"It's difficult to soar with eagles when you walk with turkeys."--Jack Rollins
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
The M.S. Conspiracy
A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic
Chapter 7Murder's a Bad Habit
People always ask me what it's like going from being a sommelier to being a private detective--public dick to private dick. It's like you hang up your overcoat and give up being an exhibitionist. You stop scaring young girls by whipping out your wine knowledge and hoping they'll gasp in admiration. And I never even bothered with an M.S., that just exacerbates the flashing. When you think about it, an M.S. credential and a penis have a lot in common. With either one you take every chance you get to show it to people. It serves as proof you are what you say you are--a man or a wine expert. At the least provocation you whip it out and wave it around for anyone to see. And they react, they've heard about the M.S. exam, they look at what you're displaying to them and they instantly understand it's hard. And, gosh, not everyone has one, so it must be some sort of achievement. Isn't it?
I was lucky. I got out of the sommelier business in the nick of time. Before the M.S. goons and grifters muscled their way into the wine business, hired for the meaningless letters after their names by wine-clueless restaurant owners and delusional chefs (OK, "delusional chefs" is redundant, but I'm making a point here). Where once it took years and years of experience to qualify as wine knowledgeable, now it just took serious memorization, a checkbook, and putting all the right things on the tip of your tongue, many of them attached to the examiners. I've got nothing against the freaks and appellation-flashers who want the letters after their names, the letters that strike fear in the hearts of the wine ignorant everywhere, they go into it with high hopes and dreams of prestige borrowed from hundreds of years of wine snobbery. Only to find out that the magic letters come with a price. Lorna had paid the price, her neck broken like the screwtop on a cheap bottle of Australian shiraz you opened because you like the taste of manipulated wine, it reminds you of your life, the way you try to make it taste good despite the lousy ingredients. It was starting to feel like the M.S. dons were beginning to get nervous for some reason. The question was why. And maybe Jessica Jokes was thinking the same thing and that was why she was going to take the M.S. exam. Put her own life at risk. Maybe I'd underestimated her. Maybe I was still in love with her. No, I'd given up women for something better. Lubricants.
I had put all of that wine business buffonery and pretense behind me when I became a private dick; it was just a distant scene I occasionally glimpsed in my rearview mirror. And speaking of rearview, how did Veronica fit into all of this? She'd need a wide screen, that's for sure, she had a rearview only Cinemascope could do justice to. But she'd showed me a bit more wine knowledge than I'd expected. Had she set me up with Lorna, or had her friends, or was she just another dreamer longing to be a sommelier? And how was I going to get her into the M.S. exams without Jessica knowing I was involved?
I was thinking about Veronica when I felt a buzzing in my pants. This was odd since I don't own a cellphone. Odd, but pleasant. I'd owned a really cheap device for a while, a kind of Blackberry knockoff. A Dingleberry, but I'd gotten rid of it. It hardly ever dingled.
"Hey, Hoseapoppin', come with me." It was Chief Jokes yelling at me across the square. "I just got a call. Another M.S. candidate just turned up dead. Drowned in the tub. Let's hope it was an accident." She, whoever she was, was still in the tub, face down, her gorgeous butt looking eerily like Harvey Steiman without a bow tie. But this was no accident. In the tub with her, bobbing around like pieces of her shattered dreams, were corks. Hundred of corks. Someone had made cork soup, with sommelier stock.
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
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"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."