Monday, November 26, 2012

The Golden Age of Wine Writing?


I like to write about wine. I don’t think I have any particularly interesting insights about wine, but that doesn’t seem to be one of the qualifications for writing about it. On HoseMaster of Wine™, of course, I spend my meager talent writing about wine, or, more accurately, the wine business, from a satiric point of view. I suffer no illusions that my work on HoseMaster has any influence or benefit. Nor do I think very many people care what I think. But you don’t have to be in the wine world long to see how it drags the pretentious out of almost everyone. Casting a cold, hard eye on the “tastemakers” and wannabes in the trade is what I try to do. That, and try to exorcise my comedy demons. 

What amazes me is how wonderful and entertaining and fascinating wine itself is, whereas wine writing is, with few exceptions, dreary, pedantic, insipid and repetitive. Perhaps that’s because so much of it revolves around descriptions of aromas and flavors we, as humans, are poorly equipped to perceive, much less express. Wine outmatches us. I can summarize an awful lot of people in a few concise phrases. Describing Chave Hermitage, however, seems beyond my capability. And everyone else's.

It is often said that what’s interesting about wine writing is capturing the “story” behind a wine. Yet so much of what passes for the story is simple marketing propaganda, the glorification of a winemaker, or the Grimm’s fairy tale of an owner on a “journey,” or some mystical talk about the magic of their terroir. There’s more truth in an election year political ad. As soon as I read the word “journey,” my eyes glaze over, anyway, and my patented BullShit detector goes off.

I’m all for romance in wine, but romance, as we all know, ends most often in disappointment. Don’t fall in love with falling in love. So much of what I read about wine on wine blogs and in wine porn rags (Wine Spectator and such) is just that. Someone in love with the idea of being in love with wine, a new wine producer, or a new region. That’s not wine writing, that’s infatuation.

I have been kicking around the idea of doing some wine reviewing here. Though I’m no longer a sommelier, and no longer taste thousands of wine every year, I’m still constantly around wine, constantly tasting wine, and I thought it would be fun to add my voice to the cacophony (accent on the “phony”) of voices on the Internet. I go to winery open houses, I go to industry tastings, I judge in professional wine competitions, I still try to be involved in my trade, but, honestly, who cares what I think? Does the world need my opinions of Siduri wines, to pick an example? I know Adam Lee doesn’t. Does anyone care about my favorite wines at Family Winemakers? Now that I don’t have any direct buying power they sure as hell don’t. My opinion won’t sell wine, nor will it ruin anyone’s reputation. And God knows there’s not a marketing director in the country who’d send free samples to the HoseMaster for review. So why bother to even consider writing wine reviews?

I had myself convinced that I could bring my experience, along with a somewhat jaded eye, and a large dose of honesty, and that might result in something interesting to read. Maybe some long form pieces that focus as much on my personal history with a winery or winemaker, the setting where the tasting was held (at the winery, at home, in a cattle call tasting at a huge hall), the mood I was in at the time, as much as my impressions of the quality of the wines. It would be interesting for me to write. But I questioned whether it would be interesting for anyone to read.

Much of what bothers me about wine writing is how uncritical it is. I love wine as much as anyone I know, but I also really dislike boring wines, stupid wines, and what I think of as fatuous wines. And there are lots of them. I see them getting 91 points, or A-, or somewhere between 9 and 9.5 (so, 9.23567?) from people with the qualifications of a raccoon. I think, more worrisome (though it’s only wine), is the exclusion of wines from review that are subpar or overrated or stupid for the simple sake of not burning bridges, not offending someone, or, worse, no longer getting free samples. I understand it, wine is a gentleman’s sport and we abide by the rules of courtesy, integrity be damned, but it means I dismiss most of what I read for the propaganda or ill-informed opinion or ass-kissing it is. It is, I still believe, primarily the attention-barking of lonely poodles. I wonder, at times, if I could do better. The barking, I mean.

What’s always missing is context. Or maybe truth. (And usually talent.) Perhaps that the blogger is thrilled to have received free samples in the first place. After all, 1WineDude and Vinography get so many, and they can’t stop reminding us of how many. 1WineDude has an indentured serf to manage his, apparently. We’re meant to feel sorry for them when they tell us their tales of UPS shipper woes, though wine reviewing is the damn job they’ve chased for the past seven years. Talking about their free samples is a way to remind us of how successful they are, how important their opinions are. It’s notches on their conjugal wine headboard. I’ve been there, I’ve done the junket circuit, had my ego stroked like a soft kitty, I know the seduction. And I can’t claim at the time that I was any less affected or less blind to it. But I think I am now. Now that no one cares what I think.

There is so much blather about the influence the blogosphere has on wines sales. It may have some, though it’s so immeasurable as to be meaningless, maybe the equivalent of .01 of an inch of rain. The wine blogosphere is about the wine blogosphere, and almost nothing else. I think most of the bloggers I know personally understand that. It’s a strangely isolated island that the outside world doesn’t know exists, and even if it did, it would have no desire to visit. And it’s an island of humans prone to the usual human catalog of fallibility—jealousy, greed, hubris, narcissism, intellectual dishonesty and pettiness.

Which is what makes it fun for me to be here, hurling insults, pointing fingers and, I hope, making folks laugh.

So I'm still chewing on the idea of writing about wines from my admittedly limited and peculiar perspective. Those pieces may appear here, and, I'm sure, that will be a shock to everyone's system, all eleven of you. I won't be abandoning the satire you've all come to abhor, but I feel like doing something else now and then. Feel free to criticize, unsubscribe, belittle, or bemoan. Just don't act surprised.


57 comments:

Charlie Olken said...

Dear Mr. Washam--

The beauty of the Internet is that cost of becoming a wine writer is next to nothing. Anyone can do it.

Even you.

I have tasted with with you, and you are wholly qualified to issue opinions about wine.

And you have a successful blog. So you already have a venue and a built-in audience of eleven.

But you are right about the place of wine blogosphere. It is mostly irrelevant. I know this because I have thousands of paid readers, thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook fried and folks who for reason known only to them are endorsing me on LinkedIn--even though I have never met most of them.

But here is the kicker. I get no more than 10% readership from these thousands of people who pay to read my rag or who follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook or endorse me on Twitter.

I have now come to believe that free is worth what you pay for it in the eyes of most people. Why would so many more people pay to read my opinions than stop by to read them for free?

So, by all means, write about wine if it makes your soul happy. But remember this--those of us who come here regularly, pay for comedy--and it is worth much more than we pay for it. If you want to join Alder and Joe and me and Blake and Alice in the general wine category, we would welcome you with open arms. I just do not get why you would want to.

With love,
Charlie

Thomas said...

Ron,

Is it proper for me to say, I'm shocked?

I'm not, really.

Even I who generally has no regard for aesthetic criticism find myself criticizing individual wines, to myself.

Maybe I just stumbled on the ultimate wine criticism mechanism: keep it to oneself.

Incidentally, I don't believe it's a good idea to equate wine writing with wine criticism. They may join in one unit at times, but they are not the same function.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Charlie,
Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Not sure about the open arms of Alderpated, Blinky and Alice, but I get your point.

Frankly, I'm bored with HoseMaster of Wine. But who isn't? I've been trying to find ways to make it interesting to me again. I'm at that point where I am ready to walk away AGAIN, but this time I thought I'd try to muddle through. But in order to do that, I need to make it fresh. I hope that it doesn't feel stale to my eleven readers, but from my perspective, trapped in a small room at a keyboard and a blank screen, I'm weary of it. Can I keep doing it? Certainly. The well of my weirdness never runs dry. Will I? I hope so.

Writing a bit about wine won't help my soul, but it might rekindle my flagging interest in blogging. I know that everyone comes here for a laugh, to see what overinflated windbag I'll try to puncture, what outrageous insult I'll hurl and at whom, and I know that the minute I stop doing that, I'll lose my audience. I don't intend to stop being funny (if, indeed, I am), just maybe indulge myself in some writing about what I truly love--wine. I love comedy, too, but not nearly as much.

And, hell, I may not even do it. I just wrote this to test the waters, see if I'd get any reaction. I wouldn't presume to think that anyone would seek out any wine based on my recommendations, that wouldn't be the point. The point would be to have a bit of fun with it.

I almost didn't post this. But, hell, I wrote it, it's my blog, and I've got a lot of empty space to fill. Most of it between my ears.

Thomas,
Yes, clearly, wine writing and wine criticism are two different things. They overlap a bit, but they are different. Agreed.

So here's the deal. You start a blog, you get a following, and then you are quickly cubbyholed (which hurts if you don't use lube). That's just human nature. I dislike it. And I fight against it. I created my little cubbyhole, I created the HoseMaster voice, but I don't want to feel trapped by it--and I often do. And when you feel trapped, you want out.

Finally, I'm overwhelmed with how stupid the whole wine blog world has become. I've spent four years having fun with that, and become relatively well-known (so what?), but the thought of never having to write a wine blog again, or read one again, is very appealing at times. And I know a lot of folks would be happy to see me retire.

And, as I said to Charlie, this could just be an idle threat. I may try to write about, or review, some wine and then decide I'm just adding to the stupidity. Sadly, I guess, anyone can review wine. If only your mechanism of keeping it to yourself would catch on, I wouldn't have to write HoseMaster either.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

As someone that has tasted wine with you and is very much in awe of your palate and experience I would love to read reviews from you once in awhile. Hell I'm always waiting to hear what you think of the wines I send you and sadly you rarely share your impressions with me....so this is fine news to me, shit maybe I will even send you more wine now that I have a chance of hearing what you think of them! I'm with everyone else in that I don't want you to stop doing what you're doing here at our beloved HoseMaster of Wine, would break my heart in fact, but to mix in the occasional wine or trade event notes? I think that would be kind of refreshing. I say go for it Love and I am behind you 1000%. I love you!

Joe said...

I think I have the answer to your dilemma, if I may be so fruit-forward. Find a friend -- perhaps someone's who's about to married or something along those lines -- and take a week-long tour of wineries and then, and here's the 98-points-of-the-thing, make a movie about it!

Now, if this sounds like something that's already been done, don't panic...just make it a tour of Northern California wineries!
And here's a working title: "Vertical"!

Could get you out of the house a little, anyway.

JP Bary said...

Ron, Did anyone ever say something to you about wine that you didn't find interesting at some level. even if you thought it was the stupidest thing you ever heard. You make more sense than most. So keep it up! No one expects you to be brilliant all the time.

Dean Tudor said...

Ron I have this statement posted on my home page:

** Remember, it's not hard to be a wine writer: you just have to have opinions about wines and find someone to pay you for those opinions. You also have to recognize that there's nothing really free, and that you're getting wine samples, invites, dinners, trips and parties not because you're so great and so cool. You get these perks because it serves a purpose: ultimately, it's a wine writer's job in association with "our industry partners" to sell wine. You might even want to read "Oxford Companion to Wine" on the differences between a wine WRITER and a wine CRITIC. "The secret of wine writing is not simply to share opinions, but to give readers the confidence to have their own." -- Giles Kime. Or, put another way, "He who refines the public taste is a public benefactor" -- Dr. Samuel Johnson **

SO, RON, I'D SAY -- GO FOR IT, GOOD BUDDY !!! Take a bottle of wine you really, really like, and spend 1000 words on it...Drink it over the course of a few days. Show its evolution, etc.

Best ever, with deepest appreciation for your humour (Brit spelling) and wit, and with the backing of 35 million Canadians, Dean.

Till said...

Do it. The 11++ out here want to read your take on specific wines and more. Just be sure to bring back Hosemaster to review the movie Somm.

Marcia Macomber said...

I'm with the group: Go for it! In fact, a variation you could try would be a review of something Samantha sent that you both write dueling reviews on. Experiment! It seems to be quite necessary to keep your interest piqued even if the 11+ of us are here all the time.

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe! Honey, we could be just like that couple that used to review wines for The Wall Street Journal, well except that I'm not black, you have a great palate and we are married to other people, but other than that, exactly the same!

MsFizz said...

Just discovering this site- Love your no BS approach.
I work as a somm, and one of my managers loves to bother me for tasting notes on wine. Tasting notes for Italian wines are pretty much some variation on "cherry, mineral, dry, med-bodied." YAWN. I prefer to hold staff tastings.

Thomas said...

Sam, you aren't black? I am shocked again.

The couples idea is good, but I have to tell you that the ten other readers will start regurgitating our wine after a few of those "I love you so much" posts from Sam and Ron (better make that Samantha and Ron... we don't need no more shocks today.)

To Joe: I like the title "Horizontal."

I recently saw Sideways again. I still don't know if it was a fact-checking stupidity or scripted irony that Miles who cursed Merlot and idolized Pinot Noir went gaga over '61 Cheval Blanc.

Last time: Ron, I don't come here for wine reviews. But don't take that seriously. I don't go anywhere for wine reviews.

Instead of reviewing wine, can you find another way to talk (write) about individual wines?

Samantha Dugan said...

Thomas,
Don't hate the playas, hate the game. Haven't the slightest clue what that means...might be the black I've had in me. Oh and Thomas, I love you!

Michael Donohue said...

Ron

You have far too much insight into wine - and wit-not to share.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I think a palate is mostly defined by experience. Or lack thereof. But even experience is no guarantee of wisdom or talent. And, as I'm sure you and everyone regular around here knows, I think you have a world-class wine palate, so I'm flattered by your encouragement. I guess I don't share my impressions of the wines you send me because I'm foolish, forgetful, and often have more important things to say to you.

Joe,
You had me until "Find a friend." Wasn't Jimmy Stewart in "Vertical?"

JP,
Actually, no one expects me to be brilliant any of the time, but thank you. After reading of Paul Gregutt's blog retirement, and the reactions to it in his comments, I feel even less motivated to keep it up. But, I guess, someone has to do it. For free.

Dean,
I must say that your support over time has meant a lot to me. Thanks for that. It's always the case that we are judged by our fans and friends as much as by our enemies and detractors. I'm damned proud of how smart and talented my fans are. That provides me more encouragement than I can express.

Till,
Yeah, Somm. Maybe I'll do a blind movie review! Thank you so much for the encouragement and support.

Marcia,
A dueling wine review with Samantha? I don't think she'd ever fight a basically unarmed opponent. Though her take on a Zin against mine would be entertaining, not to mention my take versus hers on Pinot Noir Rose.

Samantha,
Wait, wait, you mean Dottie was black? Why would anyone take wine advice from a black woman? You must be mistaken. There are no black people at the WSJ. Come on. And, yes, we are married, by the way.

MsFizz,
Welcome to HoseMaster of Wine. Jump in, we always need new voices around here. It's a tough crowd, but you're a somm, you can handle it. I also loved staff tastings, but after a while they made me bring wine.

Thomas,
Was it '61 Cheval Blanc? I don't remember. I'm sure it was meant to be ironic, though a 35 year-old Bordeaux stored in a Southern California closet would suck no matter how pedigreed. More irony?

My intention was not ever to produce "tasting notes." It was to write about specific wines or wineries. The format, I trust, will occur to me when I first sit down to write, but, yes, the world does not need more damned tasting notes.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Michael,
Way too kind, but thanks.

Thomas said...

Ron,

If it was irony, I suspect maybe .09% of the people who saw the movie might have gotten it. If 99% got the irony that would have meant that only wine geeks saw the movie.

In any case, the sequel never got my money. We do indeed need better wine writers...take up the challenge. You have nothing to fear but but a guy with strange eyeglasses who will probably blast anything that you write.

The Sommeliere said...

Hose, I KNOW you know a great deal about wine, but what you do best is show how irrelevant all the blather about it is.

Please keep making me laugh. You are a bright light shining in a sea of cloudy wine!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,
Irony or not, I hated "Sideways." I never believed, not for a moment, any of the relationships in the movie, and the script was banal. I watched it a second time, quite a few years ago, and could not believe that it had ever been popular.

I won't be a better wine writer, just different, I hope. And I never mind being blasted--if you dish it out, you gotta take it. But it's always about who blasts you. Like wine, one has to always consider the source.

Marlene,
Thank you. I hope I continue to make you, and everyone, laugh. When the blather robs us of the simple joy that wine brings, that's when I try to point it out. It's the Fool's job.

Eric V. Orange said...

Hey Hose, you got a mention;
http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/uncategorized/on-andrew-jeffords-famous-speech-at-the-bloggers-conference

Fate is with you maybe.

EVO

Tom said...

Ron,
I've been in the Wine PR business a good 20+ years and have been observing the world of wine writing for longer.

There have never been more than a handful of really fine writers amongst the total. The blogosphere is no different. Given the size of this Sphere we should not be surprised that the real talent is a small group. That doesn't make the blog world different from the print world or the paid to be published world.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Eric,
Wow, I'm mentioned on the Greatest Wine Blog in North America, Europe and Where All the Little Asian People Live! Not mentioned by the World's Greatest Blogger, but by one of my regular readers. Yup, now I'm somebody. And what a weird blog name. Isn't "anorak" why people watched Kournikova play tennis?

Tom,
I agree with you. But it has always struck me as kind of odd that the conversation about wine in print and on blogs is so pretentious and condescending, or so transparently marketing hype bought and paid for with free trips to Turkey. I wouldn't be caught dead describing a wine in Parkeresque adjectives at a professional wine tasting among my peers. I'd be considered a jackass. Nor would I dare try to "teach" them about a wine, or ask them to join me on my "journey" to discover Gold Medals. That would be silly and condescending.

I guess, if I can ever understand what it is that drives me to write my form of crapola, that I may try to bring different sorts of context to wines I write about, more human context, which, in my mind, means conveying the laughter and fun there is in drinking wine. Not tasting wine, that's work, but drinking wine, which is about forgetting about work.

I'll probably fail.

amy cleary said...

"I like to write about wine. I don’t think I have any particularly interesting insights about wine, but that doesn’t seem to be one of the qualifications for writing about it"

Ron-- I'd still like to think that one of the necessary qualifications is being able to write in general. And that you can do

-Amy

Thomas said...

Ron,

Just a few days ago, as I expressed my general disdain for humanity, my wife asked, "If you harbor such a cynical view of the living, why do you bother to get up each day and write?"

I stuttered a lot before answering, and my answer sucked.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Amy,
Thank you, that's very kind. Now just imagine how good I'd be if I'd rewrite.

Thomas,
I know I write because it's solitary work. And it makes those voices in my head go away.

I actually like people. I just don't like people. Who says you can't have it both ways?

Charlie Olken said...

Well, aren't we all full of advice? I guess people just cannot get enough of you so they want tasting notes, oops belay that last transmission, they want wine commentary as well as humor and humour.

You did try tasting notes once with the one-million point scale, which allowed you to toss in a bit of irreverence into your commentary. I can't tell, in this bit of whimsy that you have laid before us, whether you are pulling our leg or your own.

But I do know this. Good writing is not easy. Amy Clearly has set a high bar for writing of any sort. Whether I am a good writer of wine tasting notes or wine scene commentary in my blog, at least enough people read me maunderings to keep my in beans and rice.

I could not make the same living if I tried writing the Hosemaster, as much as I occasionally try in my comments here.

And that is the nub of the trap that all writers most face for themselves. Why am I doing this, and what standards do I have to meet to make myself pleased with my efforts.

Anyone can be a writer. Not everyone should be. I can write tasting notes, and I make a decent living and enjoy a good life doing so. If I tried to write like Gerald Asher, I would soon find myself in the used car business.

This is too long. Sorry.

Wines for the People said...

I'd argue that "different" would be "better," at least in your case. No one needs to read another tasting note, but to bring your experience, knowledge, etc. to bear on wine reviews could make them worth reading.

My favorite piece of wine writing is Jefford's New France. Aside from that, I have read only a handful of his FT columns, and have not bothered to click on the many stories regarding his speech before the European hacks. But in that book (sadly, unlike the rest of The New ____ series, not authored by Jeffords), he told the stories of why the new generation of winemakers was driven to make ever greater wine, while also explaining how their wines differed from those made before.

Somehow I have the feeling that you could do that for the wines you reviewed, while also making us laugh. Sounds good to me.

Lars Ryssdal said...

Guess the manic phase is in retrograde.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,
You've made a living at wine reviewing for a long time. I make Zero, Zip, Nada, Zilch, for what I do here. Your readers have the expectation, and pay you, for competence. My readers, all eleven of them, come here to read what most others won't say, even if they had the talent to say it, and it costs nothing. The worst that could happen is that I lose four of my eleven readers. The best that could happen is that I get to review the kind of garbage wine that gets favorably reviewed all over the place. That sounds like fun.

And, no, NOT anyone can be a writer. I've had this argument so often even I'm tired of hearing it. There are gifted writers whose subject is wine. And then there are those who type. You are a writer when other people say you're a writer, not when you proclaim yourself one. I get your point, but, honestly, you can say, "Anyone can be a ________," and fill in any occupation. Except mother. So it's meaningless.

What's funny is that people think I might be wasting my talent to turn it to talking about wine instead of telling jokes. Perhaps. But it's my talent, and I can waste it any way I please. I've done that my entire life. And I haven't come close to making beans and rice out of it, so what difference does it make what I do now? I just thought I'd warn everyone that I might start talking about wine so that it wouldn't be a shock to their system.

I harbor no illusion that my opinions will sell so much as a single bottle of anyone's wine. I just want to do something different now and then. One gets tired of the old missionary position.

Wine for Peeps,
Thanks. I'd like to think it would be fun to do, and fun to read. But, in all honesty, I'd be doing it to focus my own thoughts on the wines I taste. If everyone hates it, well, I won't be surprised. But, hey, at least my hate mail might be more civilized.

Lars,
I've no idea what you're talking about. So, great comment!

Fabio (Vinos Ambiz) said...

Twelve! You have twelve readers at least, as I also read read you regularly, but don't comment much, unless I can think of something funny to say at the time! Keep it up - the good work that is!

Bill Klapp said...

Ron, it isn't just wine writers. No American under the age of 50, even those with Ph.D.s, has been taught to write. Those who may have achieved it are most likely self-taught...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Hosie

you finally caught the Klapp!

-R

Thomas said...

Ron,

We've had this "writer" discussion before, so I know that you and I agree here: "You are a writer when other people say you're a writer, not when you proclaim yourself one."

Try as we might, however, we will not get that concept across to those who proclaim themselves writers. I mean, really, how obvious a statement is that?

Two things a writer must be: honest and introspective.

Two attributes a writer must have: talent and observant.

Two skills a writer must develop: uh, writing--stringing cogent thoughts--and humility (that's so the editor can do his/her work).

Subject matter counts for nothing when it comes to the above; it is merely the subject matter.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Fabio,
I was alerted to your comment on Jamie Goode's blog that mentioned me in the context of humorous (humourous, for you Hosers) wine writing. Thank you for that.

I used to have eight readers. I think eleven is pushing it. Twelve? Hardly.

Bill,
Luckily, I was raised by an English teacher. Which is the sequel to Oondatje's "The English Patient." On the rare occasion I reread my work here, I can feel the presence of my mother's dreaded red pen. She would have found a way to use it on her computer screen.

Thomas,
I don't have any issue with someone who wants to create a blog, express himself, share his thoughts with his FaceBook friends, and chronicle his journey to discover wine. Goody for him. But that's hardly wine writing.

And, sadly, I really think you could take any one of James Laube's columns from Wine Spectator, show it blind to twenty people, and most of them would tag it as having been written for a blog that wasn't even mentioned for a Poodle Award. He's still on his journey to discover wine.

PaulG said...

Ron, whatever, whenever, however you write, I will surely want to read it. Do I always have time to read it? Well... no... I'm often too busy churning out my own drivel to wade through everyone else's work. But were I to offer any advice... why not, everyone else wants to toss their two cents into your piggybank... were I to offer any advice, well, it would be to monetize! Talent needs to be rewarded. When the simple "reward" of being "published" "online" fails to satisfy, I say it's time to look for financial support. I'm not suggesting that you ask people to pay for the blog - I never thought that could work - but if you are really going to write reviews, then get paid for it and publish them somewhere besides here. And wherever that is, I will be the first to subscribe!

Creatures said...

Too sincere.......grim

Catie said...

Dear Mr. Hose,

Never say never, as I cannot believe I agree almost 100% of your assessment about the Golden Age of Wine Writing.

Yes, I am one of those poodles that you loathe. Bark! However, I never went into blogging to furnish my wine cellar. Hell, I don't even have a wine cellar. In fact, my first sample I ever received I was in shock and flattered. I am still flattered when I am given a sample, as if anybody really cares what I think about their wine. It has a way of humbling me.

I don't give wine ratings for two reasons: why would anybody care and; no two palates are the same. However, I rarely say anything negative about a wine. Again, my palate isn't the same ...

Wine porn rags bore me and always have, especially their top 10 or 100 lists. They are often predictable and again, the general wine consumer does not have the same palate as Parker or Steiman.

So why am I blogging about wine? My original intent was just to keep track of my personal wine notes, but most of all,like you, I like to write about wine.

It is true what you said, "Wine outmatches us." I will never able to find the right words to describe a glass of wine. The most I can hope for is the reader to grab a bottle and do their own exploring.

Okay, enough of the niceness and mutual agreeing. I kind of like the satire ...
C~

Dave Larsen said...

Ron,

Judging by the other comments, all 12 of your readers would be disappointed if you didn't follow through and start reviewing wines. Just keep the comedy coming though.

gabe said...

Et tu, hosemaster?

Actually, think it is great that you want to start reviewing wines and wineries; and I really like your idea of describing them as an experience, instead of a series of flavors. I love reading about interesting products and the people behind them, and that is especially true for wine. Most of all, I can understand your desire to evolve the direction of this blog, and I always enjoy when you mix some serious commentary into your satire. So I say go for it.

My other two cent contribution - don't sell the blogging world short. There are obviously thousands of blogs online, and even the most popular ones don't have the same reach as Robert Parker or the Wine Spectator. But I do know a small-production winemaker who picked up distributors in two new states after a positive review from Dr. Vino (no score, just a blog article). It might not make you famous, but for small wineries, two new states is a huge deal.

Finally, let me know if you are serious, and I will submit some wines to you. Fortunately for you, our winery combines the non-pretentious idea of affordable pricing with some ridiculous winemaking practices that are almost too easy for you to satire. You can pick your direction from there

Dave said...

Dear JoseMaster (as you're known in central CA), like PaulG, I'm usually inundated with shit I have to read to keep up with my day job but NEVER miss finding time to savor the electrons you formulate into thought provoking satire in this bloogosphere. Even lacking the ability to respond more often, please know how much more dull and dreary life would be without your cerebral stimulation. Now, get back to the schtick, or wine reviews, quatrains, whatever ... we are always most appreciative.

Cheers

Dave (I forget which one, there's too many now)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Paul,
I don't see anyone paying me to write about wine. It's a stodgy, marketing-driven, vanilla wine reviewing world (no offense intended, my friend), a world of Alders and WineDudes. Not exactly my mold.

What I do here I do for the sheer joy of it. Being able to make people laugh is a rare gift, and one I once made a great deal of money doing. I thought that if I decided to write about wines and wineries I might be able to do so in a unique, funny, experienced voice. We'll see. Right now, it's all just talk. The reaction to this post has been overwhelming, really. And for those that still might be reading these comments, I won't be giving up the satire. I just might be adding some self-indulgent wine conversation.

Catie,
Firstly, I don't loathe Poodles. That's my alter ego the HoseMaster's department.

And, honestly, the vast majority of people who read HoseMaster are know-it-all wine biz types, it seems, so I genuinely doubt anyone will care what I think about specific wines. But perhaps I can make it interesting with some honesty, some odd perspective, and some irreverence.

I don't solicit samples either. But, man, would I ever love to get a bunch of industrial plonk that gets great reviews elsewhere and have a go at it. Not to mention the marketing materials that accompany them. But what I intend is to talk about wines that move me. And even after all these years and all those wines, there are wines that can still move me.

Thanks, Catie, for chiming in. I'm glad you kinda like the satire.

Dave,
Oh, comedy is what I do. Now and then, when I just am not up to being funny, I sit and write a post like this. I probably should never hit the "Publish" button, but I always do. And look at the reaction! I'm shocked.

Your wines are terrific!

Gabe,
Dr. Vino is one of the very few bloggers that has clout, and he's earned it. I have almost no clout, but I'm quotable and fun to link to, so I have eleven readers. Yes, there are thousands of blogs, but remove Dr. Vino, 1WineDude, and a few others, and the influence doesn't add up to a hill of grace.

Tell you what, Gabe, wait and read a few of my wine pieces and then see if you want to send me samples. My email is in my About page. If you like what I do, then we can go from there. But, again, I'm not actively soliciting samples, and I don't even know what wines I'll write about. I have a bunch of ideas (I have a bizarre mind that is overflowing with ideas, none of them useful), but don't know what will turn up.

Thanks for reading and for the encouragement.

Dave,
Thanks. I know which Dave you are. That Dave.

Dave Larsen said...

Did you just publish your first review when you said "Your wines are terrific!" in response to my comment? I'm honored and shameless at the same time for asking the question.

Thomas said...

Ron,

Why don't you write about those wines that don't make it the arbitrary 80 and so the public never hears about them?

...and if your review of Dave's wine is any indication of what's in store for us (Your wines are terrific), stick to satire...

Catie said...

Ron,

You said, "But what I intend is to talk about wines that move me. And even after all these years and all those wines, there are wines that can still move me."

I like that. In fact, it made me a bit verklempt. I hope to read about those wines.

C~

Clint said...

Please, HMW, do not write wine reviews. When George Lucas personally writes reviews of bobble heads and figurines, all bets are off. Until then, do carry on. We need you.

Beau said...

"The wine blogosphere is about the wine blogosphere, and almost nothing else."

Well, yes. There are those who argue that the wine blogosphere matters, but if every single wine blog disappeared overnight, would the vast, vast majority of wine drinkers care? Nope.

That said, I am keenly interested in any wine recommendations you might have. If you can recommend a wine and tell me why I might like it without using hyperbolic bullshit or meaningless strings of words, I bet you'd have something special on your hands. And I don't mean the latest "release" from Splooge Estate.

Keep writing please.

Kathy said...

Ron, honey, my tongue is tired of wine. My eyes and ears never tire of words. Yours, mine and a smattering amongst the gazillions above this one.
So far, I have resisted publishing a blog because I usually only like the first graph and the kicker. Or worse, an errant graph below the nut. I may change my mind and, with you as my mentor, I will have to issue a warning.
Until then, I don't care what you write as long as I can read it. I'm up for any winey thing that comes out of your mouth (yeah, left myself open on that one).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Clint,
I'm certainly not going to "review" wines in the sense of assigning a score, or stringing a lot of sensory adjectives together. That's certainly not my intention. I don't even know what my intention is, though I have a few very vague ideas. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, "I like to write about wine." It's that simple, and that complicated. If you hate it, I'll get over it. I'm pretty used to being hated.

Beau,
Here's the thing. I don't intend to write about wines that I think will please my eleven fans, I intend to write about wines that have caught my attention, for whatever HoseMasterish reason. I'm not recommending, necessarily, just reflecting. I know that, personally, I'm genuinely affected by the musings of a great book critic when she speaks about books and writers that have somehow moved her to sit down and focus on their work. I may not want to read that author after reading the piece, but I enjoy the thought process. Though I'm just one weird guy writing about his passion. I knew I should have started a pornographic Tumblr blog!

Kathy,
With all the people talking about hanging it up, this might be a perfect time to start your blog. What the heck? Anyhow, thanks for the encouragement. I pretty much do what I want anyway, I just thought I'd head off all the usual grousing when I write something that isn't just about playing the Fool.

PaulG said...

Ron, Ron, Ron... we'll talk. Making money by writing about wine is not a sin, nor does it necessarily consign you to some horrific category of pedantic, grubby, bung-kissing flack. What I meant was don't try to make money with a blog. Keep blogging as long as you enjoy it, and your 11 readers will continue to applaud and write lots of comments under their various aliases (aliai??). All good. But there's a real need for writers who can tackle the subject as was done in the old days. Find some pubs that will pay for that... or better yet, self-publish. It's the 21st century after all. You Da Man!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Paul,
Yeah, I got it. I have nothing against making money, nothing at all. And I know the blog won't lead to any. I'm not Joe Roberts, who speaks to Millennials and the Thunderstruck, and I'm not Alderpated, who speaks to chipmunks and fairy godmothers. I'm just the old guy who used to be somebody in the wine business.

There are very few wine publications. I've published a few things since I started this blog, and I used to publish a lot many years ago (satire, not wine writing), and if anyone wants to pay me to write, I'm always willing to listen. Self-publish? There are now more books self-published than published by traditional publishers. Just another way to get lost in the background noise. And an easy way to lose money.

But your support and kind words are always appreciated. Thanks, Paul.

1WineDoody said...

Master, hope you are well! Been behind in my reading and so just catching up on a spate of HMW here.

Always happy to be fodder for the wit, but I feel the need to point out that I never approached this wine thang with the intention of being a critic, so saying I chased the job is not entirely accurate (I'd say it kind of chased me, and it doesn't really pay!).

I would LOVE to see you tackle the vaulted of yore here and knock the wines down a few pegs as you have the blobbers. Just be prepared for backlash from those producers. I've received somewhat angry correspondence from writing what I considered balanced takes on some of those wines - an HMW take should be prepared for an onslaught if that is any indication of what they might spew out for a really derisive take!

And yeah, I know that you know that I know that you know that you're up for it anyway!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

1WineDoody,
In the end, most producers will end up respecting you if you speak the truth about their wines as you see it. But there are some crazy ones out there, and they can be a pain in the ass. Someone needs to out them. I'd happily do so.

I stand corrected about the reason you began your blog. You didn't "chase" wine reviewing, as I incorrectly stated. It chased you. I say the same thing about my wife. One has to brag about just plain stupid luck, don't we?

I'll write about wines that in some way, shape, or form move me to write about them. Genuine crap can make me do that, as can unspeakable brilliance. So we'll see. More than likely, after a few swings at it, I'll get bored with the sound of my own voice and walk away.

Thanks for stopping by. Do I have to mention you to bring you here? Fucking Google Alert.

Samantha Dugan said...

Google Alert just informed me that you were talking about your wife, so I thought I had better come see what's up....

1WineDoody said...

HMW, no Google alerts here, just catching up after several days on the road. Not that I think about you when in hotel bedroom by myself. Okay, so I only do that once in a while. Okay, so maybe I do that more than just once in a while...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

1WineDoody,
Sure, now I'm just your rebound boy after STEVE! I'll take it.

Anonymous said...

You sound drunk and sad. I like my HoseMaster drunk and angry.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Anonymous,
It's like you're my twin! Though I'm actually drunk, sad, angry and hirsute.