Monday, June 28, 2010

The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 6

When you're at a dinner party and the hosts break out an interesting bottle of wine, what's the first thing you think? Well, if you're like me (you should be so lucky) you're wondering where you put your Rohipnol. But you're also trying to think of something interesting to say about the wine. This is easy if the wine is, say, Merlot or Chardonnay. You just say something gracious like, "Gosh, I hope at least the food will be interesting." Or, "Did you know Merlot has become virtually worthless?" But what if it's a grape you've heard of but don't actually know much about? You don't want to say something embarrassing in front of your date before she slips into a vegetative state. Like, "Wasn't Gruner Veltliner the guy who played Colonel Klink on 'Hogan's Heroes?'" This may tip off your fixation on Bob Crane's home videos. Instead, do what so many wise wine lovers are doing now--memorize the entries on "The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes." Don't spout the dubious information found on Wikipedia (I just found out "Wikipedia" isn't what you call a Hawaiian pedophile). You don't know who wrote that crap. Here, at least, you absolutely know who writes this crap. A baboon with a keyboard, that's who.


Everyone in the wine business is just sick to death of Pinot Noir's popularity. It's quickly becoming the Sarah Palin of grapes. Dress it up, slap its name on the marquee, give it that distinctive smell of barnyard, and the rubes line up to buy it. The best places to grow Pinot Noir are Burgundy, Sonoma's Russian River Valley, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Oregon (yawn) and, some would argue, New Zealand. Yeah, New Zealand. I've heard a few people say the Pinot Noirs from New Zealand are hobbit-forming. I don't see it. It's a country full of sheep and guys studying the Graze Anatomy. In Burgundy, the greatest Pinot Noirs come from the Grand Cru vineyards of the Cote de Nuits. The finest vineyards are designated Grand Cru, followed closely by the vineyards designated Premier Cru, and then the crap they have at J. Cru. The slightly feminine versions are found in the Tom Crus. And, finally, I mustn't neglect Pinot Noir with bubbles in it, which is either called Champagne, or, at Neverland Ranch, Baby's First Bath. Champagne produced from Pinot Noir is called Blanc de Noir, while Champagne produced from Chardonnay is called Blanc du Bois because it always depends upon the kindness of strangers.

Interesting facts about Pinot Noir:

In Italy it's called Pinot Nero because Italians like to fiddle with it.

There are more than 50 different registered clones of
Pinot Noir, and they all travel around together in a little tiny car.

"Pinot" is French for "pine," and it is thought the grape got its name because its clusters resemble pine cones and winemakers often hang one from their rearview mirror and use it as an air freshener.

Other names for Pinot Noir:

Syrah's Bitch (or, in rap, Shiraz Bee-yatch)
Spatburgunder Pferdscheisse
The Clone Ranger


For many years Sangiovese was considered a great grape, and then it was planted in California and everybody hated it. The same thing happened to the Dodgers. Sangiovese is the noble grape of Tuscany, where it goes by many names. It's Sangiovese in Chianti, Brunello in Montalcino, Prugnolo Gentile in Montepulciano, Morellino in Scansano, and Marcello in Mastroianni. "Sangiovese" loosely translated from Latin means "bloody jug wine." The clones of Sangiovese brought to California in the '70's were transported by means of suitcases as a moving tribute to the many Italians buried in suitcases in the Adriatic Sea and the East River in New York. Sangiovese, unfortunately, didn't make the big splash those suitcases did. The Chianti region, where Sangiovese thrives, is divided into seven subregions--Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Gary Sinise, Chianti Fiorello La Guardia, Chianti Ricardo Montalban, Chianti Em Anti Em, and Chianti Colli Umama. Consumers would be wise to look for wines from Chianti Classico with the Gallo Nero on the neck, the black cock that guarantees a good time. Don't they always?

Interesting facts about Sangiovese:

Blending Cabernet Sauvignon into Sangiovese adds a lot to the final wine, mostly to the price.

Vin Santo is the dessert wine made from Sangiovese, and legendary broadcaster for the LA Dodgers.

If laid end to end, all the different labels of Sangiovese produced in California would then actually have a purpose.

Other names for Sangiovese:

Atlas Peaked
Brunello DeVille


When you say Argentina, the three M's come to mind--meat, Malbec and Mengele. Malbec, of course, is one of the famed red Bordeaux varieties, though it's relatively uncommon in Bordeaux these days, like humility. Somehow, Malbec has risen from the dead and, as the grape identified with Argentina, made a miraculous comeback. In France, Malbec is most closely identified with the region of Cahors, where it often has a horsey aroma, and was memorialized in the popular tune, "A horse is horse, Cahors, Cahors/But no one can talk to a horse, Cahors..." In Cahors, Malbec is called Cot Noir, which is its stripper name. The sudden popularity of Malbec can be attributed to sommeliers who generally mistake novelty for quality, but rightly believe that people are stupid enough to believe whatever you say about wine if you've purchased an M.S. degree online, or at BevMo's 5 cent sale where you can buy an M.S. and get a C.S.W. for a nickel more. It's a ripoff.

Interesting facts about Malbec:

Of the five red Bordeaux varieties (dweebs and anal retentives say there are six, counting Carmenere, but these are people you should wear a bubble suit around), Malbec is Gummo.

Malbec is very sensitive to frost, but loves Sandburg.

Argentinian Malbecs are among the exclusive subset of wines that are all made to taste the same, like Gummi bears, that also includes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi Zin and Vinho Verde. You had one, you had 'em all. Like the Osmond Brothers.

Other names for Malbec:

Cot Ballou
Meritage Leftover
Buenos Errors


Gruner Klemperer Daddy said...

I suppose a lot of your followers (all seven of them) are going to line up here to tell you how bloody brilliant you are. And you, in your own inimitable way, will say "aw, shucks, folks. Tweren't nothing"--all the while snickering up your sleeve that people actually read this stuff and throw money at you.

OK, the last part is a bit of an exaggeration. But you will be patting yourself on the back because this stuff is actually very funny and a great read.

The one thing you left out about Burgundy is that it often smells like something you shouldn't step in or that in CA, it often smells like the Petite Sirah that has been blended in to give it color. We all know that "objective" tasters want color as a measure of quality--the more the better and there is nothing like Petite Sirah to give it color.

I visited Chianti Umama the last time I was in Italy. In fact, I have some in my wine cellar. I reserve it for NY Yankee fans. There was a moment when I was going to haul it out for my favorite LA Latkes supporter, but she prefers Rombauer Chardonnay because it is as sweet as Mogen David.

So, thanks for the yucks. And my regards to your baboon. Give him a banana.

Thomas said...


How many people know the reference?

C'mon now, fess up.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
When I first started slinging wine I was in charge of handing out allocations of rare wines....Altamura Sangiovese was one of those wines. Don't think I ever tasted it but it was the first wine I recall falling off the "Must have" list. Went from me calling and telling people I could let them take two bottles to offering people all they wanted and having them pass all together. From allocated to red tag bin in less than three this day I remember that mighty plummet.

Charlie My Sweet,
I fully agree that Burgundy can at times smell like poo, not nearly as much as they used to...least the ones from the producers I've come to love and trust. That being said when the wines are singing, the aromatics are as explosive and beguiling...freaking haunting and no where else in the world can Pinot Noir smell like that. I just got little shivers thinking about it. As to the Rombauer all I can say is, "How's that Pastis Green Daddy?"

Took me a minute as I was unsure if he meant Marx or that creepy movie....either kind of works for me.

Thomas said...


The count of five should make it a Marx reference--that, and knowing the way the hose bends...

To me, fine Pinot Noir smells like Volnay, or the other way around.

Rombauer Daddy said...

Whose Volnay? And that's it? No Bonnes Mares? No La Tache? No nuttin' else? Just Volnay?

No wonder you don't like wine critics. They obviously don't know shit when they smell it. :-}

Note to Pastis Mama. On the whole, I would rather drink Burgundy that smells like baby diapers than Pastis. I am getting my courage up to go scout out a bottle. One of these days, kiddo, one of these days. I will not try to get out of this bet--maybe.

The magic word today is: gizieme. I stayed in that arrondisement the last time I was in Paris. Pretty far out.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gruner Daddy,

Well, I did mention "barnyard," which is the classic description of shit for Burgundy, and for Sarah Palin's integrity. Having judged wine Father's Day weekend, I can say that there were several Pinot Noirs that very distinctly smelled of Syrah or Petite Sirah. We nixed all of those.

And thanks for the kind words. I just write that crap for the one or two jokes that make me laugh. That's the joy in it for me.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

When I was sommelier, I had about 500 wines on my list from all over the world, and not one CA sangiovese (or Gruner or Pinotage or Rombauer Chardonnay) among them. I will say that Seghesio has an outstanding Sangiovese named "Venom" made from their very old vines that stands up to many of the finest Super-Tuscan Sangioveses.

I love you!


Yup, I was, of course, talking Marx Brothers, but only because I couldn't remember the names of all the Ritz Brothers. Though I think one was named Carmenere.

Thomas said...

Ron, you are mistaken about Carmenere Ritz, but an easy mistake to make. The words, "carmenere and see me sometime," were uttered at the Ritz.

Daddy, daddy--I have yet to meet a Volnay that smelled like shit, but that could be because I haven't tried them all--yet. Or it could be that I don't know shit when I smell it--or maybe Volnay's shit doesn't stink.

Anyway, we all know that it isn't shit--it's terroir!

Marcia Macomber said...

Thank Gawd I didn't have any beverage in hand (or in it!) when I started reading. I would have made quite a mess on the keyboard and flat screen. (Not to mention someone'd have to Heimlich me with all the stuff going down the wrong pipes while reading....)

Can't pick out a fave as there are waaaaaaay too many....

As for the rest of youse all Algonquin table-rs... I can't keep up! Obviously it must be the word verif: diarrd!

abc said...

I would have considered spitting my tea on the keyboard while reading, but i have already done that once today. I am just happy to have y back after a desperate hour unable to type lovely.

As the daughter of a guy from Brooklyn I loved:
For many years Sangiovese was considered a great grape, and then it was planted in California and everybody hated it. The same thing happened to the Dodgers.


D J R-S said...

Ron, the HoseMaster should get one of those quick online MD's & pen the occasional 'Ask Dr.Hose' column:
Brought some Maule 'I Massieri' (60% Garganega, 40% Trebbiano) to PR & all I got was band aid & baby diaper-- subtle, but there. Even four days in the fridge didn't open it up or air it out. 'Ah, it's that Natural Wine® thing, sticky terroir!' But then I had some 100% Verdejo from Pindal in Rueda, complete with fluorescent green plastic stopper instead of a cork, & instead of spoofy, lush tropical fruit I got-- band-aids & diaper! Band-aid & diaper stink follow me! Is it my nose?? Help!

Ron Washam said...

Marcia Darling,

I'm glad I struck your funny bone a few times. Kind of cool to come here for the laughs, then move over to my soulmate Samantha for some sensuality. She and I often talk about the motley crew we share, and how honored we are to know you.

Amy Love,

Did you remember to get your rabies vaccination before you went to OOPS? Maybe that's why you keep spilling crap in your keyboard. Did Heimoff bite you?

D J,

What's wrong with BandAids and diapers? Reminds me of my medicine cabinet. I never need the BandAids though.

pgrant8258 said...

Ron, GruVe post...(flashing you the peace sign). If I was a girl I would have peed my Depends more than once.

But dang it, y'all....I have no idea how I got sucked into this quagmire of a blog. I generally don't do the blog thing and seldom write these days. I was so so cozy just quietly lurking, counting crickets, and enjoying all this muckitude from the comforts of the shadows.

THEN...after a few innocent posts to an old friend...this hoser tells me what will happen iffn I drop my keys there. I don't swing that way and usually have greasy fingers. I'm at least smart enough to occasionally recognize a really bad situation when I happen to be lucid enough to see it.

Anyways, seems I'm here for the time being and it's a pleasure getting acquainted with some of you. I'm not a wineie per se, but my semi-retarded palate has swilled it's share in it's time and I've spent most of my life knocking around some aspect of the restaurant biz. (hence my current mental "haze")

Expect nothing more from me about wine than how to get the cork out of a bottle using only a shoelace. I DO know, though, Napa/Somona geography like the back of my hand. I used to sell tea to restaurants there.

Much like Hosie, when I do write, it's mostly to entertain myself. Lucky for me but bad for you...I'm easily amused.

Can't promise to bring anything any classier than Muppet merkins or yeast infections to this party and most of the time I'll be reaching upward to the gutter that Ron lives in...but if I can make any of you laugh (or groan) even every now and job here is done.

Please don't include me as part of this Motley Crew. As Groucho Marx almost said..."I wouldn't want to be part of any crew that would have me as a member".

This mess of a menagerie does need a name

Borrowing from Ron's friend EJ's early 80's public access TV show, I'd like to officially nominate "Hosemaster's Kavalcade of Karacters" (the Rialto Theater in So. Pas didn't have enough plastic "c's to spell it right on the marquee) Any other nominations?

Daddy...yup, I'm kinda slow here...thought Burgundy smelled like Shinola...and everyone please accept my friendly blessings to construct haikus however you wish. I appreciate those who draw outside the lines...isn't that what brings us all here? did you know I was high when I couped?

Samantha...yes, I'm doing you from the shadows too...and digging it. Thank you for your words. They sing like few others. At times they even drip....and I mean that only in the most respectful way...kinda.

Ron, as always, thanks for the yucks...I'll gmail you as soon as my world settles a bit.

peace always,

R.I.P. Rosenblatt Stadium (sniff)

Thomas said...

Goes to show how out of the loop you are, Peter--pull a kork with a shoelake?

Haven't you ever heard of the screwkap?

Klimb on board the Kavalkade and Kreate some miskhief with the rest of us.

(My keyboard kame from an auktion held at the failed Rialto.)

Thomas said...

Of kourse, tryin' to be funny and let one in--skrewkap it is.

Samantha Dugan said...

Done in the shadows AND a compliment?! I think I dig you....HoseMster, can we keep him?

Samantha Dugan said...

HoseMaster I mean...sheesh, looks to be a long day already

Ron Washam said...


As to the group than hangs out here, I'm not much for the naming thing. Keeps new people away. Besides, it's no honor to be here, more like self-abuse. So it will just remain, in the phrase of the inimitable MAD magazine, the usual gang of idiots.

I'd almost forgotten the Kavalcade of Karacters. Yikes. Glad those don't exist any more. How did EJ talk me into that?

My Gorgeous Samantha,

One thing about Pete, like a Beaujolais Nouveau, he doesn't keep well. But if you want to, I just can't say no to you.

I love you!

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh you can say no to me....but I warn you, just makes me try harder.