I am bone weary of all the endless talk on wine blogs about the place of Social Media in the wine business. I'm talking to you, Heimoff. Endless carping about how wineries need to use Social Media, find a way to incorporate Social Media into their marketing plans, must utilize Social Media or risk losing their future customers to wineries that do use Social Media. Well, for those of you still wondering what purpose Social Media plays in the wine biz, I'll tell you--Social Media exists solely to reinforce its own importance. It don't mean crap. Is it just me, or whenever you hear Social Media do you think of what they used to call Social Diseases--syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia? Wineries can't wait to get screwed and catch Twitterrhea, Scarfacebook, and Bloggerballs.
The Social Media effect is simply making folks stupider and lonelier and less well-informed. But, hell, wineries pay marketing people a lot of money to try and achieve the same thing. Marketing is about manipulation, just like text messaging. Marketing is about creating a fictitious face for the winery, a Hardy Wallace, just like Facebook is about creating a fictitious persona. Marketing is about simple and dull statements that reach the lowest common denominator just like Twitter. After all, stupid, lonely people spend money, mostly to make themselves feel better, why not convince them to buy your overpriced Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir by taking advantage of that? Tweeters actually want to believe several hundred people give a crap about what they're doing, despite massive evidence to the contrary. Folks on Facebook believe they have 216 friends, which dilutes the meaning of friendship down to the equivalent of Soave Bolla. Text messaging, while requiring great thumbs, makes a mockery of communication, substituting its own little lingo for what we think of as language, and mimics actual relationships with inanity and empty thoughts.
But boy oh boy, the folks who are addicted to Social Media are convinced it will change the wine world--democratize it! What an insipid and jejune opinion. And it's mostly held by the folks that either earn a living directing Social Media, or those that do it instead of actually living. When every winery in California, to stay local, is on Twitter, what possible meaning does that have? Do consumers pick the best Tweeter? (I don't know, but with all this attention barking of lonely humans, it shouldn't be Tweeter, it should be Woofer.) You buy wine because the hired Social Media consultant is a better Tweeter? You feel connected to him because he subscribes to your stupid Tweets about your recent bowel movement or what your cute kitty has done lately to Mommy's hidden sex toys?
Wineries, and lots of other folks, believe Social Media will be the next big movement in the wine biz because they really want to believe it, and every time they turn on their computers they read another stupid opinion that says it will be the next big influence on wine buying. And they want to believe it because they can't sell their overpriced wines at the moment. Wine inventories are bulging like Fred Franzia's eyes staring at grape surpluses. Restaurants aren't buying high end wines, the Las Vegas market has dried up like the Australian wine country, wine shops are just shopping for deals and wines under $15, and wineries really want to think that if they cleverly Tweet, start a Facebook page, kiss bloggers' butts, the cases will go flying out of the warehouse. They believe this right into bankruptcy.
Wine and the wine business are about personal relationships, and always have been. Wines come with a story, for the most part, and the more compelling the story, the more you feel connected to the wine or winery, or to the merchant you trust, or the critic you've come to trust (a tip of my Hose to Puff Daddy), the more likely you are to respond to them. Social Media Stooges think you can establish this kind of relationship through blogging or Tweeting or texting, but, really, even the people who use Facebook know that those 216 people aren't really their friends, they aren't really people they can trust. Most of them are former friends they don't really want to even know any more, or people more important than they are, people they hope will make them seem more interesting. And even Tweeters know no one gives a shit about their Tweets unless it's a link to the latest Hollywood celebrity sex video (seen the Jonas Brothers menage a talentless?). Texting is only about what you have to say, not what others think. So how will this democratization sell wine? About as well as it's selling universal health care.
I'm sure the four people who read this will disagree wholeheartedly. Look at Gary Vaynerchuk! Why he's a celebrity! Like that's praiseworthy. He's an idiot about wine. Great at Social Media, an idiot about wine, and he makes the rest of us look like the Marquis Chimps. But all the folks that will disagree have something to lose by agreeing, either self-esteem or a job. When it comes to the wine business, Social Media is a disease that serves only to reinforce its own importance, like cancer.
The best wines will endure, the best wines will sell, have no problem selling, with or without Social Media. And folks will not turn to bloggers and Tweeters and Facebookers for wine advice. Unless they have already established their credentials in the same old ways they've always established them--talent, experience, integrity, taste. Do any of those words remind you of bloggers?
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"...that guy Hosemaster has real talent...if you ask me sign him up for Comedy Central...he's the funniest guy since Adam Carolla's hilarious book...IN 50 YEARS WE WILL ALL BE CHICKS..."
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."