Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I have become overpoweringly world-weary of late, and, in particular, weary of the world of blogging. OK, you're saying, where is this going? Allow me to explain.

I started this blog to simply have some fun with wine, make folks laugh. I hope I've had some success doing that because that's all I ever really cared about. But it's pretty hard work being funny for a living (for free, actually), especially about a subject people take as seriously as they take wine, that stuff made from humble grapes. I've always said to friends that I would stop when the blog wasn't fun for me any more. Well, here we are. It isn't fun for me any more.

So I am taking a hiatus from HoseMaster of Wine. I don't know when I'll return. I don't even know if I'll return. Life just isn't that predictable.

I'm not going to waste your time here. But I do have a couple of things I'd like to say. First of all, thank you to everyone who took time out of their lives to read my crap. I sincerely appreciate it. Secondly, to anyone I genuinely offended, I humbly apologize. Comedy is ugly, people get hurt. I did try to be as harsh on myself as I was on everyone else. Finally, I won't mention anyone specifically, but I've made some amazing friends as a result of writing HoseMaster and I am forever grateful for that. You know who you are. Thank you. You have graced my life.

It's always best to leave the party too early rather than overstay your welcome. I hope to be back to the wine blogging party, but if I don't return, have fun, everyone, and, remember, it's not always about playing nice.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Dog Eats His Own Blog

I ask myself every time I sit down to write a post, "Why do I blog?" First of all, "blog" is a stupid word. It sounds a lot like regurgitation. Technicolor blog, which is what we do after we drink too much wine. All you have to do is think of all the phrases you use that have the word "puke" in them and then substitute "blog" and it makes sense. "Man, riding those Teacups at Disneyland makes me want to BLOG!" "I ate some nasty seafood at Red Lobster and I BLOGGED all night." "If I spend too much time in a car I just want to pull over and BLOG all over the road." "It's so gross when my dog eats his own BLOG." See? It makes perfect sense. It even gives new meaning to Wine BLOG Awards, a more exact meaning. I may have been wrong in my now famous quote. Perhaps it's that "blogging is the attention barfing of lonely poodles."

But I think all of us stupid and vain enough (how much vain would a vaynerchuk chuck if a vaynerchuck could chuck vain?) to blog wonder why we do it, and why we do it so often. The same questions a pederast asks himself, basically. So I decided to take an anonymous survey, ask as many bloggers as I could find the reasons why they do this thankless, futile, pathetic work we call a wine blog. I think the results are very interesting, and a great subject for a post. It's such a great subject I'm anticipating many, many comments, most of which begin, "Great post, Joe," even though my name isn't Joe, though I guess one could think that "Hose" is Spanish for Joe.

Anyhow, in my brief but very scientific survey, many of the bloggers I asked mentioned the word "community." 40% of them spelled it wrong. But many of them said that the reason they wrote a wine blog was to be part of the larger wine community. Most importantly, the part of the wine community that knows less than they do about wine. So a very small group that would be really hard to find without the power of the Internet. In every day life, many of them said, they only know a handful of people to whom they could speak about wine, maybe four or five. But with the success of their blogs, they now had an average of six or seven visitors every day! Imagine gaining more than two new "friends" just for the ten minutes it takes to write a post. Add to that all the "friends" one can have on Facebook, all the "friends" one can have on Twitter, and, wow, suddenly you have more "Friends" than a nymphomaniac Quaker. (Me, I've never had sex with a Quaker, though I've known a few who spoke in tongues.) Wine blogging, then, is a way to make friends, and, truly, isn't it much easier to make friends when they can't actually see how unattractive you are, and you can delete any of their stupid comments? So "community" makes perfect sense as a reason to blog.

A large number of bloggers I spoke to (And, believe me, one of the greatest days of my life was the day I spent speaking with wine bloggers, why, it was like I was living a dream episode of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" and I was Jeff Foxworthy. OK, so, you know you're a redneck when you drink wine in the can--rather than reading the newspaper.) simply said that they typed a wine blog because they felt the need to express their opinions about wine, opinions that they hadn't seen expressed elsewhere. Someone has to have the courage to take on the 100 Point Scale! It's stupid! There, I've said it. And what about BioDynamics? That's really stupid. No, wait, that's really green and good for the Earth. I can't say that. All that spiritual crap is all over the place, wineries are falling for it right and left, I'd better move on to another subject. Wait, can I even publish today? Is there a full moon? And what about too much oak! I have a lot to say about too much oak! Why do wineries use too much oak? There, I've said it. Someone had to. And don't forget to come back and read my future posts where I take on issues no one else dares write about--snooty sommeliers, too much oak on Sauvignon Blanc, and why don't wineries realize that wine bloggers are the most important resource they have for selling wine? So my survey seems to indicate that many wine bloggers are motivated by the need to correct the wine industry, to simply say what needs to be said. I stand humbled by their courage. When I'm drinking wine in the can.

Many of the bloggers I spoke with expressed how fed up they were with the traditional wine print publications, those tired old windbags who tell us what wines we should be drinking based solely on their expertise and experience. Expertise and experience, what the hell good are those qualities? Those qualities are vastly overrated. Why I can open a bottle, taste it, and tell you what I think of it. That's way more valuable! I'm just an ordinary schmuck like you are, doesn't my opinion seem more valuable? I'm a published wine blogger. I know about wine, and you can trust me. You know you can't trust Wine Spectator or Wine Enthusiast or Wine and Spirits--they take advertising. OK, sure, I have a couple of ads on my blog, and I'm really trying to monetize it, but that's different. I have standards. I only review wines I've been sent for free. I don't bring anger to my evaluation, anger at having paid fifty bucks for an overoaked bottle of Cabernet. Instead, I can give it a positive review and get even more wine sent to me. This is integrity you can count on.

These seemed to be the major reasons that people blog. I think my little, but very accurate and scientific, survey has answered a lot of questions about why we maintain wine blogs. What I haven't figured out is why anyone reads them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The HoseMaster's Guide to the Wine Blog Awards

It's just about time for nominations to begin for the Wine Blog Awards. Oh, sorry, I was yawning. Tom Wark created the American Wine Blog Awards several years ago and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, not even free wine samples, not even admiring comments ("Great post, WineMussolini, always nice hangin' with you."), that wine bloggers like more than giving themselves awards. Even when they're imaginary awards, awards that celebrate a field unlikely to exist in five years, a field whose high qualifying standard to enter is owning a computer, a field with more bombs than an average acre in Iraq. There are eight awards, at this point, to be handed out, and it's hard to think of a less prestigious trophy. A Daytime Emmy? Mens Figure Skating Miss Congeniality Award? Sex with Paris Hilton? But the awards will be handed out anyway, the winners decided by the votes of the courageous judges, who are asked to read countless wine blogs, a task with all the appeal of reading the Congressional Record in Esperanto, and, of course, primarily by the votes of the people. So, rather than simply letting the judges decide which wine blogs deserve the awards, the awards will basically be determined by how effectively each nominated wine blogger works Twitter and FaceBook, and by how many readers he has. This nicely eliminates quality and originality from having anything to do with the awards. Yet, despite that, I'm certain that the cream will rise to the top. Or the turds.

The Wine Blog Awards are modeled on all the awards the professional wine media give themselves. In recent months many of these awards were handed out. I'd like to give a tip of the HoseMaster's nozzle to Antonio "Tony" Galloni for winning the Wine Name That's the Most Fun to Say Award, just edging out James Suckling. Congratulations to Steve Heimoff for winning the prestigious Alder Yarrow Most Times Mentioning My Own Importance Award. And I'd be remiss for not mentioning Alice Feiring's well-earned Henry James Award for the Most Words Going Nowhere.

For those of you getting ready to nominate your favorite wine blog, it won't be long now, be patient, I know I'm on the edge of my coma, here's a quick look at the categories and what they aim to reward.

Best Wine Blog Graphics and Presentation: This is the Miss America Pageant. Content be damned, which one looks the purtiest? Nominees will be asked a few questions like, "If you could speak to the terrorists, what would you tell them about freedom?" and "If you could invite any four people, dead or alive, to dinner, what would you serve to the dead ones?" Then they'll parade around in evening gowns and the one with the cutest butt will win. This, at least, is the easiest category to judge. You don't have to read the insipid prose. It's like deciding who to hire for the mortician opening at Forest Lawn. Whoever can make the brain dead look the most lifelike.

Best Industry/Business Wine Blog: The Dork Award. Endlessly fascinating discussions about grape prices, the Three Tier Distribution System, and wine marketing schemes. Wine bloggers giving this award makes about as much sense as The Wall Street Journal Wine Club. I know when I want wine advice, I turn to the Wall Street Journal. And when I want the latest on the hip and trendy nightclubs I watch Al Jazeera. I'm guessing, just a wild guess, that one blog won't win both of these first two awards.

Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog: I'm a bit confused about this. Is this an award for who reviews the best wines? Burgundy and First Growth Bordeaux and SuperTuscans and Lodi Zins? Or for who writes the best reviews? And what about pairing the wines with music or haiku or pictures of kitties? How much weight will the judges give to that? What this award comes down to is the Best Impression of Robert Parker Award. Writing about wines in the most convincing killjoy fashion. Taking the amazing joy and sensual pleasure of sharing a wine with a loved one and turning it into the Best of Roget's Thesaurus. Bloggers blather endlessly about just drinking the wines you like, then they spend their time telling you what wines you should like, what those wines taste like down to the very last adjective, and this is clearly admirable. If you're incredibly self-absorbed.

Best Single Subject Wine Blog: OK, wine blogs are about wine. How many subjects is that? If the blog is about spirits, then is it a wine blog? If the blog is about food, is it a wine blog? And as far as I can tell, every blog is about a single subject--the blogger.

Best Winery Blog: I love winery blogs. They're a lot like winery dogs, only more full of crap. This is a category about marketing, not about information or talent. There are some wonderful blogs written by winemakers (take a bow, John Kelly, Randall Grahm), but that's not what this category is for. This category is for validating the usefulness of blogs as marketing tools for wineries. And if wineries use blogs to sell wine, then blogs must have a purpose! Blogs might actually be worth something. OK, wine bloggers, I've got something important to tell you. Wine blogs will be profitable when they learn to sell what TV has been selling us for fifty years--Sex and Death. Those are moneymakers! Anyhow, the Best Winery Blog is the equivalent of advertising's Clio--the most effective use of lying.

Best Writing on a Wine Blog: Now here is an interesting category, and, essentially, it should be the only category. Only who's going to judge it? And who wants to win? With all due respect to the mentally challenged, it's the Gold Medal in the Special Olympics. It's being the fat guy who comes in sixth on "Biggest Loser." It's scoring 300 on the SAT's. It's winning a limbo contest by going under the pole vault bar. It's marrying Larry King. But, and I'm being serious now, if Samantha Dugan doesn't win for Sans Dosage, the judges need to be sent to Gitmo for a lovely spa treatment.

Best New Wine Blog: You're talented, you're interesting, you've got a great voice, you're very well-behaved, now see if you can crank out endless posts for a year and maybe we'll give you an actual award next year.

Best Overall Wine Blog: For those of you new to the blogging game, this is all about being an insider. Which is why the awards exist in the first place. You have to be part of Hollywood to win an Oscar. They ain't giving one to John Waters. So this award has to go to the wine blog that most closely represents what wine blogging is about--volume, volume, volume. What makes WalMart successful? Volume. What makes Costco the wine powerhouse that it is? Volume. What does Celine Dion have that other singers don't? Volume. Quantity not Quality, that's our motto. So if you aspire to win this award, remember, you have choices. You can write well or you can write often, you can spout wisdom or you can spout your inexperienced opinions, you can be original or you can regurgitate what you're fed. If you want to succeed, move up the latter.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 3

There are lots of facts about grape varieties, but what we're interested in on wine blogs is opinions unsupported by facts. This is the great tradition of blogging, and one I intend to uphold. Facts are so boring. This is why the Internet was created, in order to end truth once and for all. Social Media is all about muddying the truth, and that's why wineries are so intent on hiring someone to do this for them on a daily basis. But I digress. There are the bone dry facts about grape varieties--you can look them up in Jancis Robinson's brilliant book "Vines, Grapes and Wines," or you can go to Wikipedia and read the plagiarized version. But when it comes to worthless opinions, I know you look to the HoseMaster of Wine. Let's explore a few more white varieties.


There is some dispute about how to pronounce Viognier. In France, it's vee-own-yay; in Texas, vee-og-near. I'm going with the Texans cuz they're scarier and they hogtie Frenchmen and brand them. Smells a lot like chicken when they do. It wasn't that many years ago that there were but a few dozen acres of Viognier in the entire world, all of it in the Northern Rhone appellations of Condrieu (KON-dry-u in Texan) and Cote-Rotie. At the rate it's selling, in thirty years it will be back to those same dozen acres in the world. Wine pundits predicted a few years ago that Viognier would be the next Chardonnay, and they were right, except they meant that it would be a popular wine instead of yet another wine to heap scorn upon. The best thing about Viognier is how it smells. The same is true for a leather thong. And the consumer knows that when he purchases a Viognier he can be absolutely certain that there is little chance he'll like it, though it does make a terrific gag gift.

Interesting facts about Viognier:

There is a long tradition in Cote-Rotie of mixing Viognier with Syrah in order to give the wines some aromatic character when they're young. In the New World, Viognier is added to natural gas to let you know when you have a leak.

The name "Viognier" is thought to derive from the Austrian city of Vienna, and refers to the men who drink it having tiny little sausages.

If you drink enough Viognier your breath will smell like your grandmother's girdle drawer.

Other names for Viognier:

My Mistake
Green Lantern
Sorry, Rhone Number


Contrary to popular belief, Pinot Gris is not what you call the smegma that gathers if you're uncircumcised. That's Gruner Veltliner. Pinot Gris is thought to be a mutant variety of Pinot Noir because, after drinking, it often comes back to haunt you and chainsaw your children. Pinot Gris goes by a slightly different name in Italy; there it's known as Pellegrino. The best versions come from Alsace, where they used to put "Tokay" in front of the name as a tribute to their favorite Little Rascal, Buckwheat, who was a dark shade of Gris. (For a short time in the 50's you could also buy Alfalfa Pinot Blanc.) In recent years, Oregon has become the home of many Pinot Gris producers, lending credence to the theory that Oregon is where you fly over from California to get to Walla Walla.

Interesting facts about Pinot Gris:

Pinot Grigio is Italian for "print money."

Another theory holds that Pinot Gris is actually related to Ambergris. And because ambergris originates in the intestine of the sperm whale, they smell remarkably similar.

Pinot Gris is considered one of the Noble Grapes of Alsace, but this is a region that is often confused about nobility.

Other names for Pinot Gris:

Sex in a Rowboat
Macy Gris


Chenin Blanc is a variety of grape capable of producing great wines that no one cares the least bit about. In California there was a time when Charles Krug Chenin Blanc was on every wine list in every chain restaurant in the country, which singlehandedly spelled Chenin Blanc's demise. Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape, producing wines of every type, from sparkling wines to dry wines, demi-sec wines to dessert wines. So it's the Mel Gibson of grapes--doesn't matter if he acts, directs or produces, nobody cares. However, Chenin Blanc is one of the major grapes of the Loire Valley and, in particular, Anjou. Gesundheit.

Interesting facts about Chenin Blanc:

In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is known as Steen. In Germany it's known as Frankensteen. In Austria, it's called Mary Steenburgen.

Vouvray is famous for Chenin Blanc, and, oddly, is how people with a hairlip say the last word in Hip Hip Hooray!

Chenin Blanc is mentioned by Miss Manners as being the wine to bring to a person's house for dinner to ensure that you won't be invited back.

Other names for Chenin Blanc:

Wine Coulee
Shannon Blank (porn name)
Kruger Juice

Friday, March 5, 2010

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 13 After Dark, My Sweet

When you're a dick your head's the most sensitive part, and mine had been taking a beating ever since I'd started working on this case. I'd developed a ringing in my ears and it seemed like I'd developed double vision. Turned out it was just Veronica. She was standing at my office door just oozing sex. Great. Bad enough I had blood stains on my carpet. I hadn't seen cleavage like that since Robert Parker had been my plumber, a job he was good at. He'd snaked my toilet and replaced my old scale with a hundred point one. I'd seen more crack than a Nick Nolte Oscar party. I wonder whatever happened to that old sink jockey.

I had to shake the cobwebs from my head before I could talk to Veronica. I really needed to dust my office once in a while. I'd just hung up the phone with Avril Cadavril, who wanted me to return to the morgue. She could wait. Veronica was my client, and, aside from that, I couldn't take my eyes off her. She was breathtaking, like sticking your head into a fermenting tank of sauvignon blanc. I so badly wanted to be the sugar to her yeast. But I'd already been converted to alcohol.

Veronica was staring down at the blood stain that Larry Anosmia, M.S. had left on my carpet. "What's this? Is that blood? Or did you dump Turley Zin on your carpet?"

"No, that's blood. But I did use the Turley to stain my Haynes." My head trauma was worse than I thought. "What is all this about Veronica? You hired me to just get you into the M.S. exam. Now two girls are dead, I'm a suspect in one of the cases, I've had my prostate examined without my consent, and somebody just got shot in my office. It's like I'm attending the Wine Bloggers Conference. Only they've all passed their prostate exams and become Certified Assholes. What's going on, Veronica? It's time you started telling me the truth."

"It's pretty complicated, HoseMaster, and the more I tell you the more dangerous it gets for you. This is much bigger than this cheap little jug-wine town of yours."

"Yeah, I know, take me to your liter."

"What my friends and I are on to is a threat to the very existence of the wine business, the kind of conspiracy that may end wine as we know it. But we've been unable to infiltrate the inner sanctum of the conspiracy, the very chambers where this horrible plot was hatched. But, believe me, HoseMaster, if you can't get me into that M.S. interview, if I can't get in front of those bastards and wave my bodacious Titratable Acidity-Titratable Acidities to pass their idiotic exams, the evil that is the M.S. program will fatally infect the wine business like the H1N1 Virus in a room full of asthmatics. These are evil people, HoseMaster, and they'll stop at nothing to accomplish their ultimate goal."

Veronica's chest was heaving with her excitement and anger. Her green eyes were ablaze; her passion had given her entire body a glow. I'd never seen a more beautiful woman, or a more dangerous one. And I'd met Karen MacNeil in a dark alley with a bottle of Fife.

"Veronica, my Gorgeous Girl, I'm not afraid of anybody with an M.S. It's just an imaginary title, like Certified Wine Educator, or Ph.D's that call themselves 'Doctor,' or Biggest Loser, which encompasses both. And it's going to be easier if you tell me what you know, if you trust me so that I can help you. I feel like I'm completely in the dark, uninformed, clueless, like I'm a wine judge at the California State Fair. And I'm a little tired of getting hit in the head every time I see a midget. Tell me what you know, Doll, or I'm done with this whole affair."

Tears were forming in Veronica's eyes, like she'd been pulling her own nose hairs. Sure, I was being rough on her, a woman who'd just recently seen two of her sisters murdered, but that's how I swing. I'd been thrown suddenly into a sinister conspiracy that had nothing to do with me any longer. I'd quit the wine business, used my old tastevin for an ashtray, sick of the hypocrites and sleazebags that append letters to the ends of their names like they're penile enhancements, and now Veronica had suckered me back into it. I didn't feel any obligation to help her, though I wouldn't mind riding my Sterling tram all the way up to her wine cave. But I wasn't about to risk my worthless life to help foil a conspiracy I wasn't even sure existed.

"OK, HoseMaster, I guess I have to trust you. What I'm going to tell you will sound crazy, unbelievable, but I swear it's all true."

And then the lights went out and we were pitched into total blackness.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Le Petomane of Wine

I asked a friend at a small winery to allow me to read a typical note from a wine blogger asking for samples. He receives several solicitations every month, even more right before Christmas. Here is the letter he gave me.

To Whom It May Concern,

I know that it's going to be a little hard for you to believe that you're actually hearing from me. No one ever expected Ed McMahon to send them a letter from Publisher's Clearing House
either. And few women ever expected to get to sleep with Warren Beatty, though none of the thousands who did complained, even if they did have to put Vaseline in their eyes to make him look younger. It's just not every day you have contact with a celebrity. But I assure you it's true. I really am contacting you for samples of your wonderful wines. I know how much excitement this will cause you, and I certainly know that what's running through your mind now is the amount of sales a review from my wine blog, LePetomaneofWine, will generate, but I urge you to calm down, take a deep breath, good, now think about hiring some extra help for your shipping department before the surge.

As you undoubtedly have heard from other winery owners in your appellation, wine blogs are now the most important source for reviews and sales. Sure, once upon a time it was the media, but those days are long past. Wine lovers have caught on to the fact that 40% of the wineries Parker critiques are fictional, not to mention 100% of the numbers. And, of course, Parker is dead and his recent reviews were generated randomly by machines formerly used for tabulating Florida elections. Wine Spectator only makes money giving restaurants awards for their fictional wine lists in much the same manner every kid on the soccer team gets a trophy no matter how spastic they are. No one believes Wine Spectator numbers any more, anyway--not when you've got professional wine bloggers reviewing the very same crap! Do I even have to mention Wine and Spirits Magazine? Have their reviews ever sold wine? Have you ever met anybody, anywhere who subscribes to Wine and Spirits? If your leg had their circulation you'd have to have it amputated. No, my friend, more and more the wine buying public is turning to wine blogs, and my blog, in particular, for their wine buying advice. But you already knew this, and that's why your hand is shaking right now, as you read this, knowing that this is your chance. I know, I know, it's hard for me to believe too.

Mind you, I didn't ask for this sort of power and responsibility. I began my wine blog six months ago on a whim. Well, to be honest, so many people have urged me to write about wine, so many of my friends and family turn to me for wine advice knowing that I've learned a lot in the past six years I've been an avid wine drinker, I only felt it was fair to let everyone in on my expertise. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. It saves them time and money. Honestly, we should apply the same logic to the Health Care Debate. Next time you need surgery, get it from a second year medical student--hell, they know plenty, certainly more than you, what could go wrong? See what I mean? Training and knowledge are vastly overrated. It's opinions that matter. Best of all, it's guaranteed positive opinions that matter! And, here's a bonus, on the off chance that I don't like your wine you can always say I wasn't really qualified to judge it--try saying that about Sunset Magazine! OK, bad example.

You may be wondering just what kind of audience, and how large an audience, my blog, LePetomaneofWine, attracts. Since I began my blog six months ago my numbers have increased tenfold from just my parents reading it! And if you look at my Facebook page you'll see that I have more than 300 friends, many of them part of the local prison population. I am a prolific user of Twitter, and after I taste your wine samples you will see the Twittersphere come alive with comments I post like, "Want a great Syrah tonight, check out my blog!" Wait! What was that noise? Oh, sorry, it's the sound of cash registers ringing--always happens when I Tweet. And what does all this cost you? The price of two bottles of each of your wines (one to review, one to sell on Craigslist) and shipping! I know, it seems too good to be true.

You must know that ignoring wine blogs is foolish. Everyone in the wine business knows this by now. Read any wine blog! It's right there in print--wine blogs are the most influential force in the wine business today. It's on the Internet, and you can't say it on the Internet if it's not true. Except on Facebook, which is all about lying. Why waste your time courting critics, risking the chance that someone will detect the many flaws in your wine? I'm not going to notice. The only flaw I notice in any wine is the price tag. Why waste all that time and money traveling to wine shops? They have no influence! Wine shops are just like gas stations, people go there to fill up, not get advice on how to drive! One mention on my blog and those wine shop buyers will be phoning you begging for wine! Don't be the one winery left behind by the Social Media revolution! And don't settle for any second-rate wine blogs either. OK, they're all second-rate, don't settle for any third-rate wine blogs.

I eagerly anticipate your case of samples. Please note that I do not guarantee I will review your wines on LePetomaneofWine. But you can trust that I will drink them.

Le Petomane

Monday, March 1, 2010

The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 2

Armed with just a few basic facts, and maybe a rifle, you can walk into any party of wine lovers and impress them with your knowledge. But where do you find those facts? Reference books give you their version of the facts, but when it comes to wine grapes these facts are shamefully incomplete. Sure, they have little illustrations of different grape clusters, but how boring is that? "Did you know that Zinfandel ripens unevenly, sort of like how Scarlet Johansson's left boob is smaller than her right." Who cares? Fortunately, my right hand is smaller than my left. Call me, Scarlet, we go together like Beaucastel and Brett. Anyhow, reading a book about grape varieties that's filled with stupid paintings of clusters is about as interesting as reading every Marvin Shanken "Letter From the Editor" in Wine Spectator. Marvin writes with all the flair of a turkey baster. So in Volume 2 of The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes I focus on a few of the better known red varieties. Take notes, there will be a short quiz later.


Cabernet Sauvignon is the easiest grape to understand. Think of it like a Frank Gehry designed winery--big and ugly. There seems to be something in Cabernet that mesmerizes humans. It's our desire for size instead of subtlety. So Celine Dion not Blossom Dearie. Five Dollar Footlongs, not dime-a-dozen six inches. Rush Limbaugh instead of truth. And, naturally, when we speak of great Cabernet Sauvignon we speak about elegance because it has none, but we're sure as hell determined to convince everyone it does. Cabernet is to elegance as Johnny Weir is to masculinity. Cabernet Sauvignon is useful in assessing wine lovers as well. If a friend's wine cellar is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, the person who assembled it knows about as much about wine as the average wine blogger. Insert joke here. In general, the best wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon command the highest prices of almost any of the varieties, so it's also a sign of intelligence, or lack thereof.

Interesting Cabernet Sauvignon facts:

Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended into the finest Italian wines in order to make them understandable to stupid American wine buyers. It almost never makes them better.

In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon is best when aged in enormous caves, the bigger and more elaborate the better. You know what Freud said about caves, "They are big, wet and filled with strange life forms, and I love to store my cigar there." Freud preferred big Pinots.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the predominant grape of the Left Bank of Bordeaux. "Left Bank" is from the colloquial expression for what prestige-seeking buyers have done after a shopping spree in Pauillac.

Other names for Cabernet Sauvignon:

HMS Ti-Tannic
Death Cab for Laube
Athlete's Lafite
Cab Salve


Zinfandel is known as America's Grape. This is thought to be praise. But consider that America's Team is the Dallas Cowboys. Losers. America's Sweetheart, Mary Pickford--dead. And, of course, the America's Cup--Shawn White's jockstrap. Fragrant with the smell of corporate money. Zinfandel is a bit like Mariah Carey, most people believe it's white. Zinfandel's heritage has been traced though Italy's Primitivo grape to the even lesser-known Mashie Niblick grape of Croatia. More people pretend to like Zinfandel than any other red grape. Once a year thousands of Zinfandel lovers gather at a large tasting called ZAP (for Zinfandel Alcoholics and Perverts) and demonstrate their love for the grape. The idea came from NAMBLA. Zinfandel remains the leader in being the wine most often offered by-the-glass and never ordered, making it the wine of choice for off-duty busboys.

Interesting facts about Zinfandel:

Zinfandels from the Sierra Foothills lack color and structure and character, yet still sell prolifically in tasting rooms. Here is where its high alcohol pays dividends.

The origin of the word "Zinfandel" is the word "Zahnfundl," which is Croatian for "Pass me the Syrah."

A TTB regulation forbids a Zinfandel with any character or flavor to be bottled with a proprietary name that features a pun with the word "Zin." These labels are designed to help dump the ocean of bad, unbalanced Zinfandel on the Special Needs Wine Buyers who won't know the difference anyway.

Other names for Zinfandel:

Back Inventory
Jamantha Sans Dosage


Merlot is the term for declassified Cabernet Sauvignon. It was made popular by the 2004 hit movie "Sideways," which starred Paul Giamatti as a pompous, wine-loving, balding loser--a transparent homage to the HoseMaster. Merlot is one of the five red varieties allowed in Bordeaux, making it the Gummo Marx of grapes. Merlot was once thought to be a separate variety, but genetic testing has proved it to be Cabernet Sauvignon with a limp. In Chile, Carmenere was mistaken for Merlot because it isn't any good either. Merlot was briefly the darling of Americans until it was discovered that it was shallow and found in all the wrong places, like Tiger Woods.

Interesting facts about Merlot:

The greatest wines of Pomerol are predominantly Merlot, which is the major reason the French don't list the grape varieties on wine labels.

Merlot is often associated with a weedy character and is an effective garden substitute for Round-Up.

Merlot is added to fine wines in order to lower the price. It acts as filler and is often referred to in the trade as grape Spam.

Other names for Merlot:

Chile Dog
Mister Softie
Cab Lite
Floor Stack (Trader Joe's)