“…any food product that feels compelled to tell you it’s natural in all likelihood is not.”—-Michael Pollan
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Secret Official Sommelier Manual--Leaked!
I’m not supposed to do this. I signed a document when I became a full-time sommelier that prohibits me from revealing the contents of the Official United States of America Sommelier’s Manual. But I think every restaurant patron should read it. I sent it to WikiLeaks, but Julian Assange wouldn’t touch it. “Too incendiary,” he wrote to me, “and, besides, I only accept secret documents from gay servicemen, or members of the Village People.” To which I say, “I like to stay at the WHY EM SEE AY.” Everybody now! So, at great personal risk, I am publishing excerpts here on HoseMaster of Wine™. I think you’ll find that everything you long suspected about sommeliers is not only true, but a requirement of the job. Failure to live up to the standards outlined here is punishable by significant fines, or, in the case of the worst violators, by mandatory attendance at Evan Goldstein lectures.
From Chapter 1 “Creating the Wine List”
The wine list is your personal fiefdom, a reflection of your bizarre taste in wine, and in no way is it meant to offer customers wines with which they might be familiar. The crap they drink at home has no place in a fine dining establishment. The reason for this is twofold. First of all, if no one needs your assistance in selecting a wine, you’re out of a job. Secondly, if a customer knows a wine, he is also likely to know its normal retail price. The wine list is the one vulnerable area of the restaurant where people can see that you are gouging them. And, boy, will they bitch. Sure, they’ll pay six bucks for ten cents worth of coffee at Starbucks, but mark up your wine to four times cost and they just won’t shut up about it.
Always try to offer wines from off-vintages. When a winery gets a big score on their 2009 vintage, make them an offer on their lousy 2008’s. You get a big discount. Then “accidentally” list the 2009 on the wine list at its normal gigantic markup. When a guest orders a bottle, simply bring out the 2008. They won’t notice. If they do, act surprised at the “typo,” and offer to bring your incomprehensible wine list back for them to select a different bottle. Guests will simply accept the 2008, and, BANG, you’ve got a big profit.
Never arrange the list by price. It’s best to arrange the list under annoyingly cutesy categories meant to reinforce the neurotic guest’s pathetic self-image. “Adventurous Whites,” “Powerful Reds,” “Sexy Alternatives,”—crap like that. Be creative. Try “Big Girth Imports,” or “Remarkable Stamina Whites,” or “Penetrating Deep, Dark Aussies.” People will pay anything to feel better about themselves.
From Chapter 2 “Attitude”
You’re a god. No, you’re God. You’re Karl Rove with a tastevin. You’re Rush Limbaugh with breast reductions. You’re Paul Ryan with a boner. You’re Barbra Streisand with replacement rhinoceros hormones. You’re Larry Mathers as The Beaver. You’re Michel Chapoutier with lifts. You’re God with a Robert Parker complex.
From Chapter 3 “Wine List Pricing”
Always remember that wineries make up prices haphazardly and without any sort of rational reasoning, and that you’re entitled to do the same damn thing. This is just how the wine business works. It doesn’t have to make any sense. You can’t fix it, don’t even try. Being known for a reasonably priced wine list only attracts the sort of people who really should just stay home and eat dinner.
When calculating prices, always round up to the nearest hundred.
White wines should be marked up higher than reds. No one orders white wine in a restaurant anyway. The chumps that do need to pay for it.
From Chapter 4 “Stemware”
That Riedel crap breaks like old people’s hips, and costs damn near as much to replace. Use knockoff brands in various sizes. The more expensive the wine, the larger the bowl of the wine glass you bring to the table. Ideally, you want to empty the bottle into four glasses equally and have it look like each glass is virtually empty. The optical illusion leads to sales of a second bottle. Especially if the fourth person poured, the host, gets less than everyone else.
Never offer to bring fresh glasses for the second, or third, or any other, bottle of wine. Remember, dishwashers are on your team, the clients are the opposing team. Remind the offending customers that they wouldn’t use fresh glasses at home, would they, and your job as a hospitality professional is to make them feel at home.
From Chapter 5 “Service”
Flunkies are attentive and eager to serve. Professionals make you wait and give the impression they are doing you a favor by taking care of you. Which are you? Take the wine order, open the bottle, then stay the hell out of the waiter’s way.
It’s always best to appear with the bottle of wine when the meal is half-eaten. It just tastes better.
Oh, there’s more…if I live long enough to publish another installment.
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
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"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
"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."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.