Dear FTC, I Love You, You're Perfect, Don't Change
All the buzz on wine blogs seems to be about the FTC cracking down on bloggers accepting stuff for free and not owning up to it. Not sure what this is all about. But I know I'm scared. I've got so much to hide. Sure, HoseMaster of Wine looks like some two-bit, poorly funded, badly researched, hopelessly inaccurate and stupid wine blog, are there any other kind, but it's astoundingly lucrative. And if the FTC finds out, my proverbial goose, lovely with an aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is cooked. So the only thing to do is come clean, 'fess up. Get all of my disclaimers out of the way, show the FTC that there's at least one wine blogger with impeccable honesty and integrity. It just ain't me. I'm just another lying bastard like the rest of them.
OK, first of all, isn't "free samples" redundant? Like "boring wine blog?" Seems like sloppy language, FTC, but, sure, I get free samples of wines for review. But they sure as hell aren't wines I'd pay for. I'm nobody. The wines I receive are wines that are made to go with e. Coli. Wines so bad that the unfinished bottles have to be treated as hazardous waste (not to be confused with Marvin Shanken's hazardous waist). Wineries don't send wines to guys like me, I might tell the truth about them. No, no, marketing people may be the absolute ruin of the wine business, but they aren't stupid. They carefully scope out the buttkissers, weasels, and parasites and send them samples. Oh, did I say buttkissers, weasels and parasites? I meant movers and shakers. Honest. The movers and shakers give them what they want, glowing reviews and glamorous profiles. They're marketing department stooges, flattered to receive free wine and only too happy to be thought of as important. They provide the positive reviews, the marketing folks forward them to the winery that employs them, the winery posts them on their website, the marketing people bill the winery an obscene amount of money, and the wines still go unsold. It's beautiful, really.
And, yes, FTC, I am very cozy with many winemakers and winery owners and those relationships do affect my judgments about the wines I review. This is always true in the wine business. There's the insiders (US!) and the outsiders (them). The insiders wink at each other about how they review wines blind (kind of like when you're a kid and you have your hands over your eyes playing Hide and Seek but you can peek between your fingers to see what's going on), and how accepting free meals and accommodations and wine doesn't influence their decisions, while the outsiders nod their heads like cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It's a cozy business, the wine business, nothing wrong with that. It worked for Wall Street.
I confess, FTC, I don't pay Google for using their servers for HoseMaster of Wine. I think they just like me. I'm pretty sure most of the other bloggers have to pay to be on Blogger, though apparently most of them haven't kept up with their payments and so they're not allowed to post. They set up their blog, can't afford it, and so they haven't been able to post for six months, though they're still rated in the top 100 wine blogs and are probably getting free wine samples from highly paid marketing experts. But, FTC, on the other hand, I don't charge anything for folks to read my blog. Oh, I've thought about it. Hell, I'd do it for one subscriber. Most wine bloggers want to make money from their blogs, real money. Not me. All I need is one subscriber at, say, $5 a month and at the end of the year I'd have $60, $60 I don't have now after doing this crap for the last twelve months. I'm cool with that. Who the hell needs the aggravation of the democratization of the Internet? I don't need 25,000 readers every month--what a fucking headache that would be. I can barely stand the fourteen readers I have now. Sure, I'd get more (free) samples, but, honestly, I'd rather have the five bucks.
Or I could start accepting advertising. Wouldn't it be cool to have all of the same lame advertising boxes surrounding my brilliant wine analyses that are on every other wine blog? Ads trying to get you to join Wine Clubs where you can enjoy $40 worth of wine delivered right to your door for a mere $100? Or ads for wine gizmos that can improve the taste of the plonk you recommended in your last post, the stuff you received for free? Nah, I'd rather have the five bucks.
I have stolen countless jokes from countless sources and never paid a dime for them. OK, maybe this isn't the FTC's problem. Probably a job for the FBI, though, in the case of my jokes, it's petty larceny.
Just get this straight, FTC, I'm a wine blogger, dammit. My blog is not for sale, my words are not for sale, my opinions are not for sale, my integrity...um, make me an offer.
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."