Friday, November 27, 2009

The HoseMaster Presents

Christmas Gifts For Wine Lovers

Once Thanksgiving has passed, along with the meal, many people are faced with the annual question, "What do I buy the wine lover in my life for Christmas?" Here is my list of gifts every wine lover would be thrilled to receive this holiday season.

The Riedel "Clueless" Glass

Riedel's stemless wine glasses, the "O" Series, were a big hit among wine cognoscenti. This year Riedel is introducing its newest line of wine glasses, the "Clueless." These wine glasses are designed specifically for people who are "Clueless" about wine. Each set of four glasses comes with a glossy brochure that is filled with factually incorrect information regarding how the "Clueless" glasses can improve the experience of drinking fine wine. "Clueless" wine geeks will quickly be sucked in to the wonders of wine glass "science." Little known "facts" will be absorbed hook, line and sinker.

"Did you know there is a nose map?! Riedel 'Clueless' glasses funnel your fine wine's aroma to just the right set of nose hairs for maximum nasal stimulation--your nose has never been so accurately picked!"

Soon the wine lover on your list will be unable to enjoy his bottle of Marcassin Chardonnay unless it's served in the "Clueless" Sniffin' a Fruit Cocktail Chardonnay tumbler. He just won't be able to enjoy a glass of Colgin Syrah unless that precious nectar comes in a "Clueless" Ten Dollars an Ounce For Napa Valley Jagermeister balloon glass. When it comes to gifts for the Clueless, no one outdoes Riedel!

BevMo's Not Worth Five Cents Wine Club

This Christmas give the wine lover in your life the gift that keeps on taking-- membership in the BevMo "Not Worth Five Cents" Wine Club. From the folks that bring you the wine business' biggest scam, the BevMo Five Cent Sale, BevMo's wine club is the monthly way to discover the various ways large wine retailers can pawn off mediocre wine as "Big Savings!" Each month your loved one will receive two bottles of wine specially chosen by BevMo's large staff of ill-informed employees. One month it might be two bottles of wine from an importer going-out-of-business liquidation sale! Who knew the market for organically farmed Sforzat would dry up? Well, the raisin business' loss is your gain! The next month it might be repackaged bulk wine with a really cute animal label on it, or maybe a hilarious pun! "Vasectomy! Your Pinot Shooting Blanc," or a bottle of white wine with a photo of Billy Bob Thornton on the label, "Rieslingblade." It's two dollar wine, and you only pay another eight bucks for the cute label! Or maybe it's a really famous winery being delivered to your loved one's door by the club, only the appellation listed on the bottle is slightly suspect. Beaulieu Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon "BevMo Reserve" can only be fantastic! You'll just have to ignore the tiniest print legally allowable that states the appellation is "Yucca Valley." This is a gift your wine loving friends will never forget, or forgive. All the convenience of BevMo's misleading wine sales in the comfort of your own home.

The Portable 100 Point Scale

There is nothing more embarrassing than being a wine expert and having someone approach you
and ask you what score a wine received and you just don't know! It's humiliating. How in the world can you talk intelligently about a wine if you don't even know where it falls on the 100 point scale? You wouldn't talk about a book you'd read if you hadn't read the "Cliff Notes" first! And you call yourself an expert! Now, thanks to research done by our friends at all the major wine publications (not major publications that are about wine--those don't exist), you'll never be stuck in that embarrassing situation again. Just put the bottle of wine in question into the specially constructed 100 point scale and PRESTO the number appears! Just like it appears in the minds of famous wine critics--by magic! And the Portable 100 Point Scale comes with the same guarantee the scales in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, yes, EVEN Wine Advocate come with--absolutely none! But the 100 Point Scale should not be used by just anyone--in the wrong hands this powerful weapon can be extremely dangerous to ones long-term mental health.

The Food and Wine Pairing Machine

Wine lovers spend senseless amounts of time wondering what wine to pair with food, and even more wasted hours arguing about it. What do I drink with fresh oysters? Champagne? Muscadet? Lemon Pledge? Hours and hours of their, OK, not-so-precious, lives wasted in the fruitless pursuit of the "perfect" food and wine combination. Well, now those hours and hours can
be put to more productive use, perhaps reading pointless wine blogs, because the Food and Wine Pairing Machine takes all the guesswork out of it. It works either of two ways. Pour an ounce or two of the wine you're agonizing over into the Machine and, after a few moments, the exact dish that will perfectly complement the wine is described! How does it work? Inside the machine is a small laboratory that breaks the wine down into its chemical components, those components are quickly analyzed, and then the computer inside searches its comprehensive files of every recipe ever published in Gourmet, Saveur, and Lancet for the right dish! Or, and this may be easier for folks with a large wine cellar, just prepare your meal, insert just a small bite-size portion into the Food and Wine Pairing Machine, and the machine quickly tells you what wine will best accompany your gourmet meal! Imagine the fun you'll have putting a hot dog into the Food and Wine Pairing Machine (Silver Oak, it spits out!), or maybe just a little treat from the litter bag your dog filled while you were out for a walk (Paso Robles Pinot Noir!). Why it's practical, and fun!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Maison Deux Montille 2005 Corton Charlemagne

How many times have you heard a pinhead say, "I don't really like Chardonnay?" When did Chardonnay and Merlot become the Octomoms of grapes? Neither one of them deserve the scorn heaped upon them. Gruner Veltliner and Pinotage, now they deserve plenty of scorn, a scornucopia of disparagement, but that's another story. I would defy Chardonnaysayers to turn their nose up to the 2005 Maison Deux Montille Corton Charlemagne, however. This is the stuff dreams are made of, and not the dry ones. How Charlemagne got his name appended to the appellation seems lost in conjecture, some saying he once owned the hill in Corton where the only Chardonnay in this Burgundy appellation is planted; others say his wife, Mrs. Charlemagne, preferred white wine to red because it didn't stain his beard as much. What kind of a slob was he? His wife used to call him Charlemangey. But, I was thinking, wouldn't it be interesting if the United States had named wine appellations for its leaders? So, for example, instead of Finger Lakes maybe we'd have the Finger Bush appellation. Just a thought. The Deux Montille Corton Charlemagne was simply gorgeous, gorgeous the way gorgeous is meant to be gorgeous--simple, understated, naturally gorgeous. The wine possessed a superb nose of hazelnut, ripe green apples, and lemons that developed and expanded significantly over the course of the meal, adding honeyed notes and minerality. What defined this wine was its elegance, a rather vague word, but you know it when it stains your beard. The rich apple and honey flavors come through in the flavor along with the bracing acidity in perfect balance. Long and pretty and complex, it was a fantastic bottle of maligned Chardonnay.

The HoseMaster Score 866,905 Points

Disclaimer: I received this lovely bottle as a gift from a loyal HoseMaster reader. I think we can all learn from her example. And, like her gift, she's gorgeous too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Myth Communication

There are so many misconceptions about wine and the wine business, most of them fostered by the wine industry and designed to confuse consumers and wine novices. Someone needs to step up and reveal these myths, these falsehoods, these flatout Cheneys and Rumsfelds, these transparent Limbaughs. Or we'll all end up like Pinocchio with a giant nose boner. I guess the ol' HoseMaster has to do it.

Myth #1 Advertising affects wine ratings

Americans are a skeptical folk. We think wrestling is fixed. We think Florida elections are fixed. We think Madonna is fixed. No matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented, we simply believe the cynical thing to believe. Most people in the wine business are of the opinion that if you purchase a lot of full and half-page ads in publications like Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits that that will buy you some points. Come on, people! This is lunacy. The reason these wineries can afford to buy advertising in these publications is because they make such amazing wines they are rolling in dough and they simply want to give back.
They don't care about ratings! Ratings are stupid and don't sell wine anyway, why would they waste money in an attempt to get slightly higher scores? OK, Beringer is always in the top 20 wines every year in Wine Spectator, is that because they buy a lot of advertising? Don't be stupid! It's because, from a strictly objective point of view, they produce many of the greatest wines on the planet, and lots of it! And what better way to thank the wine world than to support its greatest magazine? That the advertising department of a wine publication reminds you that your wine is about to be reviewed right before they ask if you'd like to purchase some more ad space doesn't mean the two things are related. Look at it this way. If your lover is wondering what you're going to buy her for Christmas as she is undressing, you know the two things aren't related. Right?

Myth #2 Wine critics can actually smell everything they describe in any given wine.

There's a pretty simple mathematical way to understand how this works. Take the number of adjectives the critic uses--raspberries, green Gummy bears, pain grille, pommes frites, old Summer's Eve--subtract it from the numerical score, divide it by the alcohol content of the wine, subtract the case production, and if the result is less than zero he's making the shit up. Serious studies have shown that the human nose, and, for rhetorical sake, we'll assume the critic is human, can sense no more than four distinct aromas at a time. And, of course, one dog fart changes that equation to one--you know who you are, Mr. Bigshot. So a long list of descriptive adjectives is as much a fantasy as Gary Vaynerchuk getting an M.W.-- unless they award them in Bizarro world. So why do critics pretend to smell fourteen different things in a wine? Think of it in a "Where's Waldo?" way. Think of it as oneupmanship. Think of it as self-deception. Think of it as hubris. Think of it all you want, just don't believe it.

Myth #3 The best wines are unfiltered.

No, the best cigarettes are unfiltered. Wineries love to say that their wines are unfiltered, but, under oath, they might say otherwise. Unfiltered is used in the wine business the way "organic" is used by Safeway. Let's be generous and chalk it up to poetic license. Most of the wines are actually unfiltered-adjacent. Parker, and perhaps a few other lesser critics, lesser in girth anyway, popularized the notion that filtering a wine strips it of some flavor. This makes intuitive sense, but is sort of like saying straining your fish reduction after it's finished robs it of character. Yeah, OK, but it also takes all that floaty barf out of it. And twenty years down the road an unfiltered wine runs a genuine risk of developing all sorts of off-aromas--like barnyard and slaughterhouse and porn set aromas--so the trade-off, even if the unproven premise is true, ain't so bad. But as soon as Parker declared that filtering was evil, every pathetic winery started claiming their wines were unfiltered. It doesn't really matter. Is a great wine better because it's unfiltered? Is a stupid wine less stupid because it's unfiltered? Do wineries unfailingly tell you and Parker the truth. Yes, yes and yes. Suckers.

Myth #4 Marvin Shanken is a real person.

Most of you have seen the familiar picture of "Marvin Shanken," either holding a glass of wine in his stubby, sausage-shaped fingers or smoking some expensive turd. But it's common knowledge in the wine business that "Marvin Shanken" is an imaginary person, a corporate icon that does not really exist. Like Aunt Jemima or Betty Crocker or Mr. Clean or George Steinbrenner. Wine Spectator has under contract four Marvin Shanken "ambassadors." These four guys, who are
remarkably similar in build, appearance and smarminess, appear all over the world at wine events and pretend to be the publisher of Wine Spectator. Think of them as Budweiser Clydesdales--hard to tell them apart with a cursory glance--only not as well-groomed.

Two Marvins make a rare appearance together!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Dehlinger 2003 Syrah "Goldridge Vineyard" Russian River Valley

During the current Recession we've all had to make some tough choices, find ways to spend less money. Go out to dinner less often, and when we do, register false complaints in the hope the restaurant will comp your meal. Don't leave a tip, leave coupons. Stop buying Fancy Feast and switch to regular cat food--Grandma won't notice. And the furballs get smaller. Rent panties. All of those things will help. But most of us have also had to quit a lot of winery mailing lists. I used to buy wine from dozens of producers, but now I'm down to a precious few. Dehlinger is one of them. Tom Dehlinger is as consistently brilliant a Russian River winemaker as there is, rarely, if ever, taking a false step. I buy a little bit less of his wines than I once did, but I still buy what I can afford. Whenever I open an older Dehlinger wine, like this 2003 "Goldridge" Syrah, I know I'm in for a treat. Dehlinger understands balance and restraint. At six years old, this Syrah is ethereally lovely. There's a purity here, a focus, a prettiness that defies description. Drinking the '03 Dehlinger Syrah was like biting into a sweet, ripe, red plum. Add a dash, just a dash, of meatiness, a pinch of leather, wrap it in lively acidity and chalky tannins, and, man, this was a satisfying bottle of wine.

The HoseMaster Score 875,459 Points

Disclaimer: I have never used performance-enhancing drugs. My testicles just naturally didn't descend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poll Dancing

My first HoseMaster of Wine survey results are in. Not that anyone cares. To be honest, I only conducted the survey to see how many people would respond, hoping that there would be an avalanche of responders. There were 30 folks who were kind enough to fill out the survey. Hardly an avalanche. More like the wine blog world unleashing a loud, collective yawn. I had optimistically hoped for 50 responses, and I might have achieved that goal if I'd left the survey up until all of our troops are out of Afghanistan. It's becoming clear that the only thing more solitary than wine blogging is being the member of the Jenna Elfman Fan Club.

And, yet, here I am, Day 7 of my struggle with Wine Blog Addiction, still losing the battle.

Both of you may be interested in the results of the survey. The results aren't too enlightening, but, then, the questions were stupid to begin with. Therefore, the results have the same amount of validity as the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the Nielsen ratings, Wine Competition results, voting for the NBA Most Valuable Player, and penis enhancement.

The first question asked why folks bother to read this crap. The #1 answer (why do I feel like Richard Dawson all of a sudden--oh, I know, I'm also spectacularly untalented) was, "I like a cheap laugh at others expense." Fourteen folks chose that, nearly half. Well, there is plenty of cheap involved with reading a blog, but laughs? I thought I was the only person who thought I was funny. But it's nice to know others enjoy cheap putdowns and egregious insults.

Question #2 wanted to know what people wanted to see more of on HoseMaster of Wine. Thirteen responders said "Insulting other wine bloggers." I'm sensing a trend here. But it just edged out the nine people who said, "Free Internet Porn." I'm working on both. And I may even start insulting free Internet porn. At any rate, I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear that people enjoy the degradation of wine bloggers. We do this to be admired, to be praised, to get free samples, to impress ourselves with our own erudition, and you folks want us to be insulted. You're right.

The third question asked you to rate how funny my stupid blog is. A whopping fifteen of you responded, "I often spontaneously urinate when reading it." Seven said they laugh, but at me, not with me. I'd like the fifteen to aim at the seven.

The fourth question asked folks what other blogs they read beside this micturating mess. Folks could choose more than one. Tom Wark's Fermentation squeaked by Steve Heimoff, 16-15. And speaking of micturating, The Pour was third with 13 readers, and paid $2.60, followed by Dr. Vino (Christ!) with 11. My Gorgeous Samantha was fifth, which seems appropriate, I'd share a fifth with her any time, with nine votes. Vinography just edged out "Any Jerk with a Keyboard," though that was a test because they're the same! Tied with Vinography was Wine Sooth and 1WineDude. What does it say about the wine blog reading community that they love Fermentation and Heimoff? Sleeping pills don't work? No, I suspect it is basically about frequency. Quantity. They change content more often than my readers change their Depends.

The fifth question confirmed that "The M.S. Conspiracy," as stupid a piece of writing as exists, is by far the most popular regular feature of HoseMaster. This is scary. Well, it basically confirms that folks are here for the jokes and not the opinions or satire. That's OK, I actually like writing "The M.S. Conspiracy," and have no idea where it's going. I can't wait to find out myself. What is the conspiracy? Who is the midget and why is he following everyone? When will the first sex scene rear its ugly head? Why do I bother to write anything else? Why does Samantha put up with me? So many questions, so little relevance. I need to answer the burning questions of the day in the wine world more often. Burning questions like Wark and Heimoff answer every day. Burning questions like why it burns when I micturate while reading HoseMaster of Wine.

Most of my readers, question six revealed, are between 36 and 50 years old, with a number "older than fuck." Only three readers were younger than 35. So now I don't feel so bad about obscure Richard Dawson references.

Question #7 asked which people in the wine business folks would most like to meet. I scored a win in that category with a whopping eight! Eight people want to meet me out of the thirty that answered. I suspect those eight have already met me and are just fooling around. I edged out Charlie Olken, who finished second with five votes. My feeling is my eight people want to meet me in order to do me harm, while Charlie's five just want to see if he's a real person or inflatable. We both barely beat out Shane Victorino and Rita Moreno. Not one person wanted to meet Robert Parker, which makes sense, since, as I keep saying, he's dead.

The results of the eighth question surprised me. I wondered if people had purchased wine because of a wine blog recommendation. I expected that the results would show that no one buys wine because of a wine blogger, but, surprisingly, seven people checked, "Yes, like an asshole." Yikes. One can only hope it wasn't my recommendations.

Twenty-four people, out of thirty, answered question nine, which asked why the responders didn't post comments on HoseMaster of Wine. My assumption is the other six are the usual suspects here, Samantha, Puff Daddy, Arthur, Anonymous 1... Most of the 24 said, "What is there to say?" As any blogger will tell you, the real reward of blogging comes in the form of Comments, the give and take of voices you like, voices you don't, strangers, friends, newcomers. The sound of my own voice wears me out. Yeah, I know, join the club.

The final question asked people to tell me their honest opinion of HoseMaster of Wine. This, of course, was the most fun for me. One person said "I am in love with you." Gosh, (blush), thanks Mr. Balzer. Several folks said they missed the nudie cuties. Yeah, me too. I had a lot of quick answers like "funny shit," and "smart(ass)," and "love it." Here's one I'm not sure I totally understand:

"My 5th grade middle school principal told me that if more than 7 people agree with you, you're probably wrong. If you get too many positive responses, I'll have to move on to Dr Vino's snarky insights with "wine talk that goes down easy." Its hard to believe there is another blog out there that mixes edgy immorality and wine ala the HoseMaster himself! Sorry dude, looks like this kind of blog is a dime a dozen."

Of course, no one would have bothered to take the survey if they didn't like HoseMaster of Wine in the first place, so positive reviews were kind of expected. But I think my favorite line was, "I think it's funny but sometimes you go overboard."


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Seghesio 2006 Zinfandel Cortina Dry Creek Valley

I am an unabashed fan of Zinfandel, and always have been. I like that it's bombastic and unrelenting and unashamed of being way too much most of the time. It's like I have a twin! And I'm head-pruned too. "Cortina" is the soil type in the Seghesio Zinfandel Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. (The wine was not named for the Ford Cortina, a car that, ironically, was dirt cheap.) The 2006 Cortina Zinfandel is an interesting wine. It started with a very ripe, almost late harvest, extracted, gutsy aroma that concerned me. But on the palate it showed lovely balance, some chalky finishing tannins and gorgeous fruit, where I was expecting a clumsier, over-the-top kind of Zin from the nose. This seems reflective of the 2006 vintage, the extended heat at vintage's end giving it the late harvest characteristics in the nose, but the age of the vines at the Cortina vineyard maintaining a lovely balance and freshness anyway. (I had heard of plans to blend the Cortina Zin with some Cabernet from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in Napa in order to create a lovely "Cortina Fay" bottling, but, luckily, those were scrapped--like that joke should have been.) What you end up with is a Zinfandel with black raspberry and a pinch of white pepper flavors, with nice fruit intensity, elegant, supple, chalky tannins, and plenty of guts. I tend to like Seghesio's Cortina Zinfandel because in most vintages, including this one, it shows the power and eloquence of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

The HoseMaster Score 706,865 Points

Disclaimer: All performers in this review were over 18 at the time of filming. Any resemblance to actual wine criticism is purely coincidental.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 6 Anything Goes

After lunch I decided to tail Veronica. Which is the very definition of coals to Newcastle. She needed tail like Robert Mondavi needed a heat lamp. So I decided to follow her instead. This was a distinct pleasure. Watching her from behind was like watching a latex lava lamp. Veronica had missed her calling. She could have been a coffee grinder at Starbucks. I'd certainly pay to explore her grounds.

I was hoping that she'd lead me to her friends, but I didn't really expect her to. But it was a lovely day for a stroll, and I'd had worse jobs than following a gorgeous blonde pulling a trailer with two lovely lug boxes. I was so fixated on Veronica that I nearly missed spotting Fugly, the midget who'd held a gun on me in the late Lorna's room. So I was wrong; it turns out it was a lovely day for a troll. And I didn't think Fugly had spotted me at all, if you don't count the easily Wine Away-ed urine stains on my fly that the sight of his gun had caused to mysteriously appear. What was really strange was that the little guy appeared to also be tailing Miss Veronica. Why would Fugly want to know what Veronica was up to? What could be so important that he'd run the risk of following her too closely and end up getting bitch slapped by her buns? Which is better than having midget skid marks.

Veronica was taking her time, just wasting a day window shopping in the cutesy little boutiques Healdsburg was overpopulated with. Fugly was trying to look inconspicous by hiding behind fire hydrants and trash receptacles. Nothing more invisible than a midget humping a fire hydrant. Veronica seemed completely oblivious to her two tails. Or so I thought. I looked away for a moment and she ducked into a public restroom. Well, that made sense. You call it. Head or tails?

She was in there for a long time. But she was a woman, and that didn't seem out of the ordinary. So Fugly and I waited. And waited. This was getting weird. I was thinking about going in after her, hell, I'd been in lots of Ladies Rooms before, usually with a drill and a minicam, but if I went in after her Fugly would undoubtedly see me. I was weighing my options when Fugly disappeared. I scanned the Square, I looked behind every trash can, fire hydrant and Labrador retriever but that fucking midget had vanished like a Murphy-Goode Social Media Consultant.

I casually walked over to the Ladies Room where I'd seen Veronica enter. I waited for the appropriate moment when no one was looking and I walked in. The stalls were emptier than Charlie Olken's arguments for the 100 point scale. Where the hell had Veronica gone? I don't mean where had she gone, I know where she peed, but where the hell was she? Now I'd lost her and the midget. I guess I'm not much of a tail. But maybe that comes from having a rather small coccyx.

"Hey, Hosefitter, you want to explain to me what you're doing in the Ladies Room?" It was Chief Jokes. This wasn't our first time together in a public toilet, we'd met at IHOP once, but that's another story.

"I'm looking for a client." Yeah, I know, that didn't come out right.

"Number one or number two?" I guess I had that coming.

"Were you following me, Jessica?"

"No, Hosepimple, don't flatter yourself. Even cops have to take a wiz now and then. Mind if I tinkle on the taxpayer's money?"

"You always do."

"Oh, in case you didn't know," Jessica said as she locked the door to her stall, "I'm going to take the M.S. exam next week."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Ridge 2004 Grenache Lytton Estate California

I've been a member of Ridge's Advance Tasting Program (ATP) since Harvey Steiman was in diapers. So, like, five years. I am rarely disappointed by the ATP offerings, but I wasn't particularly thrilled with the 2004 Grenache from Lytton Estate. Maybe I just don't get what Ridge is trying to achieve with this wine. Hey, far be it from me to question anything that Paul Draper, Ridge's legendary winemaster, puts into a bottle. For my money, Mr. Draper is one of California's winemaking geniuses, and the rare one that isn't self-proclaimed. I'm not qualified to carry his spit bucket. But the '04 Grenache, just released, struck me as clumsy and awkwardly tannic. I've always found the great Grenaches in the world to be graceful and luscious, but this wine is about as graceful as J. Edgar Hoover in high heels. There's some dark fruit on the nose, heavyhanded American oak as well, with a brief burst of blueberries on the palate, which fade quickly into an overly tannic finish. I'm being a bit hard on this wine (hell, it was a bit hard on me) because I've come to expect much more from Ridge. And, like Lou Dobbs' bad toupee, I don't see it getting any better with time.

The HoseMaster Score 146,333 Points

Disclaimer: No animals were killed or injured in the writing of this review, except for the cow who gave its life so that I could narf a steak with the Grenache. Thanks, Bessie!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Old Addiction

I have a confession to make. This won't be easy for me. But it's time I do something about my addiction. No, not that one. I'm not giving up my membership in the Panty of the Month Club. Not when I've finally made it to the Bob Hope level! Thongs for the Memories. No, I have a much worse addiction. And, so, inspired by my friend Tom Wark's struggles with smoking at Fermentation, I have decided once and for all to try to come to terms with my horrific and crippling addiction, an addiction that has turned my waking hours into a living Hell, an addiction that has consumed me, ruined my life. And perhaps talking about my sickening addiction will help others out there begin to confront their own demons, help them stop before it's too late, before their lives are as empty and wasted as mine has become. I don't know if I can succeed, if I can put my life back together, return to the happy life I once had before this catastrophic addiction, but I have to try. I just can't take it any more. It's driving me to an early grave.

I'm talking about my addiction to wine blogging.

Wow. It felt good to admit to it, this ugly secret I've been hiding. Like the vast majority of wine bloggers, I work in secret. Very few people know of my desperate plight, so few people witness the horror that is my wine blogging. Sitting at my computer late at night, alone, typing words and sentences that no one will ever read, no one but other wine blogging addicts, those other lost souls who feel the pathetic and relentless urge to spout their mindless opinions about wine as though someone, anyone, will listen or care. And, glory Hallelujah, maybe even Comment! It is a cavalcade of the hopeless.

I know what you other wine bloggers are thinking, what your delusional mind is telling you to believe. That it's just the HoseMaster's problem, it's not mine. He has a problem with wine blogging, that's obvious, hell, the asshole relentlessly rambles on and on with stupid opinions about wine, the 100 point scale, the wine business, Robert Parker (still dead), and Jancis Robinson's pouty breasts, but I'm nothing like him. Wake up, Mutants! Read the following symptoms of wine blogging addiction and see if you fit the descriptions.

Symptoms of Third Stage Wine Blogging Addiction

I've begun to fall back on topics that are hackneyed and utterly devoid of originality in order to post five days a week.

The need, the craving, to wine blog often leads to this kind of behavior. See Steve Heimoff's latest post about Chardonnay. Read it and see if your reaction isn't the only possible reaction, "Duh!" Steve! Get Help! This kind of crap does not bode well for your mental health.

I check my blog's hit counter twenty times a day hoping it will move past eight.

No one is reading your brilliance. No one. There are freaks out there who stumble across your wine blog because they've done a Google Search for "girls who spit," but, other than that, you have no followers. You imagine you do, you fantasize about long responses to the comments you're sure are going to come from admirers of your palate and wine acuity, but they don't exist. I'm talking to you Brix Chicks. No one reads you. You might as well be the ads on buses.

I spend hours every day posting comments on more successful wine blogs trying to capture more hits.

You know who you are, you find a way to comment on Fermentation, The Pour, Heimoff, all the top 10 blogs, even though your comments are nearly as stupid and unfathomable as the blog you write, hoping their readers will click on your link out of boredom. You heard me 1WineDude, get help! And you, Dylan, whatever your blog is, man, let it go, stop before it's too late, your name on a comment is the wine blog equivalent of Quaaludes, but with greater laxative effects.

I spend hours and hours writing tasting notes even though I've cribbed most of the descriptors from winery websites because I don't really have any experience with wine, but, hey, I'm entitled to my opinions and wineries should send me free samples.

The laboring over tasting notes is a sure sign of the wine blogging addiction. It is the equivalent of other emotional disorders and bizarre delusions like collecting gigantic balls of twine, or building replicas of venereal disease sufferers out of toothpicks, or liking cats. There are wine bloggers in this category too numerous to mention. Folks trying too hard, locked inside their horrible wine blog addiction, dedicated to their delusions. Which wine is best with what music. Might be interesting if it weren't so pathetic. And then there's the abomination known as Wine Blogging Wednesday--the monthly meeting of Wine Blog Abusers. It's like watching the Napa Valley Wine Train derail--funny, at first, until you think of the waste of life it entails. All of those who participate in Wine Blogging Wednesday need professional help. Say, an English grammar tutor. And the saddest case of all, the addicted Wine Blogger whose every post is an obvious cry for help, the 10 point scalemeister himself, Alder Yarrow of Vinography. A life wasted.

It's too late for Alder. I'm just praying it's not too late for me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Cep 2007 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Here's the finest Pinot Noir in California for $25 or less. Well, that's not much of a recommendation when I think about it. What's the competition at that price point? It's like saying, "Here's the best steak dinner for under $20." So forget I said that. This is delicious, satisfying, gorgeous Pinot Noir. So don't ask what I peayed for it. It's produced by a prestigious Sonoma Coast winery that, for some bizarre marketing reason, doesn't want its name associated with Cep. So I've chosen to peay attention to their request and not divulge the winery. I have certainly had far more expensive Pinot Noirs that weren't this good. You don't always get what you peay for. "Cep" is French for root vine, which explains the label, which otherwise could be misconstrued as a divining rod. Which, I guess is what a vine root is, so maybe that's not misconstruing at all. The aroma is very feminine (by which I mean it would never agree to let me take it home unless I peayed for it), filled with red fruits, which, if you're going to hound me about it, reminded me of huckleberry. There's plenty of spicy notes, and just a tiny bit of earthiness, more mushroom than anything. But it completely overdelivers on the palate. It's just gorgeous wine, bright with acidity, not particularly tannic, not at all ponderous or overextracted; it delivers the delicacy and beauty of Pinot Noir in a beguilingly complex way. I still can't get over the price for a Pinot Noir of this quality.

The HoseMaster Score 702,006 Points

Let me make it perfectly clear. I did not have sex with that woman.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The HoseMaster Scale

I am guilty of complaining about rating wine on the 100 point scale, but I do recognize the usefulness of the rating system. The folks of the Religious Right rant and rave about the erosion of the moral fiber of this country, but often get caught recognizing the usefulness of adultery and prostitutes. Same thing. But I feel guilty that I only complain about the 100 point scale and don't present a better alternative. I believe I have solved that problem, and without the use of prostitutes (sadly, unlike countless stupid wineries, hookers do not provide free samples for bloggers).

Aside from the philosophical complaint that assigning a number to a wine is giving an objective value to a subjective opinion, which I am willing to disregard because philosophy is even stupider than wine reviews, I have always hated the fact that in the course of a year a publication like Wine Spectator assigns hundreds and hundreds of wines, say, 89 points. Nothing wrong with 89 points. Like most of you, I really enjoy kissing my sister, though it's annoying when Mom tries to break us up with cold water. But can it really be true that their critics liked those hundreds of wines exactly the same? That there is absolutely (and numbers are absolutes) no qualitative difference between all of them? That the $150, 89 point Cabernet from Silver Oak is exactly the same quality as the 89 point, $20 bottle of Penfold's 10W/40? If it is, that's fine. But it is hard to swallow. (OK, so we're back to the hookers again.)

So it occurred to me that the problem isn't assigning numbers to wine, the problem is we're not using enough numbers! 100 points is peanuts in this runaway inflationary era. To reduce the scale to 10 points, like that potted plant Alder Yarrow, is exactly wrong. Parker has said that he modeled it after the scale we are all familiar with from our days in school. Isn't that a telling remark? We're all just a bunch of half-wit students sitting at the knee of an oh-so-wise wine critic, taking copious notes, and trying to imagine what it's like to be so smart! To be able to grade wines so quickly and accurately. How will we ever graduate and become teachers too?! So the 100 point scale isn't only wrongheaded, it's insulting. But, in my view, not insulting enough.

I have created the HoseMaster Scale of 1,000,000 Points! That's right, the Million Point Scale. And here is the best feature of my Million Point Scale--no two wines will ever receive the same
score! And, here's another unique feature, my Million Point Scale starts at 1! That's right. I have had a wine that scored 7 on the Million Point Scale--I believe it was a Nichelini Zinfandel, but I'd have to look it up. And it's impossible for me, or any critic, to rate a million wines, so each wine will have its own unique number! Readers will know exactly where each wine falls with respect to every other wine I've scored. So, if I'd used the HoseMaster Scale on the wines I've previous reviewed on my outrageously popular "What's the HoseMaster Drinking?" segments and scored, say, the Benovia Pinot Noir 356,875 points (not the actual score) and the Allemand Cornas 356,877 points (again, not the actual score), the reader would know that I liked them about the same, but preferred the Cornas! It's brilliant, and, pay attention here wineries, it's incomparable marketing material. Think of the shelf talkers! "Murphy-Goode 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon--107,452 Points!!!" Even crappy scores sound great. This is the shot in the arm our struggling industry needs.

She's got her own HoseMaster Million Point Scale!

I know it will take time, but I believe that eventually every reputable critic and publication will adopt the HoseMaster Million Point Scale. There's no reason not to. Will there ever be a wine that rates 1,000,000 points? Not on my watch! I hereby swear on Robert Parker's grave that I will never award a wine more than 995,000 points. A score above that sends the wrong message, I think. Nothing is that close to perfection. I mean, come on, it's a scale, no sense getting carried away.

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Villa Creek 2007 Mourvedre "Damas Noir" Paso Robles

Mourvedre has more names than P. Diddy. Mourvedre also goes by Monastrell, Mataro, Balzac (there's no honore in that), Alicante, Torrentes, Pee Wee Herman, about 35 other names, and the abovementioned Damas Noir. The grape itself, whatever damn name you choose to call it, is a very late ripening grape, one of the last grapes harvested. This, naturally, makes it difficult to ripen. In California, it's often picked around Halloween when the weather is beginning to get sketchy, the sun is getting lower in the sky, and we set our clocks back an hour in order to confuse the employees at WalMart. So one would assume it would do well in Paso Robles, a relatively hot appellation. The Villa Creek 2007 Mourvedre confirms that assumption. No problem with ripeness here, it's riper than Rush Limbaugh's jockstrap. But this probably isn't a wine for everyone, not that anyone goes out and buys a wine I like, that would be crazy, I'm not a Brix Chick, though I do love a nice breast that's been grilled under a brick, which has to hurt, because it does have some of the typical Mourvedre meatiness that isn't everyone's cup of jerky. The closest fruit that comes to mind is blackberries when I sip this, but it's the leathery, meaty, rustic character that dominates. I wish it had a bit more elegance, which the great Mourvedres can possess, but elegance and Paso Robles go together like class and the Oakland Raiders. If you're not familiar with the wines of Villa Creek, you're missing out on one of the best wine producers in Paso Robles, and if you like big, fruit-filled, bombastic wines, then get on their mailing list. Their wines are about as shy as Sasha Grey. I drank this baby with some chicken thighs, hold the bricks. Bad combination, it insulted the chicken's thighs, and nothing makes a chicken lose its tenderness quicker than that.

The HoseMaster Score 654,987 points

Disclaimer: I paid $40 for this wine out of my own pocket because no one is stupid enough, not even winery marketing people, to send me free samples. This product should be kept out of the reach of small children and Tim Fish.

Friday, November 6, 2009

HoseMaster: The Origin of the Specious

As a young man learning about the joy and mystery of wine, I spent a lot of time traveling and speaking with winemakers and winery owners searching for wisdom. I didn't know it then, but that's a little bit like searching for humility on Wall Street. Or blind tasting notes in Wine Spectator. Futile. But it was while searching for wine wisdom that the HoseMaster was born.

In the course of being a sommelier and fledgling wine expert (and sommeliers are much more accomplished at bluffing than they are at wine), I had befriended Robert Pepi. Bob Pepi, with the
help of the legendary Tony Soter, the pride of Pomona College, had designed and built a winery with his father, Robert Pepi, Sr., on Highway 29 in Napa Valley directly across from Far Niente. Robert Pepi Winery is now a Huckleberry Jackson winery, Cardinale (named for actess Claudia Cardinale, who was briefly married to Jess Jackson in the late 60's but left him when she found out it wasn't true, as he'd claimed, that "8 1/2" was named for his inseam measurement).

I was in Napa Valley visiting in 1986 and had set up a lunch with Bob Pepi. I was supposed to pick him up at his winery. When I arrived at the designated time, there was Bob in his grubby work clothes working the press. "Hey, Bob," I called out to him, "I thought we were going to lunch."

"I just picked these botrytised Sauvignon Blanc grapes," he said, "and I have to finish pressing them. I called and ordered us lunch; it should be here pretty quick."

Bob had never made a dessert wine before, as far as I knew, and he was pretty excited about these ugly, moldy grapes. I wasn't so excited, hell, I had lots of them in my bachelor refrigerator at home growing the sort of stuff you only see between an NBA player's toes or on Clive Coates' reputation. There were a lot of bees and wasps buzzing about, attracted to the intense sweetness of the must Bob was collecting, and the entire winery was sticky as the seats after a k. d. lang concert.

Bob was working diligently, and I was killing time just wandering about the winery.

"Hey," Bob yelled at me, "don't just stand there. Do something."

"What do you want me to do?"

"I don't know. Start cleaning up or something. The sooner I get done here, the sooner we eat."

So I grabbed the power hose, fired it up, and began hosing down the crush pad. You can see it coming.

After a few minutes of cleaning I yelled up at Bob, "Well, I guess this makes me the hosemaster at Robert Pepi Winery."

"Yeah," he replied, "I guess it does."

A few weeks later I received a gift in the mail. It was from Bob. I opened it up and it was a box of business cards. They read:

Ron Washam

Robert Pepi Winery

And, thus, the legend was born.

Aren't you sorry you asked?

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Thierry Allemand 2004 Cornas "Reynard"

The first wine region I fell in love with outside of California was the Rhone Valley. All of it. I fell so hard I almost changed the spelling of my first name, but Valley Washam sounded stupid. I came sort of late to Cornas, after long love affairs with Chateauneuf-du-Pape (which, translated, means "new house of David Ortiz"), Hermitage and Cote-Rotie, but Cornas is a fascinating region. Cornas is a very small appellation (unlike Ricky Skaggs, who is a small Appalachian) where the wines are required to be 100% Syrah. The classic producers of Cornas are Auguste Clape and Noel Verset (Clape is sort of Pop Cornas, rather salty), a couple of old-timers who are nearing retirement (hell, they're both in their 80's, I think, so they're more accurately nearing the Grim Reaper--which, by the way, is not Kermit Lynch's nickname). But now there is Thierry Allemand, and he has begun to eclipse those old masters. Where Clape produces wines of great stature and impermeability, Allemand crafts Cornas that is ineffably elegant. For my recent birthday (Hello, Grim Reaper!), my wonderful and brilliant friend Samantha sent me three bottles of wine; the 2004 Allemand "Reynard" was one of them. Friends, this is brilliant Syrah. Allemand manages to escape the fierce tannins so commonly found in Cornas and produces a wine of great depth and balance. It seems clear he doesn't destem the fruit from the structure and mouthfeel. But you stick your nose in a glass of this and you are instantly engaged. It has great purity and power, waves of aromas and flavors. Over the course of the meal it smelled variously of blackberries, smoke, dried herbs, violets...Wow. Every sip commanded your attention with its fantastic richness and concentration and length. And, like all great wines, the last sip was the best. I taste a lot of Syrah, far too much of it from California, but I can't remember the last time I tasted one so intriguing and complex and beautiful.

Disclaimer: I received this wine as a birthday gift from a gorgeous woman. If your erection lasts more than four hours, call your doctor. Thank him

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 5 Warped Women

When you're a dick it's all about knowing where your head is supposed to be, and mine was several inches up the wrong wine cave--my own. I was supposed to be trying to help the beautiful Veronica get into the M.S. Society but instead I'd been initiated into the Skull and Boners Club. I'd had this case but a few hours and already there was a midget, the cops and a dead body involved. But at least I knew the M.S. Society had an opening now. I'd never seen Lorna's.

I decided that before I tried to get Veronica into the M.S. exam, I needed to find out more about her, and more about the Master Sommelier organization. Something about the whole thing was eating at me. Or so I thought. Turned out I'd picked up some ticks. Ticks on dicks. What am I, fucking Dr. Seuss? One thing I was sure about, Veronica wasn't from Healdsburg. She was talent brought in from somewhere else, talent that seems to have been meant to lure me into this morass. And, from my point of view, the morass the better. I needed to find out just who my client was, where she was from, who her "friends" were.

I strolled around the corner from Les Mars to Willi's to have a glass of wine to calm my nerves. I'd been married, so I was used to it, but it still wasn't easy to see a beautiful woman in a bed just laying there not moving. I pulled up a stool at Willi's and ordered a tall, cold one in honor of Veronica. The bartender gave me a glass of La Crema Chardonnay. Ugh. Just wasn't my day. It smelled of pears, maybe peaches, and definitely hypocrisy.

I kept thinking about that whack on the head I'd been given. I had a knot on my skull about the size of Dan Berger's brain--so, walnut-sized--that kept throbbing like Steve Heimoff at the Mr. Universe pageant. Fugly, that midget with a message, didn't give it to me, so who did? Veronica's friends? The M.S. goons? A pissed-off Les Mars maid? Or was there someone who'd been staying with Lorna? An angry ex-boyfriend? Whose best friend was a midget. Something wasn't adding up. Why was Heimoff at a Mr. Universe pageant? Trying for that 100 point score?


Now what? I was lost in reverie, which is just north of Geyserville, in other words, nowhere, but it seemed someone was addressing me. Probably "Return to Sender."

It was Veronica. She acted a little surprised to see me. She was looking at me like she expected me to be in jail, which is how most women look at me. But I'd never been behind bars, except the ones covering my eyes in all those Internet photos. Her gaze didn't exactly make me feel comfortable, but I didn't let on. I was too busy staring at Veronica's breasts and wondering if they had names. The word "Jeroboam" kept jumping into my head. How many splits in a Jeroboam? In her case, one glistening split.

"What are you doing here, Hosemaster?" she asked me in an innocent tone of voice reminiscent of Sarah Palin talking about death panels as if they were were her panty shields.

"Recuperating from a nasty blow to my Melon."

"Well, it could have been worse."

"How's that?" I bit.

"Your Melon could have been mistaken for your Pinot Blanc and then where would you be?"

"I don't know," I said, "Clone College?" I was making an incredibly stupid joke that I wasn't sure even the midget would get, one of my probable brain damage jokes, but I was impressed that Veronica was aware that much of the Pinot Blanc planted in California had turned out to be Melon. Maybe she could actually pass the M.S. exam if I could get her an interview. But why did she want to? She could clearly make a lot more money than a sommelier. As Lorna might have, come to think of it.

"Buy a girl lunch?"

"Sure," I said, " you're the one paying for my time."

"Well," Veronica said, "I like a guy willing to play with his clock. What should I order?"

"Have what I've been having all day," I suggested.

"What's that?" she bit.

"Red Herring."

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?

Benovia 2006 Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard Anderson Valley

Regular readers, and even those with constipation, will recall that I have a fondness for the Pinot Noirs from Benovia, a relative newcomer in the Russian River Valley. I don't recall the origin of the name "Benovia," though the fact that it's an anagram for "A Bovine" leads me to believe it's got something to do with cows, which is udder nonsense. Though for awhile I thought Benovia was the prescription drug Sally Field was taking for her calcium deficiency. Turns out that's Crow. Doesn't matter. Benovia, with Mike Sullivan at the helm, is producing compelling wine. He went outside of Sonoma for this beauty, all the way to Philo and the famous Savoy Vineyard, a vineyard whose grapes don't come cheap. They cost a lot of Philo dough. The appeal of the Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs is their complexity and delicacy. In the 2006, it's blackberries and orange peel with an undertone of earthiness and minerality. I like a Pinot Noir that's like this--the prettiest girl in the room, but completely in charge. That says more about me than the wine, I guess, but if you're able to spend $55 on wine these days, here's a winery worth exploring.

Disclaimer: I am not now, and have never been, a member of the Communist Party. I have no interest in Benovia Winery, but if I did I wouldn't tell you anyway.