Friday, June 19, 2009

My Heartwarming Father's Day Tribute

I wanted to write a heartwarming tribute to my Father in honor of Father's Day, but he's been dead for 30 years and knew absolutely nothing about wine. So, while he's qualified to be a wine blogger, he doesn't make a good subject for HoseMaster of Wine. (No, I am not a second generation HoseMaster, though I am descended through my Mother from my Father's hose. Now there's a heartwarming tribute!) But the wine business is filled with Fathers who deserve a bit of tribute this weekend, so a here's a tip of the HoseMaster's helmet to a few of those deserving men.
Saintsbury, Hemingway or Turley? Not sure myself.

George Saintsbury, Father of Wine Writers

Though Saintsbury was first and foremost a scholar of French literature, he wrote a scholarly study of Honore de Balzac entitled "Scratch My Balzac and I'll Scratch Yours," he is best remembered now for his essays about wine entitled "Notes on a Cellar-Book." In one of his earliest essays he proposed a system for rating wine.

"When tasting through the four First Growths of Bordeaux, Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion and a Planter's Wart, it struck me that I was at a loss to express their differences in mere words. They are all majestic and compelling wines, and to merely say that the Latour is pure power where the Lafite is closest to Planter's warts does not give much illumination. So I have assigned them numbers. The numbers are 91, 94, 93, and 80. I believe this is a brilliant way of communicating their ethereal beauty."

And thus Saintsbury paved the way for our contemporary wine pundits who have so lovingly graced us with the 100 point scale so that we may come to understand wine on a deeper, more incisive, level. "Notes on a Cellar-Book" remains on the list of must-have wine books along with Robert Parker's "Ethics for Dummies," Tyler Coleman's "Dr. Vino Gives You a Burgundy Enema," and George Riedel's "In Case of Emergency You Know This Glass Will Break."

Mortimer Hemingway, Father of the Back Label

There is little in wine literature to compare with the pithy prose of the back label. Decades before Twitter, which is today's pathetic version of the back label, it was brilliant wordsmiths like Mortimer Hemingway (no relation to Ernest, or Julio) who defined the quality of the wines within with striking and precise descriptions printed on the limited space of a back label. There are echoes of Hemingway's work on back labels even to this day. Here are a few Hemingway classics:

"This Cabernet, sourced from only the finest vineyards, can best be appreciated in its youth with a quick decanting and a serious head cold."

"Our Reserve Pinot Noir represents the finest expression of this grape that we produce. It is harvested at the peak of ripeness, doused with water to add richness, aged for twelve months in really, really expensive French oak, blended with our finest leftover Syrah, then priced to make it an impressive gift."

"Do not use this product when pregnant, operating heavy equipment, eating at Denny's, or hoping to have satisfying sexual intercourse. This product contains sulfites, which are known to cause allergic reactions or even death in non-reciprocal states and lab rats. Use of this product may result in blurry vision, delusions of grandeur or greasy discharge."

Mortimer Hemingway died in 2002 in a horrific bottling line accident that left him so filled with corks he could float down the Russian River without a kayak. He is buried in Grant's Tomb.

Helen Turley, Father of Cult Winemakers

When Robert Parker began awarding huge scores to everything Helen Turley touched and then anointed her with Goddess status, the cult of the winemaker was born. Huge consulting fees followed, wineries paying lofty fees to put Turley's name on their fact sheets and bragging that she stopped by twice a year to bless the barrels, and the cult of the winemaker began. Now its ranks include Mark Aubert, Michel Rolland, Heidi Barrett and Miley Cyrus. The recent economic turndown has resulted in some cult winemaker layoffs, however, with more on the horizon. There is talk in the Obama administration of nationalizing Phillipe Melka so that the Napa Valley Cabernet industry doesn't crumble leaving hundreds of overpaid marketing directors jobless.

Happy Father's Day, Helen!


St. Vini said...

You had me at " he's been dead for 30 years and knew absolutely nothing about wine. So, while he's qualified to be a wine blogger..."


Speaking of Riedel, I'd love to read a screed of yours on the required 40 sets of glassware required to propertly utilize them stems. It really is brilliant marketing.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Vini,

I've gone after Riedel in my notoriously subtle asides many times. It is brilliant marketing, if you equate marketing with chicanery. And I'm sure I'll revisit that topic soon.

Thanks for staying tuned, St. Vini.

Samantha Dugan said...

That was heartwarming, I was moved, but that may have been the Burgundy enema.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sam Darling,

You've put the poo back in Puligny-Montrachet.