Wine Blogs Are the Attention-Barking of Lonely Poodles
Monday, May 31, 2010
One year ago I revived the ol' HoseMaster and started my wine blog over again. On the anniversary of that first post, I wanted to step out from behind the curtain and say a few things. It has been a very interesting year, minus a three week hiatus, filled with bombast, tomfoolery, raillery, pantagruel, persiflage, mockery and buffoonery. And very little regard for human decency. My kind of year.
When I began HoseMaster of Wine, I knew that it would take me more than a year to get my tired old comedy writing muscles back into fighting shape. The HoseMaster, as I call him on this blog, is an old and familiar voice to me, one I've shaped and been shaped by since I was a teenager. I am not the HoseMaster, and he is not I. In the course of writing this blog I have encountered lots of people in the real world who are surprised that this is the case. The HoseMaster exists to channel that part of my brain that thinks all of life is a comedy, and that there is no target that cannot be insulted, demeaned, leveled and disemboweled. As a longtime student of comedy and satire, I am in love with its traditions as much as I am in love with wine, maybe more so. But when I look back at my earlier posts I see how much of a struggle I've had to find that familiar voice, that voice that haunts my waking life, that evil Jiminy Cricket that whispers jokes into my ear. So thank you for putting up with me. I'm still not there yet.
It's been a year of Vornography and 1WineDoody and Mis(s) Feiring--hell, at least one of them took it in the spirit with which it was written. And I've managed to insult many wine bloggers with far less talent--Harlots, chicks with Brix, chicks in caftans, chronic people of color, and so many others. The HoseMaster expresses my genuine horror at the vapidness of the Internet, the sheer collective stupidity it displays, the sorrowful replacement of quality with quantity, the debasement of authority and experience, the very death of truth. Yet I hope it comes out funny. There are very few days it's funny to me.
It was also a year of M.S. Conspiracy and Grape Guides and my misguided attempts at literary parodies, Saramago and Castaneda. I love the silliness of comedy as much as I love aggressive satire. Wine is the great creator of silliness and truth, so it seems a fitting way to honor it. The genuine joy of doing HoseMaster is discovering for myself what the next post brings. In the past year I think I've made myself laugh about four times. This is probably your experience as well. And it's the stupidest stuff that makes me laugh. The coroner's name in M.S. Conspiracy, Avril Cadavril, still makes me laugh out loud. In my life I have spent countless hours, an unbelievable number of hours, writing jokes, alone, in a quiet room, on a pad of paper, on a typewriter, and now on a computer screen. I have always believed the well would one day run dry. Many would argue that if Timmy fell in my well Lassie wouldn't have to worry about him drowning. Sadly for so many people, I've never suffered writer's block. Ideas fill my head from when I wake up in the morning until I fall into a drunken stupor, around noon. I assure you, it is the purest from of ecstasy I know to sit down and take dictation from the HoseMaster and have it end up like "BLANDNESS." It is for those moments I sit down twice a week and channel the HoseMaster. He's my Comedy Channel. But he's a pain to live with. I hate the guy.
I have had a very long romance with wine. Wine ripped me from the arms of comedy writing as a profession and seduced me into a lifelong affair. At least I wear protection. I know a lot about wine, I think of myself as a skilled taster, but I also know enough about wine to know that I know very little. During the past year I've also flirted with reviewing wines, with the Million Point Scale, with What's the HoseMaster Drinking. But wine reviews mean very little if you don't know the person reviewing the wines, if you haven't tasted with them, understand their background and biases. So I just decided to stop. No one, and I mean no one, cares what I think about wines. And, frankly, I see wine after crappy wine touted on wine blogs that I wouldn't serve to Glenn Beck's prostate. One of the truisms about wine is that you cannot be an adequate judge of wines, assign them numbers or smiley faces or idiotic songs, if you haven't tasted the greatest wines on the planet. You simply cannot know how high the bar is set, you have no frame of reference. Your opinion is as worthless as the blog it's written on. It's the blind judging a beauty pageant. And while every wine blogger has the right to express his opinion, only an idiot would listen to it. What wineries who send wines to wine reviewing bloggers believe is that there are mostly idiots out there. They may be right.
To my surprise, the HoseMaster has become instantly recognizable, a presence in the insignificant world of wine blogs. I am amazed. I am Tweeted about, FaceBooked, speculated about, and both admired and abhorred. I see HoseMaster popping up all over the place, in comments and posts, mentioned with the understanding that most everyone will know who he is. I'm beginning to be recognized at wine tastings, the curse of having an uncommon surname. It seems to have even become something of a badge of honor for the HoseMaster to satirize or insult a wine blogger, though someone might mention that to Alice Feiring. It's alternately flattering and scary. But I do take it as a compliment, and I'm not especially good at taking compliments. It speaks to the strength of the HoseMaster's voice, something I am only nominally responsible for. Enough people identify with his brand of outrage that he's become a real character in people's lives. That is the scary part.
Finally, I am so grateful for all that the HoseMaster of Wine has brought to my life in the past year. 130 posts later I still can't believe how lucky I've been, how much I value this little community--the people who frequently comment, and all of the rest of you who don't want to. I don't know about other wine bloggers, but for me, HoseMaster of Wine is an end in itself. I'm not looking for free trips or free wine or a book deal or an award or adulation. As crazy as it seems, I do this for the sheer joy of creation. Nothing has come of it, nothing will come of it. After my first post of this past year, "I'm Baaaaack," an anonymous commenter said that instead of insulting everyone and making fun of the wine world I should use my talents to contribute to the conversation. I like to think I have.
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."
"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."