Monday, March 12, 2012

My Personal Wine Diaries

Before wine blogs existed, those glorious days of yore, I kept copious journals of my wine experiences. From the very beginning of adulthood I knew that wine would be my chosen career, and that one day I would be called upon to heap scorn and ridicule upon it, as one lovingly does for ones children. (My mother once told me I would have been her favorite child except it cost her a lot to have my tail docked.) Recently, I was reviewing my journals of the past 35 years and found some interesting, even prescient, passages. I thought you might be interested…

I LOVE WINE!  June 26, 1975

I’m beginning this journal to write about my love of wine. I hope you will join me on this great adventure. I almost don’t know where to start! I went to Trader Joe’s today and bought six(!) bottles of California wine. Spent all my tip money, not really wise for a struggling paperboy. They’re all made from different grapes. There’s a Chardonnay, a Pinot Chardonnay, a Merlot (the “t” is hard, like Grandma’s morning drink), a White Zinfandel, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Fume Blanc. I think the only difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc is that the latter is sold to stupid people. Sort of like French Fries and pommes frites. I wonder how much more money you could get for Mr. Pommes Head.

I want to explore the world of wine. There is so much I don’t know! Like why do they waste so many corks—they don’t just grow on trees! And what do they add to the grape juice to make it smell like peaches and pears and Dad’s old collection of Gent magazines in the garage? Also, I want to taste all the greatest wines in the world! Chateau Mateus and the great German wines of Heitz. Though I admit, I am a bit nervous about tasting those German wines. I’ve developed a fear of Heitz. ACKrophobia.

But I know that wine will be a passion of mine for as long as I live, like Atari and Pet Rocks and Onanism, which also are some of the cornerstones of civilization, and equally addictive. Come along with me as I try my hand at all of them.

WHITE WINES  October 13, 1979

White wines are stupid. It’s why the French call them “blanc,” as in “blanc stare,” which is what I get when I announce I want to be a sommelier. I’m even taking sneering lessons. I want to be the greatest sommelier that ever lived! (Editor’s note: Mission accomplished! Voted Greatest Sommelier Ever at the 2003 National Condescend-Off. I left Andrea Immer in the dust!) Everyone knows white wines are garbage, yet wineries continue to crank them out. Why would anyone drink white wine when there is red wine? Oh, because it goes with fish? Who the hell eats fish? Catholics on Fridays? Who else? Other trained seals?

I’ve heard wine “experts” say that German wines are some of the greatest wines on the planet. Yeah, and one day a black guy will be President. (Editor’s note: A black guy is President.) German wines are made from Riesling! Ever had a Riesling? No, I didn’t think so. Let me tell you, Rieslings all taste exactly the same. And they brag that the best ones smell like petroleum! Which they do. It’s like drinking a glass of Jerry Lewis’ hair. That’s Riesling. Yeah, great wine.

You won’t catch me spending much time with white wines. White wines are for people that don’t really like wine, just like white people are for people who don’t really like people. I love wine. Red wine is the only wine worth drinking. (Editor’s note: Red wine is the only wine worth drinking—I read it on Suckling’s blog so it must be half true.)


I found out that Napa Valley is wine’s Mecca. Once a day wine writers bow down in its direction and pray that they’ll get samples of the best wines from there. (Editor’s note: This still goes on today, and there is now even a charity for pathetic aspiring  wine writers—the Mecca Wish Foundation.) They believe that, if they’re faithful, when they die they’ll be greeted in the after-life by a thousand 100 Point virgins. I’ll settle for two 50 Point nymphos.

I just returned from my very first visit to the beautiful Napa Valley. It was amazing. I learned so much from going to tasting rooms and talking to the wine experts that work in them. Did you know that the vine rows are spaced really wide to allow head room for the winemaker? And that those big propeller things in the vineyards are used to blow the birds away? (Editor’s note: Actually, they’re for destemming the grapes right as they’re picked!) Yes, it’s true. I was told those interesting facts by the very same people who were pouring me tastes of wine, so you know they’re true. Everything you hear in a tasting room is true—something to remember when traveling to wine country.

My first appointment was at Sterling Vineyards up near Calistoga. Wow, what a place! The winery architecture is Moorish (Editor’s note: Oops. It’s actually Boorish.)  The Moors are well-known for their love of sky rides. I love the Moors, Othello and Mary Tyler. I rode the sky ride up to the Sterling tasting room, taking in the breathtaking view of their service road. In the tasting room, my lovely host explained to me that Sterling is owned by Coca-Cola. This explained why the wines all tasted the same. (Editor’s note: Coca-Cola sold Sterling Vineyards soon after that when they discovered wine couldn’t be made according to formula—sorry, Coke, it is now!) I tasted all the wines but my favorite was the 1977 Sterling Reserve Cabernet, which I thought was far better than the 1977 Diet Sterling Reserve Cabernet. I threw up in the sky ride on the way down.

From Sterling Vineyards I drove north to the famous Chateau Montelena winery. Chateau Montelena is very famous for their Chardonnay being chosen as the best Chardonnay over many famous French white Burgundies at the Paris Tasting of 1976. All of the judges for the competition were French, so it’s not surprising they picked a California wine. If they’d all been American, they’d have picked a French wine. French and American people both like to pretend to be open-minded. But a big deal has been made about the results. I think the results are unfortunate. All that will happen is Napa Valley will get a swelled head, prices for land will go up, and rich people will replace actual farmers. (Editor’s note: Told ya so.) Oh, what do I know? (Editor’s note: You’re a genius, my friend, simple as that.)

More excerpts from my youthful journals in future posts. I’ve left out the torrid sex scenes. Onan would be proud.


50 Point Daddy said...

Somehow, being part of your tribe and being described as a "fifty-point nympho" does not sit well with me. But, then, I look around and see Sam and Marcia and Amy Cleary--and I worry for your future.

Surely they will be even more upset than I am.

Mockingbird said...

Like Onan's seed, your words fall, spent, on the ground. Not that I was interrupted while reading them.... It's that nobody is here to listen to me read them out loud...

Thomas said...

Mecca Wish, indeed a good one.

How come you didn't visit Gonzalez in 1980? That was where it was supposed to have been at.

You ain't (weren't) so smart after all.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Come on, buy the premise. I wrote these journals in the late 70's when those lovely girls were children. You, on the other hand, were already publishing CGCW. I seem to remember the first few issues were on stone tablets.


My seed was often spent while drinking Barbera because I was a huge fan of Onan the Barberian.

Or something like that.


Ah, yes, scenic Gonzalez. The only ones I knew were Pancho and Speedy. Couple of rats.

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, White Zinfandel in 1975? Really?

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Well, Sutter Home White Zin really began to take off about 1975 or a bit earlier. I'm sure I tasted it, though it couldn't hold a candleholder to Lancer's.

Thomas said...


1975 was the first year of production of WZin at Sutter Home, after a stuck fermentation gave them a nicely sweet pink wine.

Bright Light Daddy said...

Couldn't hold a candle to Lancers?

Oy vey.

Back to your hippie days? Or did we all out candles in our empty Lancer's bottles.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


My hippie days? Those never happened. But I do remember lots of people who had candleholders made from empty, thank God, bottles of Lancer's and Mateus. Same people who had bookcases made from painted bricks and planks.

And now Mer et Soleil has a stupid ceramic bottle. Soon they will be filled with candles as well. Does everything old have to come around again? Nothing personal.

Thomas said...

I kid you not on this: somewhere around 1972, at a diner in New Jersey, I sent back a bottle of Mateus.

Don't know how I could tell, but the wine was spoiled.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Maybe you sent it back because it was fizzy...

I can't say I ever ordered Mateus in a restaurant, though I served a LOT of it when I worked in a steakhouse while in college. I did, however, occasionally order Mouton-Cadet. I think in those days it may have been non-vintage. Yup, I was a class act.

Marcia Macomber said...

I wasn't bothered in the least by the '50 point nympho'! That's how I know I've landed on the right URL for this blog!

I loved the Diet Sterling Cab Reserve. Talk about an opportunity for introducing a new trend in wine products. Those Coke folks are pretty clever!

And there was quite a bit of Mateus (in the 70s!) in my house. Given how it tastes I think it's might impressive Thomas knew when it was 'spoiled.'

Dean Tudor said...

Thomas, thanks, I knew that...

It is just that Ron's diary is dated June 26, 1975...BEFORE the harvest even began, and thus BEFORE any fermentation could have been stuck, etc.

Sorry to be a stickler for historical accuracy, but then...

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I bought futures.

Dean Tudor said...

In the 1960s in Toronto Canada, Mateus was the cheapest wine in restaurants. A litre bottle would sell for $3.50 - $4 at a bar, and would be ordered by hundreds of cheap patrons. I believe by the late 1960s it was selling for $1.50 a bottle retail at the government -controlled LCBO liquor stores.

Dean Tudor said...

"I bought futures" --- LOL

You know, that's probably the only real answer here. You should do stand up.

The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Thomas said...

He bought futures on WZin.

Now I know why Ron has so much time on his hands. Must be tough counting all that money each morning.

Anonymous said...

"Blanc Stare" was an early bottling from Dry Creek Vineyard and Winery, if I recall correctly.

Thomas said...

Great name for a blog (for all blogs?): Blanc Bruit.