It's been a somber week for the HoseMaster. Death can do that to you. I mean actual Death, not the living death that reading Reign of Terroir can bring. It is my sad duty to inform my loyal readers of the deaths of the following significant figures in my life, and in the life of the wine business. I'd ask for a moment of silence, but that seems unnecessary given the quality of my comedy.
A renowned and important figure in wine, once the heir apparent to Merlot as the wine every pinhead orders in a restaurant, a position now held by admitted sissy Pinot Noir, Syrah has died. The cause of death has not been announced, but Syrah had long been suffering from dementia and was thought to have been homeless for many years. When last seen alive, Syrah was noticeably disheveled and smelled gamey. His remains had washed ashore in Australia, the place widely believed responsible for his death.
At an early age Syrah made his reputation in the Northern Rhone Valley of France where his Hermitage was considered one of the greatest wines in the world. The Chave family, among others, adopted Syrah in his formative years and groomed him into greatness. But a falling out had Syrah fleeing to Australia where he changed his name to Shiraz after living with Peter Allen and falling in love with musicals. For many years thereafter people believed that Shiraz had originally been from the city of Shiraz in Persia. This rumor lives on today, though it's clear that there is no Chave of Iran.
Shiraz was an enormous success in Australia. Abandoning his familiar roots, no pun intended, in Hermitage, Shiraz put Australia on the map, though it must have been a pretty crappy map if it didn't have Australia on it, hell, it's damn continent, though a puny one. Within a few years, Shiraz was seemingly ubiquitous on the world wine stage. Syrah was quickly forgotten, his old identity hidden like Tom Cruise's sexuality beneath Nicole Kidman. Shiraz was at the forefront, sitting on top of the world from his home Down Under, like a viticultural Crocodile Dundee. Indeed, Shiraz would soon turn out to be a big Croc.
His fans came to expect him to be inexpensive. His fame rested on Rosemount, the pseudonym he used to infiltrate every supermarket in the world. Then he made some poor decisions and slowly drifted into the sexual underbelly of nearby Thailand, falling under the spell of Yellow Tail. It was the Yellow Tail that began his undoing, his addiction to wanting it often and wanting it cheap.
Shiraz attempted comebacks many times under his old name, but his public wanted nothing to do with California Syrah. His act was tired, he showed visible signs of stress, and in many of his California appearances he was obviously green and unpolished, as if he'd been left too long on his weary stems. But Syrah kept trying and trying to recapture his glory days, his days of high prices and high praise. But the public, the press, turned their back on him. His days in the limelight were over.
Syrah was pronounced dead by Eric Asimov in June of 2010. There will undoubtedly be attempts to revive Syrah, but he's dead. In a statement released today, Syrah's old friend Grenache said, "There was just something about Syrah when he was at his best. In his youth, he was muscular, yet charming, like Hilary Swank but not so butch. And even in his later years when he was fat, he had the ability to make you smile, to make you remember the beauty he once possessed. He will be much missed."
Once the up-and-coming player in the wine game, Organic fell prey to corruption and was discovered last month dead in a compost pile. From the aroma of chicken shit, authorities suspect foul play.
There was a time when Organic was the darling of the wine business. Wineries flocked to her like wine bloggers to unemployment lines. Her name was on the lips of every winery owner, whether he actually knew her or not. When Organic allowed you to put her name on your wine bottle it was prestigious and hip. Wine lovers wanted her. Organic made them feel like they were contributing to society. Sure, they drove SUV's and drank water from plastic bottles, but at least they got drunk saving the environment. The illusion served Organic well, made her desirable and famous.
But her popularity was her downfall. Corruption followed success, as it often does in the wine business (see Wine Spectator, Chateau and Estates obits). Corporations lobbied her, successfully getting Organic to lower both her standards, and then her 100% Organic panties and show them her emergency evacuation route. Her name began appearing everywhere, often in places she never would have allowed before. Walmart produce, clothing made in Indonesia, chain restaurants, boutique coffee chains that herald the end of civilization as we know it. Organic became meaningless. But it was to get worse.
BioDynamics emerged as Organic's replacement and sounded her death knell. Created by Rudolf Steiner, and promulgated by a long list of delusional winemakers, BioDynamics quickly replaced Organic in the minds of short-sighted consumers. Organic had sold out. BioDynamics was pure and spiritual, the Tammy Faye Bakker of viticulture. It wasn't long after the appearance of BioDynamics on the American wine scene that Organic was found dead. No charges have been filed against Steiner's estate, but BioDynamics is under investigation. Authorities believe evidence has been buried in cow horns in an undisclosed location.
There was no one at the Organic service. No one cares.
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."
"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
"...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."