"Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith."--Christopher Fry
Thursday, July 29, 2010
My Mentor Vin Dispenses Wine Wisdom
No matter what your line of work, almost everyone has had a mentor, a person who freely and generously gave you advice and guidance on your career path, perhaps even in your every day life. I thought I would introduce you to the man who has guided me on my wine journey, a man who has taught me as much about life as he has about wine. Perhaps in reading about him you too will benefit from his wisdom for he has much to teach everyone who loves wine. His name is Vin.
I met Vin at one of the first wine tastings I ever attended as a member of the trade. If memory serves, it was a tasting of wines made by apes. It was Vin who directed me to the table where a gibbon had made a particularly lovely Brachiation d'Acqui, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out that Vin wasn't really in the wine business, but he was so passionate about wine he frequently crashed industry tastings, and was very adept at it. He had a series of fake business cards that seemed to be successful at gaining him entrance to even the most exclusive tastings. One card, I remember, proclaimed he was the wine columnist for the "Wall Street Journal," which, given the fact that in real life his face was actually pixelated (stemming from a childhood accident with acne cream), was entirely credible. And it was even more credible when you talked to him and realized he was simply bluffing all of his wine knowledge, a tradition at WSJ that lives on today. But it was something that Vin said to me that very first meeting that has stayed with me, and that also made me realize I had a lot to learn from him.
"You don't have to know anything about wine to be a wine expert," Vin said, "because everyone is stupid." It's advice that has served me well my entire wine career, and has become even more meaningful in this wonderful age of wine blogs.
(I should also add that at that wine tasting I was also impressed by a very delicate orang muscat from Borneo, a Lodi chimpanZin, and the wines of Helen Turley.)
After that, I would always look for Vin at wine tastings. I was new to wine, but passionate about it, and Vin could sense that in me. Perhaps he identified with my thirst for wine knowledge and my drive to be a great sommelier. At another wine tasting early in our friendship, I think it was a tasting of wines made by albinos, Vin remarked in his characteristic aphoristic style, "What makes a great sommelier isn't letters after his name, or that doohickey that hangs around his neck. What makes a great sommelier is a shitty goddam attitude." To this day I remember his words when I meet a newly minted M.S., and am struck by its wisdom whenever I'm around a member of that brotherhood of imaginary experts. It helps to remember they're just doing their job when they're talking down to you.
Oh, I have a million bits of wisdom from the great Vin, more than I can share in one post. Eventually, I invited Vin to wine tastings at my apartment where we would taste wines from all over the world and he would teach me about them, about how to understand them, how to rate them, how to analyze their components and make sense of them. But Vin doesn't like to taste wines blind. "Never believe anyone who says they taste wines blind," he told me, "that's like believin' your Boy Scout troop leader is required to give you a prostate exam. They're both just giving you the finger for fun." Together, Vin and I tasted through hundreds of wines, and much of what I know today about the great wines of the world I learned from Vin. I don't think anything he told me turned out to be wrong, even if, at the time, I didn't understand what he was saying. Which may have been because he always spoke through a kazoo. Here are just a few examples of Vin's wine wisdom:
"Any moron can make great Cabernet, and most of them do, but it takes a genius to make you believe it's worth more than thirty bucks. Unless you're a butthole."
"Chardonnay is the McDonald's french fries of wine--it's better with ketchup."
"You couldn't puke and make it smell as bad as Retsina."
"Terroir is French for 'April Fool!'"
I don't get to speak to Vin as often as I'd like lately. I've moved to Sonoma, and Vin is busy pursuing his lifelong dream of eating every issue of Robert Parker's Wine Advocate just to pass him through his lower intestine. But he and I have talked at length about wine blogging, about its impact on wineries and the wine business in general. Vin has some amazing insight and wisdom regarding the proliferation of wine blogs. "The combined wisdom in all of them wouldn't fill Jancis Robinson's left nut." It's funnier through a kazoo. We talked about wine reviews on wine blogs and Vin's take was, "They're as worthless as shelf talkers for sex toys." Our most recent conversation was about the Wine Blog Awards, and after I complained about the nominees and the winners, Vin remarked, "Giving awards to wine bloggers is like handing out condoms to castratos."
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."
--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."