Monday, August 9, 2010

A Healthy Brown Movement

Interest in the fabulous wines of Carbon Footprint (Wine Enthusiast, for example, recently scored their 2008 "Offshore Oil Spill" Chardonnay at 96 points, though no one reads Wine Enthusiast except the proofreaders and people in waiting rooms at psychiatric hospitals) has also spawned great interest in the fledgling Brown Movement in wine. (And it's easy for a consumer to actually smell the Brown Movement in a wine--so many wines proudly do.) The tiresome histrionics of those who would have us believe that natural or organic or BioDynamic wines are better than real wines, and better for you, has led to this natural backlash. The Brown Movement is dedicated to saving the world from the Feiringization of wines (named for wine writer and librarian impersonator Alice Feiring who has tirelessly and admirably crusaded for natural wines while suffering from dysgeusia) and the sissification of the wine industry itself, and to promoting the use of as much of the world's natural resources as possible before those loser Millennials take over and ruin the fun for the rest of us. The Millennials are a seriously dull lot.

The recently formed Brown Movement Society (Motto: Have you enjoyed BM'S today?) is an association made up of Brown wineries, Brown PR people and UPS drivers (why just this morning I could be heard chanting, "Go Big Brown!" during my morning ablutions), among others, who have joined together to promote the awakening of the Brown wine industry. They seem to have tapped into the American wine consumer's dreams and desires, and the Brown Movement is gaining in popularity. Though some might say the Brown Movement was simply waiting for the proper peristaltic moment to make its big splash.

The Brown Movement Society has put together a list of wineries that are Certified Brown. Becoming Certified Brown is an arduous process and the list of requirements is lengthy and demanding. In brief, the consumer can rest assured that any wine purchased from a Certified Brown winery was produced with only one goal in mind--making a great wine at the expense of the environment! We've come to expect this from so many industries, from McDonald's admirable devotion to destroying rain forests (do you know how many creepy insects lived there that might have infested Ronald McDonald Houses?), to DeBeers making every bride proud of the exploitation of poverty-ridden and starving Africans with that shiny thing on her finger, to the automobile industry's devoted destruction of the oceans and Alaskan tundra (but at least Toyota had the class to name a truck "Tundra"--which is like naming a nuclear weapon "Hiroshima"), so why not hold the wine industry to the same standard of excellence?

I recently attended the first Brown Movement tasting at Fort Mason in SF (which was organized at the behest of Alder Yarrow, who was kind enough to let others attend), Consume Resources Advocates and Producers, and I came away impressed by a good, healthy CRAP. I won't try and list my scores of all the wines there, (for an overview, check out Alder's Vornography website for his evaluation of all 548 wines presented during the three hour tasting) but I thought I'd provide a quick overview of a couple of the wineries I found most impressive, both for the quality of their wines and for their dedication to the Brown Movement.

I was happy to see my old friend Bowie Teak of Bowie Teak Winery there serving wines from his eponymous winery in Napa Valley. (Bowie made his fortune from his invention Boner in a Can see my April post on Bowie Teak, and has a new product out which is also sure to add to his fortune, an instant breast enlargement product called Titsicles!) Boo explained briefly how he had always been into the Brown Movement, he just didn't know it. "After all, HoseMaster, I hired David Aboo to design my vineyard to maximize soil erosion, his specialty, and I very carefully tented my 250 acres and fumigated it for a couple of weeks to make sure every damn microbe and bug was dead. The key to making great Cabernet Sauvignon is environmental exploitation--death makes us stronger." Wise words from Boo, and, indeed, his Bowie Teak Winery 2007 "Where the Dead Things Are" (Artist Label Series by Maurice Sendak) Pritchard Hill Cabernet is a perfect expression of the the classic Napa Valley Boutique Winery terroir--black currant and cassis fruit followed by the definitive soullessness that these wines are famous for. At $250/bottle it's a bit steep, but so's the hillside vineyard that's mostly slipped into Lake Hennessey; and the wine comes in a 15 pound bottle designed by Waterford guaranteed to pump lead into your guest's bloodstream, so you get your money's worth.

At the table serving the vibrant and aromatic wines of Toxic Runoff Vineyards I had a chance to speak to its owner, the opinionated Murky Rivers. "I have 200 acres, and I own all of it. If I want to flush chemicals and fertilizer into my creek, who's to stop me? " Murky told me. "I'm damned proud of my wines, and damned proud to have cleared the creek down to the lowest critter on the food chain. Say, have you had my Chardonnay with trout? Mighty fine eatin'" Indeed, the Toxic Runoff 2008 "Acid Rain" Chardonnay was amazing. "The secret," Murky told me, "was how often we turned on the irrigation in the vineyard. Lots of folks are stingy with water, and the vines don't like it. We run the big overhead sprinklers day and night during the growing season to help the vines. And, as a bonus, it also washes all the pesticides into the creek." Murky is justifiably proud of the waste of water, and the water waste, that every bottle of Toxic Runoff represents. And, on a personal note, he was also proud of his Siamese triplet grandsons, who he was using as a table decoration to hold his business cards and brochures.


Woody Daddy said...

One little known fact overlooked in this focus on the BM is that Bowie Teak has gained approval from the FDA to put Boner In A Can into his Pritchard Hill Cabernet. That is why those wines get such high scores from reviewers. Any wine that gives you a stiffy must be good worth 98 points.

Ron Washam said...


As you know, in the trade the Bowie Teak wine is known as "Boner in a Cab."

Thomas said...

The image of the Siamese triplets is a Tour de Force ending.

I won't mention the millennial spelling...

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Mistakes corrected. Thanks. Well, at least the spelling mistakes.

Thomas said...


If you look carefully, my pedantry gives you fuel for the day when you parody me--or is that I--nah, me, or someone reasonably similar to I, or is that me?

Anyway, what correction? I said that I won't mention the spelling and I didn't...but I keep laughing at the image of the Siamese triplets as business card holders on the table. Truly a Brown moment.

Thomas said...


I should have mentioned that you should have done what some bloggers do--make the correction but don't show the comment that pointed it out!

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, ret. said...

So... I need to ask: what constitutes/gives wine its soul, how is it expressed and what do I look for when smelling/tasting the wine?

Samantha Dugan said...

Dude if you have to ask you just might be doin' it wrong...

Samantha Dugan said...

Saw this and thought of You

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, ret. said...

No. I'm doing it right. But I want to know what is "soul" in wine.

Samantha Dugan said...

Okay....gentle ribbing is not so much your thing. Asking to define soul is like asking to define pleasure, it's all subjective kid. For me I find soul in the wines of Burgundy from producers like Maume and Camus-Bruchon and in Loire from people like Chidaine and Fontainerie. I think soulless wines are those from producers that over polish and rob wine of character, but that's just me. Just curious, can you define in a person, written piece of literature or in music? For me I think of soulful much like I do of the eye of the beholder.

Cousteau Daddy said...

I found sole in wine one day. It was on old Chablis and it smelled a little fishy. So I held the glass up the light, and there it was. Other than that, I have never smelled sole in wine.

But, I will tell you this, Arthur, I know it when I smell it--especially if the wine is more than a few days old.

PaulG said...

Ron, you had me at dysgeusia. But I would argue that the Feiring-monger has moved past mere dysgeusia, all the way to ageusia, which is the complete lack of taste. Not that any such fault should bother the Hosemaster. Lack of taste? C'est mon raison d'ĂȘtre! PS: my verification word might also apply to cher Alice... it's colitism.

Thomas said...

Colitism: seriously, Paul?

That's rich.

Arthur, a wine's soul is like the holy spirit: invented to keep people in a constant state of fear so that we never get to enjoy anything.

My verification word is inter, which some would claim is what the Hosemaster needs.

Has Google run out of gibberish already?

Ron Washam said...


Everything worth knowing in life, from love to friendship to me, is inexplicable in the scientific terms you prefer. If I had a soul, I wouldn't want to know how to explain it any more than I want to explain why my wife loves me. Many things are best left unquestioned.

So you look for the soul in a wine right next to its terroir and beneath its elegance.


If I parody you I don't really need any more ammunition than you've already given me the past few years.

Yeah, that Siamese triplet thing just appeared out of nowhere (I know, Arthur, how do we explain nowhere in our mind?)as I was finishing the piece. It was such an odd thought I had to keep it. Glad you liked it, Thomas, I was truly afraid it would fall flat. Or flatulent.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I agree with your feelings about soul in wines. There is something in wines that we love that speaks to us, that is ineffable, but is a quality that makes us feel more connected to the wine and gives us a deeper feeling of satisfaction drinking it. Lame explanation. But I've often dismissed wines that were prestigious or highly scored because I felt they just lacked "something," and maybe that something is a soul.

Hey, look at me, I been Feiringized!!! Help!

I love you!


I try to see every post on HoseMaster as a valuable vocabulary lesson. Dysgeusia is a lovely word, like anosmia. Not used often, but extremely lovely. Just saying them outloud is very satisfying.

My blog certainly suffers from ageusia, and I'm damned proud of it.

Arthur said...

I'm not looking for a stoichiometric, balanced equation. Take a wine grape variety and explain to me which elements of one example represent soul (or character) and how another one, lacking those, lacks soul and character.
Is it rarefied characteristics traceable to the grape, the wood, the yeast, the vintage or something in the synergy of those with the soil and climate? Is it a touch of brett? a hint of mercaptan? A derisively in-your-face inkling of residual sugar? ripe characteristics precariously perched on the edge of decency?
Know it when you see it? Fine. Recall the last time you saw it and describe it. Don't just say: this one has it and that one doesn't. Say what "it" is. If it can't be articulated by skilled wordsmiths then it does not exist in the wine. It is a product of the individual's imagination. And as such, it does not exist.
Which brings me back to Thomas' point and comment about not enjoying anything: I often get the feeling that many wine "critics" and "commentators" just don't enjoy anything. They use terms like "one-dimensional" when the wine in their mouth does not fulfill some unrealistic fantasy characteristic of a self-imposed virgins who really, really would like to, but are too afraid...

Samantha Dugan said...

Okay explain the color yellow to me as if I never had sight. Explain how it sounds to hear Ray Charles sing Georgia as if I never knew sound. If you cannot does that mean they do not exist? You are looking for a scientific explanation to an emotion....that, that I am willing to agree may not exist. What does love feel like? What does passion feel like? What does heartbreak feel like? What is sexy? These things can only be understood completely by the one that is feeling it....

Arthur said...


The analogy of yellow to a blind person or sound to a deaf person is invalid for the following reason:
I drink wine. You drink wine. we both have the same sensory hardware. You and I may have different emotional reactions to a wine, but the wine does not change. All that changes is the person drinking it (and their reaction).
As we are separate beings, but with much in common as far as sensation and experiences go, you should be able to convey to me what is "soul" and "character" in a wine.
This is far more philosophy than science.
More accurately, it is a matter of pushing your linguistic (and perhaps tasting) skills (rather than demeaning or invalidating your experience).

Samantha Dugan said...

Okay then I ask again (keeping our able working parts in mind) what does love feel like? What is sexy? What does heartbreak feel like?

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh and more importantly, does it feel the same each time?

Thomas said...

So, how did this conversation get to the philosophical?

My 2 cents: emotional response to anything is personal and indescribable, but that doesn't stop people from applying an array of adjectives to the response.

The real question isn't what's a wine's soul or what is love, but what's is the measure of language and communication?

No matter how many times aesthetic critics try, with no matter how many well constructed sentences, they can hardly ever make others feel exactly the same about a particular wine, because our emotional response cannot be put into their words and their emotional response cannot be put into our minds.

Anonymous said...


Let S = Soul; let C = Character.

SC = (I x D x F)+ (A x T) - U
where I = intensity of flavor, D = density of texture, F = fruit correct to varietal/terroir, A = appropriate/balanced acidity, T = tannic appropriate/correct, and U = any unpleasant characteristics. Please apply only empirical evaluations, and DO NOT allow emotion or subjectivity to interfere with your official Soul rating. Hope that helps.

Dave said...

"I try to see every post on HoseMaster as a valuable vocabulary lesson."

And we appreciate the sempiternity of your efforts. I know I often spend more time googling definitions than reading the post and comments.

So thanks a 1.0 * 10^6 to our honorable HM (HHM?) for juicing our vocabularity, in addition to dysgeusia, asnomia, and ageusia, I've gone on to learn about Hypogeusia (another one of the Marx Brothers), Hypergeusia (the Aflac spokes-shill), and parageusia, a condition one can contract by opening Boner in a Can with your teeth. Also, I believe, the latter capitalized is a popular wine from NAPA.

Charlie Olken said...

Thomas, you cynic. :-} I pretty much know what Sam means when her pubic voice speaks. Words have power, majesty, the ability to transport us. Do they mean exactly the same thing to everyone? That is not the point of wine criticism, and trying to make it so does not undue the notion that "soul" in wine does bring up useful connotations to many people.

The person in my tasting group who uses the word is referring to a mix of inner strength, depth and range. I get it when he says a wine is low on the "soul-o-meter". He gets it when I say a wine lacks "seriosity".

I accept that some people may not like to describe wines in such imprecise terms, but I have a sense of what those words imply and so do lots of others. And we have brains and imaginations.

Your final argument can be stood on its head thusly.

Good writing reaches into our souls and moves us. Whether we are talking about wine or a Miles Davis or John Coltrane solo or what Sam feels when he four-year old neighbor looks into her eyes, we can get it. We can get it because good writing transports us there.

We get lost in good novels and good movies because we get drawn in by the words and actions. We even feel what Alice Feiring feels despite the fact that Ron is lampooning her. We get the sense that he has hit bone, and some of us laugh at the brilliance of that portrayal and some of us cringe. Some of us even do both. But, we have an emotional response.

Even words about wine can elicit strong responses of recognition. Gerald Asher's writings regularly did that for me and lots and lots of others. And he never ever resorted to precise measurements of TA, pH, color density, tannin in ppm or any other of the technical analysis that might be called "precision". He painted word pictures and we believed them, we felt them.

I happen to wander by Alice's blog yesterday (someone must be a legend in her own time if we refer to her by her first name and know about whom we are speaking--sort of like STEVE! and his Bobness and Marvin and Huckleberry) because her name came up in the comments above. I have never written the way she writes--too cute by half for me--but I get it nonetheless. You do get to "feel" her, which is why Ron was able to write such a bone-rattling lampoon of her.

Bottom line: Our common experiences allow us to use words that evoke emotions and understand what those words mean.

Ron Washam said...

I have a headache.

Arthur, I write jokes not philosophy. The existence of a soul has been argued by far greater minds than mine for thousands of years, and, frankly, I'm more interested in Titsicles! If I wanted to stretch my linguistic skills I'd never read a single wine blog. Especially not the soulless Palate Press and Catavino.

Which reminds me, where is your blog? It seems to have vanished. And I know you put your heart and soul into it. Are you redesigning, or abandoning?

I still have a headache.

Arthur said...


I knew you'd get it.


You left out Avogadro's Number and pi.

Arthur said...


Call me (and I don't mean names, like "blogger").

Thomas said...


"Good writing reaches into our souls and moves us."

I agree completely, I just don't think that everyone is moved the same way, and some are even moved in the opposite direction.

As a writer, I have an inventory of both praising and nasty letters. Many times, whether praising or cursing me, it seems the reader understood his or her own agenda in my words and then went with it.

Not that words can't move people--just that they aren't precise enough for everyone to simulate the writer's emotions. In fact, I believe that wine--and everything else--has a soul. I just don't know how to describe that soul and I don't know if anyone else has ever made me feel what he or she thinks is a wine's soul. Alice F. certainly tries, but to me it comes off as a truly personal sensibility that lacks both depth and subject knowledge. Maybe that's my agenda, but she certainly doesn't tell me what a wine's soul is.

"Our common experiences allow us to use words that evoke emotions and understand what those words mean."

This is exactly what turns me away from aesthetic criticism: it relies on "common experience."

If you don't share that experience, the words either don't much matter or they lead you in an erroneous direction.

Anonymous said...

I once gave out Avogadro's number; he was totally pissed and I ended up growing a mole.

Arthur said...

but i hear you have a millimole....

Ron Washam said...

For those of you just tuning in, this is NOT the usual HoseMaster dialogue. We do not rate wines on the Avogadro scale, though I do love guacamole. Nor do we usually discuss the soul of wine and whether or not it exists. We have been hacked by aliens from other blogs who have temporarily seized control.

Please pretend none of the previous 29 comments exist and post accordingly. If you ignore them, they just might go away.

HoseMaster of Wine, The Blog of Obscure References.

Samantha Dugan said...

Fine then, I'll take my comments and go home...

Arthur said...

Sam, Are you pulling a "Cartman"?

Samantha Dugan said...

Kind of a modified, "Screw you guys, I'm goin' home!" trying to be all civil and shit.

Bob Banal said...

I think our wines meet the standards of the Brown movement. We have our Skid Mark Tawny Port and our mahogany coloured Brick Schit House Red. I was told by our consultant that all of our wines qualify as Brown because we let all the leaves on the vine turn brown before we pick the grapes. In a good year, the leaves are not just brown but fallen to the ground before we send in Juan and Carlos to pick those brittle clusters. It’s amazing how little picking costs when you are Brown and you pay by the pound. Later when we pump those brown puppies up with water the fun begins. And Juan and Carlos haven’t a clue, they still adore us.

Becky and I are so happy we have our place in the Napa.

Bob Banal
Domaine Banal

Thomas said...

To paraphrase professor Irwin Cory when asked "why do you wear tennis shoes?"

I'll answer that question in two parts:

"Why?" is the oldest question in the universe and it has no answer.

"do you wear tennis shoes?"


Is this apropos of anything?

No, but now I fit into Hosemaster's original format.

Art said...

I just took two aspirin and finally found a reason to use (mangle) a hackneyed quote that I never cease to enjoy but which has nothing to do with the scatological heart of this post ... though it may have something to do with virgins:

A wine has soul when it reminds me that temperance, like chastity, is its own punishment.

Arthur Esteban Franciso Maria Conchita Alonzo Conception de Corazon de Jesus de la Vina Przebinda, MD, PhD, PDQ, ret. said...


John Cesano said...

I saw an online video about the brown wine movement, "Two Girls, One Cup of brown wine."

Art said...

Thanks, Arthur. Let's stick together!

Sip with Me! said...

Hey Jose, this is dirty, stinking hilarious. I was averting my eyes at first, afraid of what I might see, but it actually wasn't a load of shit. Thank you for sharing your brilliance, go big brown! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go look up dysgeusia.

Ron Washam said...


I like to say, "Wine blogging is its own punishment." Sounds like an aphorism but has the added bonus of being meaningless. Like everything I write.

And Welcome Aboard!

Dear Mr. Banal,

The very nature of your wines keeps you from being Certified Brown. Banal wines are Certified Mauve. However, I don't blame you for wanting to jump on the Brown Bandwagon, though your presence there would certainly make the movement itself Banal.


I think I saw that video on Wine Harlots, right?

Or was it BrixChicks? Had to be.

Tamara Love,

It does the soul (stay out of it, Arthur) good to spend a post doing potty humor. The entire Green Wine movement has turned into simple pandering and disingenuous marketing. It deserves having some good old-fashioned, particularly aromatic shit thrown at it.

By the way, I'm so happy when you stop by.

Anonymous said...

When I saw this headline, A Healthy Brown Movement, I thought maybe there was a good chance you were finally going to admit you were full of sh!t.

Art said...

I get welcomed aboard TWICE? Cool! But two positives are a negative (in winespeak)--right?