One of my favorite authors is the late Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago. This piece was originally published in April of 2010, a couple of months before he died. Coincidence? Writing in Saramago's unique style was very challenging, and having attempted it here (poorly, at best), I did gain even more respect for his talent and work. When he won the Nobel Prize, the brilliant book critic Richard Eder said, "Saramago winning the Nobel Prize does nothing for Saramago, but it does a lot for the Nobels."
Translated from the Portugese by Ronaldo Jose Maestro
following day, every wine tasted the same. That is, every red wine
tasted the same as every other red wine, as if they'd all been made by
Siduri, and every white wine wine tasted the same as every other white
wine, and sadly that white wine was Rombauer, and this fact, a fact that
it took everyone a long time to acknowledge, no surprise given that so
many people's livelihoods depended upon wines tasting different, just as
if every baseball game had the exact same score every day and you only
had to wait and see which number your team scored because the box scores
were exactly the same every day and all the sports writers and morons
on ESPN would be out of work and Peter Gammons would go back to being
the janitor he should be, this fact that every wine tasted the same
began to worry everyone in the wine business. It worried the winemakers,
who swore that every vineyard designated wine they made, all 23 Pinot
Noirs and all 15 Syrahs, had to taste different from each other, they
came from different terroirs after all, though, when asked, they
couldn't actually define terroir, speaking about terroir as if it were
indefinable like God or Love or Biodynamics, which was created by God,
and each wine was made differently, but even they had to admit when
tasting wines that they did all taste the same, something even the
pundits had to finally confess after looking at their carefully composed
notes, notes that contained eerily similar phrases, dull and lifeless
writing, as though tasting notes were by definition written by the
thunderstruck and mentally unbalanced, notes that led to the mysterious,
mystical, God and Rudolf Steiner, for they are the Same Being, inspired
number 89, a number that was created for wine and only for wine and was
no longer allowed to be used in any other context for it now meant the
quality of every wine on the planet, red or white, still or sparkling,
fortified or late harvest, and had no meaning to people outside of wine,
and even BevMo, the very Cathedral of wine blandness ruled by its
titular Pope, Pope Wong II, the Pope Wong as Wong can be, changed it's
name to 89 Wines and everyone understood that to mean the score of every
wine and not the actual count of wines available for sale there.
And after the winemakers and pundits were forced to admit that all red
wines tasted like all other red wines, and all white wines tasted like
all other white wines, something they were loathe to acknowledge for it
surely meant that their services were no longer necessary or needed,
that a winery could hire any fool, degree or no degree from UC Davis, an
agricultural school in California known for its viticultural program
and its veterinary program, ensuring its graduates treated animals all
the same or made wines that all tasted the same, and the fool would
produce a wine that was awarded 89 points from all the wine pundits who
used the 100 point scale but who had now become obsolete because all the
wine publications did was list wines that were released, red and white,
and then print a large number 89 and awarded it to all of them, leaving
its critics to look for actual jobs, something they were completely
unqualified to do, so many of them went to UC Davis and became
veterinarians and began to rate dogs and cats on 100 point scales, as
in, Your dog is cute, has a nice wet nose, smells strongly of sulfur
problems, and his tail is a bit crooked so I'd say he's an 85 point dog,
which is good, not great, but nothing to be ashamed of, I rarely award
dogs points over 95, that will be 100 dollars. Most pundits became
homeless, ironically forced to forever drink 89 point wines, wines they
had always contended were perfectly fine wines but which secretly they
abhorred and had only given those scores to because it gave them
pleasure to score them just below 90, a number most desired by wineries,
especially for wineries that had not had the common courtesy to flatter
them, send them walnuts every Christmas or buy them lavish dinners or
fly them to foreign places and praise them ceaselessly, their palates,
their noses, their gift for language, though these traits were clearly
absent and all they really possessed was a business card and a
reputation for loving sycophants, but being homeless now meant that no
one praised them, no one cared what their opinions were about wines
because all wines tasted the same, all wines scored 89 points, they were
completely worthless as pundits, something they'd always known, but had
hoped no one would discover.
the public wondered why, if all the red wines tasted the same, which
they had suspected was the case all along and that the whole rating
system was some kind of inside industry joke, not particularly funny,
but lucrative, and if all white wines tasted the same, which they knew
from experience, all you had to do was serve them all cold from the
refrigerator and no one could tell if it was actual white wine or Santa
Margharita, a famous wine substitute, which now tasted exactly like
Rombauer anyway, why do we pay different prices for them? Well, I only
made 90 cases of this wine, a winemaker might say, even though he'd
actually made 89 cases but knew that 89 was no longer a recognized
number so he had to say 90, And it's from the very best part of my
property and thus it's the finest wine I produce and worth every penny,
though in this economy if you want to buy six bottles I can give you
thirty percent off, not that I need to bargain with my hundred dollar
wine, I don't, I just like you and you've been a loyal customer and I
want to reward you by only charging you seventy dollars for my 89 point
wine that tastes like every other red wine. But if it tastes just like
every other wine you produce, if indeed it tastes like every wine
produced everywhere, consumers started to say, Why should I pay one
hundred dollars for your bottle when I can get exactly the same flavors
and aromas, as described by famous pundits who awarded you 89 points,
pundits who are now deservedly homeless and scorned, from a bottle that
costs three dollars? Because those bottles, the winemaker replied, Do
not have my label on them, and my label is famous, recognized the world
over as desirable and rare and special, and that three dollar bottle has
a cheap label that will say to your guests that you are cheap, you
don't care much about them or their happiness, and, furthermore, that
you know nothing about wine or you would have nicer labels in your
collection, not just a bunch of cheap labels, which may taste the same
but are not the same because when your guests see my label they are
going to think, oh, this is great wine, surely this isn't an 89 point
wine, surely this is one of the greatest wines ever made, I can see that
by the label, and so it must be me, must be my inability to understand
wine, to list the aromas I'm smelling, to enjoy wine without knowing
what the label looks like, and that will be worth the ninety-seven extra
dollars you spent, dollars you will have spent on self-esteem and
imaginary prestige. This argument worked for a while.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"...that guy Hosemaster has real talent...if you ask me sign him up for Comedy Central...he's the funniest guy since Adam Carolla's hilarious book...IN 50 YEARS WE WILL ALL BE CHICKS..."
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."