Now, I came to this case a little late. You may have heard that I was busy in Florida getting a guy off for shooting an unarmed kid. Was he guilty? Hell, yes, he was guilty, but, you know, he didn’t just shoot any kid. He shot a kid in a hoodie. Which is different than shooting a kiddie in the hood. Or is it? No matter, the point is, he shot that kid in self defense. Luckily, he had a gun. Otherwise, the kid beats the living crap out of him in self defense. But having a gun makes you brave, makes you a man. Like wearing droopy pants makes you guilty. Which is why we should kill all the plumbers.
My client, Dr. Conti, is also not guilty, and for essentially the same reasons as my Florida client. But I’ll get to that, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll get to that.
Now, here we have a case that involves wine. It’s a case of wine! Who doesn’t love a case of wine? Only this was fake wine. Well, now, that’s not entirely accurate. It was actual wine, only it was wine that was put in the wrong bottles! Is it possible it was just a series of honest mistakes on my client’s part? Who hasn’t made the mistake of putting, say, lubricant on their toothbrush? Which is better than putting toothpaste on your dingdong, by the way, unless you’re brushing someone else’s teeth with it. Dr. Conti had wine; he had a lot of wine. An overflow of wine. And, in a panic, or maybe he was a little tipsy, he took some of that wine and he poured it in the wrong bottles. Honest mistake. Did he then recork those bottles and reseal them? Yes, and that was wrong. Did he then sell those wines to a whole bunch of rich wine snobs, a bunch of old men, most of whom made their money on the backs of honest people like you, men who collect rare wine just for the status it gives them, just for the prestige of the labels? Yup. And here’s where my Florida case comes back in. Didn’t they deserve to get screwed? Given the chance, wouldn’t you brush their teeth with your meat thief? I know I would. Then give ‘em something to gargle with.
Dr. Conti saw these alleged victims hanging around auctions, loitering around places where extremely valuable wines were being sold, and he knew they were up to no good. So he followed them, as any good wine-loving citizen would, learned their habits, went undercover to understand their terrible corruption, and then, when no one else had the courage to, he lured them into his trap and exposed them for the greedy, ignorant, dangerous men they are. Men who make a mockery of wine appreciation. Men who collect the greatest wines ever made with no intention of ever drinking them! Men who believe having old and rare wine makes them more masculine, like owning a gun. Dr. Conti took these men on. And for his courage he is incarcerated.
You’ve seen evidence of Dr. Conti’s fraudulent label making equipment found by the police when they searched his home. It’s not illegal to possess that printing equipment, ladies and gentleman, just like it’s not illegal to possess a gun. Where the law comes in is when you actually use it. Why you used it. What motivated you to use it. Who was hurt when you used it. Was the person you hurt of some societal value? That’s what we ask juries to decide. In Florida, they know when a life is not a life worth worrying about. They’re old and wise there in Florida, and they know the Fountain of Youth needs restocking. I think here in New York, you’ll know when a victim is not really a victim, too. They’re not victims when they’re pretentious, rich, arrogant titans of the One Percent. They’re not victims when they are scammed in a way that defends the very hobby they insult and abuse with their greed. And no victims, ladies and gentlemen, means no crime.
I want you to think about what my client actually did. Some of it isn’t right, I’ll admit that. But he’s not guilty of these charges, not in the legal sense. Guilty of stupidity? Well, sure, but, ladies and gentlemen, wine auctions and wine collecting are built on stupidity as their very foundation! Everyone involved in this, from the auction houses to the alleged victims, engages in a legalized form of stupid behavior. Every wine the alleged victims buy at auction is a bottle with questionable provenance, a badly decomposing cork that has affected the quality of the wine, and sports a label that has almost no meaning any more. How were the wines Dr. Conti sold to these suckers any different than those? Because he knew they were fakes? Does it matter? When one of these wealthy corksuckers actually opens a bottle for his friends, will they know the difference? Trained and experienced sommeliers wouldn’t know the difference, how would a bunch of drunk old Texans know the difference? They’re getting the same thrill from one of Dr. Conti’s fake bottles as they would from an actual bottle of Screaming Asshole, or whatever that wine is. Isn’t that what they paid for when they purchased his bottles at auctions? The prestige and excitement of opening the bottles they purchased whether they knew where they were actually from, or what they would end up tasting like? The auction house knew they were fakes, or should have. Why aren’t they in jail, or at least being prosecuted? Because, then, ladies and gentlemen, the entire foundation of stupidity is removed from the monument that is big money wine auctions, and the entire institution collapses, leaving all these rich corksuckers with virtually worthless wine cellars. They won’t stand for that. Try taking their Viagra from them, might as well. You’ll find out why they aren’t old softies.
So instead they’ve gone after my client. He had money. He didn’t do this for the money. Dr. Conti did it to save us from ourselves. Those of us who love wine, who believe that wine is proof that God loves us and hates Seventh Day Adventists, who draw daily joy and strength from Jesus’ first miracle. These alleged victims were out to destroy wine, to inflate its value beyond the means of the Ninety-Nine Percent, to leave all of us to aspire to twelve dollar Lodi Zinfandel as the pinnacle of our wine drinking. Dr. Conti exposed them. Dr. Conti made a mockery of wine geeks, of the habitués of mindless wine chat rooms, though the phrase is redundant, and of the attendees of glamorous wine orgies masquerading as charity auctions, where the One Percent can give back to those poor people they’ve so ruthlessly exploited by bidding lavishly, and stupidly, on the same labels Dr. Conti so easily reproduced and made worthless. Like my Florida client, Dr. Conti proves that judging a book by its cover, be it a boy by how he’s dressed, or a label by how it looks, is perfectly legal. It's fine to destroy either one. It’s not his fault, it’s the victim’s. Nothing could be clearer, or more legal.
We don’t owe him conviction, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we owe him thanks.
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..."
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--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."