Monday, March 25, 2013

The Godfather Parker and Pretty Boy: The Movie

The Story So Far: Don Parker has increasingly been feeling the ravages of time. His back hurts, his gout is acting up and his prostate is the size of Mary Lou Retton, and performing better backflips. He checks it constantly with his thumb. Don Parker’s power is waning, his once indomitable empire is challenged on every front, his influence is still powerful yet he wields it clumsily now, bestowing gifts of 100 points willy-nilly where once he bestowed fear and envy. Don Parker is used to being feared and revered, but now the talk is only of his age and weakness—he feels the wolves nipping at his heels, trying to separate him from the rest of his pack of critics because he is one of the old and infirm; and though they are all old and infirm, it’s more fun to take down the one who was always the most powerful. Plus, he’s the only one with any meat on his bones.

Don Parker has recently told his Family that he is selling his empire to an Asian Family. The Family is in an uproar. Things are made worse when he hands the reins over to the only woman in the Family, Donna Lisa “The Blowfish” Peretti-Brown. This is no business for a woman. The Parker Family fortune is based on the 100-Point Scale; most women don’t like scales. The Family sees it as a mistake. On top of that, a year earlier, Don Parker had been forced to make one of the Family, Jay “The Walrus” Miller, disappear. “The Walrus” got caught with his hand in someone else’s till, and Don Parker didn’t like it. “The Walrus” begged, he even blubbered (blubber is how he got his nickname), but Don Parker had no choice. In a powerful and poignant scene, Don Parker kisses “The Walrus” on the lips. “86,” he whispers to “The Walrus,” whose face shows he recognizes it’s not a score.

But now Don Parker’s favorite son, Antonio “Pretty Boy” Galloni, wants out of the Family. Don Parker had personally groomed “Pretty Boy” Tony to be his ultimate replacement, the new Don of the Parker Empire. But the impeccably mannered, yet headstrong and temperamental, Galloni doesn’t want to work for “The Blowfish” and her shady Asian overlords. He intends to leave, and take the Family secrets with him. As the scene opens, we are in Don Parker’s office in Monkton. Don Parker sits behind his desk, the head of “The Walrus” is beautifully stuffed and mounted on the wall behind him, with what appear to be the testicles of an M.W. dangling from his mouth. A plaque beneath says, “Miller Teabagging Campo.” Next to Miller’s head is a crucifix. It’s “The Walrus” and the Carpenter. Antonio “Pretty Boy” Galloni enters. Don Parker stays seated.

Don Parker:  Come in, Pretty Boy, come in. It’s nice to see you. How’s your wife? I’d stand up to greet you, Tony, but my back hurts from carrying Bordeaux all these years.

“Pretty Boy”:  My wife is good, Don Parker. She asks for you. She wants to know when  you’ll grace us with a visit.

DP:  Soon, I hope, Tony, soon. (He pauses.) Does she know about your decision to leave the Family?

PB (Tony is clearly shocked Don Parker knows of his plans to leave.) No, I… I haven’t told anyone. I wanted to speak to you first, Godfather. How did you know?

DP:  I know you like I would know my own son, my own flesh and blood. I gave you life, Tony, I made you somebody. I gave you money and power and the knowledge to abuse it. And this is how you thank me? (He glances over his shoulder at “The Walrus.”) You take everything and just walk away? Is this how you show your gratitude to me, and to the Family?

PB(humbly) Godfather, I always told you that I wouldn’t do contracts. Didn’t I? Didn’t I always say, “I don’t do contracts?”

DP(quietly) You come to me, how many years ago now, Tony, three? And you’re tired of being nobody, your little publication, you’ll excuse me, it’s shit. Twelve guys and a chimp read it, and the chimp wants a discount because he’s a blogger. So I give you a real job, I hand you my name and my reputation, I teach you how to use the 100 Point Scale the way a man uses the 100 Point Scale—like you use your salami on a woman, Tony. It’s the tip that matters. 95 to 100, the tip, that’s what gets you in. In return for all that I’ve given you, Tony, you won’t do a contract? I’m the Don of this Family. If I say contract, you do a contract.

PB(deliberately) I cannot work for “The Blowfish.” This was never a part of our Family, Godfather. (now angrily) You sold the Family! You sold it and took all the money. And then you ask me to work for some Asians and a woman? Like I’m some miserable Napa Valley winemaker? No, Godfather, I have my pride. Why couldn’t you have made one of the other family members Don?

DP:  Who, Tony, I ask you, who? David “The Windbag” Schildknecht? Mark “The Pretender” Squires? Neal “Buttkiss” Martin? Come on, Tony, it was supposed to be you. Don Antonio. But you couldn’t wait, you couldn’t just sign a contract and wait until I die. No, you had to try and kill your Father, betray me, betray the entire family. For what? Another of your shit publications? I know you, Tony, I knew you would try to leave. So I gave my title to “The Blowfish.” To teach you.

PB(A long pause, Tony trying to stared down Don Parker.)  I’m leaving, Godfather. I ask you for your blessings.

DP(he is thoughtful) If you go, Tony, you must not take anything of the Family with you. You must not betray any of our secrets, our codes—the Family business stays here. This you must swear to me on your life, on your wife’s life.

PB:  But I must use the 100 Point Scale. That is no secret, Godfather. Everyone uses the Scale, it is not yours.

DP:  I will not have you abuse it!

PB:  Abuse it?! You’re the one who abuses it, Don Parker! Everyone, all the other families, the Strums, the Shankens, they’re all talking about your abuse of the Scale. They want to destroy you, Godfather. But, no, you’re smarter than they are. You’re destroying yourself first. Handing out 100 point scores like they’re Cuban cigars to celebrate that you’ve screwed another wine region.

DP:  It was you, Pretty Boy, who didn’t hand them out often enough. You disappointed me, Tony. In front of everyone, you insulted me. Lowered my scores, MY SCORES!, on wineries I made rich and famous. You made me a laughingstock. Made me look like a tired, bloated old man. And now this. You leave me, my lifetime of work paving a path for you, my money lining your pockets, my fame the only light your name has, and you leave me. Go, Tony, never darken my door again. I’ll have your head up there with The Walrus if you do.

PB:  I take my work with me, Don Parker. It was always mine. It was never yours. If you try to take it from me, I’ll give it away, and with it, all your secrets.

DP(wearily) Fine, Tony. No one gives a crap about Sonoma, or your scores for Sonoma. Even I barely showed my face there. Farmers, they’re just ignorant farmers. It’s Burgundy all over again. (He sits up straighter. There’s a long pause.) I want you to know I wish you the best of luck, Antonio. Come here.

(Tony walks over behind the desk. Don Parker slowly rises. He looks at him squarely in the eyes. Tony lowers his, and Don Parker gently kisses him on the lips.) 

DP:  Goodbye, Antonio.

(The music swells, Pretty Boy leaves, a look of satisfaction on his face. And as the next scene opens, we see Pretty Boy in bed, the sheets covered in blood. Tony awakens, feels and smells the blood. He begins to panic, his breathing accelerates, and when he throws the sheets aside we see the bloody head of James Suckling, his mouth wide open and his eyes bulging, as in real life.

Antonio screams.)

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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The First Authentic, Natural and Real Blog Post

Fair warning: This post is Authentic, Natural and Real. It may stink in an unfamiliar way, but try to keep an open mind. If you want posts that naturally stink, head over to The Feiring Line or Jamie Goode. I’ve decided to be the first wine blog to be completely Authentic. Yes, it’s more labor intensive, and it won’t appeal to everyone, like giving birth to a hairball, but I think you’ll agree that once you’ve finished reading it, once you’ve opened your mind to its possibilities, resisted the urge to point out how much it stinks, you’ll come to appreciate it for what it is. Entirely Natural. Unmanipulated. A pure expression of its environment, unfettered with added ingredients like syntax, actual thought, and wit. It’s the way wine blogs are meant to be. There’s nothing manmade here, nothing about this post has been chemically altered. Too often, we are exposed unwittingly to chemically-altered wine bloggers at the risk of our own mental health. I urge to you avoid those blogs. There are many scientific studies (and when I need to, I believe scientific studies, though only when it suits my thesis and not when it contradicts spiritual stuff I just know, damn it, I don’t need proof, morons) that have shown that chemically-altered bloggers are dangerous. Especially if they have guns. Or large organs.

I had an epiphany. It was kind of like really bad gas, you know, the kind that makes you double over and then slowly play “Call Me Maybe” out your sphincter (which is how the original song was done, by the way). I’d been hooked on a lot of commercial wine blogs. All the usual ones—Sermontation, 1WineDoody, STEVE!, The Blinky Gray Report, Vornography... And I realized, here comes the epiphany, get ready to sing, that after reading them, I was completely unsatisfied. And I knew why. Not one of them is Authentic, Natural or Real. They are not Authentic wine blogs. Come on, friends, think about it for a minute. Don’t you get tired of reading 1WineDoody and having all that residual sugar left over in your mouth? Let’s face it, he’s a perfectly nice blogger, but he is lousy with food. Most of it’s on his shirt. And Sermontation? They don’t use that much sulfur in Hell. Wark must be Satan. I’m guessing he uses his horns for stacking his client invoices. There’s not a single thing Natural about Vornography; I think that’s pretty obvious. It’s dumbed-down, like that Apothic wine—all chocolatey and gooey to appeal to slow-witted young people on tiny budgets. STEVE! is definitely far removed from anything Real. It’s kind of hard to figure out why, but looking at him, growing up he must have been a lot like the grapes for Eiswein—always picked last. And reading The Blinky Gray Report causes migraines, which can only be regulated by lying in the dark and promising God you’ll never again click on a link to Palate Press.

Once I’d experienced my epiphany, I knew what I had to do. I had to write Authentic, Natural, and Real blog posts. It took some time to get to this point. A lot of people told me I was crazy, that Natural blog posts are not worth the effort, are barely understood by the vast majority of blog consumers, that they’re risky and, if not handled properly, the results can be volatile and inconsistent, sort of like John McCain. But a faulty wine blog is what’s Real. The original concept behind wine blogs, which we seem to have forgotten, at the very risk of our immortal souls, was to be faulty, to be inconsistent, to stink to high heaven. Look at all the Wine Blog Award winners—there’s your proof!

One must come to an Authentic wine blog post from a spiritual place. Not everything about Authentic can be explained to a rational American mind. One has to believe in something beyond your self. To be an Authentic wine blogger, one has to imagine that other people care what you say, which defies all rational belief. Other people don’t care, that’s obvious, but you can’t get to an Authentic place unless you convince yourself that it’s true, that people do read your words and care, that you can just feel it. You are Authentic because you say you are Authentic. This is how it works! Aha! Once you know Authentic, all it takes is that you declare things Authentic, and, Bingo, they ARE Authentic. You’re not just God, you’re Alice Feiring! Your portrait will be painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, your finger extended to all of those who don’t make wines you consider Authentic! You’re not just Alice, you’re Jamie Goode--you know Authentic when you say it is. You roam wine country as a humble wayfarer, blessing winemakers who fall on their knees before you speaking in tongues in a language eerily like Aramaic, “terroir, indigenous, non-invasive, Masanobu Fukuoka, Kyrie, Eleison...” Now you are ready to create Authentic wine posts. And, not long after that, you will be able to cure lepers, like Jay Miller, Natalie MacLean and Ann Coulter. But don’t.

Remember, Authentic blog posts are rare, but they are worth seeking out. They are the only true blog posts. The rest may intoxicate you, even give you pleasure, but in supporting them you are ruining our planet. Just think about that the next time you decide to read Zester. Reading Zester is putting one more nail in the coffin of everything that makes us human. Why not just frack your neighbor’s backyard, which is not a metaphor for anal sex, though that might be more interesting? Blogs that are not Authentic, Natural or Real are for fools, not for people who actually love blogs. Are you a fool? Great! Dr. Vino is for  you! But don’t kid yourself that what you're consuming is how God intended wine blogs to be. Jackass. This is the first Authentic wine blog post, and, tell me, honestly, don’t you feel better knowing that everything possible has been done to make this wine blog self-sustainable? That nothing has been added? That you can visit the place where it was created and feel the love, feel the energy, even feel the guy who wrote it. Please, I’m lonely, for God’s sake, like everyone who lives by the law of Authentic, Natural and Real. I thought this would be cool, but it’s just weird.

We crave what is Real, yet declare things Real that are based solely on Faith, on the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. We want Natural, now that it’s nearly gone beneath 10,000 years of human waste. And we search high and low for Authentic, seizing every chance to hope that we’ve found it, led there by a True Believer who stands in front of his Medicine Show wagon and tells us what is Authentic. “Look, here it is! Just swallow it, it’s good for you! It will cure what ails you.”

This blog post is Authentic. I declare it to be. I have seen the Light. Swallow it, it’s good for you.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Millie Ennial of

In August of 2009 I published this silly post that was both a send-up of Tom Wark's Bloggerviews (stock interviews Tom did with new wine bloggers--the questions are straight from those interviews, none of them is written by me--here is a link to his Bloggerview with the HoseMaster), and of Millennials. This piece is more than three-and-a-half years old, but when I reread it, it could have been written yesterday. That is, if I hadn't been screwing around all day yesterday. Millie Ennial became a running gag in the Comments section, but here she is in her HoseMaster of Wine debut.

An Homage to Tom Wark

Every now and then I come across a wine blog that has a totally amazing and wonderful voice. I may not agree with everything she says, she has a way of talking too much and about things she doesn't understand, like the pressure I've been under lately, but Millie Ennial of WineWiped has a voice, loud and screechy, but a voice. I think she represents the best intentions of wine bloggers, she writes with passion and sincerity and knows enough to edit it out.

When did you begin blogging and why?

I began in late 1996. There weren't any blogs then, at least not on the Internet, so I wrote copious wine tasting notes on a roll of toilet tissue, a la Jack Kerouac. That's where my blog name comes from, WineWiped. Sadly my old blogs were destroyed in a food poisoning accident. I started to blog because I have something interesting to say about wine. And I say it over and over.

In two sentences, describe the focus of your blog.

Obtaining free wine. Obtaining free wine.

What sets your blog apart from the pack?

I have no interest in learning about wine, just writing about wine. I don't believe you have to know a lot about wine to be a wine blogger, that's just the same tired old elitism that's ruined the wine business for decades. I mean, really, when you want to learn about wine, about what wine to choose, are you going to listen to the same old guys who've been writing about wine for thirty years or are you going to ride the wave of democratization and listen to a gal who really loves the stuff. Oh, and I love kitties.

How would you characterize the growth in readership since you began your blog?

It's grown a lot since the Charmin days. Is this where I lie about how many hits my blog gets every month? 25,000. Many of them incarcerated.

Do you accept samples for review?

Wine, food, urine...whatever. What kind of moron doesn't accept samples? But I never promise a good review. Why, that wouldn't be ethical! But like all wine bloggers, I can promise a profoundly inexperienced and ignorant review, and that works out best for everyone. I don't really have the background or experience to have tasted widely, and my Charmin notes are somewhere in a septic tank, where they belong, so I just wing it. And I love wine. Rarely met one I didn't like. But don't worry, if one comes along I don't like I sure as hell won't tell anyone. Again, simple blogger ethics.

What kind of wine rating/review system do you use, and why?

I use the one-ply, two-ply and Ultra-Soft system because I think it expresses how most people feel about wine. A one-ply wine is fine but a little rough. Two-ply is very satisfying, putting it between your cheeks is memorable. And Ultra-Soft, well, those are wines you want to take extra time with, wines that make you flush with joy.

How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?

I don't edit, I don't spellcheck, I don't fact check, I rarely read my comments and I don't think very long or hard about what I write. So it's easy.

Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?

Every post has a provocative title so that it pops up in search engines more often. This month I've posted, "Naked Cheerleaders," "Latest Celebrity Sex Tape," and "Grannies with Trannies." The last one got the coveted Ultra-Soft rating.

In your view, how, if at all, is wine blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?

Wine blogging is more better.

Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?

The list is almost too long! OK, I read Vinography for the pretty photos and because Alder knows how to get free handouts better than a legless Indian beggar. And I always check in on 1WineDude because he never uses any big words. And I love to read the blog over at Mutineer Magazine because it takes me back to when I was in grammar school and the unpopular kids had their own newspaper. BiggerThanYourHead is a must read, I'd say, particularly if you have a sleep disorder or feel a strong desire to experience waterboarding. I used to read HoseMaster of Wine, but he's become so bitter, like the finish of a one-ply wine, that I don't think anyone thinks he's funny any more.

Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?

I believe the entire future of the wine industry depends upon us. Print media is dead--will someone please bury Heimoff after you wipe that stupid smile off his face? Now that Parker is dead, and that secret, held tightly by Squires and Schildknecht and all the other wine Munchkins at The Wine Advocate, is finally getting out, people are going to go online before they make their wine purchases and read the recommendations of lonely bloggers before they go to Trader Joe's and spend their six bucks. Those wineries charging fifty bucks and more for their wines better wise up and start getting those samples out to bloggers! We are the wine culture. We are the voice of the consumer. We know the truth about wine writing--no one can dispute your opinion about taste so don't sweat the details.

Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?

Are you hitting on me?

Pet: Dog or cat?

Isn't this a little personal, Tom?

Airplane reading: New Yorker or People?

Do these lines work in whiskey bars?

Car: Prius or BMW?

For God's sake, Tom, stop with the stupid questions! I'm not going to sleep with you.

Chablis or California Chardonnay?

I love the way you asked that. That sort of smoky, peaty tone in your voice...

Describe what you would have at your last meal.

Oh, that's so romantic, no one has ever asked me that before. I'd really like it if you were at my last meal. I'll be the appetizer if you'll be the entree.

What is Heaven like?

Oh, God, it's a lot like where your hand is right now.

If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would bring the wine?

Shut up and kiss me, Fermentation Boy. I want you to eat my sugar while I create alcohol and finally release all the CO2 I've been saving for someone just like you.

What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?

Do it! Do it, Tom! Do it, do it, do it, do it...done already?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dull Wine Reviews Miraculously Cured!

Do you ever ask yourself who’s the greatest living writer of tasting notes? Isn’t that a bit like wondering who’s the greatest chef of Minute Rice? Who’s the greatest living Madeline Albright impersonator? Who’s the greatest living wine blogger? Tasting notes, name the publication, are dreadful. Devoid of charm, wit, or usefulness, no one seems to know why they exist, like the English monarchy. Is there another subject as fascinating that then becomes as hopelessly dull when written about? Aside from really perky breast implants? And while thousands and thousands of wine reviews, and their accompanying numbers, are printed every month, nobody reads them. They’re like the TV programming guide in the Sunday newspaper. Who reads that? “Monday 8 PM, CHARDONNAY—Larry opens a bottle of white and smells peaches, cream and trouble with his prostate.” (By the way, you should TiVo that episode, damned funny, and very minerally.) But what if (about time this tired old premise appeared) more interesting people than wine writers handled wine reviews? (One more question. Are there less interesting people than wine writers? Yes, that’s rhetorical.) Wouldn’t that mean more people would actually read the review rather than simply take note of the numerical score? And isn’t that the point of a wine review, for the description to be the most important part? No, obviously not. The most important part is the number, and the check for publishing a copy of the label. Come on, it’s just a premise, let’s not get carried away.  But now let’s imagine what wine writing would be like if these famous folks had taken a crack at it.

Herman Melville on Cavit 2011 Pinot Grigio

Call me fish meal. As all men are drawn to the water when they grow grim about the mouth, when their spirits lie dampened like the seat cushions at the old folks home, so I was drawn to this Cavit Pinot Grigio. Say you are out in the woods, it doesn’t matter why, perhaps you’re simply wandering, or maybe you seek a quiet place to pursue your worship of Onan, you can surely rely on every path ending up near water, a brook or rivulet, nay, even a stream—a stream to match that of Onan. You catch a fish to make a meal, your hunger a reminder of the needs of the flesh, your pursuit of a trout a faint echo of the hunt for the Great White Whale, Marvin Dick; you reach for wine, yet yearn for water, the basis of life’s mystery. And here it is, the best of both worlds, Cavit Pinot Grigio, wine that tastes of the very water itself, yet water that lifts the spirits, adds blessed insobriety to your down-turned mouth, and eventually the urge to take a powerful Pequod.

Anaïs Nin on Rhys Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir

When Rhys first entered her life, she was mesmerized by her purplish robe, what might lay beneath it, her sex, what it might smell like. Rhys was in no hurry, she was a woman who knew her own allure, understood why men wanted to brutally take her, why women wanted to swallow her. And she was more than willing. Many men had known Rhys, tasted her mineral being, had their tongues covered in her wetness while she told them what to do, not to swallow but to spit. Women were less likely to possess her, for while Rhys wanted all men, she only wanted a certain kind of woman. A woman who would appreciate her for her womanly beauty, her perfect balance and poise, her exquisite muskiness, a muskiness like the smell of rain on a hot, limestone soil, a muskiness that only appeared when she was fully open and exposed. So when Rhys first entered her mouth her tongue stood erect, tasting every part of Rhys, the complex mix of a perfect whore, the womanly perfume reminiscent of a bridal bouquet left at the bedside as the best man fucks the bride, the sweet taste of ripe fruit, the whore pretending to be a teenage virgin. Over and over she took Rhys in her mouth, for hours on end. It seemed there was no end to Rhys. And as Rhys’ finish neared, she knew she never wanted it to end. She wanted Rhys in her mouth every day, would gladly give herself to her, become her slave, take her in her mouth anywhere, any time. In a restaurant, she would take her under the table and finish her, not care about the looks on the faces of the other patrons as she took Rhys into her painted lips, her nipples hardening until they resembled fine Portuguese corks. She would take Rhys on a picnic, lie on the bed of warm grass, and let Rhys fill her with her warm, luscious liquid. She needed to be the whore that Rhys was, wanted to be the whore that Rhys was, wanted to be locked in every man’s cellar to be used and consumed with his friends whenever he wanted her. But she lacked Rhys’ depth and finish. She lacked the darkness at Rhys’ sexual core, the very Noir of her.

Carl Sagan on Joseph Phelps 2009 Insignia

Every bottle of wine is but one of billions and billions, and each one, from a cosmic perspective, is precious. Well, maybe not Temecula Chardonnay. For every grain of sand on all the beaches on our precious planet, there is, or has been, a bottle of wine to match its number. We do not consider each grain of sand as we walk along the beach, we cannot do that and make sense of the world, we simply consider the beach—is it beautiful, is it warm and comforting, do we find condoms between our toes, do women wear thong bikinis in tribute to cosmic black holes? And so it should be with wine. We do not open every bottle of Joseph Phelps 2009 Insignia, that cannot be done, nor would it be revelatory, though it would piss off the winery, which has some value. No, we open a single bottle, and if it is not corked, that great universal joke, we take it to represent the whole. As though we could pick up a grain of sand, maybe one wedged in our wet bathing suit, under the testicles, that creates a rash, and, by gazing at it, imagine accurately the entire stretch of an unknown beach. This is beyond even the scope of human imagination, and yet we do it with wine every day, hundreds of times a day. Each bottle is precious, $225 of precious, but its meaning for the whole is infinitesimal. Rating it has all the meaning of rating stars or galaxies or those big rock things that fly all over space, whatever those are. DUCK!  That said, this was damned tasty.

George Carlin

Wine. Yeah, Jesus’ first miracle. Just like a stupid son. You give him the gift of miracles and what’s the first thing he does? He uses it to get his friends high. “So who wants Chardonnay?” “Oh, man, Jesus, what if your old man finds out you’re turning water into wine?” “He already knows, you idiots, He’s God.” “God? Yeah, right, and your mother’s a virgin.”

Why didn’t Jesus turn the water into beer? Probably would have been more popular, more what people wanted. That would have been cool. You’d go to church on Sunday, the priest would pop open the sacramental six-pack. “Son, go get me a cold one.” During halftime at the Super Bowl there’d be a commercial featuring the Blood of Christ Clydesdales. “The King of Kings, the King of Beers.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lo Hai Qu on The Death of Wine Critics

Lo Hai Qu
I’ve turned this HoseMaster of Wine™ post over to my intern, Lo Hai Qu. It’s Lo’s job to catalog all the samples I receive for review, primarily wine, but a surprising amount of urine as well (Were it not for Lo, I’d probably mistake the latter for orange wines because they tend to have nicer labels). Lo also answers the phone, occasionally when it’s actually ringing, responds to my voluminous fan mail with prepaid restraining orders (I’m talking to you, Leslie Sbrocco and Jenna Talia Baiocchi), and massages my funny bone. Lo works voluntarily, and not because I lock her in a soundproofed room hidden underneath my Castello di Amorosa torture chamber replica dressed as Natalie MacLean and tied to a water bed filled with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Ah, but I do love the smell of cat pee in the morning.

Lo Hai Qu has some thoughts about wine and wine critics, and how Millennials differ from us old fucks.

Establishment wine critics are dead to me. I spent last week sending condolence cards to the people they left behind. “Sorry, Mrs. Parker, for your loss. You must be devastated. As for me, I never read The Wine Advocate, so, on the 100 Point Scale, my sadness is a 78—unctuous, with overtones of Schadenfreude.” “Dear Mrs. Laube, I can only imagine your grief. I’m sure Jim has gone on to a better place. I hear Hell is lovely this time of year. And there’s all the Lodi Zin he can drink.” “Dear Mrs. Heimoff, you must be Steve’s Mom. All the best. Please tattoo ‘I was wrong about Social Media’ on Steve before they drop him in the dirt hole. It’s comforting to know he’s met his final terroir.”

Me and my friends that like wine, we don’t care what wine experts think about wine. Since when do you need more than five years to understand anything? Medical school is like only four years, right? And you let those people poke stuff into you. Bartending school is only a few months, and then they make hella good drinks. How long is beauty school? And those geniuses have scissors near your neck. So, my point is, once you’ve spent a few years liking wine, the first thing you learn is it’s all a game. Everything you can learn from those old creeps you can learn from your friends on FaceBook, and the experts who write those cool wine blogs (not like the asswipe who writes this one) who have actually written about wine, ON THEIR OWN BLOG, for like years. Like I could see myself paying money for a subscription to Wine Spectator when I’m still living at home because the same generation you want me to listen to talk about wine is the generation who made this fucked-up world where I can’t get a job that pays more than $12/hour. Yeah, that makes sense.

So, you ask, when I want to learn about wine, or when I want advice on what wines I should buy, where do I go for that advice? I don’t go to those crusty old turds who write for established wine magazines. My friends and me, we don’t care about points. We don’t know what points mean. Points aren’t a conversation. Like Twitter, that’s a conversation! LOL, IMHO, MILF. #WINECRITICCORPSE. See? So if I want to know what to buy, I go on FaceBook, because the combined opinions of 40 people with an average of two years of wine experience is 80 years of wine experience! Who the hell has 80 years of wine experience? The Queen of fucking England, Elton John? And it’s 80 years of wine experience for free. This is the key word for Millennials, you dying old wine critics, “Free.” We like free. It’s why we invented the Internet, so we could get free stuff 24 hours a day—music, movies, pornography—which you idiots always paid for! We’re the smartest generation ever. So we expect free wine advice, too. And if you won’t give it to us, we’ll just make it up. It’s worked for Truth on the Internet, why won’t it work for wine? 

Maybe the confusion, to be serious for a moment, comes from the definition of “wine expert.” In the old days, people had to spend years and years studying wine, taste thousands of wines every year to fine tune their palate, taste the “great wines” as often as possible in order to understand how high the bar is set, travel to wine regions and taste rigorously, keep notebooks filled with tasting notes, and read extensively on the subject from books written by acknowledged and respected wine writers. Eventually, you’d be thought of as a “wine expert.” That is so last century. I’m only 28, and I know like at least 50 wine experts! Not one is over 35! How do I know they’re wine experts? They have a blog. They not only wait tables, do the schedules and lock the doors of the restaurant at night, they’re the Sommelier! They go to wine tastings at the local wine shop and taste every single wine every time and THEY DON’T NEED TO SPIT! Some have tasted more than a hundred wines under $25. These people know wine. Plus, they’re not old and their advice is free. Why wouldn’t I listen to them?

Don’t feel picked on, Old, Dead Wine Critics. We just prefer the voice of the crowd to give us what we need rather than the solitary voice of a professional critic, whether it’s movies, restaurants, wine or opinions. We like to share all those things with our friends, it’s just more fun and if one of us looks stupid, we all look stupid! Why in the world would I listen to a wine critic who costs money when I can go to CellarTracker and read what forty strangers have to say about a wine? This is how you learn! It’s just like in school when you passed a test because you copied the answers of the stranger sitting next to you! Hell, he has to be smarter than you are, he wrote down an answer! Same thing with CellarTracker. This is time-proven wisdom.

Millennials, we are so done with so-called wine “gatekeepers.” Why? Mostly because we don’t even know where the gate is. But, also, we have each other. And, as I’ve shown, we’re the smartest generation ever. We’ll never get tired of FaceBook or Twitter. We’ll never stop Yelping. We love Yelp! Where else can you go to find out what people with no class think about stuff they don’t know anything about? Except FOX News? Wine criticism is changing because we want to be the wine critics! And when that happens, when the old fucks writing today are finally done, retired or dead, then everyone will be a wine expert because they know their own taste—like you can be your own doctor because you know your own body. It’s the same thing! Believe me, Millennials are every bit as good at writing impenetrably and meaninglessly about wine and wine criticism as any other generation. If anything, we’re even better.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sommeliers Without Borders

I was watching a piece on 60 Minutes a couple of Sundays ago about a group of Christian doctors and nurses, and other personnel, who spend their lives on a medical ship that travels up and down the coast of Eastern Africa tending to the medical needs of poor Africans. They do this for free. It reminded me of the Doctors Without Borders charity, and that inspired today's post which is over at Tim Atkin's blog. After nineteen years as a sommelier, and 35 years in the wine business, I can honestly say I've done nothing worthwhile for humanity. And yet so many of us think wine is inspiring and mystical and magic, and that we possess a kind of knowledge that has actual value. So here's where satire steps in. And how Sommeliers Without Borders came to be.

And, as ever, please feel free to comment here, or over at Tim's.

Tim Atkin, MW's Blog