“…any food product that feels compelled to tell you it’s natural in all likelihood is not.”—-Michael Pollan
Monday, November 18, 2013
Blind Book Review--Adventures on the Wine Route
I didn’t read Kermit Lynch’s excellent book Adventures on the Wine Route when it was first published, and, now, remarkably, twenty-five years later, I have the opportunity to not read it again! A great book, like fine wine, improves over the years--but not if you open it. Once you open it, the exposure will slowly destroy it. They haven’t yet invented a Coravin for books, perhaps we need a Coralibre®, which is my favorite cocktail. Lynch’s book gets better and better, and, while I envy those of you who have read it over the years, I’m going to age my copy for another ten or fifteen years until it has reached its peak. Then I might read it.
It has fallen to me, the pioneering HoseMaster of Wine™, to review wine books the way they should be reviewed. Blind, without the influence of actually knowing anything about them, save the variety. This is the way real wine professionals judge things. Dear readers, I’d be skeptical of those who review books based on actually having read them. This can only skew their perspective. They may claim objectivity, but most are human, and they bring preconceived notions of Kermit Lynch to their reading, and that colors their reviews. I also review the books in a room with perfect lighting and white walls, though I am allowed fifteen minutes outside twice a day while they hose down the room.
Adventures on the Wine Route is all about Kermit Lynch’s experiences importing some of the great wines of France into the United States in an era where Imported Wines on a restaurant wine list meant Blue Nun, B & G Beaujolais, and Mouton Cadet. Just like your Uncle Bob, Kermit upped the Auntie. And this book is all about how he did it.
Kermit is a natural storyteller. For example, he tells a wonderful story of sitting in a barber shop in Tain l’Hermitage and, just by accident, meeting one of the region’s greatest winemakers. Before he leaves, he’s struck a deal to import his wines. It’s a wonderful chapter entitled, “Chave and a Haircut.”
Lynch also spends a chapter talking about Charles Joguet and his great estate in the Loire Valley. Lynch has always pursued winemakers who work with the land and their wines as naturally as possible. He speaks about Joguet’s dedication to authenticity, his belief in the old ways of farming, paying attention to things like the lunar calendar. It’s a beautiful chapter entitled “Chinon, Chinon, Harvest Moon.” The book is filled with stories like this. Children may have Mother Goose, but wine lovers have Kermit Lynch as Father Foie Gras. When he dies, his enormous liver will be worth a fortune!
No one can match Kermit Lynch’s ability to write about wine in an interesting, and illuminating fashion. His common sense approach to wine is refreshing and all too rare. Here are a few of his meatiest quotes:
“Wine is, first and foremost, about pleasure, and I’m the guy who decides what’s pleasurable.”
“Loving Banyuls is like sleeping with a farm animal—embarrassing to admit, but you’ll be surprised to see how many others there are just like you.”
“When you taste wine you’re not just ingesting alcohol. You’re tasting culture, the history of man’s folly, our incessant yearning to alter our consciousness, and your own personal bitterness and failure. It’s why you can’t get enough.”
“I was the first person to bring European wines to the United States in refrigerated containers. I brought the winemakers here the same way. Muted the smell.”
Kermit Lynch set the new standard for importers. There was one thing you always knew you’d get when you picked up a bottle of wine with his name on it—overcharged. Kermit went in search of wines that had been overlooked by American consumers, combed the countryside of France looking for wines with personality and history and he almost singlehandedly made the reputation of appellations like Bandol, Gigondas, and Côte-Rôtie. “When I first tried to sell Côte-Rôtie in the U.S.," Lynch writes, "no one had heard of it. Now at least people know they don’t buy it because it’s Syrah.”
No American has done more for France than Kermit Lynch. OK, maybe General Eisenhower and Jerry Lewis. And you could make a case for Lance Armstrong, but, like taking testosterone illegally, that would take some balls. Yet it was Kermit Lynch who opened Americans’ eyes to the artisan wine producers of France. “I cherry-picked,” he writes, “ and left all the lesser estates to those who followed. Now all the stuff I turned down has someone else’s import label on it. Drinking those wines is like being a woman’s second husband.” See, he does have a way with words.
It’s nice that the publishers have seen fit to reissue this classic of wine literature. As an added bonus, the 25th Anniversary Edition includes a list of Lynch’s 25 most memorable wines. Surprisingly, four of them are futures, which you can order for a limited time at 15% off.
Adventures on the Wine Route has been widely praised by nearly every important wine critic for the past twenty-five years, and Jay McInerney liked it too. It belongs on every wine lover’s bookshelf alongside the other classics of wine importing, Kacher in the Wry and Weygandt We All Just Get Along?.
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
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"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
"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."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.