Monday, April 22, 2019

Reasons You Failed Your Master Sommelier Exams

During the service exam, you stuck your tongue into the neck of the wine bottle you’d just opened and moaned, “Oh, God, I love you, Lettie.”

In your description of Grüner Veltliner, you used the word “taint” without mention of cork.

Mistakenly wore your diaphragm around your neck instead of a tastevin. Made the wine smell funny.

May have been overheard calling Fred Dame MS, “Wine’s Donald Trump.”

When asked by the examiner if you thought a Duckhorn was good, you said, “Yes, it’s perfect for when you have a really tight duck.”

Forgot to bring the answers you found in your email to the blind tasting exam.

Your answer for a question on soil samples was 1000 words on Depends.

You mistakenly identified “sommelier” as the primary grape in Sauternes, and declared Barsac a venereal disease contracted from stools in natural wine bars.

During the blind tasting exam, you spit each wine into your hand and yelled, “Baby needs a new pair of shoes!”

Beyoncé is not a variety. It was not crossed with Kanye to make Pinotage.

When asked for a wine to accompany Hamachi, you suggested Yellow Tail.

You wore clown shoes.

Identified all six wines in the blind tasting as “kinda bitey.”

When asked to identify the seven subzones of Chianti, you left out Sneezy.

When finished serving a bottle of Grower Champagne, one is not supposed to spike it and yell, “In your face, cocksuckers!” That’s only allowed after serving Dom Perignon.

You thought part of the service exam was blowing a balloon animal in the shape of your MS mentor. Where did the balloon animal figure in, stupid?

You misunderstood the word “proctor,” and asked to have your prostate checked. Luckily, it was fine.

When asked what is your favorite German TBA, you said, “The winner of the Angela Merkel lookalike contest.”

You have a vagina.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The HoseMaster of Wine's™ Commencement Speech for the Shemp Howard Wine, Food and Dog Grooming Institute

Inspired by reading Karen MacNeil's commencement speech to grads of the C.I.A., a speech about "the last true things" (so, yes, it's a short speech), I thought I'd reflect on my own notion of wine's last true things...

I had the honor of being asked to be the commencement speaker at the recent graduation ceremonies for the unaccredited Shemp Howard Institute for Sommeliers, Wine Professionals and Mexican Hairless Dog Groomers. Here is my speech in its entirety.

Let me start by saying that when it comes to wine, wine writing, and the wine business in general, it’s all been done before. There just isn’t anything new you can add, and it’s best if you just understand that from the get-go. For one thing, I think we all know there are too many sommeliers as it is. I recently read a statistic that there are more sommeliers per capita in the United States than there are lab rats; though one group is used for drug experiments, and the other to run mazes for paltry rewards. Guess which group is which. Hard to tell, right?

Don’t let this discourage you. Every day, thousands of unqualified wine professionals just like  you write blog entries, assemble wine lists, host wine tastings, and annoy unsuspecting patrons of wine bars. The wine business seems to have an endless capacity to absorb graduates of wine programs from all walks of life into meaningless, poorly paid, and strictly tangential jobs. This could be you! You have every reason to be proud. The diploma you’re receiving today from Shemp U. has as much value as any wine education diploma from any other institution. Virtually none. There’s comfort in that.

But before you go out into the real world of wine, I have a few words of advice I’d like to share, advice gathered from a lifetime wasted in the wine business.

First, Have a Backup Plan
I hope you paid attention in your required Mexican Hairless dog grooming classes because there are thousands and thousands of wine biz wannabes who want to get into the business, most of whom will fail. Looking around at this handsome group, I’m guessing your real future is in credit card fraud. That’s great! Just have a backup plan. The job you’re dreaming about, whether it’s a sommelier job at a prestigious restaurant, or a much-admired wine critic (which, by the way, is an oxymoron), or a wine auction consultant selling fraudulent wines for quick bucks, is probably taken. Be smart. Go ahead and plan on spending your life stacking wine boxes at supermarkets at 4AM because that’s where most of you will land.

Second, Learn to Pretend
One thing I tell all the young people who ask me how I became so successful in the wine business is it’s important you know how to pretend you know more than you do. This is the key to success in the wine business. Indeed, I don’t know anyone in the business for whom this isn’t true. “Wine Folly” has built a shabby Tinkertoy wine empire on pretending, and you can, too! In almost every conversation I have with successful, even famous, wine people, I realize with astonishing regularity that they’re faking it. If you cannot learn to pretend, your chances of success in the wine business are very slim indeed.

Third, Don’t Make Waves
The wine business rewards dullness and unoriginality. We don’t like new ideas, and we don’t like to be challenged or made fun of. Do things the way they’ve always been done. This is especially true for those of you pursuing a job in wine marketing. The same old lies have worked for decades. It’s your job to walk the same path. But I can see by your faces that’s probably already a done deal. Good for you!

Fourth, This is a Man’s World
Get over it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Proper Etiquette For Taking Your Own Wine Into a Restaurant

This is a piece written as a reaction to Matt Walls' piece on about the tired old subject of corkage fees.

Just what is the etiquette for bringing your own bottle of wine into a restaurant, you self-entitled twerp? Oh, I don’t know. You may as well ask, what is the standard etiquette for bringing my own semen to a Tupperware party? It’s about the same situation. There is no answer. But you can certainly expect some disgusted looks from the help. What did you think was going to happen? People were going to ask for a small taste?

Let’s say you’re determined to take that highly overrated wine to dinner. It is overrated, you know. You’re the kind of idiot who complains about the high prices on wine lists, but then goes out and spends several hundred dollars on an overrated wine because some wine critic everyone knows is on the take gave it 99 points. You think you’re saving money by bringing in your own overpriced trophy wine, that’s how smart and savvy you are. Hey, I know, next time you go to the movies, take your own projector! That’ll save you a fortune.

Sure, you have an impressive wine cellar. Good for you. It’s at home, right? So here’s what you do. Eat at home, Wineboy. Listen, I have pedigreed dogs, champions of their breed, but I don’t take one when I go out for Korean BBQ. What sense does that make? It’s like taking a chicken hawk to a cockfight. What are you thinking? Kinda rude, don’t you think? There’s gonna be dead chickens, anyway. You’re just being stupid.

But if, after all that, you decide to take your own bottle to a restaurant, what can you expect? Pretty much what you deserve—condescenscion and ridicule. Suck it up and take it like a man. Listen, these are people trying to make a living working in a goddam restaurant. They don’t care that you brought in some dusty old Bordeaux out of your amazing wine cellar. They already hate you, and now you want them to admire your taste in wine? Sure. I know, offer them a taste, that should make them suddenly smitten with your charm! Only offering them a taste of your ’59 Margaux is like offering caviar to a duck. And then expecting that nothing will be on the bill. Get over yourself.

Oh, everyone is going to tell you it’s fine to bring your own wine, that the restaurant is just happy to have your business. And, like whatever that is in your Tupperware, you’ll probably swallow it. I don’t know what you do for a living, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a customer trying to save money on your services isn’t exactly your favorite. I mean, you don’t take your own oil to Jiffy Lube, do you? Knowing you, you probably do. You probably also try to buy Girl Scout cookies with Bitcoin and ask for exact change. Dick. You’re sneaking hot dogs into baseball games and using their mustard and relish for free, without even calling ahead to ask if they have a weenie fee. You’re insufferable, you know that?

It’s fine. I don’t care. Take your own wine the next time you go out to dinner. Just don’t act like you’re doing the restaurant a favor. That’s obnoxious. And the least you can do is leave a generous tip, maybe some of that money you stole from the Girl Scout.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Worst Wine Marketing Slogans

Wine as natural as asphalt.

Your wine tasting experience isn’t complete until you visit wine country’s only vomitorium!

Our wines are as sustainable as an erection at a slaugherhouse.

Our wines are made in a natural and environmentally-conscious way as a promise to our customer that only the alcohol will kill you.

If it makes you feel any better, our ABV is completely fabricated.

Your tasting fee back if we check your ID.

If it weren’t for the herbicides, we’d be organic.

Voted “One of Ten New Wineries to Watch” by the Department of Health.

We’re marginally better than wines half our price.

Wine Spectator said of our Cabernet, “Now I know what my dog tastes when he licks his balls.”

Wine for people who still giggle when they hear, “bungholes.”

We always note the date our bubbles were disgorged, just like Michael Jackson did.

It was a trip to Napa Valley in 2003 that convinced us to pursue our dream and buy a vineyard in Lodi.

All of our wines are fermented by native yeasts. An Arapaho sits in our Pinot Noir.

We’re not happy with our wine unless you’re not happy with our wine.

Our favorite red blend was recently awarded, “Most Likely to Be Seen at Traffic Accidents”

The grapes come from a vineyard right next to a famous Superfund site!

Ask yourself, if our wines weren’t natural would we be able to say they were? Of course we would!

Monday, April 1, 2019

The HoseMaster of Wine™ Solves the Enduring Mysteries of Wine

I wasn't able to solve ALL of the enduring mysteries of wine. Many simply remain mysteries. Like why anyone reads wine blogs. Or why Esther Mobley has suddenly become Erica Asimov. Or whether biodynamics works for personal hygiene. Or who told me I was funny. I may have to write a sequel. But for now, you can head over to Tim Atkin's site to discover once and for all the answers to many of wine's mysteries.

As always, feel free to add your answers to any and all mysteries at Tim's place, or gently break the truth to us here on HoseMaster of Wine™. Wine isn't so much a mystery as it is noir--Grenache noir.

Wine is more mysterious than the success of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Yellow Tail of musical theater composers. It’s more mysterious than North Korean FaceBook. Wine has more secrets than auction houses have fake wines, or R. Kelly has fake tears. Wine is more perplexing than Brexit (short for Brextannomyces, which causes a distinct sulfurous smell). Wine befuddles us like nothing else, except maybe IKEA instructions. In short, everyone knows nothing about wine. Especially people with letters after their names. What are those WSET, CSW, MS, MW things? Surname dingleberries?


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™