When I turned up dead, I knew I had an unusual case on my hands. I’d been fine the last time I saw me, that morning, in the mirror. I remember because, since I’ve put on a few pounds recently, it was the first time I’d seen my penis since Anthony Weiner sexted a picture of it all over the damned planet. It winked at me. I’d finished showering (I like my showers like I like my babes—hot, wet, and finished in three minutes) and was shaving. I hate shaving. My electric razor shoots the damned shaving cream all over the mirror. But there I was, the HoseMaster, a private dick staring at his formerly private dick. Alive and dangling.
Or was I?
Funny thing when you die—you’re the last to know. I’d seen it my whole career. I’d be sitting in the square, peacefully drinking Kosta Browne Pinot Noir from my shoe, when I’d look up and I’d see a woman walking by who was dead and didn’t know it. You’ve seen the type. That stunned look on her face, like she’d just finished reading a Matt Kramer column in Wine Spectator, her face frozen like she’s modeling for Edvard Munch, a wine glass suspended between her breasts in a wine yoke, her glittery T-Shirt declaring, “Wine Bloggers Do It Alone in Their Room.” Dead. Her blog readers know it, her prose proves it, her ideas symptomatic of a straight line on an EEG. There are hundreds and hundreds of these wine bloggers among us. I always feel sorry for them, these Walking Dead, these Internet Zombies. Like so many people, they think death is sudden, a moment when the lights go out, your last thought the thought that this can’t be happening to me, it should be happening to Jay McInerney even if it is twenty years too late. But death’s not like that. It’s slow, and it’s apparent to everyone else but you.
Death is like fermentation. Your life happens while you’re growing, when you’ve yet to be harvested. But when you reach maturity, your life is plucked from you, the great Winemaker in the Sky crushes you, and fermentation begins. It takes a while, and you think you’re improving. You bubble with energy and radiate heat. But you’re dying. It might take two weeks, or death might get stuck, it often gets stuck when you don’t know what you’re doing, but once that fermentation is finished, you’re simply dead. Most of us are fermenting even now, especially bloggers, who stop growing even as they begin their “journey to discover wine,” a written journey that virtually defines brain death. It explains the peculiar aromas. Death is one long extended fermentation; it punches us down, over and over, twice a day, to extract everything it can from us. And then it drains us of everything we are, puts us in a large wooden vessel, sometimes new wood, sometimes old, and puts us somewhere nice and cold, like between Natalie MacLean’s lips.
So I woke up the other day and realized I was dead. And, even worse, I knew the people who had killed me. I had all the evidence against them I needed, but how could I bring them to justice? Justice is all you have left when you’re dead. Well, that and a farewell boner. The dead want justice like the living want love. Neither ever gets enough. Perhaps it’s better to want justice when you’re alive, and love after you’re gone. But you’ll never get that either. What do we get instead? Pain, misery, heartbreak, and Wine Blog Awards. It is a tribute to human courage that we manage to endure.
You see, that’s what killed the HoseMaster in the end. Wine Blog Awards. Believe me, this is an ugly way to die. Slowly and painfully, at the hands of ruthless and sinister people. People who have no right to even give you an award, people who intrude into a perfectly fine business, pretend it’s theirs, steal your reputation and standing, and use it to enrich their own lives. They’re like bank robbers, or a Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting. They have no remorse for their foul deeds. They make Frank Cornelissen proud. They declare themselves in charge, and, dopes that we are, we accede. We give in because we lack imagination, and because we seek acceptance and praise like a Cru Beaujolais producer seeks more than 91 points—hopelessly, and because we imagine it matters. Just as we give in to death. Only death is certain, Wine Blog Awards are imaginary.
Sure, the people responsible hire fall guys. I wanted to blame the fall guys for my death. And, that morning, I was beginning to realize I was dead. I was starting to like Malbec. Who likes Malbec? Dead people, people with nothing to lose. But it wasn’t the fall guys, the “judges” (honorary titles to flatter the suckers), who murdered me, it was the organizers, the con men, who killed me.
I did something stupid. It’s partly my fault. Isn’t death always partly our fault, like every tragedy, like the NBA? I opened an email attachment. I knew it was stupid even as I was doing it. Like when you walk down the stairs in your socks, or you check your gas tank with a cigarette lighter, or you buy rare wines at auction. In the attachment were my death warrants. Like Pandora, I’d opened the box. Or selected shitty music. I don’t remember what metaphor works any more. But, when I saw what was in the attachments, I knew the HoseMaster was dead. Dead like “fighting varietals.”. Dead like “soft wines.” Dead like “Mutineer Magazine.” Done. Over. Kaput. Kardashianed. Pamela Sue’d. I was in an Aldered state.
The attachment consisted of nomination badges in four different categories for HoseMaster of Wine™ to win a Wine Blog Award. It was the moment you hear the gun going off just long enough to know you’re a goner. Not that I didn’t have it coming.
Gumshoes make lots of enemies. But, in the end, my enemies didn’t have anything to do with it. Death rarely comes from expected places. That’s one thing I’ve learned as the HoseMaster. Death is slow, and you’re dead before you know it, but the causes, well, they never reveal themselves until it’s too late. It’s like a blind tasting. All your years of experience, all that you bring to the table, all of your insight and passion and love, hell, it just doesn’t matter. Where you stick your nose just might be the end of you. And, on top of that, the idiot next to you doesn’t know crap. Blind tasting is the human condition.
But what’s done is done. Justice will come one day. We have to believe that. I like to think that the Wine Blog Awards ceremony will be the HoseMaster’s wake. People who hate me will still have to say nice things about me. I won’t be there, so I won’t care. My name will be announced, men will gasp and women will weep, but when the shock has worn off, people who otherwise revile me, people whose secrets I’ve uncovered, whose weaknesses I’ve held up to the light, those people will be forced to laud me, to say that, all along, they liked me, admired my work. When it’s not true. I like to think that maybe the whole charade will crumble, that the people who campaigned and begged for votes, who surrendered their talent to vanity, who craved an award given by poseurs and decided by the wisdom of the hopelessly vacuous who live on FaceBook, that they’ll speak my name in false reverence and realize the emptiness of the gesture. And slowly recognize the death of their own souls.
“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
I’ve had tough cases before, solved The MS Conspiracy and Dial MW for Murder. I battled my arch enemy Frank Anosmia and came out not smelling a rose. I never thought I’d have to work my own death. You spend your whole life fighting the bad guys and then one day you realize you’re one of them. It’s the great mystery of life. And of death. You just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s done fermenting.
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."