Lately I'd been in more cavities than Mike Tyson's dentist. I was holding the three slips of paper in my hand, Veronica gently weeping in the background, and thinking, Well, I always wanted to be a crack detective. Be careful what you wish for. We like to think that the Universe is benevolent but I've always found that it's a vicious practical joker. Turns out God is an old Jewish man named Allen Funt. Lorna had found that out. She'd come to Healdsburg to get a couple of letters behind her name, pursuing her dream of becoming an M.S., and that's what the ol' Practical Joker had given her. A Murder Suppository. Smile, You're on Candid Chimera.
But somehow the killer had made a mistake and put Lorna's message in my dumpster and mine in hers. That seemed like an honest mistake. I have a nice ass. And that was certainly Lorna's strong suit. So the difference was strong suit and hirsute, but apparently in haste to escape, Lorna's murderer hadn't noticed. It didn't matter. But how many damn sisters did Veronica have?
Avril Cadavril was replacing the morgue sheets over the dead girls. Veronica was still crying a bit, her nose running all over Jessica's uniform. Something seemed to be going on between Jessica and Veronica, a strange chemistry had developed that was making me uncomfortable. But grief can do that to people. I'd had my share of grief, sunk to the sort of depths that only slime and wine bloggers can survive, and it had made me do all kinds of foolish things. Slow dancing with Robert Lawrence Balzer at the Wine Spectator Experience. Proposing marriage to Kevin Zraly (he said Yes, you're my Window on the World!). A menage a trois with Paul Prudhomme. But this felt somehow different. While the three ladies were distracted, I once again slipped out.
My entire investigation seemed to be going around in circles. All Veronica had hired me to do was to get her an interview for an M.S., get her into the exams that were scheduled for a few days from now. I'd been distracted by a midget, Tiny, Allen Funt and a couple of dead girls. I hadn't even been able to contact the thugs that ran the M.S. program. I'd been coldcocked in Les Mars Hotel and busted in a public rest room. So, all in all, the same old routine.
When I opened the door to my office I found I had visitors. Fugly the midget was sitting on my couch. Wait, I don't have a couch. Fugly was sitting on Tiny's lap, his Jimmy Buffett shirt made Tiny look like he'd been upholstered in a Roman vomitorium. And standing next to them was an unfamiliar character, but he smelled like a sommelier. You know, cheap suit that had just come back from the dry cleaner. He probably should have taken it out of the plastic before he put it on. But that's an M.S. for you, more plastic than anything else. But I was more concerned about Fugly. He was pointing a gun at me. Just once I'd like to meet a midget who wasn't sitting on a fat guy and packing a piece.
"I hear you're looking for me," the Man from Glad said.
"I don't even know who you are. But I can guess. You're a Master Sommelier, one of the examiners. Yeah, I'm lookin' for you. I just finished conducting exams on two of your candidates. Turns out they both passed. They both passed notes. Who are you? What's your name? What the hell are you doing in my office with Fat Man and Little Boy? I've seen enough dead bombshells for one day."
"You're right, HoseMaster, I am a Master Sommelier. My name is Larry Anosmia. Our friend Tiny here said that you were looking for me, for the M.S. judges. And it seems you've been busy knocking off all of our leading candidates. Just what is it that you want?"
I lunged for the pompous prick, but I stopped when I heard Fugly cock his gun. "I didn't kill those two women, but I think you know who did. And call off your midget before I pour cocktail sauce on him and throw him in the Cyrus dumpster for Tiny. Tiny loves a shrimp cocktail."
Anosmia turned to the midget and said, "It's OK, Mr. Teebagger, you can put away the gun. We're not here to cause any trouble for the HoseMaster." Fugly, or Mr. Teebagger as it turns out, put his gun away. "Now, HoseMaster, what is it you want from us?"
I strolled past Tiny and Mr. Teebagger and sat down behind my desk. Anosmia hadn't moved, he was just casually standing there in the way that sommeliers do, smirking like I'd just ordered a bottle of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from a poor vintage. Any of them.
"I have a client. Her name is Veronica. She knows a lot about wine and she hired me to get her into your exams next week for M.S. That's all I wanted to do, get her an invite."
"Well, HoseMaster, you didn't have to kill a couple of candidates to make an opening for her. This Veronica, I'm sure she didn't hire you for that."
I just stared. "I don't know who murdered those girls, but it wasn't me. And what killed them was their idiotic desire to line your pockets with money so you'd give them two letters after their names, two letters they thought would help them be somebody in the wine business, two letters they thought might validate their passion for wine, make people admire them, come to them for wine advice. Two letters that proved they know about wine. Shit. It's all shit. All it got them was an early trip to the Jim Jones Tasting Room, a permanent position at Copia, a reviewer's job at Wine and Spirits Magazine...Death. But you and the rest of your M.S. poseurs, the fake Gucci bags of wine connoisseurs, the counterfeit Rolexes of the wine world--hell, an M.S. is just fake tits for wine lovers--you'll just keep on taking money for your meaningless letters, your bogus degree, your manufactured status. The whole thing is a scam, and an ugly one, and now it's cost two lovely women their lives and I'm going to find out what's going on and I'm going to take you and all your fucking M.S. midgets down..."
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."