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 Cansee 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.
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."