"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
Monday, April 12, 2010
A Visit to Bowie Teak Winery on Pritchard Hill
When he was just a teenager breaking into homes and surreptitiously licking the labels of rare Napa Valley Cabernets--oh, that first lick of Far Niente, the embossed label, the way it aroused his tongue and spoke of money, its intimations of grand wine country homes, trophy wives and ultimate disappointment--Bowie (Boo) Teak dreamed of one day charging $200 for a bottle of wine with his name on it. Boo and I sat down recently at his spectacular winery on Pritchard Hill to talk about his journey, his life, his love for wine, and the breathtaking vanity it takes to pursue such a dream. (I guess it's here I should briefly confess that Mr. Teak bought me lunch, provided me with samples of his wine and kissed me on the lips without my permission, which made it all the sweeter.)
If you're a man with Erectile Dysfunction, or maybe it runs in your family (usually on the mother's side), you owe a tip of your, well, hat to Boo Teak. Mr. Teak made his fortune curing men with E.D. with an invention he came up with after reading about Michel Rolland. Here's Boo's brief explanation from his famous website, Limpipedia, "It occurred to me that the cure for E.D. was a simple combination of Rolland's micro-oxygenation techniques and those pressurized aerosol cans they use to inflate flat tires. That's how my famous 'Boner in a Can' was born." Boner in a Can has gone on to sell millions and millions of units. "I always say business is tough," Teak told me, "but not when you make it hard."
As Teak's fortune grew, he was really able to pursue his passion for fine wine. "I'd licked the labels of the finest wines in the world, but I wanted more. I knew there was more to wine than just flashy labels, I just didn't know what it was. Then a friend of mine introduced me to a corkscrew. At first I thought it was just another way to cure E.D., but, frankly, I'd had better luck with an ah-so. In fact, I was often called an ah-so, but that's another story. When my friend showed me how to remove the cork and taste the stuff inside, I was mortified. What was in the bottle tasted so much better than what was on the bottle. Except for the Far Niente."
On a trip to Napa Valley, Boo visited some of the fanciest estates and was smitten. "Here were all of these wealthy people, people like me, people who had made their fortunes making sure people got screwed, living in showplace homes, living in shrines they had built to themselves, like the Pharaohs, and making wine. I knew I had to do the same. Only I wanted to make the absolute best Cabernet Sauvignon in California, and money was no object--especially when it came to pricing." Wineries along Hwy 29 in Napa Valley I took a quick break from my interview with Boo to see how his crew was doing detailing my car, which wasn't really a big deal seeing as how no one had ever been in the passenger seat, unless you count my girlfriend, who's inflatable and stain-resistant. The view from Teak's mansion atop Pritchard Hill is astonishing. He looks down on Bryant Family (but then, who doesn't?), Colgin, Ovid and David Arthur (the widower of the late Bea Arthur--at least I think she's dead, she may just be on cable). His home has 38 bedrooms, one for every degree of Brix he picks his Cabernet Sauvignon at. It also boasts a state-of-the-art movie theater, an indoor ski jump, and a microwave oven that seats eight comfortably. But it's the wine that's the focus at Boo Teak Winery, and nothing has been spared in the quest to make Napa's finest red.
Teak purchased 350 acres on Pritchard Hill, 20 of which he planted to the classic Bordeaux varieties--Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Glennbec. The Glennbec adds acid and bitterness to the blend, but left to stand on its own it's absolute crap. David Aboo, Napa's most famous vineyard consultant, was brought in to plant the vineyard and wreak ecological havoc. ("There was some creepy little endangered salamander on the property," Teak told me, "but once we got rid of all the ground water the slimy little things disappeared--kind of like how the print media wine critics are vanishing.") Then Teak convinced famed Napa winemaker Helen Whirlybird to take on the task of nearly bankrupting him building a winery. Michel Rolland was the final piece of the Boo Teak Winery puzzle. "I felt I owed Michel something for his inspiration for Boner in a Can. Plus he's super-expensive and that adds to the price of each bottle, something I think all of us in Napa aspire to." In 2007, the fifty unemployed Master Sommeliers Teak had employed finished hand-digging his cave. "First time these pinheads had ever done an honest day's work." And, now, the first vintage of Boo Teak Winery's Cabernet Sauvignon has been released. A tribute to his E.D. business, it's called "Privates Reserve."
In my capacity as the acknowledged finest wine blogger alive, I sat down with Mr. Teak and tasted his 2007 Privates Reserve alongside many of Napa Valley's finest Cabernets, among them Harlan Estate, Spottswoode and Tudal (perhaps more widely know for its sheep, the ubiquitous Tudal ewe). By the end of the tasting it was clear that the Boo Teak Privates Reserve was the finest red wine I had ever tasted in my life for free. Mr. Teak has achieved what he set out to achieve as a young boy with severe emotional issues. He has a wine with his name on it that sells for $200 a bottle. Dreams do come true.
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
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"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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