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."
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."