Do you ever ask yourself who’s the greatest living writer of tasting notes? Isn’t that a bit like wondering who’s the greatest chef of Minute Rice? Who’s the greatest living Madeline Albright impersonator? Who’s the greatest living wine blogger? Tasting notes, name the publication, are dreadful. Devoid of charm, wit, or usefulness, no one seems to know why they exist, like the English monarchy. Is there another subject as fascinating that then becomes as hopelessly dull when written about? Aside from really perky breast implants? And while thousands and thousands of wine reviews, and their accompanying numbers, are printed every month, nobody reads them. They’re like the TV programming guide in the Sunday newspaper. Who reads that? “Monday 8 PM, CHARDONNAY—Larry opens a bottle of white and smells peaches, cream and trouble with his prostate.” (By the way, you should TiVo that episode, damned funny, and very minerally.) But what if (about time this tired old premise appeared) more interesting people than wine writers handled wine reviews? (One more question. Are there less interesting people than wine writers? Yes, that’s rhetorical.) Wouldn’t that mean more people would actually read the review rather than simply take note of the numerical score? And isn’t that the point of a wine review, for the description to be the most important part? No, obviously not. The most important part is the number, and the check for publishing a copy of the label. Come on, it’s just a premise, let’s not get carried away. But now let’s imagine what wine writing would be like if these famous folks had taken a crack at it.
Herman Melville on Cavit 2011 Pinot Grigio
Call me fish meal. As all men are drawn to the water when they grow grim about the mouth, when their spirits lie dampened like the seat cushions at the old folks home, so I was drawn to this Cavit Pinot Grigio. Say you are out in the woods, it doesn’t matter why, perhaps you’re simply wandering, or maybe you seek a quiet place to pursue your worship of Onan, you can surely rely on every path ending up near water, a brook or rivulet, nay, even a stream—a stream to match that of Onan. You catch a fish to make a meal, your hunger a reminder of the needs of the flesh, your pursuit of a trout a faint echo of the hunt for the Great White Whale, Marvin Dick; you reach for wine, yet yearn for water, the basis of life’s mystery. And here it is, the best of both worlds, Cavit Pinot Grigio, wine that tastes of the very water itself, yet water that lifts the spirits, adds blessed insobriety to your down-turned mouth, and eventually the urge to take a powerful Pequod.
Anaïs Nin on Rhys Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir
When Rhys first entered her life, she was mesmerized by her purplish robe, what might lay beneath it, her sex, what it might smell like. Rhys was in no hurry, she was a woman who knew her own allure, understood why men wanted to brutally take her, why women wanted to swallow her. And she was more than willing. Many men had known Rhys, tasted her mineral being, had their tongues covered in her wetness while she told them what to do, not to swallow but to spit. Women were less likely to possess her, for while Rhys wanted all men, she only wanted a certain kind of woman. A woman who would appreciate her for her womanly beauty, her perfect balance and poise, her exquisite muskiness, a muskiness like the smell of rain on a hot, limestone soil, a muskiness that only appeared when she was fully open and exposed. So when Rhys first entered her mouth her tongue stood erect, tasting every part of Rhys, the complex mix of a perfect whore, the womanly perfume reminiscent of a bridal bouquet left at the bedside as the best man fucks the bride, the sweet taste of ripe fruit, the whore pretending to be a teenage virgin. Over and over she took Rhys in her mouth, for hours on end. It seemed there was no end to Rhys. And as Rhys’ finish neared, she knew she never wanted it to end. She wanted Rhys in her mouth every day, would gladly give herself to her, become her slave, take her in her mouth anywhere, any time. In a restaurant, she would take her under the table and finish her, not care about the looks on the faces of the other patrons as she took Rhys into her painted lips, her nipples hardening until they resembled fine Portuguese corks. She would take Rhys on a picnic, lie on the bed of warm grass, and let Rhys fill her with her warm, luscious liquid. She needed to be the whore that Rhys was, wanted to be the whore that Rhys was, wanted to be locked in every man’s cellar to be used and consumed with his friends whenever he wanted her. But she lacked Rhys’ depth and finish. She lacked the darkness at Rhys’ sexual core, the very Noir of her.
Carl Sagan on Joseph Phelps 2009 Insignia
Every bottle of wine is but one of billions and billions, and each one, from a cosmic perspective, is precious. Well, maybe not Temecula Chardonnay. For every grain of sand on all the beaches on our precious planet, there is, or has been, a bottle of wine to match its number. We do not consider each grain of sand as we walk along the beach, we cannot do that and make sense of the world, we simply consider the beach—is it beautiful, is it warm and comforting, do we find condoms between our toes, do women wear thong bikinis in tribute to cosmic black holes? And so it should be with wine. We do not open every bottle of Joseph Phelps 2009 Insignia, that cannot be done, nor would it be revelatory, though it would piss off the winery, which has some value. No, we open a single bottle, and if it is not corked, that great universal joke, we take it to represent the whole. As though we could pick up a grain of sand, maybe one wedged in our wet bathing suit, under the testicles, that creates a rash, and, by gazing at it, imagine accurately the entire stretch of an unknown beach. This is beyond even the scope of human imagination, and yet we do it with wine every day, hundreds of times a day. Each bottle is precious, $225 of precious, but its meaning for the whole is infinitesimal. Rating it has all the meaning of rating stars or galaxies or those big rock things that fly all over space, whatever those are. DUCK! That said, this was damned tasty.
Wine. Yeah, Jesus’ first miracle. Just like a stupid son. You give him the gift of miracles and what’s the first thing he does? He uses it to get his friends high. “So who wants Chardonnay?” “Oh, man, Jesus, what if your old man finds out you’re turning water into wine?” “He already knows, you idiots, He’s God.” “God? Yeah, right, and your mother’s a virgin.”
Why didn’t Jesus turn the water into beer? Probably would have been more popular, more what people wanted. That would have been cool. You’d go to church on Sunday, the priest would pop open the sacramental six-pack. “Son, go get me a cold one.” During halftime at the Super Bowl there’d be a commercial featuring the Blood of Christ Clydesdales. “The King of Kings, the King of Beers.”
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."
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--San Francisco Chronicle
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--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
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"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."