among the Wine Illuminati at Dalla Valle Vineyards: My Oh Maya

A friend of mine in Los Angeles was an annual seat filler for the Grammy Awards. Awards shows hate for there to be an empty seat when they cut to a shot of the audience. They want to give the impression that their inevitably tedious production is riveting. Yet, as it turns out, even famous musicians need to urinate. The wealthiest rock musicians hire underlings to urinate for them, of course, but, for the most part, urinating is the rare instance they unpack their own instruments. My friend Joe worked the Grammys as a seat filler every year. Eventually, he became a seat filler for the biggest stars, the stars who sit down front. One memorable year, he was the seat filler for Sting. He never did get the pollen out of his suit pants.

That year, I arrived home from work in time to watch the end of the Grammy Awards. I don’t remember the year, and I don’t remember why the hell I was watching such a stupid award show. What I remember was that Carlos Santana was presenting the big award of the night—Best Album. The tension was palpable as he read the names of the five nominees. Santana opened the envelope, which had been sealed in a glass jar on the porch of Funk and Wagnall’s until noon that day where no one could ascertain its contents, and said, “And the Grammy goes to…” The crowd gasped and cheered at the winner’s name (I have no idea who it was), and the television director cut to Sting for his reaction. Only Sting was draining his stinger, and he had cut to Joe.

I imagine 20 million people watching the Grammys at home saying to themselves, “Who the fuck is that guy?” Me, I leapt from my couch screaming, “It’s goddam Joe Lozano! Oh my God, it’s goddam Joe Lozano!” Joe had no idea he was on camera, but there he was, nicely tuxedoed, smiling, and applauding vigorously for whomever had just won the big Grammy of the night. It was his five seconds of fame. It was the Seat Filler’s Wet Dream.

In Napa Valley, the third week of February is when the Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium is held, and on the following Saturday, it’s Napa Valley Premier, a barrel tasting and charity auction of some of the best wines in the Napa Valley. There are a lot of wine writers and other disreputable people around, so many wineries schedule other private events. I was kindly, if inexplicably, invited to Dalla Valle Vineyard for a special vertical tasting of both their estate Cabernet Sauvignon and of Maya, their proprietary blend. Among the dozen or so wine writing Illuminati gathered at the vineyard, I was, by all measures, the seat filler.

Gustav Dalla Valle was a legend in the diving business, like Jacques Cousteau or Jake LaMotta. He spent more time underwater than New Orleans homeowners. In the early 1980’s, he and his wife Naoko purchased a 25 acre property in the hills to the east of Oakville intending to build a luxury hotel on the property (the Dalla Day Inn, I imagine). Instead, the Dalla Valles planted a vineyard, though with a free buffet breakfast. The first winemaker for Dalla Valle was Heidi Barrett, and, if I’m not mistaken, it was Heidi’s first consulting job after she left winemaking duties at Buehler Vineyards. It was Heidi who put Dalla Valle on the map, though she had trouble folding it afterward. And it was Gustav, I believe, who recommended Heidi go directly down the hill from the estate and help the woman who had been Gustav’s real estate agent, Jean Phillips, make wine from her property. That vineyard was Screaming Eagle.

In the 1992 vintage, Heidi managed what was then a very rare feat. She received two perfect 100 point scores from Robert Parker. One for the 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, the other for the 1992 Dalla Valle proprietary wine Maya. Parker anointed Heidi Barrett “the first lady of wine,” but I’m thinking that may have been some sort of weird marriage proposal. Thanks to Heidi and Parker, Dalla Valle Vineyards, and especially the Maya bottling, was officially a cult wine.

The definition of a cult wine is, “You can’t get it, and if you could, you can’t afford it.” You post pictures of a cult wine on your Instagram account, and everyone knows you’re lying when you claim that you actually drank it. I’m looking at you, Raj. In order for me to believe them, photos of rare wines on Instagram need to be accompanied in the picture by a newspaper with the day’s date prominently featured, and/or, even better, the severed finger of the person who purports to have consumed said cult wine, as proof. That’s how you know it’s a cult wine. You drink it and give everyone else the finger.

The Illuminati and I sat down to taste seven vintages of both the Dalla Valle Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and the Maya. The vintages were ’92, ’01, ’08, ’09, ’13, ’15, and the unreleased ’16. I was filling the seat between the inimitable Karen MacNeil and urban legend Elaine Brown (California correspondent for Jancis Robinson, but you knew that). Next to Karen was Deborah Parker Wong, seated next to Elaine was Tina Caputo, and across the table was The San Francisco Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley and Laurie Daniel, who was in the San Jose Mercury News weekly for 30 years for a crime she did not commit. Like my old friend Joe, you’d look at that group shot, spot me, and wonder, “Who the fuck is that guy?”  

Maya Dalla Valle was also in attendance, as was the current winemaker for Dalla Valle Vineyards, Andy Erickson. I’d never met Maya before, but I used to sell her. Insert Robert Kraft joke here. Maya has a wonderful energy, an obvious intelligence, and a welcoming and warm presence. It can’t be fun to have your first name on a bottle of wine and have so-called “influencers” making Robert Kraft jokes at your expense, but Maya radiated a sweet but firm authority. Her father Gustav, who would have been justifiably proud of such a lovely and brilliant young woman, was a larger than life figure, a man who didn’t just take over a room, he damn near dismantled it. Maya didn’t inherit that gift. Rather than dismantle the room, she brought it light and warmth. It was a pleasure to meet her.

I remember obtaining a few bottles of the 1992 100 Point Maya for my wine list back in the day, but they vanished quickly from the list. I was eager to taste it 24 years later. (Spoiler Alert! It didn’t disappoint.) We tasted quietly, then Maya opened the table to discussion.

It’s safe to say that the Illuminati and I were suitably impressed by the wines. The vertical of Maya bottlings was brilliant. I’m sure that many of the writers and wine critics there will also write about the experience, going into great detail about the wines, their ABV, their flavor profiles, the terroir of Dalla Valle and other technical data. While I understand all of that, when I write about it, I come off like Jamie Goode writing satire. Jaws drop in disbelief and shock, as when one sees a baboon in a wedding dress. It seems funny, but, really, it’s just a monkey more reluctant to wear a wedding dress than Andrea Dworkin. You feel sorry for the primate. That might be the weirdest analogy I’ve ever done. You’re welcome.

I also don’t award points to wines when I write about them. I think it’s safe to say that my writing about wine is completely pointless. I’m not good with points. I find them useless, like music in pornography. Why the hell does this have a score? I don’t need a score. I’m not interested in the score. I just want to put my nose in it.

The flight of Cabernet was, I thought, pretty erratic, like a Mexican free-tailed bat. The wines were all over the place. Yet there was an iron-rich character that ran through all the wines that one would have to think emanates from the site. The vineyard is currently organically farmed, and Maya mentioned that she intends to begin biodynamic practices. Oy. There’s enough pseudo-science in the world, the results of which lead to climate change deniers and Reidel stemware, so why does the wine business so love biodynamics? If the result of being certified biodynamic is that you pay more attention to each grapevine, you pay more attention to the health of the soil, you pay more attention to your entire biosphere and its health, why don’t you simply do all of that and leave out the magic tinctures, the selenophilia, the stuffed cow horns (I’ll have mine lightly breaded), and the rest of the hogwash that crazy Rudy Steiner invented? Steiner was famously a teetotaler. As is Trump. Two of a kind, both residents of the Offal Office. Can we just lose both of them, please? But I digress.

Of the seven Cabernets tasted, my heart was won by the ’09 in particular, as well as the ’15 and the ’16. The ’09, it seemed to me, was a sort of benchmark for what Dalla Valle represents, or could represent. Of all the Cabernets, it displayed the most restraint, walked that perfect line between power and grace. There was intensity, but it wasn’t showy. It was poised and beautiful; Misty Copeland in a bottle. And that’s what I love in great Cabernet. Ballet analogies! I think the ’15 and the ’16 will get there, too. The ’15 showed clearly the iron rich nose of Dalla Valle Cabernet. The note I wrote for it read, “Flirtatious.” Mind you, I was sitting next to Karen MacNeil, and she rubs off on you. The ’16, not yet released, was full of energy, a Jack Russell terrier on dog crack. It will settle down, I feel certain, and achieve that achingly beautiful elegance of the 2009. Many of the Illuminati loved the ’92 Cabernet. It was my least favorite of the day, and, I thought, had the least in common with its siblings. Whereas the ’92 Maya was splendid.

Maya blends Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and is one of Napa Valley’s greatest wines to feature Cabernet Franc, if not the greatest. I think of Crocker and Starr’s Cabernet Franc as its main rival, as well as the more Loire-styled Lang and Reed wines (if you’ve never had either of these two wineries’ wines, just go out and get some) but there may be others as well. Nevertheless, Maya really shines. Cabernet Sauvignon, the most full-bodied of the Cab on the property according to Andy Erickson, slightly dominates the percentage in the blend, but it’s the Cabernet Franc that makes it so ineffably sexy and seductive.

The 1992 Maya, which received the 100 points from Robert Parker (I think it was the second
California wine to receive those pointless points), was glorious. At 27, it still possessed a wonderful sweetness of fruit, and didn’t strike me as particularly tired at all. One of my notes reads, “Cheval Blanc?” Though I’m far from an authority on Bordeaux (I’m more of a bridal baboon), something about the ’92 Maya reminded me of Cheval Blanc in its prime, there's a richness that both possess, and a sense of soil that is hard to express but easy to pinpoint when you taste it. I thought about the ’69 Chappellet I was lucky enough to taste a few years back because the ’92 Maya strikes me as a wine that just might achieve that legendary status. I wish I owned a bottle.

Yet all the Mayas were splendid. Esther Mobley remarked that compared to the Cabernets, the Mayas had a “quiet” about them. I think I know what she meant, which can be frightening. They’re centered. They have an innate balance that astounds you, the unwavering sense of a Wallenda walking a tightrope. As great as the ’92 was, I think the 2016 is its equal. The density and purity of its fruit is breathtaking. There’s the floral quality of great Cab Franc in its nose, the spice box, the whisper of pyrazine. It sings on the palate, the notes carrying on and on like a string quartet holding the last note of a Beethoven concerto. Yup, it’s that good. But it’s a cult wine, so if you can get it, you can’t afford it anyway.

That’s the thing about being a seat filler/influencer. I don’t think any of the Illuminati at the table could easily afford a bottle of 2016 Maya (it’s somewhere near $400 per bottle). We were there to praise it in print so that our wealthy readers will want to buy it. Though why anyone thinks the wealthy read my blather is beyond me. It’s often been said that my writing is poverty defined. We, at least, were able to taste both the ’92 and the ’16 Maya. Readers have to take our word for their greatness. But we’re influencers, dammit! You can trust us. We all drink.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Emperor of Wine Donald Trump Wins Best Wine Ever Made at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition!

OK, let me just say this. I’m very proud to announce that my Trump 2014 Blanc de Blanc was named the Greatest Sparkling Wine Ever Made by the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Ever made! That includes Donald Perignon and Vulva Clicquot, a bottle I grabbed last night because I can. This fantastic sparkling wine carries on a proud Trump tradition—it will certainly sell out.

In a previous life, I was a judge at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. It's been several years since I last participated. At the 2019 judging, held a few weeks ago in Sonoma County, the Trump Blanc de Blanc was judged the Sweepstakes Winner for Best Sparkling Wine. I had schadenfreude so bad I had to have the smirk surgically removed from my face.

The result gave me the excuse to drag out the old Trump voice once again in service of lampooning the annoying institution of wine competitions. I'm as guilty as every other wine writer in giving a free pass to what a mockery of wine evaluation wine competitions are. We all probably share the same reason for ignoring their many flaws and hypocrisies--we love being invited to judge! After publication of this piece, those days may be over for me.

To read the rest of POTUS' (Prevaricator of the United States) victory speech you'll have to jump to Tim Atkin's site. You're always welcome to leave your thoughts, reactions, criticisms or car keys there. Or, if you prefer, you may, of course, leave your comments here--that is, if you can make it past the wall.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Wine's Dark Web

There are wine sites on the internet where you don’t want to go. I’m not just referring to the horrors of PUNCH or Wine Anorak, but sites even worse for wine (and language) lovers. Worse than! Worse than Wine Folly!  Sites that expose the vulnerable underbelly of the wine business. Sites where everyone and everything is for sale. Sites that you cannot believe exist. Yet they do.

I think I must be the first wine writer, and I use the term loosely, to explore the seedy and dangerous world of Wine's Dark Web. It's the scariest place in the wine business outside of my brain. I urge you not to go there, but to go here, to Tim Atkin's award-winning site, on Wine's Lite Web, to read about all the nightmarish things on the Dark Web.

I hope you'll leave your thoughts, reactions, and insights over at Tim's. You're also welcome to leave them here, though this is also a scary place. Tighten your Depends, we're off to the ninth circle of Wine Hell.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Please Give This Christmas, So I Don't Have To

What I dread about Christmas are the gifts. For example, I don’t want a Coravin. Coravins are stupid. Somebody is going to give me a goddam Coravin, I just know it, and I don’t want one. I’ll never use it, and it will sit on my kitchen counter and mock me, much like my wife, who I also don’t want to penetrate with a surgical needle. Well, not again. Coravins are the epitome of wine elitism. You display one just to inform guests that you actually own older, very valuable wine that you’re unlikely to share with them. “Oh,” you say, “damn the luck. I’m out of argon. Guess we’ll have to drink something pedestrian.” If you display a Coravin and don’t use it, it’s a big “Fuck you” to your guest. Wait, maybe I do want one. No, I’m going to wait until Riedel and Coravin get together. Then I can have 12 different Coravins lined up on my counter. “Wait!” I’ll exclaim, “I have to get the Burgundy Coravin to open this fake old bottle of DRC. Jesus, I almost used the German Riesling Coravin by mistake. The La Tâche wouldn’t have tasted as good served by a German Riesling Coravin—surely, you can tell the difference.” Oh, you know it’s coming.

In the holiday spirit, I offer my recommendations for Christmas giving, particularly to me. Over at Tim Atkin's site, I'll point you to three of my favorite wine charities, all of which deserve your support. Please give generously, and in my name.

Merry Christmas to all of my loyal readers, all eleven of you, and to my beloved common taters. If you had asked me six months ago, I'd have said I wouldn't be writing here in December. Yet here I am. I'm very thankful for everything writing this crap has brought to my life--wondrous friendships, surprising and gratifying recognition, and death threats. Thank you. In a twisted kind of way, I hope we're all back here again next Christmas. I may get weary of the publishing grind, but the wine business never runs dry of HoseMaster of Wine™ material.

Merry Christmas!
Ron Washam
HoseMaster of Wine™


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Makes A Wine Worth Drinking: In Praise of the Sublime Via the Ridiculous

With apologies to Mr. Theise. I just couldn't help myself...

I shop at a small farmers’ market in my town. Small because all the farmers are dwarves, many of them elderly, which is no surprise, really, because, as the great philosopher B.F. Skinner said, “Old hobbits die hard.” When I eat a peach from the small farmers’ market, I don’t just think, hey, this peach tastes sweet and sun-drenched, I think, hey, this peach was grown and harvested by Frodo. It’s not just a peach then. It’s something more. Have you met any hobbits? They have stubby, hirsute little hands, and are poorly groomed. I have to overcome a bit of revulsion to even eat the peach. Peaches look like fuzzy testicles anyway.

I come to wine in the same way. When I taste a wine, I want the wine to remind me of the person who made it, and I want to be reminded of all the ways I’m superior to that winemaker. I want to feel a twinge of disgust. I need to feel that I’m smarter, more literate, and capable of comprehending qualities of the wine that he cannot. He’s only a winemaker, after all, not a frustrated prose monkey. Those are the wines that are worth drinking. Wines that give us a sense of our own brilliance. Wines that challenge us but never come out on top. Wines that are like “Teen Week” on “Jeopardy.”

Where do we find wines that speak to us in this way? In the course of reading my book, you’ll discover that the wines that talk to me are remarkably similar to the powerful wine critics that talk to me. They’re all old and white. Though that’s where the similarity ends because the wines I like are honest and authentic. Have you ever wondered what it might be like if wines scored humans? Wines speak to us after all, although many have impenetrable accents, or a lisp (I think of Mencia, which I can barely understand). What if one day the honest, authentic wines that are the great wines of the world decided to score wine critics? I don’t care what numbers these wines might assign. Let’s not get crazy and stop making any sense. What I’m getting at is, would wines be more sympathetic to us than we are to them? Would wines overlook our myriad faults? Would wines judge us by our color, or our aroma? Would the wines be able to determine our quality with but a few moments spent in our company? Would I spend a lifetime having a score the same as James Suckling’s? I’ve known despair, but that result might do me in. Yet, where wines would be compassionate, we think little about rating a truly transcendent Nigl Grüner Veltliner the same as a manufactured manipulated Lodi Zinfandel. And in so doing, we lose our soul.

There’s a Zen koan that reads, “Whoever discovered pants, it wasn’t a snake.” In other words, hold my hand. In other words, baby, kiss me.

If we agree that a wine can have a soul, do we then agree that all wines have a soul? We’re taught that all men have souls, except for Dick Cheney and Joe Wagner. But does that necessarily translate to wine? I would argue that it does not. And, anyway, what do we mean when we say a wine has a soul? Beats me. I’m no snake in pants. I’m just happy to see you.

Let me tell you a story. When my wife and I were first dating we lived in different states. I was in New Jersey and she was in denial. She also wasn’t my wife yet, which seems contradictory until you realize I’m talking about the past, and, so you know, I’m always talking about the past. When we managed to be together, we always drank Champagne. Not just any Champagne, but the kind with little, tiny bubbles. We often didn’t finish the bottle because my wife doesn’t really like Champagne, but, then, as now, I was pretty much into my own head and didn’t really notice. In the days that followed our farewells, I would drink the rest of the Champagne. I’d long for my wife, who wasn’t my wife, who wasn’t even there, and who wasn’t really bubbly, and, in those moments, the emptiness of the tiny bubbles reminded me of the emptiness of existence. The Champagne, in other words, had soul. For what is a soul but a reminder that our time here is finite, that soon our bubbles will burst? Our mousse is cooked. Or, as the great and powerful Oprah might say, “Our veuves are clicquoted.”

Soul is elusive, like the point of all this. I’m one of those people who tends to like natural wines. I like that I can picture an organically cultivated vineyard where the grapes originate. I like that the wines have been made with a light touch, like making a soufflé instead of a fruitcake. Truly, no one wants a fruitcake made by a fruitcake. But, as much as I might find a natural wine delicious, even honest, that isn’t really soul. Soul is slippery. If you drop it, just pray you’re not in prison. We mistake a lot of things for soul, like Drake. But it’s when you find the soul in wine that you know wine is finally becoming part of you, that’s it’s not just an identity you’ve put on like an old, oxidized tastevin to impress the kind of people you wish were dead, mostly.

We don’t just drink wine, we engage wine in a conversation. Turns out, a lot of wines are stupid. In fact, it seems to me, most wines are dumb as Brix. Most wines aren’t worth talking to, like Master Sommeliers. They don’t make any sense. Port is one of those wines that I can’t talk to, that never makes any sense to me. It’s as if it’s speaking in tongs. But the soulful wines we learn to talk to over the course of our wine-loving lives. Who are you? What have you come here to tell me? Don’t blame the dog, I know that was you. A wine with soul engages you, it has something to say to you; it asks you out on a date then sticks you with the check. It tries to seduce you, whispers sweet nothings in your ear until suddenly you realize it’s left a stain on your pants. It flatters you, tells you that you’re the most wine-knowledgeable person it has ever met. When I converse with wine, I hear that a lot.

What makes a wine worth drinking? Something of a stupid question, isn’t it? Drinking wine is about pleasure. If a wine gives you pleasure, then it’s worth drinking, right? No. Don’t be a dunce. If you think that’s really the answer, why did you buy my book? There are no simple answers when it comes to wine. Something of the opposite is what’s actually true. What makes a wine worth drinking is the denial of pleasure, what philosophers call anhedonia, and Louis Jordan called, “Caldonia.” What makes a wine worth drinking isn’t pleasure, it’s how much time you spend overthinking it, how much time you spend wondering if the wine is honest and authentic, how you deal with the question of whether you know enough about wine to even begin to have a conversation with a great bottle of wine or if the wine is just plain smarter than you. The point of my book is that what makes a wine worth drinking isn’t pleasure. What makes a wine worth drinking is how it shows you your own shortcomings and personal failures. After all, that’s what drives us to drink.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Court of Master Sommeliers: Who Says Cheaters Never Proctor?

My first reaction to the news that 23 new Master Sommeliers were having their letters recalled by the
Court after one of the proctors of the blind tasting exam, a Master Sommelier, was caught cheating was exactly the same as Inspector Renault's in the classic film "Casablanca" when he shuts down Rick's Cafe, "I'm shocked--shocked!--to find gambling going on in here." After which one of the croupiers hands him his winnings.

I knew I had to write about it. I have a probably unwarranted feeling that wine folks want to hear what the HoseMaster has to say about all this mess. I kicked around a dozen ideas, but finally settled on an interview with my old friend Larry Anosmia MS. I thought about Lo Hai Qu as the candidate who had the blind tasting wines information leaked to her, but that didn't quite work. She's currently not speaking to me. I originally wanted to write the entire piece in the voice of the guilty, defrocked Master Sommelier as Justice Kavanagh. That also didn't work, though I incorporated a part of it here. A famous friend suggested something along the lines of Swift's great "A Modest Proposal" where the 23 ex-Master Sommeliers become meals at Five-Star Michelin restaurants. A damned brilliant idea, but I only steal jokes, not entire premises. 

It kept coming back to Larry. So here we go. For the rest, of course, you have to jump over to Tim Atkin's great wine site (no dumbass subscription necessary). Feel free, as always, to leave your thoughts and witty remarks there. Or return here with the written portion of your exam, and I will grade accordingly. Perhaps you, too, will have a C.T. after your name. A Common Tater.

“The Court of Master Sommeliers stripping the titles from 23 of the 24 candidates who took the tainted blind wine tasting exam in order to preserve the Court’s ‘integrity,’” Larry Anosmia MS tells me, “is like Stormy Daniels announcing she’s going to erase her latest film in order to preserve her virginity.”


Wednesday, October 17, 2018


With the imminent release of SOMM11, I thought it would be useful to briefly recap the first ten films in the series. The franchise shows no signs of tiring, unlike most of its featured wine personalities.

The now dated debut of the series, SOMM follows six candidates for the Court of Master Sommeliers as they try to pass their exams. The movie made Fred Dame MS a household name, like Preparation H. If he doesn’t shrink your tissue, nothing will.

A love letter to winemakers, vineyards, and, most of all, the director of the films. It follows up on four of the six candidates from SOMM, all of whom are about as memorable as wetnaps. In fact, most usually settle for wet naps. It features a memorable scene of Fred Dame MS drinking a rare bottle of wine with Leon Panetta after the death of Osama Bin Laden. Ironically, the film reveals, Bin Laden had just passed his Level One WSET—Wine and Spirits Education for Terrorists.

Focused around the endlessly overrated Paris Tasting of 1976, the director assembled a cast of “legendary” palates Fred Dame, Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier. These palates are legendary to wine tasting in the same way Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed are legendary to horse racing—wondrous, but long dead. Burgundies are tasted blind alongside New World Pinot Noirs by the Three Anosmics, and their results are compared to the results of a panel of young, trendy, similarly pretentious sommeliers. Hilarity ensues when the Burgundies are revealed to be from the cellar of Rudi Kurniawan! However, the only fake spotted by the experts is Madeline Puckette, who hosts the film because, apparently, the only other logical host, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was busy that week having her tongue forked.

Alice Feiring stars in this biopic of biodynamics creator Rudolf Steiner in this episode about Natural Wines. The film attempts to answer the question, “Why are all the con men in wine named Rudi?” Pascaline Lepaltier co-stars as the voice of manure. Fred Dame is buried in a cow horn.

Explored the influence of wine critics and publications. Unable to get interviews with most of the influential critics, the director substituted puppets. Except for Suckling, who already was one and everybody knew it. Shot on a small budget, castoff puppets from other films were used. Fans were shocked at Parker portrayed by Jabba the Hutt, as well as Chucky playing James Molesworth. Though there’s a nice interview with Wallace and Gromit, who turn out to be Andrew Jefford and, inexplicably, Eric Asimov. A visibly tattered Mortimer Snerd is Fred Dame.

The only musical of the series, SOMM6 is “My Fair Lady” recast as a film about wine, and stars the director, in his first film role, as the Henry Higgins character, with Madeline Puckette as Eliza Doolittle. Eliza has the show stopper with her spirited rendition of “I Could Have Puked All Night;” and Professor Higgins delights with “The Rain in Spain Brings Mildew to Champagne.” The film is based on Shaw’s “Fredmalion,” and involves Henry Higgins MS teaching novice Eliza (Puckette) enough about wine for her to pass as an expert.

Inspired by “The Magnificent Seven,” SOMM7 is the tale of seven Master Sommeliers who are hired by a Mexican village to protect them from a band of savage wine bloggers. Arriving in the village, the seven Master Somms immediately eliminate the women. Duh. Outnumbered by the bloggers, and armed with only Coravins and lapel pins, the seven somms put up a courageous fight. Happily, in the end, everyone dies. The Mexicans decide to build a wall.

Somm8 was the first film in this series about the wine world to feature an all African-American cast. Running time is eleven minutes. Fred Dame sings the title song as Barry White. Madeline Puckette has a graph proving she’s black.

A look at the role of women in the wine industry, SOMM9 is the most controversial film of the series. Narrated by Jay McInerney, who opens the film by declaring, “Hashtag MeToo? Hell, I thought it said Pound MeToo! Mea culpa, gals, mea maxima culpa.” The film follows six attractive young women who pursue various jobs in the wine business—winemaker, sommelier, wine critic, wine writer—and illustrates just how hilarious it is they’d even try. Three of the women end up as Jagermeister girls, two go on to wonderful careers as permanent interns at glossy wine publications, while one finds happiness in the arms of a Master Sommelier—as close as she’ll get to a pin.

SOMM10 looks at how climate change will affect the great wine regions of the world, and what scientists are doing to try to help. In Napa, researchers are trying to develop a clone of Cabernet that will make balanced wine when picked at 40 Brix. In the lab, they’re exposing Cabernet Bosché clone to excessive heat by packing it into Tim Fish’s pants. The results are promising, though there’s milt everywhere. In Chablis, vineyards have been victimized by extreme weather in many recent vintages, primarily by ferocious hail storms. Botanists are trying to create Chardonnay that grows a canopy like umbrellas. Every spring, the vineyards will be full of bumbershoots. If they succeed, growers in Chablis will be happy. Realistically, it’s a hail merry. Fred Dame appears as a natural disaster.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Our Vanishing Master Sommeliers

Researchers say there are no more than 273 of them left in the world. Many of the males are old, long past a desirable reproductive age. They’re nocturnal for the most part, using the darkness of the night to hide their neurotic fear of meaningful human contact. Scientists believe the entire species will be extinct by 2075, though this may be optimistic. Not the year, the hope that they’ll be extinct. The most bewildering and inexplicable fact of all about this vanishing species? There are almost no females.   

The recent christening of new Master Sommeliers consists of 24 newly-minted insufferable wine experts, four of whom are women. Last year, one woman was anointed out of thirteen. Can a separate bloodline from normal humans, and, believe me, Master Sommeliers view themselves as apart from normal humans, survive with so few females? Didn't work so well with rhinoceros, and they have much thicker skins. I thought I'd investigate.

However, you'll have to take the ark over to Tim Atkin's site to read the rest. Feel free to leave your comments there, if so moved, or go to Twitter #MSToo. Of course, you can always leave your little bundles of joy here, if that's more your style.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Freddie Perjury, Director of Greenwashing

Prick Family Vineyards owner Rich Prick has announced the hiring of Freddie Perjury as Director of Greenwashing. “I’ve given Freddie the assignment of communicating to the wine buying public our commitment to the environment, to the health and welfare of our employees, and to the Almighty… Dollar.”

“There was a Golden Age of wine,” Rich Prick reminisces, “when a new vineyard and winery owner could simply bulldoze a bunch of land, plant a vineyard, spray it with every herbicide, pesticide and fungicide known to man, hire and exploit illegal immigrants, and people would buy his wines and speak his name in admiring tones. Those days are dwindling down to a precious few. It will be Freddie Perjury’s job as Director of Greenwashing to extend those glorious days into the foreseeable future.”

It's heartening to see the concern for the environment expressed by consumers as they head to the Natural Wine aisle to purchase cases of wine to load into their Ford F-150's and SUVs. Naturally, then, marketing departments at wineries have turned their focus to greenwashing, the art of applying Estee Lauder lipstick to a pasture-raised porker. It's a fulltime job. And no one is better at showing contempt for the public than Rich Prick of Prick Family Vineyards. His hiring of Freddie Perjury as Director of Greenwashing is all the buzz in the biz right now, and you can read about it over at Tim Atkin's award-winning site.

As always, feel free to leave your witticisms and recyclables at Tim's place, or return here for our usual compost festival.