Monday, May 13, 2013


In February 2010, I published this lampoon of Alder Yarrow's Vinography. I think his was the first wine blog I parodied, and it raised something of a ruckus. Not as much as my later piece about Alice Feiring, but plenty. I was always offended by Yarrow's nonsensical notion that he could adequately taste several hundred wines in a few hours, and his post about the 2010 ZAP tasting must have pushed me over the edge. Though it doesn't take much to push the HoseMaster over the edge. The original post generated in the neighborhood of 60 comments. From 2010, here is Vornography:

Every January the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) throw a tasting in my honor at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I'm honored that they do this for me, I don't see myself as worthy of the honor, I'm just a humble blogger who is frequently given accolades, awards, free trips, free wine and inexplicable admiration from an industry that deeply admires sycophants. The theme of this year's ZAP tasting in my honor was "Alder Zin You Can Drink," and, as I do every year, I agreed to allow others in the industry, as well as every day people, to attend. I don't have to do this, but I feel that wine is best when it's shared, and, besides, it's really lonely being the best blogger in the country.

There were fewer wineries this year, which I was not happy about and someone will pay, believe me, but the good news is that it meant I only had 740 wines to taste so I'd have an extra hour to come home and post pretty pictures on my blog. I'd really like to post pictures of kitties, I love kitties, especially in ribbons, but that wouldn't be right so I post trite photos by Andy Katz--get it? Katz? I post pictures of Katz! And you wonder why I win wine blog awards!

I was honored by the 220 or so wineries who chose to pour me wine at ZAP. Part of the enjoyment I get out of this annual event (last year's theme was "We All Live in a Yarrow Submarine") is the time I get to spend with all my many friends that produce Zinfandel all over the state, and even the world! People even come from Italy and South Africa to pour wines for me, hoping for a coveted 9.5 to 10 score, which I only give to 40% of the wines I taste so they are really going against the odds. This year I was honored to spend 11 seconds talking to Joel Peterson, the heroic producer and founder of Ravenswood, 8 seconds tasting with Larry Turley, and a full 15 seconds reveling in the stories of Kent Rosenblum. Did you know he's a veterinarian? When Dr. Rosenblum tells you you're a horse's ass for claiming you can taste and rate 740 wines in a day, you know he knows what he's talking about!

I was also asked to moderate a panel about Zinfandel and Social Media the Friday before the ZAP tasting. I am often asked to sit on panels because I'm the most respected wine blogger in the country and I can answer many questions that prospective bloggers constantly ask. For example, I am often asked what has made my blog so successful. It's not that big a secret. What makes Vornography so successful is that most people can't tell the difference between being prolific and being good. Choose prolific. And, always, they want to know how to get wineries to send them free samples. Here's where my journalism background comes in handy. Puff pieces. Wineries love puff pieces about themselves and I do that better than anyone else blogging today. You can't go wrong writing fluff, being a fluffer, about a winery owner fulfilling a dream. They eat it up, they post it on their website, they tweet about it, and they send me every release of wine they ever produce hoping I'll flatter them again. It's essentially like taking candy from trust fund babies.

Tasting 740 wines in six hours is no big deal, but, obviously I'm not superhuman enough to also take tasting notes. That would be ludicrous and, frankly, arrogant. Besides, no one reads tasting notes, tasting notes are just filler, like the white stuff in Twinkies, it's just there to distract you from what really matters, the delicious cake outsides. And it's all Zinfandel anyway. You already know what Zinfandel tastes like, it tastes kind of like berries. All you need to know is what I think about the wines as reflected in my scores. You already know my taste in wine, you've been faithfully following my blog for more than six years now, and if you're new here, well, take it from all of my regular longtime readers, my scores are valid and meaningful and come from my astonishing seven years of experience tasting wines. You can tell how valid my scores are by all the winery people kissing my butt in the comments section. I list the 740 wines grouped by my vague scores in such a way that it enlightens you as to which Zinfandels are worth your hard-earned money. The ones at the top. They tasted the best. Trust me.


Daniel said...

You made me go look at his original post. I couldn't read it, too much 'blah blah blah'....
really, 220 wines in one day? and all of them the same high alcohol varietal? BS!
I've been doing this for over 18 years, and the most I will admit to tasting in a day is 60 or so, and they were all different wines from different parts of the world. And it sucked!.
now if we're talking about drinking versus tasting, the number might be higher...
happy monday!

Unknown said...

"It's essentially like taking candy from trust fund babies." Best line of the year. Better than Katz!


David Pierson said...

Just curious.. what was the ruckus?? It's so dead on I was wondering if I was reading one of his puff pieces about how wonderful he is..

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Man, I remember this piece, and watching it go sort of viral through the blogosphere. I think what struck so many of us was how easy it was to hear Alder's style in the piece, which is of course a testament to your talent. I know a lot of people that kind of discovered your blog because of this parody but as a long time fan/reader I think your work just keeps getting better love. This was a fun little walk down memory lane! I love you!!

Cris Whetstone said...

Ouch. Pretty hard take down there. Love it.

David Fish said...

Ron, how can I find the original article in your archives?

David Fish said...

Sorry, I meant- do you have the article upon which your lampoon was based?

The Sommeliere said...

Ron, all this jammy, brambly Zinfandel talk makes me want to reach for a glass of natural, biodynamic, organic, sustainable orange wine! I just hope that the cow horn buried in poop (see Alice Feiring) did not make it into the glass.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Well, that's what set me off originally, the audacity of reviewing that many wines in a day. I'm certain Alder, whom I've never met, believes in his own superpowers, just as I think I'm funny, but it's pretty obscene to imagine yourself capable of that. Not that anyone believed him, but it's still inherently comic.

Man, long time, no comment. Thanks for chiming in again, and for the kind words.

I was in the early stages of HoseMaster and thought it was about time someone satirized the "big shot" wine bloggers. Alder was, and still is, an easy target, with an easy to mock tone and style, and a kind of self-importance that recalls no one so much as Ted Baxter from the old "Mary Tyler Moore" show.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I'll confess to you that I don't think I hit the mark on his style so much as I hit the target on his tone. It was a "shocker" of a sort when I first did it--a blogger making fun of another blogger! Why, it's, it's...indecent!! And, as ever, the worst parts, the most gratuitous mocking, got left in the editing room.

I love you too!

Satire without teeth is like people without teeth--hard to understand and very thin.

Well, the original piece was from Vinography's review of ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Tasting, from January 2010. You can probably find it in Alder's archives--seems Daniel did. But reviewing and rating a couple of hundred wines a day was Alder's calling card back then, and he defended it vigorously, though he doesn't seem to do it any longer--maybe Jancis straightened him out.

Marlene Love,
Cow poop often improves the aroma of orange wines. Though it does nothing for the cows.

gabriel jagle said...

whoa...the early hosemaster had some bite! not like the puff pieces you've been writing for splooge estates lately. i can understand why there was so much ruckus...critics hate being criticized. anyway, i loved the comment about not needing tasting notes because zinfandel all taste "like berries", and i appreciate you're putting your money where your mouth is with your high quality wine reviews. you're all right jose

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, Gabe. I've been at this wine thing way too long, as well as the comedy writing thing. I'm not that good at either one, but, hey, experience counts for something.

I ran into Abe Schoener at a tasting on Saturday, and he had nothing but kind words to say to me about the Splooge Estate "Linoleum Project." And, honestly, in my long career of annoying people in the wine biz, it's been the wine critics and winery marketing people who have sent me all the grief and hate mail, almost never a winemaker. I'll leave it to you to figure out what that means.

gabriel jagle said...

i'll guess it means that if i ever become a respectable winemaker, i won't get so upset about you making fun of natural wines :-)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

It's not the wines I make fun of, but the silliness and arrogance of the category itself. Much like the category of "respectable winemaker." That's sort of like "influential blogger."

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...


I have attended Family Winemakers in San Francisco held at Fort Mason. But not ZAP. So I infer the experience is similar.

When I attend such large scale events,I bring with me 3-ring binders comprising hundreds of "check off the descriptor box" notetaking sheets to management my time as efficiently as possible.

[Aside: sparkling wine, white wine and red wine templates available to anyone who wishes them. -- Bob]

It has been my experience that it takes about 2 minutes to: shove your arm out in the direction of the exhibitor and politely ask for a wine pour, patiently await your sample, swirl it, smell it, sip it, spit it out, dump the remnants from your glass, and write down your impressions.

So let's do some simple "back of the envelope" math.

220 wines times 2 minutes spent sampling each pour and recording one's thoughts equals 440 minutes. That translates into 7.33 hours. (7 hours 20 minutes. Yikes!)

Let's be really superhuman.

220 wines times 1 minute spent sampling each pour and recording one's thoughts equals 220 minutes. That translates into 3.67 hours. (3 hours 40 mnutes.)

For those who know, how many hours long is ZAP?

I don't know Alder and can't attest to his stamina, but 220 wines is a heroic feat. Best accomplished by someone sitting down and being served trays of wines . . . not in the fatiguing manner of walking from exhibitor table to table for hours on end.

(And my math doesn't include "lost" time moving from table to table; in conversation with exhibitors and fellow attendees; bathroom breaks; and food and water station stops to refresh one's palate.)

Even Robert Parker (dare I invoke his name on this blog?) boasts "only" tasting about 100 to 120 wines on a busy work day -- which by his accounting can number 12 to 14 hours.

~~ Bob

PaulG said...

I'm pretty sure he uses one of these:

No way to actually taste 220 Zins in one day. Good to revisit ancient Hosiery! More more more!