“Satire dramatizes better than any other use of it, the inherent contradiction of free speech that it functions best when what is being said is at its most outrageous”--Tony Hendra
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Wine Blogs and the Rose Parade
I'm seriously suffering from a nasty case of Holiday Hangover. I am so glad that the Holidays are over, the relentless thrum of Christmas and the false cheer of New Year's Eve. I'm starting to think Dick Clark is the perfect host for a New Year's Eve party. Aside from the fact that he gives new meaning to the phrase "stroke of midnight," that partial paralysis is exactly what I feel after all the celebrations, insipid Top Ten lists and obituary recaps. Just the thought of doing HoseMaster of Wine for another 12 months makes me nauseous, like I've just digested another post at Dr. Vino without proper sedation. Much of the discomfort I'm feeling is just post-Holiday melancholy. I wonder why I bother to continue writing my corrosive and largely ignored blog. What is it that drives me to sit down in front of a blank computer screen and try to come up with something halfway original several times a week? Why don't I just give in and be like most bloggers? Recycle winery press announcements like a brainless tool, review wines no one cares about in the least except the marketing cannibals that sent the free samples, spend most of my time commenting on other blogs in the vain hope that their readers will check out my blog and find out how fascinating and insightful my borrowed opinions are? (Give it up Nectarwine, your comments, like your blog, leave one yearning for less.) Why write original material when there's a world of pre-fab wine ideas to pretend are my own? Pride? Nah. You can't be the HoseMaster and have any kind of pride.
There is a constant drumbeat of criticism of California wines that goes, "California wines are too sweet and fruity while European wines are just right, and better with food." I won't debate that here. But my opinion is that if anything is too sweet, too sickeningly cloying, too much like saccharine, it's the vast majority of wine blogs. Ugh, they're sweeter than an episode of "Barney," and less articulate. I wonder if French wine blogs are as noticeably sweet, so incredibly simple. Perhaps I don't have an American wine blog palate, but taking in seven or eight of these blogs every day is certain to leave you in a diabetic coma that would make Aretha Franklin jealous. The complaint against sugar is that it leaves your senses dull, deadens the palate. Well, suck on a dozen wine blogs and try not to end up like Ariel Sharon. You might as well treat your senses to endless repeats of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"--you know Ellen, right, the flat-chested Mike Douglas? Wine blogs are filled with sweetness, way past the threshold of human endurance. Reading wine blogs is like watching the goddam Rose Parade--a succession of giant, lavishly decorated, self-important, artificially sweet, slow-moving creations that vanish from your memory the minute they turn onto Colorado Boulevard. Luckily.
Is it that new wine bloggers, eager to be read, be successful, emulate the most successful wine blogs and that's why most of them are about as entertaining as celery? Try this some time, read them aloud, see if they sound interesting then, or if they don't sound more like infomercials for stuff that is but days away from being landfill. Really, try this. Do it in your best voice, try it with a comic edge, hitting the punch lines with emphasis, selling the verbiage in your most professional reading voice. They are woefully dull, as if you're attending a reading of Henry James in Esperanto. Drives me nuts. And then a new blog appears and it's the same thing, only now it's Henry James in Navajo.
And, of course, now it's all about video podcasts, a la Gary Vaynerchuk. I don't know Gary Vaynerchuk, I've only viewed one or two of his podcasts, but the guy has singlehandedly put a stink on the whole wine business with his idiotic behavior, rudeness, insipid wine descriptions and all-star tribute to Mammon. But he's successful! Like Howard Stern and the guys who make Jackass movies! So let's give him awards, Wine Enthusiast! Glorify this kind of behavior! Why, it's bringing the masses to wine, educating them so that they can go out and know how to behave when it comes to tasting wine! And, hell, maybe if we hitch our minor league magazine to his star we can grab some of his audience! Dignity apparently died with Robert Mondavi.
But at least Gary has some presence, albeit obnoxious, on camera. All the newer wine video blogs, well, let's just say most of them validate why the United States doesn't allow prison executions to be televised. Watching people taste wine and then extemporize about it is about as interesting as listening to someone do a crossword puzzle. "Oh, what's a four letter word for what my opinion's worth? Starts with an 'S' and ends with a 'T.'" I do love the cheap sets however. Always makes me feel like I'm right there with them in the motel where they're hiding from the personality police.
Well, like I said, I guess the Holidays put me in a bad mood. Sorry. Forget what I just said. It's the morphine talking.
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."
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."