As HoseMaster of Wine, I spend so much of my time here hosing all the fools and hypocrites in the wine blogosphere and the wine world that I don't often get to show off my impeccable taste in wine. And you know I have impeccable taste in wine. It's easy to tell. I mean, really, how many other people out there can stick their nose in a glass of wine, take a small sip, swish it around in their mouth and then come up with "89 points!?" This takes years of experience! It only sounds ridiculously easy, but, trust us, we who review wines, it ain't. You may disagree with "89 points" after you buy the wine and it sucks like a bucktoothed lamprey, but I'm the expert, my friends say so, and I have a blog and a keyboard to prove it. And numbers can be confusing for novices. They ask stupid questions like, "What's the difference between an 89 and a 90?" Forgivably ignorant question, but ignorant nonetheless. The standard answer is "I liked the 90 slightly more than the 89." The actual answer is "Ad revenue."
But I do have kind of a soft spot for what is known as the monthly Wine Blogger Wednesday. I enjoy this like I enjoy Jay Leno's Jaywalking spots--it's like wallowing in a warm ocean of human imbecility and misinformation. Nothing but laughs. Like someone will propose writing about wine and music pairings. And, can you believe it, they all do! It's not enough to just match wine with the appropriate food, now you have to pick the right music to accompany the wine. What about clothing? I know, let's blog about how what you're wearing affects the wine!
I opened a bottle of Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay. It was pretty good with my stonewashed denims, and maybe even a little better with Lederhosen, but when I put on my merkin and a codpiece, the wine just sang. In a falsetto, but it sang.
It's not enough you display your poor taste in wine, you have to mix it with esoteric music too? Oh God, I can just see it now. These dorks taking not only their own wine into a restaurant, not only their appropriate Riedel stemware (Riedel--the MG of wine glasses), but also their iPod with the music best suited to their 96-point Australian wine (A Flock of Seagulls, or Olivia Newton-John, which is more gooey?). Yeah, yeah, music affects your brain waves, but these folks don't exactly have the stuff of tsunamis in their skulls. They've barely enough to drown a mosquito.
Like most of you, I drink a bottle of wine every night. I try to drink interesting wines. After so many years as a sommelier, there aren't very many wines I don't have some appreciation for. I don't get free samples any more. I don't get tasted regularly on expensive Napa Valley Cabernets or flashy Burgundies or esoteric Italian wines, but the upside is I also don't have to taste all the manipulated and manufactured crap that desperate wine reps hope will end up by-the-glass so they can make the payments on their bar tabs. Now I just drink. Here are my impressions of a few of the wines I've tasted in the past week or so. Remember, friends, comedy is easy, wine descriptions are hard.
I have this thing for Tannat. Don't know where it started, with some bottle of Madiran I had a long time ago, but now, I seek them out. For me, it's To be, or tannat to be, that is the question. (OK, new Wine Blogger Wednesday idea--wine with Shakespeare! To paraphrase, What fucking fools these mortals be.) Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, but Lone Madrone is his own label. Neil also has a thing for Tannat, there is even a bit planted at Tablas Creek thanks to him, so when I stopped at the Lone Madrone tasting room on HWY 46 W a few weeks ago (his were some of the best wines I tasted that trip--Paso has a lot of wineries, but very few actually worth tasting at) I was hoping there would be a Tannat to taste. And here it is, Tannat, in its gigantic glory. Man, this stuff is darker than Dick Cheney's soul. Darker than a spelunker's wet dream. Darker than the negative of a Johnny Winter photo. I love good Tannat (and Tannat is a pedigreed grape--Tannat is to Uruguay as Malbec is to Argentina, as Carmenere is to Chile, as Gruner Veltliner is to the Land of Stupid Sommeliers). Tannat is like Petite Sirah with some actual complexity. The 2005 Lone Madrone begs to be decanted, but there isn't enough oxygen in Scarlet Johansen's lungs to open this baby up. I gots Scarlet fever! Inky and brooding, very late in the evening it starts to get blueberry and cassis flavors, dark chocolate, a bit of briariness. And always the tannins. This wine is about as subtle as a lie from Sean Hannity's lips. And don't miss Lone Madrone's 2006 Roussanne! Fantastic example of this wonderful grape.
BREGGO 2007 GEWURZTRAMINER ANDERSON VALLEY
"Breggo" means sheep in the strange lingo of Boontling. As the farmer said to the lonely shepherd, "Leggo of my Breggo!" Breggo is a relative newcomer to the Anderson Valley scene, but, wow, are their white wines good! I stopped at their tasting room on HWY 128 to get some of their Pinot Gris, but it was sold out. I bought this Gewurztraminer instead, and now I wish I hadn't been so damned tight and bought a few more. You can list the Gewurz worth drinking in California on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to give me one. Navarro, Fogarty, Arista...now add Breggo. This '07 Gewurz had everything. A beautiful nose, filled with lychee and apricot and peach and flowers, a sensational, slightly oily texture (there may be some residual sugar here, but it only added to the impression), and a long, almost Vendange Tardive finish. I know Breggo is sold out of this wine, and they should be. I'd be wary of buying the '08 because of all the wildfires in Mendocino that year. Every wine up there has the possibility of smoke contamination. And when there's a fire in Mendocino, even the Breggo get the munchies. Break out the Fritos and sheep dip!
SKIPSTONE 2005 OLIVER'S BLEND ALEXANDER VALLEY
There's been a lot of buzz about this estate nestled in the hills above Alexander Valley. The owners are certainly throwing money at it like Obama at a banker's convention. They hired Ulises Valdez, Phillipe Melka, Emily Wines, and even a winemaker! I call this the New York Yankee approach to the wine business. Looks great in the preseason predictions but can all this overpriced talent create a winner? For years folks have tried to make a sensational Cabernet based wine in Alexander Valley. Jordan made the appellation famous and graciously set the bar very low. If it were limbo no one could beat them. In recent years it has been Huckleberry at Stonestreet and Verite attempting the feat (Robert Parker aside, Verite is about as interesting as a James Laube column, only easier to buy, if you can afford it), as well as Lancaster, whose wines have definitely improved under David Ramey's consulting. But Skipstone just might be the real deal. The 2005 is damned nice wine, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and the rest split between Petit Verdot and Malbec. This is still one of those work-in-progress wines, but for a first release it's pretty impressive. It already seems to have an identity, a nice seamlessness, a vividness to the fruit, a loamy richness that speaks of the vineyard. I liked it very much, and it was worlds better the second day, which is always a good sign. If the wines improve over each vintage, Skipstone just might be the Bordeaux blend that puts Alexander Valley on the map. Or maybe they could trade for Michel Rolland and a player to be named later.
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."