Wine Blogs Are the Attention-Barking of Lonely Poodles
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Why I Should Quit
It’s not that I don’t have a zillion ideas. For example, I was about to write a post entitled, “Women in Wine—It’s the Perfect Marinade!” Oh, I got ideas alright. “Marketing to Millennials—Treat Them Like Ducks and Don’t Talk Down to Them.” I didn’t say they were all great ideas. I thought I’d write a piece about Natural and Authentic Sex. It’s strikingly similar to Natural and Authentic Wine—you finish just to get it over with. See, there are ideas everywhere. Ideas aren’t my problem. I almost wrote a piece about how there’s a serious lack of humor in wine writing, only Meg Houston Maker already did that at Palate Press and proved it. When I sit down to write for HoseMaster of Wine™, I’m never stuck for ideas. I wrote a parody of “The Walking Dead” that featured Robert Parker, James Laube and Antonio Galloni (as Pope Francis.) Who else would write that? Andrew Jeffords? Evan Dawson? Some other Genius of Dull? No, only me. I got ideas. I have enough ideas for twenty more years of Hosemaster of Wine™. What I don’t have when I sit down in front of the blank screen and blinking cursor to write this crap is motivation.
There hasn’t been a moment in the four years I’ve been publishing as the HoseMaster that I haven’t wondered why I bother. There are so many other things I could be doing. Insulting the grammar on homeless people’s cardboard signs. Getting a really nice fake tan by soaking in orange wines. Building an ark for the coming Climate Change Apocalypse from Styrofoam shippers. I could be doing any of those things right now, activities I’d actually enjoy, but instead I’m sitting at this crummy IKEA desk in front of my circa 1998 computer in my Wine Spectator pajamas (all you have to do is open them up and a dick jumps out) trying to make people laugh. I must be nuts. It’s not worth it.
I’ve been trying to get a “real” job in the wine business for the past few years. “Real” jobs are like what Alice Feiring calls “Real” wines—basically, they're mythical. They might be out there, but they’re buried in amphorae. I have an impressive résumé, if I do say so myself, but no one wants to hire me. Despite the fact that for three years I bought the wines for Air Rwanda (“Ron Washam is Hutu trust when it comes to wine.”) Not to mention that I have two Beard Awards to my credit—one for Outstanding Wine Professional with a Donkey, the other Beard Award the prestigious Julia Child Award for Most Often Drunk on the Job. How can an employer not be impressed? It’s crazy, you would think wineries would be banging down my wife to get to me, but that’s just not the case. Truth be known, my résumé arrives, they do a Google search, HoseMaster of Wine™ pops up, bang, I’m in the flush pile next to the guy whose résumé is printed on oily rags and stuffed in a beer bottle.
Yes, I’ve been offered a couple of jobs. I could have been one of the flunkies assigned to carry Jancis Robinson’s litter (her royal carriage, not less famous MW’s). Natalie MacLean took that job. I nearly took the Senior Gondola Gum Removing Specialist position at Sterling Vineyards. And then I almost accepted a one night gig as Sommelier at Senator Mitch McConnell’s annual “Last Suppah” re-enactment, until I found out they pooled tips. After thirty-five years in the wine business, those were the best I could do.
I’m sure this stupid blog has ruined whatever crappy reputation I once had. And for what? Fame? I confess, it’s very strange how often I run into people who have heard of the HoseMaster of Wine.™ It’s disconcerting and discomforting for me. I’m a private person. I’m not on Twitter. Twitter is to conversation what fortune cookies are to literature. I’m sure most of you have checked and found that I don’t have a FaceBook page. Why do I need FaceBook? I have nothing to share. And any idiotic website that turns “friend” into a verb, well, it can go whore itself. I don’t even know what Pinterest is. I thought it was a mattress for wacko playwrights, but it turns out that’s wrong. I tried to order a Queen Size Pinterest with vibrating Mamets, but they were out. Someone asked me if I’d seen Instagram and I told them I didn’t watch porn that featured women over 60. Now Instateen, that I might be interested in. I guess my point is, I am not the least bit interested in Social Media. I like to connect with people the good old-fashioned way—staring at them intently when they’re just trying to have a quiet drink. Antisocial Media, now we’re talking. Count me in.
When I began writing HoseMaster of Wine™, I naively thought that people wanted to laugh about wine and the wine business, and that it would be fun to be a part of that. I guess it is, at times. But satire is meant to be edgy, meant to slash and burn, not tickle and wink. It requires a measure of fearlessness and a large dose of skepticism and truth-telling. Wineries, restaurants, the wine press, bloggers, wine marketers, all tend to be allergic to all of that. For the most part, when they’re selling wine they’re selling the Romance of Wine. It’s the Romance of Wine that’s responsible for the ridiculous and overblown wine descriptions that defy meaning and sense. Those descriptions are love letters to wine, filled with the smitten writer’s attempts to stretch his meager vocabulary and express his beloved’s beauty and appeal. They're as embarrassing as old love letters. It’s the Romance of Wine that fuels the wrongheaded and disingenuous “Natural” wine movement. Is it coincidence that a desire for wines declared “natural” and “authentic” and “real” comes at a moment in time when we’ve nearly ruined our planet with our wastefulness and selfishness? The Romantics worshipped Nature. We trashed it, but can feel better about ourselves if our wines are “natural.” The Romance of Wine fuels the Millennials’ desire for the "stories" behind wines. I used to like them before bedtime, too. At least that’s what I keep hearing that Millennials want. So what’s the story behind “Skinnygirl,” the hottest new brand on the planet? Good old corporate greed, our era’s usual story, that’s what. I find it interesting that they want the story behind a wine, not the truth behind a wine. And that’s exactly what they get.
Romance always trumps satire. I’m OK with that. I’ve always just loved wine, and I have always loved romance. I keep my loves for both separate. Every generation discovers wine, falls in love with wine, romances wine, thinks that what they’re feeling about wine cannot possibly have been felt by generations older, thinks that they are exceptions to all the rules of sales and marketing of wine because their generation is different, has newer and better tools to work with, and the keen insight born of those tools. It’s the very eau de vie of comedy. It occasionally warrants scorn, but most often laughter.
The Romance of Wine is for tasting rooms, sales and marketing meetings, repetitious feature articles in interchangeable wine publications, sommeliers peddling their infatuations instead of satisfying clients, adjective-laden hyperbole masquerading as information, and suckers who think a story is worth an additional $40/bottle. It’s not really what being a wine lover is about. Just enjoy wine, just love wine, don’t waste too much time on the Romance of wine. Romance will break your heart, love is what endures.
But, truly, I need to quit this blog and get a Real, Natural, Authentic job.
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."
"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."