"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
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!"
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."