Monday, July 27, 2009
The Wine Hall of Fame
Yesterday was the induction ceremony for baseball's Hall of Fame. I've often written about my love of both wine and baseball, both, after all, are best enjoyed rip-roaring drunk and with an organ playing in the background, but baseball's Hall of Fame ceremony, held in Cooperstown, named for D. B. Cooper, beloved by both baseball players and owners for stealing $250,000 and who, like Rickey Henderson, was never caught stealing, overshadows the Wine Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in Herman, Missouri, named for Herman Munster, beloved by wineries and winemakers for his swelled head. Wow, cool long sentence. So, for those whose attention was on Cooperstown or the Wine Bloggers' Conference, pathetic beings of a different nature, here are the newest inductees into the Wine Hall of Fame.
Hall of Famers Leo Durocher and Barry Bonds
"MARVELOUS" MARV SHANKEN
Most of the eligible voters wished that this was a posthumous award, but, to their chagrin, "Marvelous" Marv Shanken is still with us. Often mistaken for a hot air balloon, Marvin Shanken floats over the wine industry as Publisher and Dead Weight of "Wine Spectator," America's leading wine publication by virtue of there being only crap to compete with it. "Marvelous" Marv is voted into the Hall by unanimous proclamation for his many achievements in the field of wine. Shanken was the first to convince idiot restauranteurs to have their wine lists judged by wine magazine interns and pay for the privilege. Coming next, "Marvelous" Marv initiates the "Pretty Good Better Than Jug Wine Second Best Of Award Of Excellence" for restaurants that serve wines "fresh, as God intended them, we didn't check but we trust people, wines straight from the bottle, when it was opened is your problem." Shanken was also the first to create the wine equivalent of an Elvis impersonator with his savvy hiring of staff clowns who could mimic Parker. As with Elvis, many even have extra padding to simulate "Parker, the Fat Years." Shanken was also instrumental in the now accepted movement to accept advertising in a wine publication so that the appearance of impartiality became irrelevant to wine--a debt wine bloggers will never be able to repay.
James Suckling as "Parker, the Camel-toe Years"
ROBERT LAWRENCE BALZER
The Veterans Committee of the Wine Hall of Fame voted overwhelmingly to induct Robert Lawrence Balzer, both the King and Queen of California Wine Writers, into the Hall. Balzer's accomplishments are too many to list here, beginning with the irony of his last name. Writing for the Los Angeles Times in the 70's and 80's, Balzer hit for the Wine Writer Triple Crown, managing to lead the wine writing league in the three major categories of Stupidly Florid Descriptions (an amazing .750 average), Payola (Ernest and Julio were major donors) and Paid Appearances, a feat nearly impossible to achieve now unless you work for the Wine Advocate. Balzer is also one of the great characters of the game, a great storyteller, and eminently quotable. Your humble HoseMaster was once present at a Domaine de la Romanee-Conti tasting where inductee Balzer compared his mouth to a "great wet laboratory." And he always left the door unlocked. Yet Balzer was once the lone voice preaching the greatness of California wines. Now it's James Laube. Like going from the oratory of Martin Luther King to the vocal stylings of Elmer Fudd.
RUDOLF "RUDY-FRUITY" STEINER
Beloved by wine fans everywhere for his creation of BioDynamics, Steiner is affectionately known as the L. Ron Hubbard of Agriculture. Writing in a style reminiscent of James Joyce with a broken typewriter, Steiner's impenetrable work masked a propensity for prevarication, but not very well. Sort of like Professor Irwin Corey (you bloggers, look him up). Steiner was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant and seer, blazing the trail for the greats who followed him--Robert Parker, Steve Tanzer, Randall Grahm, Michel Rolland, Gary Vaynerchuk--profits, excuse me, prophets, all. It was Steiner who made the critical discovery that nothing sells wine like well-phrased compost. It was Steiner who recognized the need to bury cow horns in the vineyard so that cows could no longer honk at passing cars. It was the great Rudy-Fruity who knew that the best vineyards were planted by the light of the moon, an idea he stole from Mafia hitmen. And it was Steiner who recognized that most wine is sold based on superstition, myth and cow shit. If it weren't for Steiner, wineries would not be turning to wine bloggers for sales and marketing.
Quite a Hall of Fame class for 2009! Nominees for 2010's class are now open. Who do you think belongs in the Wine Hall of Fame? Present company excluded.