"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Dirty Little Secret
There are a lot of dirty little secrets in the wine business. Stuff nobody likes to talk about. Some of it is even true. Though it's hard to tell which. Like how common it is in California to pick grapes very ripe and then add water in the winery--it's the Tang Method of winemaking. Hey, if it's good enough for the astronauts, it's good enough for you. But wineries hate to talk about it, are loathe to admit it. And then there is all the hush-hush about how much importers might mark up their wines from Europe. Most folks think they all work on the same margin, but that ain't the case. Someone's got to pay for producing the importer's latest vanity music CD. And then there's the biggest little secret of all, the truth no one likes to read about or talk about or do anything about, the shameful fact of sexual discrimination in the wine business, the unspeakable, relentless, and ongoing persecution of men in the wine business. I, myself, have been a victim.
I don't recall exactly when I noticed it. At first I was treated like everyone else in the wine business who is new--that is, disdainfully. I suffered through the usual hazing. Learning how to remove Champagne corks in the "traditional method" by squatting naked over them. Being forced to prove my loyalty by killing rival wine shop owners with an unregistered price gun. Proving my wine virility by sleeping with six Budweiser girls, three of them Clydesdales. I fell for all of that, and just thinking of it now makes me feel all dirty and ashamed and strangely happy to watch the Rose Parade. But I didn't realize it was just the beginning of my humiliation.
When I was first hired as a sommelier I was told I had to wear a "special" uniform. I didn't think anything of it, really. I had noticed how at the time there weren't any female sommeliers, but I just assumed that was because there wasn't any money or prestige in the job so it was left to men to do it. But the "special" uniform which I was forced to wear began my humiliation as a man in the wine business. Imagine being forced to wear nicely tailored pants, a form-hugging clean white shirt that "accidentally" revealed my hairy chest, and a bright, shiny medallion called, ironically, a "tastevin!" I had to parade around the restaurant every night in front of several hundred people dressed as some kind of Sammy Davis, Jr. impersonator. Women took the liberty of staring directly at the bulge in my pants (I was still packing the price gun for protection) as I walked by, summoning me with their wine lists and asking me, "Could you recommend something big for me?" Night after night I was subjected to this kind of sexual humiliation, forced to bend over a woman's shoulder as I helped her select a wine, her lips next to my neck, her eyes locked on my white shirt, her sizing me up as if I were one of the meat selections on the menu, the one that came with a bone. And I was expected to take this and like it. It's why I only lasted nineteen years.
I came to find out that my experience wasn't at all unique, it was happening to all the men in the wine business. Constantly being treated like we have no brains to offer, just our penises. Assaulted daily by female wine reps who shamelessly use us, treat us as fools and lechers only to further their own wine sales, not caring about us at all, but instead playing us until we drop a three-case load. Enduring the endless sarcastic and sexist remarks aimed at guys who sell wine. "I'm sure you like this wine, that's great, but is there a woman around here who can help me?" "Can you just point me to where the woman who owns the store works?" "Women have a more developed sense of taste, though I love the way those jeans fit you--they're tighter than a newly bottled Syrah." Endless shit like that, remarks that make you feel like you're nothing more than a plaything, a sex toy, a ribbed and lifelike Gary Vaynerchuk.
It's the dirty little secret that won't die. Men in the wine biz being constantly and relentlessly sexually harassed. Look at the endless worship that Jancis Robinson receives compared to the vitriol aimed at Robert Parker. And, why? It's that teeny thing hidden in his pants that Jancis doesn't have. And I don't mean Mark Squires. Women have it easy in the wine business. They have better senses, they aren't subjected to the constant humiliation the men in power endure. They have the gift of invisibility. How I envy them.
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."
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"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
"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."