I have a terrible confession to make. I hesitate to bring it up, but it's weighing on my conscience. Oh, sure, I've done terrible things before. I once bought a Cabernet that Steve Heimoff had given 96 points and painted my garage with it. And then there was the time I took a monkey to a Napa Valley Barrel Tasting and had everyone convinced it was Harvey Steiman--which really pissed off the monkey. I seduced a mule. But nothing like this. I'm so sorry. Really. OK, here goes... I swear to God this is Harvey. He loves your '05 Cabernet. That IS a banana in my pants.
I spent Father's Day Weekend judging at a wine competition.
I know, I know, it's unforgivable. In wine business terms, it's the ultimate sell-out. Ask any wine blogger and they'll tell you. Don't believe anyone who assigns numbers to wine, don't believe any wine publications, they're all on the take, don't believe the results of wine competitions, they are useless beyond compare. So where should a consumer turn for informed and objective reviews of wines? Wine blogs. Simple as that. Come on, figure it out. No one can sit and judge 100 wines in a single day fairly and accurately. Unless, of course, you go to a large public wine tasting (that you didn't pay for because you're such a famous blogger), take notes, then write about it on your blog with a large list of all the wines you loved, really liked, liked quite a bit, adored, would marry or thought were a bit "shut down." Or perhaps the blogger went on an industry sponsored sojourn to Australia or Chile or Spain, spent several days being shuttled from winery to winery, meal to meal, sipping countless wines and having his voluminous and pimply ass kissed by actual winemakers but still has the astonishing presence of mind to know a great wine when he tastes one. I'm embarrassed to say that beside that sort of objectivity and talent the skills of wine professionals tasting wines blind seem particularly pathetic.
I'm ashamed of myself. I was thinking of suicide but that's too easy. Plus, it's my month to come up with a topic for Wine Blogging Wednesday. I know. How about "Wines You Know Something About?" So as punishment for judging at a wine competition I've decided to do something especially painful and drastic. Watch every episode of WineLibraryTV. (As an aside, I hear that's what happened to Peter Falk.) Maybe that will teach me to not participate in the travesty that is a wine competition.
I call the competition I judged in the "A T & T Wireless Competition" because the judges have been in "more bars in more cities than anyone else." We spent two and a half days tasting through a total of nearly 4400 wines from all over the world. You simply cannot believe how many of the wines are commercially unacceptable. The range of descriptors went from "urinal cake" to "coroner's breath," from "slightly frizzante Old Spice" to "Rush Limbaugh's skid marks." What you often take away from judging at a wine competition is the depth and breadth of crap that's out there. It's breathtaking, and I mean that literally. You sniff more sulfur aromas than a horny poodle. Or Larry King.
No matter what their detractors say, Wine Competitions serve a purpose. And I would venture to say that they are equally as reliable as any wine reviewer, wine publication or blogger. That is to say, not at all.
Do you love wine? Do your friends think you're an expert? Do you know how to type? Answer yes to all three of these questions and you can start your own wine blog!! It's easy, and just think of all the free wine you'll be receiving from the ignoramuses in the wine marketing departments of large wineries! Jump on this bandwagon now. The HoseMaster of Wine will show you how.
First of all, remember that we live in a democracy. Wine lovers in Iran have no voice. The government controls the Internet and a guy like Gary Vaynerchuk would be in prison--yet another reason to admire their leaders. But democracy welcomes voices. Wine needs more voices. OK, sometimes more voices just make for more noise. But wine needs more wine blogs like a classroom needs the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. With each new wine blog I discover I feel that pleasurable little tightening of my sphincter. I use it to remove Stelvins. I'm addicted to crack.
Setting up a blog couldn't be easier. Any moron can do it. Most have. The hardest part is coming up with a name that sets you apart from all the other wine blogs. But don't let that slow you down. If all else fails, act cool and use your own name as the name of your wine blog. That has worked admirably for Steve Heimoff, Jancis Robinson and Alice InVinoPecunia. If you have a name that seems unsuited for this, perhaps you can use a nickname. Maybe one tied to your actual occupation. This has worked for Dr. Vino, myself, and Winewhore (speaking of sphincters). Once you've found a name for your blog, the rest is relatively simple. There are just a few things you'll need.
Make sure your blog has a list of other wine blogs. They don't have to be blogs you actually read, they don't even have to be blogs that even exist any longer, but if you don't have a Recommended Blog List no one will put you on their Recommended Blog List and you'll forever remain a nobody. Your typing will go for naught. Send messages to blogs that are widely read that say, "Great post, Tish, as always. I've added you to my blog list and hope you'll do the same for my new blog WineRetard.wordpress.com." It doesn't matter if the blog's author is named Tish or not, this will work. Every blogger basically answers to Tish. At least he thinks so. A scene from the 2008 Wine Blogger's Conference
Don't worry too much about the "About Me" feature for your wine blog. Just cut and paste this example, it's one most wine bloggers sport in one form or another.
I'm a student of wine with many opinions and thoughts on the subject, none founded in fact but founded in love. Please join me in my journey as I seek out the best wines and search winery websites for apt descriptions to plagiarize for your reading enjoyment. I will also share endearing stories of my spouse and children as well as riveting stories of disease so that the wine will seem more necessary. My friends say I'm funny, knowledgeable and should spend as much time as possible locked in a room typing.
Now it's time to start typing your blog entries. Can't think of anything to write about? Join the club! No, actually, it couldn't be easier. First of all, remember that it's not about the quality of your entries, it's about the quantity. Try to post every day. Don't waste time on grammar, accuracy or originality--that's not what wine blogs are for. Write about the wine you had the night before. Remember to give it a number. Either on the famed 100 Point Scale (100 being a perfect wine, something you should award only to wines no one else can acquire to actually taste and compare), or use a different scale, like the 1 to 10 scale that Yawner Yarrow uses for Vinography. Oooooh, I hope I live long enough to taste a 9.5 wine!
Now you are on your way to fame and free wine on the Internet! Wasn't that easy? Have someone show you how to add a Traffic Counter to your blog site so that you can watch as your audience grows from three to seven in just eight months! For advanced bloggers, don't forget to kiss Tom Wark's ass over at Fermentation. He'll say nice things about any blogger. Then sit at home and listen for the distinctive sound of the UPS truck as Big Brown delivers samples of the countless mediocre wines now being dumped at the doorsteps of sycophantic wine bloggers just like you! Enjoy!
The deadline has passed for applying to be resident Social Media Stooge at Murphy-Goode winery. I don't envy the person who gets the job. It's going to be like hosting the Oscars. You're playing to a very jaded crowd, no matter what you do the next day everyone is going to second guess you, and, essentially, you're not allowed to tell the truth. It's a job for a gigantic suckup. In fact, I have it on pretty good authority that Larry King is one of the finalists. But he can't hold a suckup candle to that Dirtysouthwine guy (whose motto is "Remora the merrier").
OK, yes, sure, I applied. Why not? Does that make me a bad person? I'm just like any other blogger. I want my marginal talent to be recognized, I want to make some real money for a change, and I'm hoping to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Breeder's Cup. (Or co-star with her in a remake of "Equus." That is one cute filly.) I thought my audition tape was pretty good, I did two minutes as the Nutty Professor tasting Murphy-Goode wines, but then I found out the winery wasn't started by Eddie Murphy. In hindsight, I think the blackface probably won't help my cause. So I guess I shouldn't wait for the phone call. Dressed for my first date with Rachel Alexandra But I thought it would be fun to visit the Murphy-Goode tasting room in Healdsburg and taste through the wines, see what the Stooge will be up against. The Murphy-Goode tasting room is located just off the Healdsburg Square next to a shoe store. I mention this because I inadvertently walked into the shoe store and demanded a tasting. I was there for an hour. Found a lovely pair of Via Spiga open-toed spiked heels that I rated 93 points for their distinctive bouquet of leather, farm girl sweat and just a hint of toejam. And a pair of Ariat boots that I had trouble getting my nose into, but once I succeeded I succumbed to the heavenly aromas of the leather of a lactating cow (Biodynamic boots?), sandalwood and new French oak (94 pts).
When Jess Jackson purchased Murphy-Goode he only purchased the label, not the vineyards and not the winery. It's a little bit like just buying the jacket of Stephen Hawking's latest book and putting it over the latest piece of crap from Dan Brown (Dan Brown writes like Mickey Spillane, only with a much smaller vocabulary). The cover might fool you, but all you have to do is open it and out spills that same old formula.
The wines available to taste in the tasting room are an interesting mix of the new Murphy-Goode wines and a bunch of leftovers from when the Murphys and Goodes and Readys owned the joint. They make for an interesting contrast. The older wines were all over the map in quality, but were loaded with personality. The new wines are very consistent, but had the personality of, well, a lifestyle blogger. Striving to be inoffensive.
Leaving the remnant wines behind, here are my impressions of the wines, as the HoseMaster, and as the new Murphy-Goode Social Media Stooge.
Murphy-Goode 2008 Fume Blanc Sonoma County
HoseMaster: I have no idea what the case production is on this wine, but it tastes like it was machine harvested--by a lawn mower. No faults to this wine, and it will probably discount down to nine or ten bucks, but it's about as interesting as the latest issue of Parade magazine.
Stooge (via Twitter): This is a lovely example of Sauvignon Blanc and would work great with whatever is on the latest bogus Oprah diet--acai berries, pomegranates, or dregs from liposuction bags.
Murphy-Goode 2007 Chardonnay Minnesota Cuvee Alexander Valley
HoseMaster: Even without any malolactic fermentation this wine is flabbier than a contestant on "Biggest Loser." It sports plenty of tropical fruit-from-a-can flavor and the distinctive character of Duluth on a hot August day. Actually, it's quite palatable in a cocktail wine sort of way.
Stooge (via Facebook): What are you doing now? I'm relaxing at my Healdsburg pad sipping Minnesota Cuvee. Yum! All that tropical fruit! It's Don Ho in a glass!
Murphy-Goode 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
HoseMaster: This represents pretty good value for the money since it checks in at under $20. It reminds me of HoseMaster of Wine--nothing profound here and it's almost worth what you pay for it. Which is more than you can say for a Murphy-Goode Social Media Lifestyle Consultant. But it's hardly comparable to the best Alexander Valley cabs.
Stooge (via website): I don't know about you, but I think tannins are yucky. They tan hides with it, you know. Ewww. You want that on your tongue? Next thing you know your mouth is like the inside of a loafer. So drink the '07 Cabernet from Murphy-Goode. It's soft as a guy in bed who uses steroids. I wouldn't say it if it weren't true! What day is payday?
Many years ago there was a television show called "So You Think You Can Vomit?" that auditioned and judged ordinary folks who believed they could have a career in the wine business. Contestants were asked to display their wine talents in front of a panel of three distinguished judges--Andre Tchelistcheff, Robert Lawrence Balzer and Arlene Francis, who, for some reason, always wore a sequined mask. I appeared on that show in 1963 competing against a young Hugh Johnson, Jerry Mathers and an orangutan that Mr. Balzer had mistakenly married after a long evening tasting Cognac. The orangutan won (creating another game show scandal as well as ending the monkey marriage to Balzer--Mr. Balzer became a Borneo Again Christian after that) but I was a very popular second place and went on to my distinguished and interminable career in wine. Robert Lawrence Balzer (a driller, for sure) after his conversion.
What's your favorite grape?
I get asked this question a lot. And it's odd because I don't really like grapes. I like wine. And so few wines taste like grapes these days. What's up with that? Winemakers spend so much time making their wines taste like apples or peaches or blackberries or plums, but not grapes. I don't want them to taste like grapes, but why don't they? Just another sign of the over-manipulation of wine. Sheesh. Just once I'd like to taste the damn grapes in the wine.
What was it like being a Sommelier?
It's pretty much the stupidest job in the world that one can get paid for aside from porn actress. Though the two jobs have a lot in common. I used to put a lot in my mouth that I didn't want to. And I was often naked, but that's a different story. Sommelier must be about the most overrated job on the planet. What do they actually do? Taste a lot of wine, buy a few, then sell them. Sure, you have to be well-schooled when it comes to wine, but it's not like if you don't know the answer to a question a patron asks you about wine you can't just make up an answer. They haven't the slightest idea you're making stuff up. A guy once asked me if his wine had been fined and I told him, "Yeah, for being late to practice." And for some inexplicable reason you are accorded an amazing amount of respect. So, really, it's a dream job. People think you're special because you're a sommelier, that you know the secrets to food and wine pairing, that you can taste a wine blind and identify it down to the cork supplier, that you're sophisticated and worldly when all you really are is a wine porn star and all the wineries are fluffers. Man, I miss that gig.
Are you an M.S. or an M.W?
No, but I am a member of Al Qaeda. Which has a much tougher course to get in. Though it's still judged by Larry Stone.
I wanted to write a heartwarming tribute to my Father in honor of Father's Day, but he's been dead for 30 years and knew absolutely nothing about wine. So, while he's qualified to be a wine blogger, he doesn't make a good subject for HoseMaster of Wine. (No, I am not a second generation HoseMaster, though I am descended through my Mother from my Father's hose. Now there's a heartwarming tribute!) But the wine business is filled with Fathers who deserve a bit of tribute this weekend, so a here's a tip of the HoseMaster's helmet to a few of those deserving men. Saintsbury, Hemingway or Turley? Not sure myself.
George Saintsbury, Father of Wine Writers
Though Saintsbury was first and foremost a scholar of French literature, he wrote a scholarly study of Honore de Balzac entitled "Scratch My Balzac and I'll Scratch Yours," he is best remembered now for his essays about wine entitled "Notes on a Cellar-Book." In one of his earliest essays he proposed a system for rating wine.
"When tasting through the four First Growths of Bordeaux, Latour, Lafite, Haut-Brion and a Planter's Wart, it struck me that I was at a loss to express their differences in mere words. They are all majestic and compelling wines, and to merely say that the Latour is pure power where the Lafite is closest to Planter's warts does not give much illumination. So I have assigned them numbers. The numbers are 91, 94, 93, and 80. I believe this is a brilliant way of communicating their ethereal beauty."
And thus Saintsbury paved the way for our contemporary wine pundits who have so lovingly graced us with the 100 point scale so that we may come to understand wine on a deeper, more incisive, level. "Notes on a Cellar-Book" remains on the list of must-have wine books along with Robert Parker's "Ethics for Dummies," Tyler Coleman's "Dr. Vino Gives You a Burgundy Enema," and George Riedel's "In Case of Emergency You Know This Glass Will Break."
Mortimer Hemingway, Father of the Back Label
There is little in wine literature to compare with the pithy prose of the back label. Decades before Twitter, which is today's pathetic version of the back label, it was brilliant wordsmiths like Mortimer Hemingway (no relation to Ernest, or Julio) who defined the quality of the wines within with striking and precise descriptions printed on the limited space of a back label. There are echoes of Hemingway's work on back labels even to this day. Here are a few Hemingway classics:
"This Cabernet, sourced from only the finest vineyards, can best be appreciated in its youth with a quick decanting and a serious head cold."
"Our Reserve Pinot Noir represents the finest expression of this grape that we produce. It is harvested at the peak of ripeness, doused with water to add richness, aged for twelve months in really, really expensive French oak, blended with our finest leftover Syrah, then priced to make it an impressive gift."
"Do not use this product when pregnant, operating heavy equipment, eating at Denny's, or hoping to have satisfying sexual intercourse. This product contains sulfites, which are known to cause allergic reactions or even death in non-reciprocal states and lab rats. Use of this product may result in blurry vision, delusions of grandeur or greasy discharge."
Mortimer Hemingway died in 2002 in a horrific bottling line accident that left him so filled with corks he could float down the Russian River without a kayak. He is buried in Grant's Tomb.
Helen Turley, Father of Cult Winemakers
When Robert Parker began awarding huge scores to everything Helen Turley touched and then anointed her with Goddess status, the cult of the winemaker was born. Huge consulting fees followed, wineries paying lofty fees to put Turley's name on their fact sheets and bragging that she stopped by twice a year to bless the barrels, and the cult of the winemaker began. Now its ranks include Mark Aubert, Michel Rolland, Heidi Barrett and Miley Cyrus. The recent economic turndown has resulted in some cult winemaker layoffs, however, with more on the horizon. There is talk in the Obama administration of nationalizing Phillipe Melka so that the Napa Valley Cabernet industry doesn't crumble leaving hundreds of overpaid marketing directors jobless.
The 2009 Napa Valley Auction raised considerably less money than it has in previous vintages. Many have automatically and mistakenly blamed the economy. Bidders are nervous about their stock portfolios and how in the world they're going to be able to afford a mistress, true. And, also true, it's a bad time to appear ostentatious. Furthermore, the money goes to help poor people and sick people, and, well, frankly, maybe it's time they reciprocated and did something for us. But I think it's clear that the Napa Valley Auction didn't do so well this year because the items up for bid just weren't that great. Take a look at these entries, taken directly from the Auction Catalog.
Vertical of Rombauer Chardonnay 1985-2007 in Magnum and Free Diabetes Test and Insulin for Life Estimated Value: $10,000
What collector of fine wine wouldn't want to have these fabulous magnums in their cellar? OK, they're a tad sweet, but we've taken care of that. An annual diabetes test and a personal visit from Wilfrid Brimley, who will match the lunch crumbs in his walrus mustache with the Rombauer bottling of your choice.
Make Love in the Sterling Tram! Estimated Value: $5,000
Here's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make love in the Sterling tram and have it digitally filmed for future enjoyment! You and your partners (up to six) will be allowed to use the Sterling tram for sex all the way from the parking lot to our historic winery. Ride time is three minutes, plenty of time for most Auction attendees to finish. A videographer will capture the event for posterity, and when you reach the tasting room a lavish feast awaits! Feel free to engage in intercourse on the way down too--it will help get the taste of Sterling's wines out of your mouth.Going down while you're going up!!
Luxurious Trip to North Korea with Thomas Keller Estimated Value $15,000
Here's a foodie's dream! Two weeks in the magic kingdom of Kim Jong Il with legendary chef Thomas Keller. You'll see all of the most famous and beautiful sites in North Korea, including the Tomb of the Unknown Jong, Six Flags Over Tyrant, and North Korea's magnificent dam, the Dam It All to Il. Best of all, you'll dine each night at North Korea's world famous temple of cuisine, Il Bully, with Mr. Keller manning the stoves. Keller will turn out signature North Korean dishes like Kimcheehuahua, as well as classics adapted to the native cuisine like Pug a l'Orange and Shih Tzu on a Shingle.
Own a Cult Winery For a Day! Estimated Value $12,000
What's it really like to own one of Napa Valley's cult wineries? Here's your chance to find out. Spend a day being the owner of Harlan Estate! You get to taste all the wines, you get to wade through all the requests for charity donations, you get to make all the decisions. Las Vegas market drying up? Fly there and try to convince what sommeliers are left that they need to have a vertical of Harlan Estate on their wine lists. It's fun to fawn over those cretins! Or spend the day crafting an email to what's left of your waiting list making it sound like you're doing them a favor and granting them the privilege of purchasing your wine for $500 a bottle. And do it all while drunk on said bottle! You're going to need it.
Every blog and every wine rag at one time or another has done an article about wine myths. These articles are written for wine novices and usually contain the same four or five myths. These are the familiar, and frequently debunked, myths of breathing, and legs, and serving temperature and crap that only pinheads and Master Sommeliers don't know. Do a Google search, or maybe break your Bing cherry, of "wine myths" and you'll find hundreds of "original" columns that purport to enlighten your feeble wine mind, but which all say the same thing. When it comes down to it, the one gigantic wine myth is that there are any wine myths left at all.
However, there are a few myths that are rarely spoken about and may be unfamiliar to even the most rabid wine fanatic. These are the myths, the taboos, that HoseMaster of Wine is brave enough to expose.
Myth #1Riesling is one of the greatest white wine grapes.
This is hooey on the face of it. No one really believes this. This is one of those things wine "experts" say to those less educated about wine, but that they say with a sidelong wink to other "experts." Kind of like setting up someone on a blind date with an ugly guy but swearing he's really attractive to most people. English wine writers beat this subject into the ground, apparently as an apology for defeating Germany in WWII. No one really pays much attention to Riesling. When's the last time a bottle of Riesling was in the Wine Spectator Top 10 Wines? When's the last time Robert Parker, and not one of his on-the-take flunkies, reviewed German Riesling? When's the last time you went into a great wine shop and the Rieslings were in a cabinet (OK, Kabinett) under lock and key? Myth exploded!!!
Myth #2 Robert Mondavi is dead.
Come on, the head of a large Italian family vanishes right after his winery goes belly up, his white elephant wine museum goes bankrupt, and some wiseguys are looking for money, and you think he's dead?Right about now he's starting up a new winery in Argentina with his new business partner Julia Child. They plan on specializing in Malbec, but are calling it Fume Rouge.
Myth #3Wine ages better in magnums.
Where did this idea come from? I will admit it's great marketing. You sell two bottles at a time instead of one by convincing the suckers that over the long haul the wine will age better in a magnum. Sure. Just like all the guys over seven feet tall live to be a hundred. Hell, no. Those giants drop dead way before us normal size folks. Wine is the same way. Large formats are a death sentence. And, no, you can't go so far as to say that by that logic a .375ml should last even longer than a regular bottle. There ain't no old midgets either.
Vanessa Wong checking a puncheon of syrah at Peay Vineyards Myth #4 Oak barrels are made from trees.
OK, they used to be made from oak trees twenty years ago. Now they're made from recycled tires. Every now and then, more often than you like certainly, you can stick your nose in a glass and get a great big whiff of a Goodyear or a vintage Firestone--think that's an accident or poor winemaking? Sure, the fancy wineries use old Pirelli or Michelin tires, but the effect is the same. I'm not complaining, mind you, I think recycling is a great idea, and most of the organic and Biodynamic wineries are proud of their recycled tire barrels. Just stop saying wines smell oaky. A lot of them really smell like skid marks...
The US Supreme Court, Chief Justice Judge Judy at center in front of Clarence Thomas
I'm a little peeved at President Obama. I sent him my impressive judicial resume and my name wasn't even mentioned as a nominee for Supreme Court justice. How is this possible? Granted, I'm not a Latina, but I do prefer Linda Ronstadt in her chubby phase. Granted, I don't have a law degree. But I could get one. It can't be that hard. And, hell, Robert Parker is a lawyer who has a lifetime position as Most Powerful Wine Critic, why not a Wine Guy for Supreme Court Justice? It makes as much sense. And I'm a judge. At Sonoma Harvest Fair, at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. You think it's hard to get along with Scalia, try judging with Dan Berger for a couple of days. I know why Clarence Thomas doesn't speak, I've been there. Not to receive even so much as an acknowledgment of my credentials to serve on the Supreme Court is quite a blow. So I'm bringing my case to the public, my devoted HoseMaster of Wine public. You be the judge.
Here are a few of the landmark cases that I have helped adjudicate in my distinguished career, and the highlights of my opinions in those cases. I'm sure many will seem familiar.
Cork v. Stelvin
With my panel locked in a four-four tie, I was asked to decide which closure should be favored by wine experts. This was a particularly touchy case, with more than a few echoes of Roe v. Wade. Should I come down on the side of pro-choice? Or should I land squarely in the pro-life camp and select corks? I knew that no matter what my decision I was in for a world of criticism and threats to my well-being. On the one hand, there is no denying that cork taint has ruined many a fine and expensive bottle of wine. On the other hand, cork is a renewable resource whereas Stelvins contribute to global warming, carpal tunnel syndrome and radical Islamist causes. I came down on the side of corks and wrote this memorable, if I do say so myself, opinion:
"The two sides in this case need to sit down and approach their differences calmly and creatively. Can't we agree that it might be better to simply prevent the necessity for the choice in the first place? Perhaps with more education and candor, and the widespread use of condoms on corks, we as a country can move forward to a place where the sanctity of the wine is foremost."
Interstate Shipping of Wine v. Three Tier System
You would think this landmark decision alone would have automatically qualified me for the Supreme Court, sort of like death guarantees an Oscar. Once again my vote was critical in a case. Would I come down on the side of the status quo and retain the wonderful Three Tier System envisioned by our country's forefathers when they wrote the Twenty-first Amendment so they could get stinko at Ben Franklin's 175th birthday party? Or would I vote in favor of allowing wineries to ship wine wherever the hell they want, including to underage alcoholics with a computer, Dad's credit card, and a link to Burghound so they know what to order? As if those cretins could even use a corkscrew. Here's what I wrote, file this one under Integrity:
"I live in California and don't really care if the suckers in Pennsylvania can't buy wines over the Internet. Philadelphia is the birthplace of freedom--NOT. I'm not shedding any tears for them, much less three tiers. Genius and innovation are what define the American success story--just look at Ron Popeil. Figure out a way to get the wines that skirts the damned laws and stop whining. Either that or move. It's your call. Meanwhile, I'll be enjoying that new remodel of my house paid for by the WSWA."
Parker v. Bloggers
When Robert Parker decided to sue every last blogger who had questioned his ethics, integrity, 100 point scoring system, and bladder control, I was called upon to render a decision. It was eBob v eBlobs, and the decision was a sticky one, not just because of the incontinence. Who was right? Parker, when he says that bloggers are misinformed, untalented, malicious, unethical and smell bad? Or the bloggers, who insist that they are right in calling Parker out for hiring a bunch of stringers with the ethics of a pit bull/Bernie Madoff mix and the integrity of maitre d' who moonlights as a papparazzo. This was easy.
"Not all bloggers smell bad, though most smell poorly."
It's not too late, Mr. President. I'm still available. Does it come with a matching 401K?
I recently received this letter and thought I should share it with the rest of the world. If you're a wine blogger and haven't yet received your copy, well, you will.
You pathetic, irrelevant, imbecilic, illiterate, bottom-feeding, sulfurous, bung-licking, nose picking, flop dicking, inbred, brain dead, wet-the-bed piece of crap.
Where do you get off questioning my ethics or the ethics of my trained seals? Without me and my publication none of you would even exist. You all want to be me! Like that's a walk in the goddamn park. Pretending to give a crap what Mark Squires thinks, wading through all that Schildknecht babble about German wines only sissies and old ladies drink, listening to Dr. Miller ramble drunkenly on about his ugly ex-wife Mrs. Miller--you think that's fun? And then spending hours adding four or five points to the scores of that Galloni guy--if I've told him once I've told him a hundred times, "People like to see high scores! Do you think they'd watch the Olympics if every gymnast received a 7.5? Would they watch 'Jeopardy' just to see Trebek's newest toupee if the contestants only won $35? Why do you think the Stanley Cup Finals are on the WhoGivesaShit Network? They have violence and nonstop action and cheerleaders with erect nipples but they have low scores! No one cares!" But he still lowballs the Italian wines, not that I blame him. They all smell like Berlusconi's fingers if you ask me.
What do you care that Squires gets a free trip to taste Israeli wines? So what? I sent him on that trip praying for a suicide bomber to get me out of the contract. Who cares about the wines of Israel? What, "Wailing Wall White" is going to set the wine world on fire? Sure, it's unfined, unfiltered, uncircumsized, so what? No way any of their plonk rates over 82 points. So what does it matter he took a free trip? All you blobbers do is whine, whine, whine. If you ask me, China has it right when it comes to the Internet. It needs to be monitored and controlled. When did free speech ever amount to anything except yokels spouting off about shit they don't understand? Hey, let's put it this way, my team's ethics are the equivalent of the knowledge and experience of wine blobbers--sure, they've got a little, but they never let that get in the way.
Come on, get off my back. I'm trying to retire anyway. But I want my little mimeographed phone book to survive me. OK, OK, I passed the buck to the wrong guys. You know that and I know that. I'm hoping that they'll get better, but, hey, I'm managing the Washington Nationals here--no, make that the Washington Generals. I got Lemons alright, just no Meadowlark Lemons. One of them comes to me and says, "Hey, Slim, I think I'm going to head off to Portugal with some guy named Symington--can you front me a couple of Benjamins?" how am I supposed to know the whole trip is a freebie? I'm in the stinkin' Barossa sweating my hairy echidnas off and tasting 100 point cough syrup with Aussie descendants of felons, I'm supposed to hold these bozos' hands? You expect a lawyer and a doctor to understand ethics. Yeah, right.
Meanwhile you blobbers are begging for free samples, printing up business cards and suckering wineries for free tastings, trying to get free tickets to wine events, going on and on about transparency but neglecting to tell your fourteen readers that most of what you know about wine you learned from Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer," and hallucinating that consumers will one day turn to unqualified strangers on the Internet for wine recommendations. Could happen. Yeah, and my dog don't fart.
Remember when wine blogs used to talk about wine? Wow, those were the good ol' days. Now every time I read wine blogs, roughly as often as Mike Tyson teaches elocution, they're about ethics. You know, Ethics, from the Latin for "how much can I get away with and still seem honest." Ethics are a lot like testicles--you either have them or you don't, you can't grow them, and if you do have them talking about them is hairy.Mike Tyson's ethics, right
However, I believe I can contribute significantly to the Blogger Ethics debate. What I'd really like to do is end it, but, hell, then we'd have to go back to talking about actual wine. And, boy, have I had some crappy wine lately that I'd like to talk about. Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, holy crap, what is that made from? It tastes like 85% Sauvignon Blanc blended with 15% Visine; though I could be wrong and it's actually Visine Musque. But I digress.
Much of the Blogger Ethics debate seems to revolve around accepting freebies from wineries or wine marketers and then reviewing the wines of those wineries. Those freebies can include free wine, free meals, free housing, sexual favors, a free credit report, a wine being named for you (I just blew my proposed Geyser Peak 2009 "Hosemaster Cuvee" Visine Musque bottling), tickets to sporting events, American Tourister luggage, and penile implants. (OK, I accepted the latter, but was unaware it was for my forehead. Stop calling me the Unicorn of Wine. Oh well, at least it's a handy place to rest my sunglasses.) A lot of respected wine writers have published long treatises on their blogs that spell out what they do and don't accept from wineries, though all of those treatises boil down quickly to, "Na-na-nah-na-na, I get free stuff and you don't... But, I swear to God, it's all on the up and up! Hey, NBA officials accept gifts from players, right?" Of course, the caveat is that so long as you cop to the freebies, that honesty therefore translates to how honest you are about the quality of the wines you tasted on that generous winery's behalf. "OK, I accepted a car from LeBron, but that's not why I never call fouls on him. Honest." No one believes that crap.
So here's my contribution to the Blogger Ethics debate (which is much like debating the integrity of Congress and Special Interest lobbyists, or, perhaps more accurately, like debating which "Star Trek" movie is the best--you know it's all imaginary, but it's fun anyway). Simply follow these very simple HoseMaster of Wine Beginning Ethics for Bloggers. Then one day you too will be as admired and as ethical as your humble HoseMaster of Wine.
Accept anything a gullible winery or wine marketer is willing to give you. You've earned it, dammit, you have 15 Unique Hits on your blog every month. And you didn't print up those lame business cards on your computer for nothing. You're somebody!
Transparency is for Supreme Court nominees, steroid users and panties. Of course you take free stuff from wineries. Just keep it to yourself instead of bragging about it all the time. Yeah, yeah, the UPS guy has a hernia from all the wine shipped to your pathetic wine country hovel, Alder, but I sure as hell don't want to hear about it.
It's only wine, I'm not a freakin' doctor! As far as I'm aware, Hippocrates never wrote an oath for wine critics. So I add a few points to my imaginary and meaningless score, it's not like I prescribed the wrong medicine. Who cares?!
Conflict of interest is a contradiction in terms. My only interest is me. Where's the conflict?
By following these simple guidelines your ethical troubles will be resolved and you can go on blogging about wine as if nothing had happened. And, honestly, nothing has.
I don't like basketball. But that's probably because I'm short and tattoo-free. Like Ricardo Montalban after Herve Villechaize committed suicide. I love girls with a little tattoo! That's a young Judge Sotomayor on the right. But I occasionally watch the NBA during the playoffs because, well, who can resist a good freak show? It's always fun to watch the Los Angeles Lakers just to see what celebrities will turn up in the crowd. You know Jack Nicholson will be in attendance. (Someone pointed out to me that Jack is the only actor who has played the Joker who is still living. Turns out Heath Ledger is dead! Who knew?! I never saw anything about it in the papers. And Cesar Romero! Who cares?! So how do we get William Shatner cast in the next Batman movie?) Watching Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals I also spotted Denzel Washington, Penny Marshall, Hugh Hefner, Monica Lewinsky, Octomom, that old guy from Six Flags, and Son of Sam (you know how the NBA loves its gangster image!). Laker games are a lot like the Oscars--the celebs are in the best seats, the fans are in the rafters and everyone's waiting for the end of the show so they can go home.
I don't really appreciate the fine points of basketball, but that's because there aren't any. It's sort of like looking for plot points in pornography. The point is to get to the money shot. But it is riveting to watch. Basketball, I mean. Gigantic men running full-speed up and down the court dribbling. (Reminds me of the Roberts Supreme Court.) Their athleticism is breathtaking, particularly in such a meaningless pursuit. And then there are all the little guys in stripes blowing whistles when the big guys get out of control. NBA officials, I think, have the toughest refereeing job of any professional sport, and the reason for that is simple. There apparently aren't any rules in basketball. Well, there are rules, but no one is supposed to obey them. So the referees blow their whistles and point every now and then so that the game stops and other players get to play, and so that TNT can run Cialis commercials for the vast and impotent NBA audience.
So what wine does one pair with the NBA playoffs? I think that contrast is an interesting way to pair wines with food, or events, so what better contrast to the NBA than a white wine? I opened a bottle of Yorkville Cellars 2006 Eleanor of Aquitaine Yorkville Highlands, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from Mendocino County. Their winemaker is Greg Graziano (I've always wondered if he is related to Rocky. Not the boxer, the Flying Squirrel), a guy who has worked most of his life with Mendocino fruit. Here he takes Yorkville Cellars' certified organic fruit, barrel ferments both the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and meticulously blends them into a wine that seems consciously modeled after a white Graves. It takes a winemaker with skill and a light touch to successfully integrate oak into Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon without the oak dominating like Marv Albert's leather-clad mistress, and Graziano has that kind of talent and touch. Nice minerality, pretty grapefruit and melon flavors, a subtly powerful texture, and a juicy finish made this a mouthwatering bottle of white wine. It was so delicious I was called for a double dribble.
At least half a dozen people forwarded me the job description for Murphy-Goode's social media stooge, the job that pays $10,000 a month for six months. Right, Murphy-Goode's Social Media Shemp People are ga-ga over this job. Me, I have just one question:
How bad must the Murphy-Goode wines be for them to have to pay someone ten grand a month to say nice things about them?
Maybe after the Murphy-Goode gig is finished the lucky media whiz can parlay the job into a fulltime gig in Temecula, where they'd have to pay you twenty-five grand a month just to live in that hellhole. (Though there is talk that President Obama is thinking of closing down Temecula wine country as part of his No Torture campaign. Apparently, US troops at Gitmo were seen waterboarding suspected terrorists with Temecula sparkling wine.)
It's bad enough that Jess Jackson has made purchasing champion race horses his new hobby. From Curlin to Rachel Alexandra, he's horse racing's new Sultan of Dubai. He dubai dis horse, he dubai dat horse. Now he wants to buy bloggers. And, man, the bloggers, those Titans of Objectivity and Ethics, can't wait to bend over and show him their bar codes. Buy me! Buy me! I'll Twitter until my twit is one tired twat. I'll drink Murphy-Goode wine all day and post on ShitFacedbook all night:
Dirtysouthwine is sucking down Murphy-Goode Malbec and thinking about Wilt Chamberlain--the only other 100 point scorer I can think of.
I'm in the vineyards with Dave Ready, Jr and am in total awe of how much he knows about suckering. And not just people...
I'm finishing a long day with a big glass of Murphy-Goode sauvignon blanc. This must be what Beyonce's urine tastes like! Slightly chilled, of course.
From what I understand, Mr. Jackson is planning on buying several bloggers and breeding them in hopes of developing a superblogger. He would be the first winery owner to have his own stable of bloggers, if you don't count Tom Klein of Rodney Strong Vineyards. If I were Mr. Jackson (God forbid) I think I would purchase Tom Wark and breed him with either Alice Feiring or, even better, Steve Heimoff. Then you'd have something! You'd have a Wark-off home run!
What's really hard to imagine is folks thinking that Kendall-Jackson would allow Murphy-Goode to hire a clown like me. I'm their worst nightmare. It's hard for me to lie about wine. (Sure, I'll lie about the house...) Although I could probably do it to Millenials for ten grand a month. Not much different than being a Fox News anchor. Maybe I will apply.
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."