Wednesday, February 24, 2010
My recent rise in readership that came about because of the San Francisco Chronicle article has been rather disconcerting. Mostly because I wasn't aware San Francisco even had a daily newspaper. I get all my news from The Christian Science Monitor. His name is Mary Baker Eddie, and he stands outside monitoring the Christian Science Reading Room in Healdsburg. Want to have some fun? Go into a Christian Science Reading Room with a gaping flesh wound. They'll give you something to read for it, usually a year-old Wine and Spirits Magazine with a fascinating article by Patrick Comiskey on great Northwestern United States Clamato Juice cocktails. (One cocktail was even named for a noted food writer--the James Bearded Clam.) Oh, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, it's been rather a whirlwind few days, lots of Internet chatter about having me be a suicide bomber at the next Wine Bloggers Conference (they'd strap bottles of Korbel Brut to my body rigged to explode whenever Alder Yarrow congratulates himself--so, right off the bat), many more hits than usual on HoseMaster of Wine (the blog, not me), and, thankfully, a lot more hate mail! Here are a few chosen from the ol' mailbag. Suicide blogger bomber
Dear HoseMaster of Stupidity,
We've never met, but we will. I'm the wine buyer for Hell, and I have a few bones to pick with you regarding your recent insulting remarks about my customers and my by-the-glass program. First of all, where does an imbecile like you get off taking shots at Robert Mondavi and the Gallo brothers? They were making California wines cheap and famous, keeping their thumbs on the backs of migrant workers and underpaying small farmers, before you were out of diapers, which, by the way you smell, must have been an hour ago. What does an incontinent blogger wear to bed? Depends. Get it? Like the undergarment, not "it depends." Plays better in Hell.
I was talking to Bob and Ernie and Julio at the bar last night. They were having a drink with Parker and Fred Franzia, who isn't dead, but has a second home here when it gets too hot in Bumfuck, California, where he lives. I was gently pulling their fingernails out and waterboarding them (at the suggestion of Dick Cheney, who had one foot in the door here last night but got called back--what a great guy!) not with water, but with Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, which is exactly the same, I guess. Anyhow, they think you should treat them with more respect. I told them that you're a douchebag, in fact, a douchebag for Joan Rivers, and that they'll get their whacks at you when you arrive here, which is undoubtedly sooner than you think. I'm not supposed to say anything, but that liver of yours is about as functional as Charlie Sheen. But maybe it's not too late for you if you back off now and lay off my boys. They don't mind the waterboarding, but they're very sensitive to criticism.
And I do not serve Lodi Zin or Gruner Veltliner by the glass, dimwit. Satan hates that shit. He's happy to see humans drink it while they're alive, but he doesn't want that in his house. I have a very interesting by-the-glass list that consists of about thirty different wines that I've carefully chosen from reviews by the most pathetic wine bloggers working! I tried to select worse wines, but, hell, oops, heck, I'm just not that good at touting crap. But BrixChicks and WineHarlot and WannabeWino take all the work out of it for me! You should see the look on Parker's face when he has to drink a glass of each. You'd think he'd died and gone to Hell, which he has. In fact, now that I think about it, taking their wine recommendations is exactly like waterboarding yourself.
So stop writing about things you don't know anything about, HoseMonster of Wine. Hey, nice article in the Chronicle!
Wine Buyer, Michael Mina Restaurants and Hell
Hey Laughing Boy,
So I travel to Napa Valley, where the children of God own wineries, to attend the Wine Wroters (past tense--pretty clever, right, and why I get the big bucks) Symposium, which they tricked me into attending, by the way, by promising that I wouldn't have to listen to the Ethics Panel discussion, which, as it turned out, was actually about how to avoid having any ethics, which is what wine writers really want to know, and where do I end up at dinner that night? Well, you know where, across from you. I had to turn down invitations from some of the most powerful people in the wine world (aside from me, of course), like 1WineDude--hey, I could have had dinner with 1WineDude, dammit, except it turns out French Laundry doesn't have a children's menu. Which is odd. How do they serve the winery owners' wives? Anyway, I could have spent an evening with Charlie Olken! Yes, the Charlie Olken. Have you read this guy's comments? He's funny like one of those robots on Mystery Science Theater 3000! I could have had dinner with Steve Heimoff. Well, OK, that's never gonna happen. But instead I end up with you and Alfonso. Alfonso told me we were meeting somebody talented and famous. I was sure he meant James Laube. How many people get to actually meet James Laube?! Laube's the J.D. Salinger of wine writing, if J.D. Salinger were boring and incapable of writing an interesting sentence. But instead Alfonso plays a big practical joke on me and you show up! I haven't had such a boring evening since I watched every episode of WineLibraryTV that isn't gibberish. Both of them.
I'm sure our paths will never cross again and Alfonso can kiss his wine career goodbye. The two of you ruined my trip like a visit to the tasting room at Castello di Amorosa (though I loved her on "The Apprentice!") But, hey, nice article in the Chronicle!
The World's Most Famous Wine Writer
Dear Mr. Washam,
What have poodles ever done to you that you constantly compare them to wine bloggers? I'm sick of it. You make me sick, and your blog makes me want to hurl up my Ken'L Ration. Poodles are honorable and noble beasts, loyal and honest, faithful and intelligent. Does that sound like a blogger to you, pinhead? Go ahead, name one who could be described like that. Gets a little sticky with that honest and honorable stuff, doesn't it? And poodles are hypoallergenic! Ever been in a room with Tom Wark? Oh my God, the guy sheds like a garter snake. Your stupid quote about wine blogging as "the attention barking of lonely poodles" is gratuitously insulting to poodles, and, beyond that it's incredibly stupid. You're a misanthropic moron. You tear everything down and do nothing to contribute to any conversation about wine. And you make fun of poodles! Every poodle on the planet is superior to you, and most beagles too. Why, the world would be a better place if, in fact, wine bloggers were poodles. Hell, they sniff each others butts enough!
But, hey, nice article in the Chronicle!
PS--I had drinks last night with Mondavi, the Gallos and Fred Franzia. They said to say,"Hi, your table is ready."
Monday, February 22, 2010
Whenever I refer to wine books for information about the many and varied varieties of vitis vinifera I never find anything useful. They tell you where it's most famously grown, they tell you some imaginary aromas that the wine supposedly possesses, they tell you other names for it, but what does that get you? You can't impress your wine ignorant friends with that sort of knowledge. They are so impressed that you have a wine blog, you can't appear clueless! They turn to you for recommendations of the cheap crap that corporate-owned wineries send you for free. (Wow, is William Hill Chardonnay really that good?! It must be, it has Phthalates listed on the label ingredients!) They trust you! They buy all their wines based on your "I can't really be bothered to actually say something useful" 140-character Tweets about the free samples you receive. So now that you're up for an American Wine Blog Award (the equivalent of a Smiley Face on your sixth grade spelling test) it's time you learned a little bit more about the grapes that make the wines we love. Useful stuff this time, not that tired old Jancis Robinson crap.
What are we looking for when we taste a Chardonnay? Me, I'm looking for an excuse not to like it. I'm Simon Cowell and every Chardonnay is a contestant on "American Idol." I'm a Republican and every Chardonnay is a National Health Care plan. I'm Hugh Hefner and every Chardonnay is ah...um, I forget...what was it, um, where's my fucking Viagra? Everyone tries not to like it, but it's still wildly popular. Like airport security.
Interesting Chardonnay facts:
They try to sell the crappy ones by calling them "Burgundian." This is perfectly appropriate as a way to insult the French, who so richly deserve it.
Chardonnay is considered one of the Noble Grapes. This was 19th Century marketing. It's no more noble than French Colombard except that it denies its nationality. I much prefer German Colombard, which nearly destroyed London in WW II.
Chardonnay is particularly suited for seafood. Tuna drink it by the boatload.
Other Names for Chardonnay:
Sauvignon Blanc is only used as cocktail wine because it goes lousy with food. OK, it goes fine with food, but nobody serves it with dinner because it's too cheap. It's also known as Fume Blanc, a name Robert Mondavi made up in order to sell it, which has confused everyone since and is but one of the reasons he is now in Hell with Ernest and Julio and forced to drink Gruner Veltliner. (Which is what they serve by the glass in Hell, unless you want red, in which case it's Pinotage. It used to be Zinfandel but they ripped it out because it's hotter in Lodi.) Were it not for Sauvignon Blanc there would have been no reason to invent the Stelvin.
Interesting Sauvignon Blanc facts:
The best New Zealand versions can remove your pet's carpet accidents.
It is commonly blended with Semillon in order to find something useful to do with stupid Semillon.
Sauvignon Blanc is the major white grape of the Loire Valley. This isn't funny.
Other Names for Sauvignon Blanc:
Puckerface (often "Fuckerpace")
Everybody talks about Riesling as a great white wine, but nobody drinks it. So whatever you say about it, how it tastes and smells, doesn't matter, no one's going to drink it anyway. But it comes in a cool bottle and the German ones feature a word puzzle on every label! Riesling often has residual sugar as a trap to try and make Americans like it, but it doesn't work because it doesn't taste sweet really. So how stupid are Riesling producers? Riesling likes to grow where it's cold, so around Andrea Immer's house.
Interesting Riesling facts:
The traditional Riesling bottle is called a "hock" because so many people try to pawn off Rieslings on people.
German Rieslings are categorized according to the sugar levels in the must. The must is like the grape's taint, only sweet. The basic category is Kabinett, which has lower sugar levels and is named for where you store your German wines so nobody sees that you have them. The sweetest sugar level wines are labeled Trocaderobeerandpretzels and often cost more than a Volkswagen Jetta--though they are more dependable.
Rieslings are said to go well with Asian cuisines. Morons say this.
Other names for Riesling:
Other White Wines (wine lists)
Friday, February 19, 2010
Special Edition: L'Ecole No. 41
L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Luminesce Seven Hills Vineyard
L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Syrah Seven Hills Vineyard
L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Merlot Seven Hills Vineyard
L'Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
L'Ecole No. 41 Apogee Pepper Bridge Vineyard
L'Ecole No. 41 Estate Perigee Seven Hills Vineyard
The courageous and talented people at L'Ecole No. 41 sent the HoseMaster six bottles of their Walla Walla Valley wines for review. Man, it's like I'm a real wine blogger now. My initial idea was to taste them Vornography style--taste all six in nine minutes and give them a number. If it's good enough for the American Wine Blog Award's Best Wine Blog winner, it's good enough for me. But I didn't really have that much time to devote to the wines. Or I thought I should taste them and then try to think of what music went best with them. That's what people searching the Internet for wine recommendations really want. Wines just plain taste better with the appropriate music; and it's just plain laziness and lack of caring that keeps major wine critics from matching wine and music. It's not that it's stupid, it's not, it's not! Really. What would be stupid is matching wine with magic tricks, that would be stupid. Sangiovese and Sawing a Woman in Half. What goes better with wine from Abruzzo than 3-Card Montepulciano? Oh, they want to know what song to listen to, and what kind of closure the bottles have. I'm pretty sure all the L'Ecole wines had corks because when I tried to unscrew the tops I kept turning the bottle upside down and nothing came out! So I'm guessing there are corks involved. If you buy a bottle and it doesn't have a cork, it's probably a fake. If it's in a plastic container, you're probably confused and you've purchased L'Ecole slaw.
I have a long history with L'Ecole. I often put their wines on my wine list in my glory days as a sommelier and buyer (now I'm just another washed up wine guy with a blog--at a dime a dozen we are vastly overpriced). From the beginning, their wines have been very good. And I am of the opinion that Walla Walla is one of the great winegrowing regions in the world for the Bordeaux varieties, and, to a lesser extent, Syrah as well. As the vineyards mature, and as the very capable winemakers get to know them more intimately, though, please, wear a condom or you'll find out exactly why they call it "Pierce's disease," the wines of Walla Walla Valley will surely begin to rival the best wines of Napa Valley and Bordeaux. They're close now, and at the prices for which many of them are being offered, they are bargains.
L'Ecole 2008 Luminesce is a blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc, which adds up to a perfect 100%! How do they do that? The Luminesce was my least favorite wine of the six. It was too much of a good thing. I liked the aroma of honeysuckle and beeswax that called Semillon immediately to mind (I know, mind my own beeswax). But I think the texture of the wine was a bit cloying for my palate, too much Rachel Ray, not enough Dorothy Parker. According to the notes, 30% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation and perhaps that's what I tasted; but in any event, it is well-made, even above-average wine that I think many folks, fans of a rich and oily style of white wine, will love. $20
L'Ecole 2007 Estate Syrah has far more in common with big, chewy California Syrah than anything you're likely to find in the Rhone Valley. I love Syrah, and I really love great Syrah. Great Syrah has something wild and untamed about it, like a woman you meet in a bar late at night who just can't keep her hands off you, who doesn't care if you understand her she just wants to be consumed by you, sniffed and swirled and spit out at the end, like you're judging her in a competition but can't stop sampling her, can't stop using your tongue to consume her, you can feel the hair on the back of your ears starting to tingle, the balls of your feet start to itch, that feeling you get when you watch Glenn Beck, the slight sickness of the stomach, she's really making your meat compass point due north...and then she's gone and you want her again. Damn, I have to stop reading Samantha Sans Dosage.
The L'Ecole '07 Syrah kept improving in my glass. At first it was a bit too much for me, a bit too rich and fat. But it sported Syrah's signature bacon and smoke aromas layered among dark red fruit, so I hung with it. By the end of the evening it had won me over. Had I only tasted it when it had just been opened, I would have dismissed it as the proverbial pig in lipstick--my high school prom date. But sitting with this wine over the course of a meal and the evening beyond, I was won over. It kept gaining richness and complexity, and it had admirable length the entire evening. This is not the wine for fans of the white pepper, cool climate Syrah, but it succeeds gracefully on its own level and promises to be fabulous in another six or seven years. $37
The L'Ecole 2007 Estate Merlot contains 81% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc, once again hitting the amazing 100% mark! It's uncanny how they do this! But, really, why is it we need a damned math degree to understand wine? Anyway, now that my head has stopped spinning, I can still remember the fuss with which L'Ecole's Merlot was greeted when it first appeared on the scene. For a time there, back in the late 1980's, it was highly sought after, allocated Merlot. Of course, that was when Merlot was the cool wine to drink, the darling of restaurants and wine shops. Now it's the Meg Ryan of varieties. Used to be hot, now no one cares. But judging from this wine, L'Ecole still cares, and they still make wonderful Merlot. This wine gives me just what I want from Merlot. It's seamless and satisfying, with an array of black fruit flavors with just a bit of green olives and earth on the finish. Badmouth Merlot like it's your creepy aunt who smells like a urinal cake, go ahead, but in this case you'll be missing out on a delicious bottle of wine. $37
The L'Ecole 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon! OK, that seems like cheating. This is nice wine, but I actually liked the Merlot better. But, like all of the six L'Ecole wines I tasted, it hits the varietal nail on the head. So you get Cabernet Sauvignon's deep, dark, rich, black fruit with cassis and tobacco notes that stand up to the firm tannins. It was a bit understuffed, I thought, kind of clunky, like watching a white guy dance. And where the other reds all struck me as examples of how great Washington wine can be, the Cabernet is good, but not up to that level. So, to sum up, damn nice wine, but in this stellar lineup, it's the figure skater from Costa Rica. $40
The 2006 L'Ecole Apogee is 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 8% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc. Come on, you can add faster than that. Bingo! Damn, those folks at L'Ecole make it look easy. "Apogee" is the point in the orbit of the moon that is the greatest distance from the earth. That's what the tech sheet says. I was sure it was "Eatin' good in the neighborhood." Here's a wine that represents what I was talking about earlier, the astounding quality of the wines from Walla Walla Valley. This gorgeous wine has everything going for it--balance, integrity, intensity, mouthfeel, length. I don't' know why you wouldn't want to drink this wine. There's something about a great wine that taps you on the shoulder the minute you taste it and says, "Is this seat taken?" What the hell does that mean? I don't know, ask the Apogee. I just hear voices when I drink really interesting and wonderful wines, but that's because I'm off my meds. The '06 Apogee is dark and spicy, beautifully integrated and very supple. Yeah, I know few of us are drinking wines in this price range, but Apogee is one of the few wines I've had lately worth its price tag. $50
The L'Ecole 2006 Estate Perigee is 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. That's 100%, folks. Can that just be coincidence? Amazing. Perigee is the closest point to the earth in the moon's orbit. Not that thing that's winking at you when someone moons you. It is also damned fine wine. What Our Moon has to do with wine, I don't know. Well, actually, it implies the sustainable vineyard practices at Seven Hills Vineyard which may include planting and harvesting by the appropriate phases of the moon. Like avoiding harvest during a full moon so as not to step on the grunion. Old timey wisdom like that. Well, it sure worked here. I loved this Perigee. Again, it would be hard to find a lot of Napa Valley Cabernets this good at this price point. But they're not making wines in Walla Walla to compare them to Napa Valley. That would be futile and foolish. They simply found a magnificent site for Bordeaux varieties and set out to see how those varieties expressed themselves along the Columbia River. And in the Perigee we taste proof of the pedigree and brilliance of Walla Walla Valley. Bold but balanced, rich and fabulously graceful, it overflows with cassis and dark berries tinged with a bit of classic Cabernet tobacco. And the finish goes on and on like this post. Dazzling and elegant. $50
I must say that it was a pleasure to drink each of the L'Ecole No. 41 wines. In all of the rush to discover the new in wine, it is a good thing to stop and spend some time with the classics.
The HoseMaster Scores: L'Ecole No. 41
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
You can order these beauties here.
Disclaimer: I'm 86% dead certain, 9% pretty sure, and 4% sober. Dammit! Just missed!
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I spoke at the Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium yesterday right after Eric Asimov and before the Dean of Wine Writers, Dean O'Weinrighters. I am unaccustomed to public speaking so I spoke on condition of anonymity, a condition I've suffered from ever since I started HoseMaster of Wine. I received a warm round of applause from the distinguished group of writers, bloggers and Trekkies in attendance, though it was hard to tell the Trekkies from the bloggers, except that the Trekkies were better dressed. I'm not sure why the Trekkies were there--maybe Alder Yarrow had posted about the event on Facebook.
Here are some excerpts from my enthusiastically received speech.
"Four score and seven years ago our Forefathers brought forth upon the incontinent a new nation, Prohibition, conceived in sobriety and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created evil. Had we listened to our forefathers we wouldn't need a Wine Writers Symposium, we wouldn't need a Napa Valley, we wouldn't need to get up at four AM and urinate. Prohibition set the wine industry of the United States back a hundred years, and, now, wine writers and fellow bloggers, we have successfully managed to do the same."
"When writing about wine I have found it useful to simply use the same words over and over. Find yourself some words you like and just rearrange them cleverly every time you review a wine sample. The words don't really matter just so long as they're descriptive and relatively vague. For example, words like 'hedonistic.' When it comes to wine, it doesn't really mean anything, so it's safe and indisputable. And one of the things that is most important to being a successful wine writer is the misuse of language for the purpose of further mystifying people who want to understand wine. 'Hedonistic' means to be self-gratifying in the pursuit of pleasure. A wine can't be hedonistic, it can't pursue pleasure, but that's the point! It sounds like you're wise and literate and have an interesting palate. There are many words like this you can use. Try to think of words that generally describe people, maybe even wine writers in general. 'Unctuous' comes to mind, but then, it would, I'm looking at 1WineDude. How about 'brooding,' 'seductive,' 'lugubrious,' 'fulsome,' prevaricative?' Wines can be all of those things, right? Apply these words generously and often in your wine reviews and soon you'll be receiving wine samples by the dozens, and perhaps an even more meaningful gift. A dictionary."
"As I gaze around the room I see many of our foremost wine bloggers. I applaud you for your hard work and humility. As I peruse the wine blogosphere I see so much that is good and right about wine blogs. You are the saviors of our friends here in Napa Valley, our friends producing expensive Cabernet Sauvignon, as you are the saviors of wine from all over the world. Your posts have propelled wine sales in these difficult economic times to heights unimaginable without you and your reviews and your points. Because, God knows, if you want to reach the people who can afford $150 bottles of wine, if you want to reach the people for whom the Recession only means their hairline, if you want to access their deep pockets, what better way than a wine blog or Facebook or Twitter? That's all these rich folks do! They don't have to work; they just sit at their laptops and chat on Facebook, and read wine blogs, and Tweet. And when a Friend, an amazing Facebook Friend, a Friend one can genuinely trust, recommends a wine to one of them, well, it doesn't take a genius to see that a sale has just been made. Chalk up another grateful winery! Social Media is here to stay. It has and will continue to save our precious wine business. It's so obvious."
"Most of all, wine writers and bloggers, continue your faithful pursuit of mediocrity. Resist the urge to say something interesting or unique. Find the good in every wine, every free sample; resist the urge to be critical, to bite the hand that strokes you. Continue to give yourselves awards, though mediocrity is its own reward, because awards have no meaning, and having no meaning is the very purpose of what we do. Announce yourself as a wine writer with pride! You are a dying breed, the last of what was once a proud profession, an elite few now diluted down to the cacophonous, ignorant many, thoughtful and educated experts now drowning in the great septic tank that is the Internet. Your days are numbered, your newspapers are dying, your magazines are tired and hypocritical and in the last stages of rigor mortis, your voices are no longer relevant--but you endure! You have Symposia! You start your own blog! You can, once again, Be Somebody!"
Exit to thunderous standing ovation...
Friday, February 12, 2010
A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic
Chapter 12 With a Madman Behind Me
I woke up thinking that the sound of the gun firing had reminded me of the sound made by a 1975 Salon Champagne opened by an incompetent M.S., its precious contents spewing into the white napkin he had wrapped around the bottle like a llama horking at an innocent bystander at the zoo, at the first anniversary dinner my first wife and I shared at a snooty restaurant in Los Angeles, if that isn't redundant. But then I remembered that Salon didn't produce a Champagne in 1975, and that I didn't make it to a first anniversary with my first wife. In that vintage, Salon didn't need a cage, and neither did I. I'd been spewing into white napkins ever since.
I checked myself for gunshot wounds. Luckily, I hadn't been shot since I was a sommelier and refused to put Rancho Zabaco on my wine list. But that had been worth it. This was a stupid case that had somehow turned violent and deadly. Once again I wondered why I'd ever become a private dick. I'd had everything when I was a sommelier. A ten-year-old car, a drinking problem, a liver the size of a Wurlitzer organ, bad breath, a luxurious apartment above a crack dealer and prestige. What sort of a fool gives that up to be a private dick? No wonder everyone wanted to earn an M.S. There's real glamour in it, the glamour of imaginary accomplishment, the glamour of knowing the bottom of a spitbucket better than your partner's face, the glamour of free trips to romantic far-off lands with other drunks and losers, the glamour of knowing about obscure varieties of grapes and boring the crap out of everyone extolling their virtues, the glamour of wearing a brightly polished tastevin around your neck like you're Sammy Davis, Jr in whiteface. I'd given that prestigious life up for the life of a dick. Why? I guess because people like dicks. Women, especially, like dicks. Where would the world be without dicks? It's a dick world. I like saying dick.
I had a lump on the back of my head the size of Lance Armstrong's remaining testicle. Great. Someone had whacked me on the back of the head again. Only this time the gun had gone off. The jerk hadn't had the safety on, apparently, and the gun's impact with my beleaguered head had caused it to inadvertently discharge like a guy with P.E. at a Women in Wine conference. I was getting tired of this. I'd had my head banged around recently like I was an NFL lineman, and I wasn't excited about the idea of spending my last days drooling like a Saint Bernard and calling everybody Deacon. This case was getting to me.
I was alone in my office. I must have been out for a while. Damn. I'd missed the midget running. I could have used the laugh. And Tiny was gone too, though the floor was still warm where he'd been posing as Fugly's divan, warm enough to have made a fine Madeira, though if I wanted oxidized wines I could shop at Trader Joe's. Larry Anosmia, M.S. was gone too, but there was blood where he'd been standing. Seems the bullet had grazed him, maybe even caught him. I thought about calling Chief of Police Jokes, but I had a feeling I shouldn't. She was probably still comforting Veronica.
But who had hit me? It couldn't have been Fugly, Mr. Teebagger, I'd been hit from behind. The only explanation was that there had been another person in my office when I'd arrived, someone hidden in the coat closet slightly behind me and to my right, someone who'd been hiding there in order to assault me and who'd used my rant at Anosmia as the opportunity to sneak up behind me and use my head as a gong. Whoever it was had been nervous, an amateur, and no doubt part of the M.S. Conspiracy. Though accidentally shooting Anosmia wasn't going to score many points. Except with anyone who'd ever dealt with an M.S. before. They'd give him 100. With a bullet.
When the phone rang it scared the Temecula out of me. I was getting jumpier than a wine writer with ethics--well, if there were any they'd be jumpy. I didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the call at first, but then I realized it was Avril Cadavril, Butcher/Coroner.
"HoseMaster, I think you'd better get back here to the morgue. I've got something for you."
I was pretty sure she meant a drawer.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
It's been noted just about everywhere that the economic downturn hasn't slowed down the pace of wine drinkers, it has only led to them drinking cheaper bottles. I think this conclusively demonstrates that humans, for all of their interminable wine descriptions and snobbery, drink wine to get drunk. Not to taste the terroir, about as stupid a concept as exists in the wine business (OK, factor in about 43 elements to "terroir," swirl the glass, and then let your pathetically human olfactory senses and pedestrian tastebuds pick them all up, add them together, and come up with, Oh, this must be from the fucking Jura!), not to savor the purity and vividness of finely balanced, single-vineyard, highly allocated, David Abreu-managed, Philip Melkanized, Pope Michel Rolland-canonized grape juice, not to perfectly complement their exquisitely produced meal ("It's Shake and Bake, and I helped!"), but to get inebriated, to alter their mental state so that they don't have to think so much about their unemployment, their failed marriage, their stupid blog (OK, I'll cop to two out of three). Suddenly the only points that matter are the ones before the decimal point in the price. 14 is the new 98. We drink wine to get drunk, but in a classier way than just bellying up to the bar and drinking man shots of distilled whatever-the-hell-is-cheapest.
If you go to a wine tasting event at your local wine shop from one in the afternoon until five o'clock, you're a connoisseur, you're pursuing your newly discovered and oh-so civilized passion for wine! If you go to your local watering hole from 1:00 until 5:00, you're a stinking alkie. But the result is the same. You go home for dinner already drunk. Your passion for wine is most certainly a passion for the altered state of being pissed. I have no problem with that, in fact, I play a drunk on TV, but why all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds wine? Sure, when folks were paying $100 for a bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet, it behooved one to ooh and ahh about its aroma, its texture, its terroir, the beauty of its balance, how it opens up with air--you're trying to slow down the pinheads you stupidly opened the bottle for from guzzling more than their share. And it's so much cooler to get drunk on expensive wine! It actually does taste better. But right now folks are going for that solid 8.00 point wine instead of that stodgy old expensive 94 pt masterpiece. Why? Well, if we were so spoiled and our palates so easily offended by wines that only scored 82, wines we'd have turned our noses up to before we all had to chip in and bailout AIG, we'd give up drinking. But we don't really care. We drink wine to get drunk. Who cares about the score? What's the price?
And what will this do to point inflation in the wine media? There is point inflation, you know. It wasn't very long ago that 90 points was seen as a breakthrough score. 90 points now is threshold undrinkable. You wouldn't give Paris Hilton's vagina 90 points. (See photo--just kidding) Not in every publication, but in all of the ones that accept advertising, 90 points just doesn't cut it any more. Especially when my wine, which I heavily advertise in your magazine, is still languishing in its distributors' warehouses. I need more goddam points! You don't like it, fine! But if it used to be a 90, these days you'd better give it at least 95! And, as a bonus, all the shelf talkers in inept wine shops will carry your name and not your competitor's! Hmm, Connoisseurs' Guide gave it 88 points, worth a star, that's pretty good, but Wine and Spirits gave it 95...which score should I display? That's a headscratcher.
Wine publications don't just exist to please their advertisers, though that is the main reason. They also try to pander to their readers (if only so that they can charge higher advertising rates). So more and more inexpensive wines are going to get higher and higher scores, whether they deserve them or not. Scores mean nothing anyway, why not inflate them a little, give our readers a little ego boost? They can't afford the 95 point wine that costs $50, why not throw them a Beaune, a nice little Burgundy that sells for about $20? Two years ago it might have merited 86 points. But, hell, it'll sell more, we'll get our name in all their promotional material, our easily influenced, insecure readers will be happy, if we give it 91. But, we must not forget to repeat, over and over, ad nauseum, that our scores are strictly objective and fact-based--like in figure skating.
So the scores of cheaper wine will continue to creep up while the scores for luxury wine will stay about the same. Won't we all feel better? Of course we will, we'll be drunk. I can imagine the cover articles for various wine publications.
90+ Point Wines Under $15!
We're Still Hopelessly Inept, But We've Adjusted Our Scores Just For You
You Don't Have to Spend a Lot of Money to Get Drunk!
WE's Crack Editors Have Bonus Points For All 87 Subscribers!
Wine and Spirits
100 Wines Under $15 That You've Never Heard Of!
It's 90 Points If We Say So!
10 Ways to Get Your Girlfriend to Drink Cheap Wine
Hey, We'll Give You a Subscription and You Don't Even Have to Read this Junk!
Monday, February 8, 2010
I feel kind of confined by HoseMaster of Wine. Sure, it's brilliant comedy and, well, there's not a lot of that out there in the wine blogosphere, though LusciousLushes is hilariously inept. And sure I've won the Nobel Prize, a Pritzker, several Humanitarian awards, a People's Choice, an NBA MVP, and a coveted Psoriasis Society Biggest Flake Award, but I'll be honest, there are so many other bloggers I want to be, so many different kinds of blogs that I admire and want to emulate. So I'm thinking of starting a few more wine blogs. Hey, I'm basically unemployed, I've got the time, and, besides, as so many so aptly demonstrate, they don't take much work or thought.
I love the blogs that just review the stupid and virtually worthless samples that are sent to them. Listen, friends, here's a clue: When the cost of shipping the bottle exceeds the bottle's price, don't review it! It's crap, and the winery is fishing for a fool to slap their label on their wine blog, and you're the bottom feeder they've hooked. But I love the concept. Post after post about truly mediocre wine, every one praised as though it's the Second Coming of Yquem. I get the wine for free, I steal descriptions from the marketing material included with the bottle, and then I match it with a poem or a song or a porn movie, and, voila, I have a successful wine blog. One thing about the Internet--no shortage of stupid people reading it.
"The Ironstone 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon would be perfect with Vivid's 'The Hurt Licker.'"
If cyberspace can be said to be wasted, this species is the Cheech and Chong of wine blogs. I'd model mine after WineHarlots (please, for the love of God, I'm begging you, believe me, you MUST believe me, do NOT go there), which, if there were any justice, would be ground up and put in cow horns and buried in a BioDynamic vineyard. Here two sisters, equally ignorant about wine, review samples that seem to have been sent to them instead of The Dollar Store. Not only do they wax rhapsodic about these dogs in prose that is surely computer generated and stiffer than the lead actor in "The Hurt Licker," they feel the need to tell you what closure the bottle sports (no doubt because you wouldn't want to rush out and purchase a fraudulent bottle of this unmitigated piss), and they match the wine with music. So I'm supposed to believe that two women with very little in the way of discernment when it comes to wine know music? And, hell, am I supposed to chug the bottle in the four minutes it takes to play your crappy iPod selection, or do I just play it over and over until the wine is finished and my sanity deeply injured?
There are countless blogs out there like WineHarlots. I see them as the Special Olympics of Tasting Notes. I want in. I think WineBottomFeeder will be a huge hit.
So this would be my blog where I list lots of events going on in the wine world and act like I'm doing a public service by writing about them, tweeting about them, and posting them on my Facebook page, so I am generally responsible for their success. This gives me great feelings of self-importance. I get an email from someone putting on a wine-related event, I jot down the info on my blog, make it sound like it is of critical importance for everyone who loves wine to participate or read about it, and, there, I've got me a blog! You can do these posts in your sleep, and lots of bloggers do. The lastest conference on Social Media and Wine, you should go!! (Hey, if Social Media is so powerful, why do we have to have a conference? Can't we just do it from home, at our computers, on our iPhones? Do we have to go to some dumpy hotel to listen to Alder and Andy and Joe and Steve tell us how much influence they have? I already know how much influence they have--look at the dumpy hotel ballroom they're speaking in.)
Of course, a blog like this demands that you post five days a week. So keep those PR notices coming! Otherwise, I might actually have to have something to say. Have a stupid wine event? I'll publicize it! And then I'll tweet about it so that my 674 followers on Twitter can feel like they're important, that they're the very lifeline of existence without whom information simply does not exist, and I'll post it on Facebook because, well, that's where I go to reassure myself I have friends, really good friends, friends who would do anything for me. All of this proves I am important in the wine business, and, as we all know, importance translates into expertise. Not the other way around.
OK, I'm a little old to start this blog, but I can pretend. I play the part of a frustrated writer (my friends always tell me I'm so good at writing I should start my own blog! I wrote for my high school newspaper, you know) who has discovered his passion for wine. Join me on my journey of discovery! Why? Well, because it is so interesting and I have so much to say. Together we'll explore wine. And none of that icky European stuff, and nothing that costs much money. Frankly, tasting all of those expensive and great wines just ruins your palate and you can't really enjoy the kind of wines you can afford, so why bother? I've had lots of wines under $15 that I'd rate over 95 points! Why? Hell, it's easy when you don't know anything. That's why they call it a journey. But wouldn't you much rather enjoy a $12 bottle that gets 95 points than a $125 bottle that gets 96? And you can! Just join me as I discover the amazing world of wine! Here are just a few of the things you'll learn along with me:
Did you know Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape! They mean "old pinot" in Italian and French.
Did you know not all Gewurztraminer is sweet? I know! Neither did I? And the "w" is pronounced like a "v," just like in Der Wienerschnitzel--and they're a perfect wine and food match!
Did you know professional wine people spit wine out when they taste it?! Not me. That's just stupid.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Every January the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) throw a tasting in my honor at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I'm honored that they do this for me, I don't see myself as worthy of the honor, I'm just a humble blogger who is frequently given accolades, awards, free trips, free wine and inexplicable admiration from an industry that deeply admires sycophants. The theme of this year's ZAP tasting in my honor was "Alder Zin You Can Drink," and, as I do every year, I agreed to allow others in the industry, as well as every day people, to attend. I don't have to do this, but I feel that wine is best when it's shared, and, besides, it's really lonely being the best blogger in the country.
There were fewer wineries this year, which I was not happy about and someone will pay, believe me, but the good news is that it meant I only had 740 wines to taste so I'd have an extra hour to come home and post pretty pictures on my blog. I'd really like to post pictures of kitties, I love kitties, especially in ribbons, but that wouldn't be right so I post trite photos by Andy Katz--get it? Katz? I post pictures of Katz! And you wonder why I win wine blog awards!
I was honored by the 220 or so wineries who chose to pour me wine at ZAP. Part of the enjoyment I get out of this annual event (last year's theme was "We All Live in a Yarrow Submarine") is the time I get to spend with all my many friends that produce Zinfandel all over the state, and even the world! People even come from Italy and South Africa to pour wines for me, hoping for a coveted 9.5 to 10 score, which I only give to 40% of the wines I taste so they are really going against the odds. This year I was honored to spend 11 seconds talking to Joel Peterson, the heroic producer and founder of Ravenswood, 8 seconds tasting with Larry Turley, and a full 15 seconds reveling in the stories of Kent Rosenblum. Did you know he's a veterinarian? When Dr. Rosenblum tells you you're a horse's ass for claiming you can taste and rate 740 wines in a day, you know he knows what he's talking about!
I was also asked to moderate a panel about Zinfandel and Social Media the Friday before the ZAP tasting. I am often asked to sit on panels because I'm the most respected wine blogger in the country and I can answer many questions that prospective bloggers constantly ask. For example, I am often asked what has made my blog so successful. It's not that big a secret. What makes Vornography so successful is that most people can't tell the difference between being prolific and being good. Choose prolific. And, always, they want to know how to get wineries to send them free samples. Here's where my journalism background comes in handy. Puff pieces. Wineries love puff pieces about themselves and I do that better than anyone else blogging today. You can't go wrong writing fluff, being a fluffer, about a winery owner fulfilling a dream. They eat it up, they post it on their website, they tweet about it, and they send me every release of wine they ever produce hoping I'll flatter them again. It's essentially like taking candy from trust fund babies.
Tasting 740 wines in six hours is no big deal, but, obviously I'm not superhuman enough to also take tasting notes. That would be ludicrous and, frankly, arrogant. Besides, no one reads tasting notes, tasting notes are just filler, like the white stuff in Twinkies, it's just there to distract you from what really matters, the delicious cake outsides. And it's all Zinfandel anyway. You already know what Zinfandel tastes like, it tastes kind of like berries. All you need to know is what I think about the wines as reflected in my scores. You already know my taste in wine, you've been faithfully following my blog for more than six years now, and if you're new here, well, take it from all of my regular longtime readers, my scores are valid and meaningful and come from my astonishing seven years of experience tasting wines. You can tell how valid my scores are by all the winery people kissing my butt in the comments section. I list the 740 wines grouped by my vague scores in such a way that it enlightens you as to which Zinfandels are worth your hard-earned money. The ones at the top. They tasted the best. Trust me.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
When it comes right down to it, wine is trivial. Like just about everything I else I really love, from stained couch covers of the stars to merkins. One of the ways wine geeks demonstrate their superior wine knowledge over the average, everyday dipsomaniac is through trivia. So, as a public service (as opposed to a merkin, which is a pubic service), HoseMaster of Wine is providing these interesting and factual lists of wine trivia that will stump even the most pedantic wine snob.
Winemakers with Hooks
The Appellations of Napa Valley
Cave Envy Hillsides
No One Cares Peak
Left Bank Foreclosure
German Wine Designations
Failed Wine Closures
Homeless People's Earwax
Nipples from Bad Breast Reduction Surgery
Unobtainable Cult Wines
Domaine de la Roman Polanski (only underage drinkers)
Screaming Orgasm (call me for info)
Harlequin Estate (only clowns on the mailing list)
Manson Family Reserve (formerly of Polanski)
Sexual Activities Named for Wine
Warre and Cockburn
You Punch Down, I Pump Over
Napa Valley Wine Train
Spelunking Your Jarvis
Blue Nun and the Negroamaro
Defunct Wine Publications
Bordeaux and Beaver Monthly
M.S. for Dummies
The Wine Proctologist
The Wine Catheter
Other Names for Sangiovese
Important Wine Blogs