"It's difficult to soar with eagles when you walk with turkeys."--Jack Rollins
Monday, March 1, 2010
The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 2
Armed with just a few basic facts, and maybe a rifle, you can walk into any party of wine lovers and impress them with your knowledge. But where do you find those facts? Reference books give you their version of the facts, but when it comes to wine grapes these facts are shamefully incomplete. Sure, they have little illustrations of different grape clusters, but how boring is that? "Did you know that Zinfandel ripens unevenly, sort of like how Scarlet Johansson's left boob is smaller than her right." Who cares? Fortunately, my right hand is smaller than my left. Call me, Scarlet, we go together like Beaucastel and Brett. Anyhow, reading a book about grape varieties that's filled with stupid paintings of clusters is about as interesting as reading every Marvin Shanken "Letter From the Editor" in Wine Spectator. Marvin writes with all the flair of a turkey baster. So in Volume 2 of The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes I focus on a few of the better known red varieties. Take notes, there will be a short quiz later.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the easiest grape to understand. Think of it like a Frank Gehry designed winery--big and ugly. There seems to be something in Cabernet that mesmerizes humans. It's our desire for size instead of subtlety. So Celine Dion not Blossom Dearie. Five Dollar Footlongs, not dime-a-dozen six inches. Rush Limbaugh instead of truth. And, naturally, when we speak of great Cabernet Sauvignon we speak about elegance because it has none, but we're sure as hell determined to convince everyone it does. Cabernet is to elegance as Johnny Weir is to masculinity. Cabernet Sauvignon is useful in assessing wine lovers as well. If a friend's wine cellar is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, the person who assembled it knows about as much about wine as the average wine blogger. Insert joke here. In general, the best wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon command the highest prices of almost any of the varieties, so it's also a sign of intelligence, or lack thereof.
Interesting Cabernet Sauvignon facts:
Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended into the finest Italian wines in order to make them understandable to stupid American wine buyers. It almost never makes them better.
In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is best when aged in enormous caves, the bigger and more elaborate the better. You know what Freud said about caves, "They are big, wet and filled with strange life forms, and I love to store my cigar there." Freud preferred big Pinots. Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape of the Left Bank of Bordeaux. "Left Bank" is from the colloquial expression for what prestige-seeking buyers have done after a shopping spree in Pauillac.
Other names for Cabernet Sauvignon:
HMS Ti-Tannic Death Cab for Laube Athlete's Lafite Cab Salve
Zinfandel is known as America's Grape. This is thought to be praise. But consider that America's Team is the Dallas Cowboys. Losers. America's Sweetheart, Mary Pickford--dead. And, of course, the America's Cup--Shawn White's jockstrap. Fragrant with the smell of corporate money. Zinfandel is a bit like Mariah Carey, most people believe it's white. Zinfandel's heritage has been traced though Italy's Primitivo grape to the even lesser-known Mashie Niblick grape of Croatia. More people pretend to like Zinfandel than any other red grape. Once a year thousands of Zinfandel lovers gather at a large tasting called ZAP (for Zinfandel Alcoholics and Perverts) and demonstrate their love for the grape. The idea came from NAMBLA. Zinfandel remains the leader in being the wine most often offered by-the-glass and never ordered, making it the wine of choice for off-duty busboys.
Interesting facts about Zinfandel:
Zinfandels from the Sierra Foothills lack color and structure and character, yet still sell prolifically in tasting rooms. Here is where its high alcohol pays dividends.
The origin of the word "Zinfandel" is the word "Zahnfundl," which is Croatian for "Pass me the Syrah."
A TTB regulation forbids a Zinfandel with any character or flavor to be bottled with a proprietary name that features a pun with the word "Zin." These labels are designed to help dump the ocean of bad, unbalanced Zinfandel on the Special Needs Wine Buyers who won't know the difference anyway.
Other names for Zinfandel:
Techron Lodiarrhea Back Inventory Jamantha Sans Dosage
Merlot is the term for declassified Cabernet Sauvignon. It was made popular by the 2004 hit movie "Sideways," which starred Paul Giamatti as a pompous, wine-loving, balding loser--a transparent homage to the HoseMaster. Merlot is one of the five red varieties allowed in Bordeaux, making it the Gummo Marx of grapes. Merlot was once thought to be a separate variety, but genetic testing has proved it to be Cabernet Sauvignon with a limp. In Chile, Carmenere was mistaken for Merlot because it isn't any good either. Merlot was briefly the darling of Americans until it was discovered that it was shallow and found in all the wrong places, like Tiger Woods.
Interesting facts about Merlot:
The greatest wines of Pomerol are predominantly Merlot, which is the major reason the French don't list the grape varieties on wine labels.
Merlot is often associated with a weedy character and is an effective garden substitute for Round-Up.
Merlot is added to fine wines in order to lower the price. It acts as filler and is often referred to in the trade as grape Spam.
Other names for Merlot:
Chile Dog Mister Softie Cab Lite Floor Stack (Trader Joe's)
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."
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--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
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"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."