Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium Speech

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...


Eric V. Orange said...

I'm tearing up. Wish I could have been present at so sagacious a speech.
Bravo. Standing applause from the cheap seats.


abc said...

You have your words. I have lovely. I may need an intervention.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Great Post!
Great Speech!
Great Word Verification! (gotsor)

Thomas said...

Oh Hosemaster, you did something that only death can claim--made me speechless.

Hard to talk while laughing uncontrollableeeeeee.

Samantha Dugan said...

How could I have missed your speech?! I swear you are trying to avoid me....was it when Charlie offered to paint my toes? Did you put him up to that to get me out of the room?! Whatever...least I was able to read it here. You once again said what no one else is willing to, which is why I like love you and junk!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,

I'm just a few miles from where the Wine Writers Symposium is going on and I just couldn't resist.

Thanks. I actually had a wine last night that I described as "sagacious."

If anyone needs an intervention, it's me. And "lovely" suits you.

I had a blast with you at dinner before the Wine Writers Symposium. I'm sure your blog will be MUCH better after listening to all the experts. Amazing, considering your blog is already better than all of theirs.

Death makes you speechless? Hell, I'm not going.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I just spout off. I don't say what other people aren't willing to say, I just throw rocks. And the targets I'm throwing them at don't even know I exist. So it's just my trademark attention-barking.

Hey, where the hell did you leave Charlie?

I adore you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Leave him? You mean I have to give him back?! Dammit...

Thomas said...


Hell is where you are likely to go, speechless or not.

Question: Is there a difference between a wine writer's symposium and a wine blogger's conference?

Are writers also bloggers and bloggers also writers?

If so, why not an annual writgers conferposium to pare down to one useless meeting instead of two?

Charlie Olken said...

I have just come back from day 3 at the Wine Writer's Symposium.

Some guy with a funny haircut said he had dinner with you and Alfonso the other night. My, my. Hobnobbing with the big timers and not even owning up to it.

Four score and seven hours ago, Ron Washam was spotted having dinner with the world's most famous wine writer. And I am not talking about me or the late Mr. Parker. This is the guy that people are swooning to meet. This is the guy that every wit and dimwit in the place wants to have endorse their blogs the way he does yours.

Mr. Very Famous could not wait to tell me (me, of all people) that he had dinner with you. You. Hobnobbing with the elite.

Me, I was floored that he would even recognize me. Not that he remembered that he had met me before, but, still, he did come over.

But, Mr. Smarty Pants, here is one you cannot top. While I was standing there learning that you, not me, had enjoyed dinner with Mr. Big, up walks Alder Yarrow and introduces himself to me. Yes to me. Top that.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,

I kept wondering why no one in the crowd had said anything to me congratulatory after my electrifying speech at the Wine Writers Symposium, so I did some checking. Turns out I was at the Meadowood Retirement Home! My mistake. The crowd seemed appropriate. I could swear I spotted Balzer and Broadbent. Oh well, it was a helluva speech anyway.

It's a little embarrassing that the world's most famous wine writer squealed on me. I asked him not to brag about having dinner with me, but, there you have it, the wine cat is out of the proverbial bag. Alfonso was just there to translate. The three of us had a blast, by the way, killed a bottle of '89 Rayas, and I'd write about the evening but first I have to file for permission under the Freedom of Information Act.

Just to clarify, Charlie, isn't Alder the world's most famous wine critic? Or just the fastest? I read that somewhere--oh, that's right, I read it in Vinography. And, no, I can't believe you actually got to meet him! Wow, that's definitely a One Star meeting. And it ain't Yarrow.

Charlie Olkien said...

And for the record, the world's most famous wine writer had very nice things to say about the '89 Rayas and about Alfonso.

Somewhere on Steve Heimoff's FaceBook page, I believe, is a picture of me (yes, me--not you) bribing Steve Heimoff to have his picture taken with. You can't top that either because you were in the wrong retirement home.

This conference was for blog writers who do not know that you will soon be retired when it turns out that they spend enormous sums of money going to conference to learn how to make a little money writing about wine. And, then, to their amazement, they learn that none of the 1500 bloggers except Alder Yarrow are making any money.

By the way, Alder's little daughter (much cuter than her old man) is named Sparrow. I hope that is just her nickname.

Charlie said...


Make that read " Do not know that THEY will soon be retired "

Ron Washam said...


So the World's Most Famous Wine Writer (WMFWW) said nice things about the wine and Alfonso but left me out? Seems about right.

1500 wine bloggers?! There aren't even 1500 readers of wine blogs. Hell, I quit.

So was Alder's daugter named after Agnew?

Alfonso Cevola said...

you asked for them, here they are. Charlie asked me to help him find the missing links. I told him we were the missing links, all of us silverbacks - 1)Charlie Olken (aka Puff Daddy) paying for his comments on Steve Heimoff's blog #wws2010 - 2)Steve Heimoff "monetizing" his blog by receiving pay for comments from Charlie Olken (aka Puff Daddy)#wws2010

word verification: mario

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, Alfonso!

Hey, who's the beautiful woman behind Heimoff?

And where did Charlie get twenty bucks?

Charlie Olken said...

-->> Where did Charlie get $20?

From Alfonso. Who knows where he got it or why he gave it to me, but I had Steve Heimoff cornered and it seemed like a good time to pay him off so he would not ban me from commenting there the way he banned Tish, the Long Island socialite.

Alfonso Cevola said...

I have nothing to say except that this site has the best word verification words of any site

this time: Patanizi

(sounds like a napa valley winery)

Charlie Olken said...

There is a tag line to the Heimoff/Alfonso story.

The day after the payoff happened, I thanked Alfonso for the money he advanced me to make the payoff, and he told me that he got the money back from Heimoff. Not sure how he did that, and I hoping that Steve does not forget that the bribe was offered in good faith, sort of like the bribes that wineries give us wine writers under the table. $5 for a mention so long as you spell the name right.

$20 for every 90 point rating--which is why some writers never give scores under 90 points anymore. $100 for rating of 100, which is why those scores have become a lot more popular.

And $500 for scores above 100 points. So far, only the Hosemaster has taken the wineries up on that offer, and he is now doing it by the half dozen--as if they were oysters.

The word for this post is DIANESH. I know people who worship her.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I thought I saw a plate of Patinizi on your blog. Looked delicious.

Puff Daddy,

If I'd know there was so much money changing hands at the Wine Writers Symposium I would have attended. Of course, I'd have to go disguised as a Wine Writer since I'm not actually a Wine Writer. I'm sure a tip jar around my neck would do the trick.

I am going to attend the Wine Typers Symposium next month, which will be crawling with bloggers.

1WineDude said...

I was there, and it happened **EXACTLY** like that!!!