Often I'm looking for backwash. Is it just me, or do you often find little pieces of food in your glass of wine, like a piece of bread or a little hunk of fat? I never really believe the waiter when he tells me it's just the amuse bouche. Hey, if I want to amuse a bouche I'll drop my pants and solicit sympathy giggles.
Oh, you mean what kind of qualities am I looking for in a wine! Ooooh, I love it when I ask myself this question. It's a really good question, and it calls for a very philosophical and poetic answer filled with literate allusions, vague terminology, and cool language that means nothing to anyone else but me. So it's like an Obama speech.
I like to think of my mouth as a wet laboratory, and the wines that I open are given little lab coats, sanitizer, and tiny little name badges before entering. Be careful, I warn them, the floors are slippery. Many of them fall anyway, they come crashing down in my wet laboratory and are swept away down the dark rabbit hole of my esophagus. But the ones with balance, the ones that are graceful and supple, they hang around the wet laboratory and carry out amazing experiments, though no animals are ever harmed in my wet laboratory tastings, and rumors of experiments on twins are patently false, patently false. Balance is key, for a wine that slips and falls on its bunghole is not a wine with the legs to go far, not a wine you want anywhere near the precious Erlenmeyer flasks of your trained palate. No, it's balance I'm looking for. I want wines that have the balance of a Baryshnikov, a Nureyev, a Molotov (one of those flaming ballet guys), a Mazeltov, not a wine that dances like a white guy in a thong too small for him. Rudy enjoyed many a wet laboratory.
Are there any grape varieties you don't care for?
I've read varying estimates on the number of different varieties of vitis vinifera that are made into wine in the world, anywhere from 10,000 to 6,000 to the Wall Street Journal's best guess of 994.37. So, of course there are a couple I don't care for.
Gruner Veltliner--who drinks this crap? I don't like Austrian wine any more than I like skiing in Cote-Rotie. Every time I drink a Gruner, and I've tasted far more than I needed to, I'm thinking, "Hell, I could be drinking some killer Riesling from Alsace and instead I'm stuck with this pathetic glass of Windex." But I'm a guy, so I finish it anyway and pretend I like it. Like you do when you force yourself to have sex with a woman you know you shouldn't be having sex with so you think about Halle Berry the whole time in order to consummate the whole deal. So drinking Gruner is like that without the erection. This is a grape that is quickly losing its cachet, and the Gruner the better.
Petite Sirah--OK, it's a hybrid, like a Prius, and hybrids are trendy, and I have had a Petite Sirah here and there that I've liked, and that I would drink given that my choice were it or Gruner Veltliner, but, sorry Valvoline fans, I don't really much like Petite Sirah. Drinking it is like watching Jay Leno--it's just loud, predictable and overhyped. It's fine that others like it. Hell, people like professional wrestling, American Idol, Oprah and lots of other mind-numbing, insipid nonsense, why not Petite Sirah? Just not for me. Give me Durif any day of the week.
If you could visit one wine-growing region you've never visited, where would it be?
What's the most difficult job in the wine business?
Oh, that's a tough one. I think it's the person who writes the back labels on wine. Sure, viticulture is hard and demanding work, making barrels is hot and difficult, but coming up with those little wine haikus on the backs of bottles is really hard. Of course, in the good old days there weren't any back labels; now not only do most California wines have them, but also most of the women who make and sell them. I could show you pictures. Right, using this while operating heavy machinery can be hazardous to your health. Back labels came about mainly because of the anti-alcohol lobby that forced the "Contains Sulfites" warning and the health warning onto bottles of wine in an effort to scare folks away from the wonders of the grape. Not wanting to put those party pooping warnings on the front label, wineries created back labels. And as long as you have a back label you might as well use it to wax ecstatic about your winery in 25 words or less. And now, of course, it's become a place for the ubiquitous bar code. But never buy wine with a bar code! Screw the sulfites, it's wines with bar codes that will kill you. Buying a wine with a bar code is like buying milk a week past the expiration date, or looking for romance on Match.com--you know it's damaged goods but you're trying to get off cheap.
All hail the back label writers! They spend hours and hours writing for little or no pay, they never feel the need to check for typos or grammar, much of what they say has been said a thousand times before and better, and no one ever reads their work.
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."