The world is a miserable place this Christmas season. Unemployment is sky high, people are losing their homes, Tiger Woods is taking this eighteen holes thing too seriously... I'm having a terrible time getting into the holiday spirit. It just doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Sure, I know it's Christmas. I can always tell by the return of the Clapper commercials. And Chia pets. (Have you seen the new Marvin Shanken Chia pet? Just add water and it sprouts greenhouse gases. Just like the real thing!) So all the normal signs of Christmas are about, but, I don't know, it just doesn't feel like Christmas. The whole season feels empty to me, almost meaningless, an empty exercise, like the Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines. Sure, I can put on a facade and pretend that I've got the Christmas spirit. Dress up like an elf and pretend I'm Mike Grgich. But I don't want to. The wine world has worn me down this past year, the whole wine blogging circus has completely eroded my faith in humankind. I'm a wayward sheep looking for a shepherd, a lost lamb looking for its flock, a paid advertiser looking for his 90+ score. I'm finding only disappointment in my stocking this Christmas, and it's usually in my pants. Things need to change.
I believe in wine and the wine business. I believe that wine is proof that God loves us and doesn't mind if we drive drunk as long as we don't talk on cellphones. I believe that God created yeast so that beer and wine and bread and urinary tract infections would remind us of His grace, and of the burning bush. I believe that wine serves to remind us that all men are created equal on the 100 point scale. Men are all 89's; women are all 97's. I believe no one who truly loves wine is capable of selfishness, greed, jealousy or chastity--the world's biggest horrors--but gluttony, yeah, baby, we got gluttony. I believe that wine has enriched Western culture more than poetry, more than the Enlightenment, more than baseball, more than Russ Meyer movies. Wine flows through my veins like sap flows through Alice Feiring's. And more than anything this holiday season, more than a case of great Chateauneuf-du-Pape, more than a fan letter from Gerald Asher, more than an appearance by Jancis Robinson on Maury Povich, I wish for the following:
A truce between the folks who believe in Stelvins and those who like corks. It's crappy vineyard management, lousy winemaking and obnoxious critics that ruin wine for everyone more often than corks. Hey, I'm no fan of TCA, I'm like Robert Blake's wife, I'd rather be screwed than plugged, but it's time this holiday season to live and let live. Both closures are here to stay. Let's move on.
Forgiveness for the biggest fools among us, Hardy Wallace, Gary Vaynerchuk, Alder Yarrow. Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do. Forgive Hardy Wallace for chasing so hard after 60 Grand at the expense of integrity, a future in the wine business and any chance of credibility at selling any wine that doesn't taste like it's blended by people in a Diane Arbus photograph. Forgive Gary V for promoting the image of wine expert as buffoon--rude, overbearing, filled with braggadacio, hot air and payola, unaware of the stink he spreads on all of us. And forgive poor Alder who mistakes indefatigability for talent, tastebuds for kitchen sinks, and attendance with popularity. Forgiveness is a hallmark of the holiday. I'm sure I could also use a dose.
A truce between Robert Parker and Andy Blue and James Laube and all the other wine reviewers and the torrent of wine bloggers. Hey, Bob and Andy and Jimmy, stop crapping on all the wine bloggers. Face it, boys, all wine criticism is based on factual misrepresentations, not just the criticism bloggers aim at you--both numbers and credentials are basically imaginary. Almost everybody has too much of the former and too little of the latter. Why should bloggers be any different? Or more objective? Let's face it, we're all in this for the same thing. We think we know more about wine than the next guy and we want to be paid for it. In money, or free samples, or admiration, or showgirls. We're in the business of promoting hooey. When critics dump on bloggers, they're dumping on the people who've paid their salaries for years and years. When bloggers dump on critics they debase the job description they long to put on their resumes. In the words of the late great Rodney Strong, "Can't we all just get along?"
Everyone adopts the Million Point Scale. Stars, Puffs, 89's, they all need to go the way of 8-Track cassettes, Pong and the Rhythm Method. We need hundreds of thousands of points tossed around like midgets in a bowling alley! Why argue about a few dismal points when tens of thousands of points will do? The 100 Point Scale is so Second Millennium! Time to think big. Time to step up and score like the Big Boys. This is my Christmas wish.
I know that my Christmas wishes won't be granted. 2010 will be filled with the same rancor as 2009, the same ugliness, the same petty debate.
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."