Monday, December 29, 2014

The Emperor in Winter

For more than thirty years I was the most powerful critic in the history of the world. I say that with complete humility. There were many critics in my chosen field, but they were to me as carbuncles are to my hairy butt—I never saw them, but they were forever riding my ass.  My words alone were enough to make fortunes, while their weak exhortations were the critical equivalent of Bitcoin—imaginary money, imaginary influence. I declared geniuses and goddesses in an occupation that otherwise generated only pretenders, robots and dinosaurs. I found no joy in being the most powerful critic in the history of the world. I’m glad to be done with it. I hope to miss it someday.

Now that it’s over, I can reflect on my accomplishments. With the clarity of hindsight, I can see the reach of my influence. Wine will never see my like again. The world has changed. I began in the print era, when reviews had the timeliness of messages in a bottle. Reviews had to be delivered by the Postal Service, which is like wiping your nose two weeks after you sneeze. Really doesn’t do anybody any good. Every review seemed to be published months too early, or weeks too late. There were only a few important regions to cover—Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Tuscany, and the Rhône Valley. No one bought German wine. They still don’t buy German wine. Who buys German wine? German Riesling is the greatest white wine in the world that nobody buys. It’s the Edsel of wine. It’s the Betamax of wine regions. It’s the Conan O’Brien. I drink it about as often as I read Decanter. Which is also too often cloying.

I was in the right place at the right time. Wine publications are in their death throes now. Many of them are magazine zombies, still stumbling around stiff-legged, eating the brains of their contributors, which are slim pickings, and not even aware they’re dead. They’re frightening consumers, all these wine critics walking around dead, still publishing scores when they should be resting in their Graves. And now the zombies are eating other zombies. Vinous devoured the brains of International Wine Cellar to create a super-zombie. Tanzalloni! Tanzalloni wants to become the most powerful critic in wine, but even a super-zombie is still the walking dead. Even a team of Tanzalloni zombies walking the wine regions of the Earth won’t have the power that I once possessed. Everywhere they go there is the smell of death on them, a smell that will not go unnoticed by winemakers. Marketing people won’t smell it, of course, they’re used to the smell of death, having killed truth a long time ago. But the wine world has begun to notice that there are nothing but magazine zombies among us, and that their days of walking the Earth, dead or undead, are numbered.

When I ruled the wine world, people knew what to expect. “Integrity” was my middle name. Even my severest critics at the end of my career acknowledged that. They always referred to me as “R.I.P” in tribute to it being my middle name. When I had all the power, the wine world was a simpler place. I made it that way. I introduced the 100 Point Scale to criticism. What’s simpler than that? I understood before anyone else the wine-buying public’s deep-seated need to be shallow, their passion for the easy answer, for shortcuts to expertise, their love for distilled wisdom, their willingness to pay for someone else to make them seem savvy to their friends. I wrote complex and florid tasting notes to go with the scores I awarded, but I knew that those notes were read about as often as Miranda rights in Missouri. It was the numbers that were magic. Wine doesn’t have to be complicated, the numbers said. No wine is unique, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. No matter what, they all have numbers, somewhere between 80 and 100. Only 21 different kinds of wine. Even you can understand that. This is my proudest accomplishment.

When I was at the peak of my power, wine knew it had to answer to me. When I awarded a wine 100 points, everyone knew how to make a great wine. Before I came along, the wines of the world were all over the place stylistically. This was stupid and confusing for the average consumer. Imagine that every time you read a James Patterson book it was different! How annoying would that be? You want it to be the same formula every single time. Same with Bordeaux, or Australian Shiraz, or Super Tuscans. Thanks to me, the average consumer can go to his local wine shop and buy a $150 Napa Valley Cabernet that will taste exactly like the last $150 Napa Valley Cabernet he purchased! Sure, there’s some variation, winemakers aren’t perfect, they don’t really know a 96 point wine like I do, but it will be pretty damned similar. Again, I’m proud of this. I standardized Bordeaux and California, Oregon and Washington, Spain and Italy.  There may be 5000 different grapes, but, dammit, there are only a handful of styles. Someone had to do it. It was chaos when I started. Someone had to set some standards. I was to wine what The New York Times Book Review is to literature. Its savior.

And now I’m through. I refuse to become a zombie. Let the damned Singapore mafia be the zombies, I’m finished. I’m the Emperor in Winter. I leave the wine criticism to the current tribe of zombies—Laube, Robinson, Olken, Meadows, Teague, McInerney, Bonné, Asimov… Be careful out there, wine lovers, they’re here to eat your brains. McInerney will probably go for your nuts, too. As for who will replace me, and the zombies still walking the Earth, I don’t know who that will be. Surely not the feckless and tiring voices of the Internet, that loud chorus of poodles barking into the darkness. If they ever move the needle, it’s just the irritating sound of it scratching along the surface of the LP. Their influence is that of a single Saccharomyces in a puncheon of hedonistic Syrah—not measurable or unique, and destined to die once all the sugar has gone. And the sugar is almost gone.

No, there will never again be a most powerful critic in the world. Oh, certainly wine will endure. People will still buy according to the 100 Point Scale—it is so stupid it is immortal. But wine will be adrift. Lost. Untethered. Wine drinkers will have to fend for themselves, try to understand wine on its own terms, find their own measure of its quality.

More’s the pity.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Christmas Thoughts from the HoseMaster of Wine™

I’m pretty lucky to have had a career in wine. I’m not sure what else I could have done with my life. It seems like the wine business attracts those without the talent to have chosen a genuine career, or those completely lost and confused about what to do with their life. A career in wine is like having been a lifetime Psych major. I just couldn’t figure out anything else to do. And isn’t that probably true of most of the major wine figures of our time? Parker might have spent his life as a low-level attorney at the firm of Extract, Premox and Brettanomyces, LLC had he not found wine as his calling. And what line of work would Matt Kramer be in? Maybe holding a chair at a prestigious university. Not a professorship, just actually holding a real chair. Laube would be a life model for a wax museum. Though one would have to admit that Eric Asimov would still be writing science fiction.

It’s Christmas week, and society forces us to be grateful. We’re not, but there’s a lot of peer pressure to try to be grateful for all we’ve been given. And to give generously to those who have less. I have a perverse fondness for the Christmas wine gift suggestions that are published everywhere. It makes the people who love wine--your Dad, your crazy uncle, the waitress you’re trying to screw--seem so petty and materialistic and, well, stupid about wine. Does anyone really need a Coravin? I don’t care if it works. It’s just an expensive, high-tech, wine Pet Rock. Cool for about a week, then gathering dust in that wine junk drawer we all have, alongside the aerator, the stupid sleeve that wraps around a bottle and tells you the temperature (by the way, it’s great for taking the temperature of your anaconda, if you get my drift), and the Vac-U-Vin. These shopping lists also always include glassware. Really? I need a $60 wine glass to appreciate my Natural Wine? Shouldn’t I just use Natural Glass, like the crap that washes up on shore after a hurricane? And, anyway, I’m a wine lover. I have 50 wine glasses. I need wine glasses like a fat guy needs forks. The current rage is a wine glass by the rather Norse Goddish name of Zalto! I’ll give Zalto credit. They out-bullshit Riedel. The Zalto, they say, is designed so, “The curve of the bowls are tilted at the angles of 24°, 48° and 72°, which are in accordance to the tilt angles of the Earth.” That’s pretty fucking stupid. I serve my wine at 65°. I like a nice wine glass as much as anyone, but the whole wine glass fetish for Riedel and Zalto makes wine lovers look like assholes, assholes tilted at 90° so that glass makers have easy access. Drinking wine out of expensive wine glasses is the equivalent of snorting cocaine through hundred dollar bills—you do it to show that you can, but, in truth, you’re still just a common addict.

But I digress.

I’m grateful to have had a long and undistinguished career in wine. Wine is still a mystery to me. I’ve found that over the years the greater my wine knowledge became, the greater the gaps in my wine knowledge grew. So that when I began my career in wine, I knew a lot more than I knew after thirty years of studying it. There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know at the beginning, that I knew a lot. As I learned more, I began to know far less. Now that I’m forty years into a life in wine, I’m completely ignorant. I’ve lost the certainty of the beginner, the certainty that dominates the wine blogosphere, the certainty that is represented by the fatuous 100 Point Scale. When I was young and knew a lot about wine, I used the 100 Point Scale mercilessly, followed it faithfully. Now that I’m more experienced and far stupider, I just don’t see how it adds anything to the enjoyment of wine. It’s a crutch, but, dammit, it’s a crutch everyone likes, like Tiny Tim’s, so it has to be good! I’m so stupid about wine now that I no longer believe in the 100 Point Scale. Sad, really. When I was young and deeply informed about wine, I could also tell you which wines were better than others. Natural wine was better than whatever you call the other stuff. Wine with lower alcohol was better than wine with higher alcohol. Cheap wine was just as good as more expensive wine. Balance was so easy to define and every wine I loved, every great wine, had balance. Duh. Everybody knows that. I was certain of it. Now I’ve been tasting and studying wine for so long, I no longer know shit about it. So, really, if I were you, I’d follow those who are certain of their wine opinions. They have the blessing of certainty, the gift of having tremendous insight into wine through that tiny little window they know, the window that reflects their own image back to them. I prefer the mystery of wine, so I’ll pass. My ignorance has become my bliss.

At least in my memory, wine has never been more interesting or more diverse. I’m grateful, this Christmas, for that. I no longer taste 7000 wines a year as I once did (yes, in fact, I did keep track). I taste about 365. I no longer lead the sommelier life. I haven’t had a unicorn wine in years, and don’t give a fuck. I had my share. It’s no great achievement to have consumed rare wines, just as it’s no great achievement to be a sommelier. It’s certainly a gift, and a wondrous gift. But to brag about gifts you’ve been given to those who cannot afford them, to post pictures of the empty bottles like you'd post nude photos of your ex-lovers, well, that’s a monument to human thoughtlessness, stupidity and conceit. Glad you enjoyed the wine. Now welcome to the Go Fuck Yourself Club™. You know where you can put that Zalto.

I am feeling very grateful this Christmas for my long life in wine. I was lucky. I never really had the talent for it, was never a gifted wine taster, or particularly smart, but I had passion and tried hard. I’ve been called the Pete Rosé of wine, which makes me blush. And that passion is what also drives HoseMaster of Wine™. A passion for wine, and, in the words of Sabatini, being “born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad.” I’m grateful for all of you who are common taters, and for those of you who send me private emails to express your thoughts on my work here. I’m also grateful to all of you who hate what I do here. It’s often you who drive me, your scorn that I crave. Thank you. And welcome to the Go Fuck Yourself Club™. And I am grateful for the support of folks far more talented than I for my work on HoseMaster of Wine™, folks like Tim Atkin, Robert Parker, Charlie Olken, Lettie Teague, Dan Berger, Mike Dunne, and STEVE! Heimoff. Your support has been extremely gratifying.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you. Or Happy Hanukkah. You choose. Have one of each. May we all have an interesting year in wine in 2015, and the health and happiness to enjoy it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lo Hai Qu on Wine Magazines

In an effort to provide some wine education for my unpredictable intern Lo Hai Qu, I gave her gift subscriptions to most of the major wine publications, and Sommelier Journal (oh, my mistake, SOMM Journal, which is a subsidiary of LADYHOME Journal—Jerry Lewis, Editor Emeritus).  She asked if she could use HoseMaster of Wine™ to express her opinions about these august magazines, most of which are published in the other months as well. Buckle your seat belts, here we go.

So, like, I’ve been reading all these wine magazines for the past few months, and, fuck me, they are so boring. I mean, like, Oprah-What-I-Know-For-Sure boring. Here’s what I know for sure, Oprah, you rich and I ain’t, and all that preaching you do is making my ears bleed. If you’re every woman, I’m every woman’s ass you can kiss.  Oprah is kinda what most of these wine mags are like—they just preach at you, but all the time they’re doing it, what they’re really doing is promoting how great they are, how you should try to be more like them, wise and all that arrogant shit. I always think two things when I’m done reading an issue. One, “It’s only wine!” And two, “I’m horny.” Which is the opposite order from when I’m at the local wine bar with Shizzangela. But that damn Shizzangela always gets all the attention with her sparkly wine shirts. Her one last night said, “Pull Your Cork for These.” That Shizzy, she crazy.

But after a bunch of months reading all these wine mags, I think I’m starting to understand them. Wine magazines are a lot like porn. It’s mostly the same positions over and over, just new dicks doing it. And it’s mostly about dicks. But for the occasional article about a woman winemaker, an article usually written in a sort of “Oh, isn’t she amazing, doing a man’s job and all” kind of tone, you’d think the only things women do in the wine world is wear stupid fucking hats to charity auctions, or work for bigass corporations peddling wines with insulting names like “Bitch,” or “Skinnygirl” or “Kung Fu Girl.” If one of my girls buys me a bottle of “Kung Fu Girl” I’m going to Bruce Lee her ass into next week. I find that “Kung Fu Girl” label kind of offensive. I’m guessing they’re not gonna come out with a “Welfare Queen” Moscato any time soon. What kind of low self-esteem, Oprah-worshipping, tasteless chick buys a bottle of “Bitch” or “Skinnygirl?” You don’t see any dudes buying “Limpdick” Pinot Gris or “Beergut” Zin. I felt like all these magazines treated me like I was a stupid woman. I don’t need that from wine magazines. I can get that from Ann Coulter. Fuck, if she isn’t an argument against empowerment, I don’t know what is.

According to the HoseMaster, Wine Spectator is the most successful of these wine rags. You know, for me, I just looked at the damned format of the magazine and that told me a lot. That big, glossy, supersized Wine Spectator just screams fake. It’s like a wine magazine with breast augmentation, all shiny and way too big. You just know it cost a lot of money, and even though the wine tit job looks good, you know it’s fake the minute you touch it. And this is really a men’s magazine that rates wine. It’s written by men for men, so if you have a vagina, you’d best just smile real pretty and some nice Wine Spectator man will show you the pretty full-page ads while the real wine buyers read the wine scores. And it’s all really old dudes! Like all the Wine Spectator columnists are WalMart greeters. “Hello, my name is Harvey. Welcome to Wine Spectator! Can I get you a shopping cart?” It’s James and Matt and Marvin and Tim, all smiling in their photos like the After pictures in Cialis ads. Guys at Wine Spectator, hey, we girls buy most of the wine in this country! We don’t much care for your condescending tone. Bite me. Cancel my subscription.

And what is up with that Wine Enthusiast? I mean, what a stupid name, first of all. Enthusiast? Who the fuck uses that word except snotty British guys? And why do all these wine magazines put the scores in the very back of the magazine? It seems like that’s what the people who read that crap are paying for is the stupid scores. I guess it’s like grocery stores that put all the milk and butter and pharmacies in the very back of the store so you have to maneuver your way through all the junk to get to what you actually want—milk and drugs. OK, yeah, they put a few scores in the front, just like those paid-for endcaps you see at Safeway, but all the other shit you need is way in the back. You have to flip through all the fascinating pictures of grapevines, and people holding wine bottles, and women winemakers looking all cute with their tussled hair, to get to the drugs. The scores. They’re drugs. Seems like wineries are hooked on them, like the whole wine business is jonesin’ all the time for scores. They get so addicted and desperate, they start whorin’. It’s like me and my cigarettes. I know I’ll die from the goddam death sticks, but I crave ‘em so bad cuz they make me look cool. A big glass of naked Chardonnay and a lit cigarette? Man, they go together like insects and windshields. And it seems like wineries want to die by scores. Scores are a great high, like meth, but only stupid people and addicts don’t know they’ll kill you one day.

Wine Enthusiast is like a wimpy baby brother to Wine Spectator. It’s the momma’s boy of wine magazines, all self-important and needy. They, like, give awards for anything and everything, which is hilarious, like if I gave awards to all the guys I date, even a guy I awarded “Sweetest ED Enthusiast.” Like they award things like “Wine Region of the Year.” So it’s like if they gave an Oscar for “Best Country Making Movies that Aren’t Quite as Good as Hollywood’s.” Come on, the Wine Region of the Year? New York? Man, if you want junkets and free wine, just ask. I’m just sure the Wine Region of the Year is totally honored. It’s like being the First Runner-Up for Miss America. Yeah, you’re beautiful and all, but, really, you need just a little more talent to make it big. Now go celebrate! You got an award!

These magazines all seem to think they’re important, which is kind of sweet, really, like brave little Chihuahuas. But you give ‘em a little shit and they just pee all over themselves. Wine and Spirits tries really hard to be smart and pretend it's powerful, and that’s cool, but it’s also not any fun at all. Like that guy who drones on and on about what he loves, wine or football or how popular he is on Pinterest, which is like being popular at church, which no one interesting ever attends either, but when you start talking his mind wanders. “Yeah,” he says over and over, “but what about wine? Let’s talk more about wine.” So smart isn’t what Wine and Spirits is, but it aspires to smart, and to be admired for being smart, only it’s as ill-equipped as a one-armed sommelier. And almost as smarmy.

There’s other magazines, too. Decanter and World of Fine Wine. These are both written by members of a club for geniuses related to Mensa, guys not quite as smart, called Densa. Man, are those magazines for the Densa. How is it that a beverage that makes us so much more fun to be around, makes us giddy and drunk and happy to be alive, can generate so much turgid prose? Decanter puts the t-u-r-d in turgid. And World of Fine Wine, I couldn’t stay awake reading it. I think they use it to induce comas in people with serious brain injuries, like wine writers. It’s like 400 slick pages without a single laugh, not even one light moment. It’s so fucking serious, it’s like reading 400 pages of your cancer diagnosis, though death, in this case, might be welcome.

Oh, maybe I’m being too mean. They mean well, these men’s magazines, they try to educate me about wine, but what they really do is trumpet the importance of men writing about a subject that, really, has little importance. So what did I learn reading all these magazines? I don’t know, I’m just a dumb girl. I learned that ads don’t buy scores, scores buy ads. And that, in the right hands, even the best wines I’ve ever tasted, having Coravined those suckers from the HoseMaster’s cellar, can be made to sound downright boring. Oh, and that, when it comes down to it, wine magazines are just like the men that read them—fun for a night, but then easily disposable.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The HoseMaster's Letter to Santa 2014

Dear Santa,

You were so generous to me last year, I feel guilty even writing to you today. You brought me a brand new Coravin last year, which I used to successfully anaesthetize my cat, as well as drink little tiny amounts of all my best wines, which I refuse to share with my undeserving wine friends. “Coravin—because you know wine isn’t really about sharing©.” Screw them, Santa, these are unicorn wines and I only drink them alone or with virgins. And the only virgin who knows anything about wine is Lettie Teague. So thank you for that! Also, thank you for the subscription to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club! As expected, all the wines have been Standard and Poor.

I am writing you today, Santa, but not on my own behalf. I’m older now, Santa, and I have everything I want or need. Though I wouldn’t mind a few more cat patients. Instead, I’m writing to ask for a few things for my colleagues in the wine business, the people who love and care about wine the way I do, and, yet, seem to have lost their way. Maybe you can help them, Santa, maybe you can make the wine world a nicer place in 2015. I hope so.

Santa, don’t you think it’s time for all of the old wine critics, and I mean OLD wine critics, to retire? What are they, the fucking Supreme Court of Wine? Appointed for life? I did notice the uncanny resemblance of James Laube to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yes, experience is a wonderful thing, and we should honor their many years of guiding us toward the finest wines, but old is old. It’s time to hang it up. The senses start to fade quickly as we age, like the finish of a cheap Prosecco. We smell what we expect to smell instead of what might really be in the glass, we taste what our experience teaches us to taste, and we assign scores that feel right. Of course there’s score inflation in the wine world, Santa, those old farts are getting sentimental. We’re critical in our 30’s and 40’s. After 60, it’s about acceptance, it’s about forgiveness, it’s about 94 and above. So, please, Santa, give my old critic friends the gift of retirement. They’ve had their day, it’s time to pass the battonage.

And while you’re at it, Santa, why not try to wise up some of the younger wine critics? So many of them jockeying for position trying to be the next Robert Parker. Look at Antonio Galloni, trying to buy influence by acquiring Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, and all Tanzer’s elves along with it. The Vinous acquisition of IWC reminds me of “Dancing with the Stars.” Some C List celebrity trying to curry favor by dancing with a washed up icon and thinking it will revive a career. It’s beneath both of them, like a midget dancing with Sofia Vergara. Santa, can you please let them know that there won’t be another Parker, and that, truthfully, that’s a good thing for wine. Give them the gift of contentment. They’re good critics, informed critics, talented critics—they have no place at the top of the wine review heap.

I know this is a lot to ask, Santa. But I wouldn’t ask you if it weren’t really important, if the very future of wine and wine journalism weren’t at stake. I just have a few more requests, bear with me.

Please, Santa, convince God He’s not Matt Kramer. Much simpler than the reverse.

And, Santa, remind those In Pursuit of Balance that pursuing it requires knowing what to do with it if you catch it. The donkey has been In Pursuit of the Carrot for a hundred years, and he’s still just an ass.

Make the discussions about Natural Wine go away, Santa. The only people who care are very troubled people. They’re the Mormon missionaries of wine, convinced of their own truths, and seeking converts in every backwater. I’m tired of reading about them, weary of their smugness and willful ignorance. I can get that from wine blogs. Wine has given in to the fashionable fanaticism that characterizes our age, and we all suffer. But, in the end, there is money to be made there, a niche to fill, a lonely choir to preach to, so just do your best, Santa. Do it with minimal intervention.

Just for laughs, Santa, make wineries tell the truth about their production levels. Let regular wine folks know that Silver Oak is about as hard to get as food poisoning from a Tijuana taco truck. That Opus One is about as exclusive as the Hair Club for Men. I’d appreciate it.

Maybe you could deliver a nice Christmas gift to Dr. Conti in prison, Santa. I’m thinking maybe a lovely Pardon from the Governor. Fake, of course. But it looks real. Only the Governor wasn’t in office in 1936.

I hope that this year, Santa, the wine business will see the true meaning of Christmas. That would be a first. James Suckling could rate the Virgin Birth 100 Points—“There’s good old conception, and then there’s Immaculate Conception. This one is perfect. God slipped it to Mary like I did to Wine Spectator.” Robert Parker could give 100 Points to countless wines. Wow! He has! Fast work, Santa, thank you. Bill Koch could donate his fake wines to homeless sommeliers, who wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Marvin Shanken could generously endow a wine writer scholarship for terminal patients whose last wish is to review wines—the Make-A-Fish Foundation. Oh, but I’m dreaming, Santa.

I’m simply grateful 2014 is almost over, Santa. I’m amazed I made it another year since my last letter to you. I think everyone will agree I’ve been in the business too long, that my bit is tired, my voice grating, my outrage tiresome, and my jokes lame. So, Santa, if you can, give me some inspiration to continue. When I wake on Christmas morning, I want to find courage in my stocking, and wit. I want to find wisdom and talent under the tree. I want to find laughter and honesty all wrapped up neatly. I’m about out of all of those things. So please bring them this Christmas, Santa. Please.

I hope to write you a letter again next year.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Adventures of Brett Bung, CERTIFIED SPECIALIST OF WINE!

Born of normal parents on the outskirts of a great metropolitan city, no one would have been able to anticipate that humble Brett Bung would one day emerge as the CERTIFIED SPECIALIST OF WINE! By day a low level accountant, an invisible man in the giant accounting firm Usury, Penury and Perjury LLC, at night Brett becomes the modern-day superhero CERTIFIED SPECIALIST OF WINE! I think we all know his intro:

“Faster than a sommelier refill! More powerful than a Tim Fish review! Able to leap big egos in a single bound! Look, up at the wine bar! It’s a jerk! It’s a boor! It’s CERTIFIED SPECIALIST OF WINE!

Yeah, the intro needs some work.

Oh, this is going to be exciting! Don't you just love superheroes? But you'll have to make the leap over to Tim Atkin in order to read the rest. It's worth it. Well, it's free, so it's worth it! Feel free to leave your pithy common tater remarks at Tim's, or, if you can't figure out this danged internet thing, you may leave a comment here, though I may not unwrap it until Christmas.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Perfect Thanksgiving Wines to Match Your Family's Dysfunction

Media Portrayal of Thanksgiving

The great cultural myth of Thanksgiving is upon us. On Thursday, we celebrate that first Thanksgiving when Martha Stewart and Miles Standish invited the local Native Americans over to share in the bounty of America. The two cultures had shared so much. The Native Americans had taught Martha how to live off the land, and how to make contraceptives from beaver pelts, while the Pilgrims had given the Native Americans the great gift of smallpox. To celebrate these gifts, and the opening of the first Native American casino Wampum World, a great feast was prepared by Martha Stewart’s many flunkies. The menu of that original Thanksgiving is lost in the mists of time, but recently the suggested wine pairings, curated by famed wine expert Dildo Sohm, WSET (White Settler Exterminating Tribes) were discovered. However, the Native Americans wisely brought their own wines. Corkage fees had only just been invented at the time, and thus the tribe was charged £25 for the first bottle, and for the next five, Genocide.

Every November the wine press is obligated to recommend wines that go with Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone hates this ritual, especially those given the task of writing about wines that go with Thanksgiving dinner. You can just hear the tedium in their voices. “What matters at Thanksgiving isn’t what you drink,” writes Jon Bonné in the San Francisco Chronicle,”what matters is that you drink what I tell you.” Or how about this nugget from Eric Asimov in the New York Times, “The Pilgrims didn’t know a red from a white, unless you mean skin color.” The advice of the major wine and food writers boils down to exactly the same thing every year. Drink a wine that’s versatile. I have no idea what that means. Stupid wine reviews say, “This wine is versatile at the table.” Which sounds more like a Vegas hooker. And, anyway, it’s lousy advice.

Every family makes just about the same meal on Thanksgiving. There are slight variations, but they’re meaningless. We can’t all drink the same wines, too! I don’t want Beaujolais, I don’t want off-dry German Riesling, I don’t want some obscure Croatian wine made from the rare Squanto grape. (And if you haven’t had a serious bottle of Squanto, well, try one with a good cigar--store Indian.) It just doesn’t matter. I don’t care if the wine matches the same damn food everyone else is eating all over the entire country. Thanksgiving is not the least teeny-tiny bit about wine. Worrying about wine at Thanksgiving is like worrying about what brand of knife to use at the beheading. No need to stick your neck out. Go with the usual. Drink any damned thing.

Thanksgiving is our national holiday that celebrates family dysfunction. Sure, there was a time when Thanksgiving was the day we expressed gratitude for our many blessings by overeating, drinking to excess, and watching large men dish out brain damage on TV. But now we leave out the gratitude, which, truthfully, was disingenuous to begin with. So my suggestion for pairing the perfect wines with your Thanksgiving feast is to match the wine with your family’s dysfunction. This is not only therapeutic, it’s tremendous fun!

The Usual Family Thanksgiving
There are many American families that are constantly redrawn by divorce. The guest list for Thanksgiving often has to be negotiated, and seating arrangements can be treacherous. If this sounds like your family gathering, I’d recommend you serve a wine that’s slightly bitter. Maybe a bold Napa Valley Cabernet from Mount Veeder that only scored 89 points in the latest Wine Advocate. Man, would that be fucking bitter wine. OK, maybe too bitter. But the bitterness of the wine will go nicely with the general bitterness found around a table of divorced people trying to be grateful for something other than rebound sex with someone in a uniform.

Many families spend the day rehashing old sibling rivalries, revisiting childhood grudges and feelings of being loved less by a parent despite being the good child. This is especially poignant if you’re an only child, and indicative of a youth spent inhaling oven cleaner. If you find yourself dreading the Thanksgiving meal sitting across from your bossy older sister, or your completely spoiled baby brother, or the adopted kid who got all the love you had coming even though she was stealing mom blind and blackmailing dad with those sexts, I’d recommend you serve a wine that is, like you, slightly pétillant, maybe one of the Pet Nat wines that are all the rage. Pet Nat is short for Pétillant Naturel, which is French for slightly fizzy wines that might contain pubic hair. The process of making Pet Nat wines almost guarantees that they’ll be unstable, and what better wine for the tensions surrounding your Thanksgiving table?

Tolstoy wrote one of literature’s most famous opening lines, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Spend a little time this holiday thinking about what’s unique about your family’s unhappiness, and then matching the reasons for that unhappiness with an appropriate wine. Does your family constantly squabble about money? Bring a very young Barolo and make a point to remark how tight it is. Maybe you have to spend your day listening to the racist remarks of a family member. What could be better than an insipid Pinot Grigio? “A stupid white for a stupid white,” makes for a lovely opening prayer.

At Thanksgiving, wine is an opportunity. An opportunity to make your point, to participate in the social lubrication that is wine while at the same time expressing your suppressed anger at these people who have made your life a living hell. It doesn’t matter if it pairs with the food. Who the hell cares about that? Your racist uncle? Your asshole brother-in-law? Don’t be stupid. Thanksgiving is the one day each year you can use wine to make a point.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2014

You Get a 100 Points! And You Get a 100 Points! And YOU Get a 100 Points!

“You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car! And YOU get a car! Everybody gets a car!”

The unforgettable opening show of “Oprah!” circa 2004. Oprah Winfrey giving away a car to everyone in her studio audience that day. The screaming materialists out of their minds with greed. Oprah as the Car Fairy. Just as DeBeers convinced everyone in the 1920’s that diamonds proved eternal love, because nothing says love like dead Africans, the car companies have shown us through game shows and talk shows that the jackpot in life is truly, “It’s a brand new car!”

In the wine business, we now have the largesse of Robert Parker.

“You get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And you get 100 points! And YOU get 100 points! Everbody gets 100 points!”

100 points is the Brand New Car! of the wine business. And just like a brand new car, once you drive a 100 point wine off the lot and take it home, it’s instantly worth a lot less. It’s instantly a 96 point wine, for the most part because the jackass that bought it knows almost nothing about wine, which devalues it immediately.

I’m the type of contrarian who thinks there aren’t enough wines awarded 100 points. In just the past month I’ve had sixteen wines I rated 100 points. That’s 16 out of the 20 I tasted. That seems about right to me. Now, many critics make the mistake of thinking that 100 points equates to “perfect.” Idiots. There’s no such thing as a perfect wine. If there were a perfect wine, I’d know about it. A wine that’s rated 100 points isn’t perfect any more than the clown who gave it 100 points is perfect. So I say give out more 100 point scores! 99 is so last century.

Everyone hates the 100 Point Scale. Everyone. We all know it’s stupid, but it has become necessary, so some people feel the need to defend it. Sort of like when George W. Bush was President. From every standpoint, its integrity, accuracy and honesty are indefensible. From a logical standpoint, from a scientific standpoint, from a practical standpoint, it’s nothing more than shorthand. We see it, we know what it means, we know how to translate it, it’s the coin of the realm. It’s easy to understand, which is its only redeeming value. Just like when someone gives you the finger. That’s shorthand, too, and easy to understand. In practice and in essence, the 100 point scale serves to give the wine consuming public the finger. Which, by the way, they richly deserve.

But like a lot of things we know are stupid but love—professional football, “The View,” Jim Carrey, the Academy Awards—the 100 point scale feels like a necessity. The argument in its favor always begins with, “The public loves it.” Like that’s a good argument. The public used to love a good public hanging. Many folks are still nostalgic for a good ol’ country lynchin’—witness Fox News talking about Obama. “The public loves it” is something Michael Vick probably said when he was busted for dog fights. The public “loves” the 100 point scale. Yeah, that’s a valid argument.

I wish there were more 100 point wines. A lot more. Ones I could afford. But not 100 point wines from all the wannabe critics. James Suckling gave 100 points to a piece of goddam luggage, which automatically disqualifies him from serious wine critic consideration, so his 100 point wines don’t count. I carry around my wine glasses in a beat to shit old cardboard box which couldn’t possibly rate higher than 72 on the Suckling/Ferragamo scale. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a brilliant idea to store wine glasses in fine leather—helps to disguise the Brett. Someone tell me with a straight face that Suckling rating the glasses he designed for Lalique, and the Ferragamo briefcase they fit in, 100 points isn’t giving us the fucking finger. Which, by the way, we richly deserve.

I only wish I were still a working sommelier and some guy (it could only be a guy—women only buy Ferragamo shoes) came into the restaurant carrying his wine glasses in a brief case. I’d immediately ask him, “Will your dummy need a chair, Mr. Winchell?” If you have wine glasses in a brief case, you’re an asshole. Period. Hey, have you heard? The people who make the Rabbit™ now have a new product called the Gerbil™. Guess where it helps you store your corkscrew.

And I don’t want any Tim Fish 100 point wines either. Or Burghound. No fish, no hound. Sounds like my love life. Burghound was duped by Dr. Conti, and you want his recommendations? That’s like asking for sex tips from the French diplomat in “M. Butterfly.” Hey, not me, I know boobs when I see ‘em. So did Rudy. Rudy and the French diplomat had the same problem in the end—they had to deal with a Koch.

Well, let’s be honest. I want a lot more 100 point wines from Parker. Not Laube, not Molesworth, not Tanzer, not Donner or Vixen. I’d like it if Parker threw 100 point scores around like wine competitions mint brand new Gold Medals. Anything under $30 and I’m in. I want to have a 100 point every night of the week, and I think it would be good for the wine business. Why is everyone so worried about score inflation? Shut up about it. You should be worried about score deflation. What if we wake up one day and the newest Wine Advocate doesn’t rate a wine over 85? Now what, wine marketing geniuses? Now how do you sell wine? On merit? On actual quality? On your own tasting acumen? Good luck with that.

So please, Bob, if you’re reading (yeah, right), be more generous with those points. Anything 95 and above, round up! (Wineries love Roundup.) As long as we have to live with the 100 point scale, make it a benevolent dictator. Everyone will complain at first, accuse you of having lost your mind and your palate, but they’ll come around. And if you do it, all the other kids will have to do it. The world will be awash in 100 point wines. Sounds like Paradise to me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Master Sommelier Gives a Winery Tour

Hello, everyone, my name is Larry Anosmia and I’ll be your tour guide today around our spectacular estate and winery. Before we get started, I’d like to make a few announcements.

For those of you who aren’t aware, I am a Master Sommelier. Have any of you seen the movie, “Somm?” No? Not surprising. It went straight to pay-per-Vieux. Anyway, a Master Sommelier degree is the highest degree one can attain as a wine expert, except for maybe Master of Wine, or Acker Merrall wine fraud consultant. So I’ll thank you not to question my opinions during today’s tour. You may ask me as many wine questions as you desire, but please be aware that I have been professionally trained to knowingly smirk at asinine questions, so my disdain is not aimed specifically at you.

That said, there are a few questions that I am tired of answering, and so, in an effort to save time during the tour of our spectacular estate and winery, I shall briefly address them now.

Please do not ask me what the “legs” mean. The only thing the “legs” reveal is the stupidity of the person asking about the “legs.”

Please do not ask which is better, a screw cap or a cork. A cork is clearly a superior seal. Think about it. If you open a bottle with a screw cap, you can reseal it with a cork if you want. You can’t remove a cork from a bottle and then reseal it with a twist-top.  It just spins around on top like a Bill Cosby female employee. Screw caps are for women. Men like flashy corkscrews and other gizmos. A screw cap is designed for convenience and removing the possibility of having a corked wine. We men scorn that kind of thinking. It takes the adventure out of wine. It’s really like wearing a condom, which all men hate. It’s way more fun to gamble, and it feels better.

Please do not ask the difference between French oak and American oak. This is advanced wine information, and the differences are far too subtle for you to understand. Though it must be fairly obvious that oak from France surrenders its flavors far more readily.

Please don’t mention the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy stomps the grapes. Everyone in the wine business is sick of this reference. You can be certain that you are the thousandth fuckwit to mention it. While you’re at it, be the ten thousandth cretin to use the pun “Que Syrah Syrah.” Do you really think you’re the first to come up that? Or that it’s even the least bit amusing? Lucille Ball and Doris Day references? Really? Next time, instead of visiting wine country, try the Hollywood Wax Museum. Or, better yet, the Wine Wax Museum, otherwise known as Wine Spectator Editorial Offices. James Laube looks almost lifelike! And so does his statue.

Our tour today will take about two hours because, as a Master Sommelier, I love to hear myself talk. While we are walking around our spectacular estate and winery, there are a few rules you’ll need to follow.

When walking through our biodynamic, Certified Sensitive© vineyard, please be certain to speak quietly and refer to each vine’s nameplate and call each vine by its proper name. Do not just say, “Hey, Bud” because they’ll all get confused. When walking through the Chardonnay, keep your stupid opinions to yourself. Chardonnay doesn’t like you much either, but is too Certified Sensitive© to say so.

When in the barrel room, do not make bunghole jokes. Violators will be subject to battonage. This can lead to discomfort, or even a ;

Our wines are carefully bottled unfined, unfiltered, and unexpectedly. If you see a cellar worker sneaking up on a barrel, do not shout, “Look out!” Bottling unexpectedly is the way the finest wines in the world are bottled, and the purpose is to shock the wine now so it doesn’t have bottle shock later. It can also reduce sulfur issues as it literally scares the crap out of the wine. All the great Burgundies are made sur lie and sur pris. Which you’d know if you were a Master Sommelier.

Do not ask what that thing that looks like a big radiator does. It’s some other winery’s filter.

When the tasting begins, do not say that you only drink red wines. We do not sanction wine racism. Didn’t your mother teach you not to judge by color? White wines are every bit the equal of red wines, and we don’t need your ugly discriminatory thoughts expressed near our Certified Sensitive© white wines. You’ll give them a complex. That said, it’s OK to hate Pinot Grigio since complex isn’t its thing.

All your valuables must be locked in your car before the tour of our winery begins. This includes young children. Ask yourself why you brought young children to our winery in the first place. If you can’t afford a babysitter, you sure as hell can’t afford our wine.

If you obey all of these simple rules, I’m certain you will enjoy today’s tour. After all, we never forget that we’re in the hospitality business. And, as a Master Sommelier, I’m in the business of never letting you forget I’m a Master Sommelier.

I’m Larry Anosmia MS, and I invented selfies.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Be a Successful Wine Writer

I am often asked what it takes to become a successful wine writer, which is like asking Harold Pinter how to become a successful song writer. He’s dead, you idiot. As it turns out, however, I actually do know what it takes to become a wine writer. And, surprisingly, wine knowledge isn’t one of the qualifications you need worry about. Or the ability to write. Where would wine journalism be if knowledge and talent were required? Imagine a world where wine articles are not only accurate and informative, but compellingly written. I know, I know, it would be a nightmare. You’d actually have to read the first 60 pages of Wine Spectator to get to the scores.

Over at Tim Atkin's award-winning site, I've got some indispensable advice for those of you who want to become a successful wine writer. It would be lovely if you'd leave your thoughtful commentary over at Tim's, or, if you prefer, deliver it here where someone 21 years or older will sign for it.

Tim Atkin, MW

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lo Hai Qu Patronizes Hip Wine Bars

It's been a while since Lo Hai Qu has had a chance to speak her mind on the pressing wine issues of the day. I'm getting tired of blogging, so I asked her to write about whatever is eating at her. That may have been a mistake...

Me and my girls, we been goin’ to a lot of new wine bars lately. It was Shizzangela’s idea, really. She thinks it’s funny to go and just order whatever weird white wine they’re serving and then send it back saying, “Don’t you have any Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio? Man, you put the damn sewer in connoisseur.” Shizzy doesn’t really care what she puts in her big mouth, she just wants to make a scene, though you’d think walking into a wine bar in a big ol’ sequined wine shirt that says, “Stick your Salmanazar between my Double Magnums” would get her enough attention. Damn Shizzy. She crazy.

So when you walk into these wine bars, they hand you a menu. There’s all kinds of wine on there that I never heard of, and, like, the only way I know anything about them is what category they’re listed under—Sparkling, White, Red, LGBT… I’m kinda scared of the LGBT wines, those are the ones you order blind and have no idea what’s going to end up in you. Mostly, they’re German. But, you know, rather than feel stupid that I don’t recognize any of the wines listed, I think, fuck ‘em, I’ll just do what I always do and order anything that costs under $12 a glass.  At that price, most of the wines taste the same anyway. Sure, they’re all fancy ass Sicilian white wines, or some Portuguese shit, they have names like Catarrotto or Encruzado or Poophole Poblano, but when you’re sluggin’ ‘em down in a crowded bar and stupid Loqueesha sitting right next to you wearing her favorite cologne, Eau du Booty by Beyoncé, they might as well be Fresno Chenin Blanc. They’re cold, they got alcohol, they cost $12 a glass, I don’t care that they’re made by Sicilians or Greeks or Green goddam Hungarians.

Yeah, but everybody thinks we Millennials care. We don’t care about those weird varieties and getting to know all about the wines of Bosnia, or wines made without sulfites or integrity. I didn’t even know what “Sans Soufré” meant, I thought it meant “Without Panties.” I mean, that’s what Shizzy told me it meant, so I ordered it cuz I qualified. And, believe me, it was really breezy in that fuckin’ wine bar sitting there Sans Soufré. No, we don’t care about that trivial wine crap. We just don’t. Money is what’s on our minds most of the time cuz, mostly, we don’t got any, and those weird wines make us feel like we’re getting a deal. OK, like, if I pay $12 for a glass of Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc, I’m an asshole. If I buy a glass of Inzolia for the same money, I’m a damned genius, and a wine connoisseur. You can’t tell the difference between the two—they both drink like the all the ice melted in your melon-flavored vodka. But the Inzolia makes us feel like we’re hip and adventurous, instead of morons getting ripped off in a wine bar.  

Is there anything more pretentious than a wine bar? Come on, a wine bar is nothing special. It’s just a brew pub for sissies. Me and my friends just go there because it’s kinda fun to watch how different it is being part of the wine culture.  So like in a brew pub a guy comes up to you and says something like, “OK, I saw you walk in and my lager got hard. Wanna beer?” In a wine bar the guy goes, “Have you tasted the single-varietal Cilieogiolo? It’s natural.” Like natural gets you laid. Natural never got any girl Sans Soufré, not even Sans Boobage. Natural don’t get you shit.

What the fuck is “natural” wine, anyway? I see this term all over the place, and I don’t have any idea what it means.  I mean, I know what it’s supposed to mean, it’s supposed to mean that it’s a lot less fucked with, like some ugly guy with bad breath and a pit bull. In that case, I don’t think I want “natural” wine (and I’m tired of having to put air quotes around the word “natural”--fuck, I mean, natural, like natural, Sans Fingrés). I don’t trust anything that has to say it’s natural. Like when you did something stupid when you were a kid, say accidentally flood the bathroom trying to flush the guinea pig you fed chewing tobacco to see if he’d spit down the toilet after he died, and your parents came home, you’d try to “act natural.” In other words, fake. That’s kind of what natural wines are, right? You know, cover up your stupid winery mistakes when you’re about to get busted by acting like it’s all perfectly natural. Hell, the pig is dead, you might as well start lying first thing.

Just give me good wine.  I don’t care if it’s natural or not. I don’t care what they did to it in the winery to make it taste good. Hell, if I was worried about the things I put in my body, I wouldn’t be cruisin’ wine bars looking for casual sex in the first place.

I read somewhere that the wine business is worried that my generation is going to start drinking more cocktails and beer than wine. That’s stupid. Me and my friends know it’s a fucked-up world you’re leaving us. The stuff we’ve got to look forward to is, like, climate change and Ebola and marriage between consenting mammals. That’s why you old wine people love natural wine. You’ve totally screwed up the environment, and now you think drinking natural wines will help. That’s like giving an NFL lineman with fifteen years of brain concussions two Advil and a loaded gun and thinking you’re a better person for it. No, when you’re all dead and gone, old wine people, old sommeliers, old wine critics, old rich white guys with wine cellars the size of a Red Cross tent city in Somalia, me and my friends will be drinking the best new Anchorage Pinot Noir and hoping we don’t get that new crossover virus from ferrets, weasel fever.

Right now we’re drinking more cocktails, more beer, and more wine. All of it. We’re drinkin’ like there’s no tomorrow. Because, hell, there’s no tomorrow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blind Book Review: "Sherry"

I’ve been patiently waiting for my review copy of Talia Baiocchi’s Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World's Best Kept Secret. It’s apparently coming Palomino Express. I’m also breathlessly anticipating Jon Bonné’s glowing praise of this already legendary tome, certain to be included among his holiday wine book picks as payback for Baiocchi’s glowing words about The New California Wine. I’ve already seen Momofuku sommelier (yeah, I was called that quite a bit), and friend of Talia, Jordan Salcito’s 5-Star review on Amazon, which begins, “Brilliantly done!” and was posted the day of the book’s release. Damned somms are such fast readers—when it comes to reading and tips, they are accomplished at skimming. It’s safe to assume that neither Bonné nor Salcido will actually read Sherry. No need!  And so, I declare, why should I?

It’s been two whole years since the last definitive book on Sherry was published, Sherry, Manzanilla, and Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesus Barquin! Two years! Finally, Baiocchi fills in the blanks that Liem and Barquin so helplessly omitted. And, let’s face it, Liem, no history of Sherry can be considered complete that doesn’t include Baiocchi’s personal journey of how she discovered Sherry. Her importance to the region cannot be overstated, though she tries. Sherry isn’t just about those wondrous and satisfying wines; if anything, Sherry is a tour-de-force of witty asides and atmospheric writing that will once and for all convince you that, in fact, it’s Talia Baiocchi who is the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret. Sherry’s not so much a secret as it is a dinosaur, kind of like admitting you like Sinatra. Everyone who’s been around knows it’s great, but if you just discovered it, it was a Secret!

Sherry is often vilified as something our grandmothers drank, and, thus, crappy. Like Sanka. I’m old enough to be Baiocchi’s grandmother, if not anatomically correct, but can’t recall ever drinking Sherry regularly. I rarely drink Sherry now, though I like it. But Baiocchi emphasizes how terrific Sherry is with food. And at 17% ABV, it should be. Just like all those highly-extracted Zinfandels and Cabernets that every Millennial hates because they’re so big and hot and suck with food.  The new wave of sommeliers hate those big red wines for their crazy alcohol levels. But Sherry? Naw. It’s great with food! And the alcohol works! As it turns out, Grandma was right all along, though she drank Cream Sherry, which is to Sherry what Korbel Champagne is to Champagne. An insult.

Sherry is made using the solera system. Baiocchi points out that the solera system represents the “origin of the sperm bank.” Indeed. Old stocks of Sherry are used to create new ones, and this sperm bank analogy is thought to be the origin of the name “Cream Sherry.” Normally, in the wine world, the use of old wine would be considered as it is in the sperm bank business—vial. However, in Sherry, it’s perfectly acceptable, indeed required. Grandpa would be proud.

Most wine novices are unfamiliar with the categories of Sherry, and how each is made. Baiocchi makes clear that she was one of those novices, and still is. But she fell in love with Sherry, moved to Spain in order to immerse herself in Sherry, and to unlock the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret. Baiocchi explains the differences between Fino, Amontillado, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Palo Cortado and Larry Sherry, which is a big relief. There’s nothing she doesn’t explain. From how Sherry barrels are only partially filled before closing to the yeast that form over the top of the wines to protect them from oxidation, Baiocchi covers Sherry from flor to sealing.

What I like about Sherry is that it’s a book you can display on your book shelf and feel good about not ever having read it. Indeed, Baiocchi has made her young career out of publishing material it’s completely unnecessary to read. She launched the online magazine PUNCH, which is completely worthy of everyone’s inattention. And she briefly wrote a column for Wine Spectator online, which lasted only a few months but, to her credit, no one noticed. It’s the rare young wine writer who commands this much ennui.

Sherry is unique in the wine world. Or, as the Amazon blurb for Sherry notes, it’s “utterly unique.” One might be quick to note that “unique” cannot be qualified, much like Ms. Baiocchi.
Sherry is clearly a labor of love for Baiocchi, and her gift as a writer is displaying that labor. Bouncing between glib and off-the-cuff, the experience of reading the book is like sharing a copita of Sherry with Baiocchi and listening to her explain why you’re a jackass for not loving Sherry. It’s the Wine World’s Best Kept Secret! And now you’re in on it! Leave it to Baiocchi to drop the wine equivalent of the “Tom Cruise is gay” bomb. No?! Really?! The insight is staggering.

If you know nothing about Sherry, I highly recommend you put Baiocchi’s new book on your coffee table to impress your friends. Should you actually read it, something I somehow managed to avoid simply to write this Blind Book Review, you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about this “utterly unique” wine.  And Talia Baiocchi. And hype. All three of the Wine World’s Best Kept Secrets.

Monday, October 13, 2014


The Young HoseMaster with Karen, 1975

On special occasions, I used to take my college girlfriend Karen to Hungry Tiger for dinner. (Are there Hungry Tigers still? Aside from those in Detroit? Are there Victoria Stations? Those chain restaurants seemed special when I was in my 20’s.) In those days, it seemed every restaurant in Los Angeles had the same wines on their wine lists: Mateus, Lancer’s, Wente Bros. Blanc de Blancs, Charles Krug Chenin Blanc, Mouton-Cadet, Weibel Green Hungarian, Blue Nun, Soave Bolla and Valpolicella and, for house wine, Inglenook Chablis. But it was at the Hungry Tiger that I discovered a much finer wine list, and Karen and I often ordered the Callaway Chenin Blanc—a boutique wine from the up-and-coming region of Temecula. We were connoisseurs.

Today is my 62nd birthday. Does anyone ever believe they’ll live to 62? Not at the Hungry Tiger in 1974 I didn’t. But it wasn’t even on my mind. Karen was on my mind. I was crazy in love for the second time in my life, and, little did I know, I was also falling in love with wine. I haven’t seen Karen in more than 30 years, but I’m still happily married to wine. We have no children.

I am often asked how I first “got into” wine. “Got into” is an ugly phrase, but it’s the phrase that seems to always be part of the question, a very poorly turned phrase that is tiresome but ubiquitous in our inarticulate society. I always think one should ask, “How did you and wine meet?” One doesn’t ask, “So how did you get into your wife?” There might be a good story, but it’s rude.

My parents didn’t drink. I never saw my father drink any alcoholic beverage. My mother only rarely drank. This may be hard to believe, but I never drank alcohol until my 21st birthday. I tasted a beer once—I think my wayward cousin Allen let me taste his beer when I was about 12—but other than that, all through high school and college, I didn’t drink. I was working in a restaurant when I turned 21, and after my shift that night, everyone bought me drinks. I was a waiter, and at that steakhouse, the waiters wore rugby shirts. Very trendy back then, though I’m not sure I knew rugby was even a sport.

I got insanely drunk. I don’t remember much of that evening, except I was the center of attention for several sexy cocktail waitresses I wanted, in my imagination, to bed (I had no chance, but their flirting with me on my birthday was important to me and my fragile ego), and I just kept drinking what they put in front of me.

I woke up on October 14th, 1973, magically, in my own bed. I was naked and alone, with no idea how I’d made it home. I knew I hadn’t driven—someone had wisely taken my car keys early in the evening. My clothes were neatly folded on a chair. I had had about as much chance of folding my clothes neatly as a monkey has of passing the MW exam. Only happened once. I think he works for Diageo.

Obviously, I’d never had a hangover. Yet I knew exactly what one was, as though humans are genetically predisposed to recognize a hangover like they instantly recognize a snake as dangerous. I got out of bed and puked. In that order, luckily. Then I grabbed my work rugby shirt, folded so nicely on the chair, and put it on.

I was wearing a dress. I looked like the ugliest transvestite in the world, if you don’t count Jean-Charles Boisset. My rugby shirt was suddenly five sizes too big. I thought that maybe all that alcohol the night before had caused me to shrink, like Alice in Wonderland eating part of a mushroom. I had no idea what was going on, waking up naked and losing four inches of height in the same morning, but I was too hungover to care.

That is how alcohol and I met. I ended up naked and a transvestite. If that isn’t love at first sip, what is? I later found out that my friend Pete had, at one point late in the evening, dumped a screwdriver over my head, soaking my rugby shirt in orange juice and vodka. One of the other waiters, a football player, a guy about twice my size, had an extra rugby shirt in his car, which he kindly loaned me so I would be dry. One of the sexy cocktail waitresses, Kristy, a genuinely beautiful woman, had driven me home and undressed me. It sucks when your fantasy comes true and you’re not even there. Though Kristy kindly, and dishonestly, did tell lots of women I had a cute butt.

I’ve never really been much of a hard alcohol drinker. At 62, I have even more trouble with hard alcohol, or hard of any kind. Alcohol and I were love at first sight, but wine and I grew together slowly, almost invisibly, as the great relationships always do. But how we first met, I cannot honestly recall.

It seems as if wine has always been a big part of my life, that there was never a time I knew almost nothing about it. But, reflecting on it here on my self-indulgent birthday, I can recall the first time I had 1974 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon, the Estate Bottled. I can recall the first Ridge Geyserville I tasted. I signed up for Ridge’s wine club. This was in 1976, I think. I’m still in their wine club almost 40 years later. Interesting that Ridge Geyserville is still one of California’s great wines, while Caymus has become a sad parody of itself, the Jerry Lewis of wine—all slick and bloated. I can remember my first taste of ’74 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, given to me by a sommelier at a restaurant where I worked. I’d never had wines like these before. And I only lived a few hundred miles from where they were grown. I was smitten. Wine had driven me home, removed my clothes, and taken me to bed.

We spend our youth passionately pursuing hobbies that we think we’ll never tire of—skateboarding, slot cars, surfing, shoplifting. So I always believed I’d eventually grow weary of learning about wine. Even when I was a sommelier, I believed that. Maybe I still believe it. I am certainly weary of the wine business. But I’m more in love with wine now than I ever was. I can’t wait for wine to get home at night. I think about wine, study wine, try to impress wine. I wish I were more like wine. I adore wine. And aren’t those the signs of a healthy romance?

Wine, for me, isn’t just linked to memory, it’s actually most of my memory. Were it not for wine, nearly every significant person in my life never would have entered my life. I doubt accountants say the same thing about keeping books. I’m trying to think of a significant memory in my life after about the age of 25 that isn’t somehow linked to wine, and I can’t think of one. Even the tragic ones are linked, somehow, to wine. When wine and I met, wine became a significant and immutable fixture in my life. And I am deeply in love.

Wine, what would I do without you?

I’ve spent a lot of energy on HoseMaster of Wine™ the past five years mocking, parodying, flaying, insulting, and satirizing anyone and everyone that has much to do with wine. I feel some need to protect wine from all the buffoons, pretenders and wannabes that she has also seduced. And they are legion. It’s a foolish, Quixotean, pursuit, but it brings me an odd kind of satisfaction. Maybe all of us think our relationship to wine is the most intimate one she has, that we know her better than anyone else. So while we want everyone else to understand how remarkable she is, to honor wine and treasure wine, we also want it known that we understand her so much better than anyone else can imagine. It’s simple and foolish pride.

Birthdays seem more precious to me now, though less cause for celebration. Wine has given me an interesting and wonderful life. And I am deeply grateful. I’m also grateful for all the kindness and generosity and love I’ve received from so many of the people who read HoseMaster of Wine™. Thank you for allowing me this silly little reminiscence today. I know you come here to laugh, or to be angry, or outraged, but it’s my birthday, I get to do what I want.

I’m sure I’ll drink something old and rare tonight in the company of my brilliant and beautiful wife and a dear friend. I’ll think about all the people I’ve loved who wine brought into my life, some who wouldn't live to see 62. I’ll wonder how many more birthdays I’ll see, like people who seek answers and reassurance for how long they should keep a bottle of wine, “How long do you think it will age?”

“No one knows,” is the answer.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Anosmia Dogs, and Other Failed MW Dissertations

One of the requirements for becoming a Master of Wine is an original and rigorous research paper of between 6000 and 10,000 words. The words must be placed in sentences, or it doesn’t count. There is no similar requirement for becoming a Master Sommelier, though they are asked to write an original limerick—said to be the hardest part of the exam, after the colonoscopy. As far as I know, the great unwashed public isn’t privy to the dissertations produced by MW’s. However, as Commander of Wine, I have uncovered several dissertations that didn’t pass muster. As brilliant as some of these papers are, they were not good enough to gain their authors acceptance into fine wine’s version of contestants on “The Bachelorette,” the Masters of Wine.

Oh, these are some damned fine dissertations, written by the greatest minds in the wine business--Master of Wine candidates! We're all overflowing with admiration for them, aren't we? To read their brilliance, you'll have to leap over to Tim Atkin's amazing site and read them there. Don't forget to leave your usual brilliant common tater remarks there, and pay tribute to the 300 men and women who bear the responsibility and terrible burden of being Masters of Wine!

Tim Atkin, MW

Monday, September 29, 2014

The HoseMaster's Guide to Drinking Wine at Home

An authentic wine lover drinks at home. A lot. Alone, or otherwise. He doesn’t just drink wine socially, or with a meal. He drinks all the time, and not from fancy glassware. Or if it is fancy glassware, it’s not necessarily clean. Wine is a way of life, best done in the home, frequently, where it delivers the most pleasure—like transvestism. Actually, an authentic wine lover has much in common with a transvestite. They both think they look better doing what they do than they actually do. And they both think other people can’t spot fakes.

Many people who profess to love wine only drink it on special occasions, or in church. But the authentic wine lover sees wine as an ordinary part of every meal, like bread or salt or long, uncomfortable silences. The confident wine lover knows that regular consumption of wine makes you an expert much as regular bathing makes you a mermaid.

You may not call yourself an authentic wine lover unless you make drinking your first priority. Drinking wine on a daily basis is a way to learn your own tastes in wine, develop a better critical sense about wine, as well as have the courage to live. Moreover, it will help you answer a critical question. Do you like wine enough to want to learn more, or are you just another jackass? Chances are you’re a jackass, and you just think you want to learn more, like when you thought it would be cool to take Jazzercise. You don’t really have an original thought in your head, which your wine blog proves incontrovertibly. Still, you aspire to be an authentic wine lover.

Many wine experts will tell you that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn about wine, that there are many thrilling bottles between $10 and $20. But you know better. That said, you can get just as drunk on a $12 bottle as you can on a $100 bottle, and still have $88 to spend on frivolities like rent and dog food for Grandma. But the commitment to wine loving is, in part, a financial commitment, and if you’re not willing to fork over a $50 now and then for some real wine, you’ll just never understand. Expecting to learn about wine drinking wines less than twenty bucks is like expecting to be Best Dressed when you shop at the Salvation Army.  You’ll only look like a wino.

People who drink wine on a regular basis are the best people. Everyone knows that. Like baseball fans are the best people, and people who can yodel. It just is. Science has shown this to be true, and you can look it up on the Internet. It’s not really much of a commitment to drink wine regularly and become one of the best people. You also don’t have to drink your wine out of expensive glassware. Remember HoseMaster’s Law, “The pricier the glass, the bigger the ass.” This is always true. Though the appreciation of wine is heightened by nice stemware, it’s not necessary. Just like surreptitiously eating food dropped on the floor can be more enjoyable than eating food served on a naked Japanese woman, and healthier. You can pay an obscene amount of money for a specialty Riedel glass, but it won’t add to your enjoyment of the wine. It will, however, prove you’re an idiot. You can’t even tell what the wine is when you taste it blind, how the hell do you know the shape of the glass enhances the wine? Jackass. It’s like being colorblind and thinking sunglasses help bring out the reds and greens. 

You also don’t need a fancy corkscrew. Or any of that other wine equipment. You paid a lousy ten bucks for that thrilling wine, don’t open it with a fifty dollar corkscrew. A well-stocked wine lover’s cellar only needs a cheap waiter’s corkscrew, a K-Mart decanter, and logo wine glasses from that cheesy Temecula winery where you’re a club member.

And for God’s sake, don’t buy a stupid aerator to pour the wine through. You might as well wear a bowtie that lights up, you’ll look more sophisticated. Aerators don’t work any better than Magic 8-Balls—they’re based on the same science. You can’t make a wine breathe faster, not by pouring it through a Magic 8-rater, not even by tonguing its punt. The aerator you already bought? For big laughs, attach it to Grandpa’s leg bag and watch the cat play with it. It helps the wine just as much there as it does in the neck of the bottle.

Don’t buy a stupid pump for your leftover wine either. Any wine worth drinking is better the second day anyway, you don’t need that gray plastic stopper in it. Though I do enjoy when it queefs. Who doesn’t want a wine that queefs? But as a preservative, it’s wishful thinking. Like Ted Williams’ head.

The committed authentic wine lover doesn’t need a Coravin either. A Coravin is simply a way to taste your older wines to find out they’re lousy without opening the bottle. Something of a time saver, but, ultimately, depressing. Much like masturbating. Really, a Coravin is self-abuse. You use it when your partner doesn’t really want any, and you want to prove to yourself just what they’re missing. Promise me you’ll wash your hands after every use.

Also, remember that you don’t need a lot of wine at hand to be a committed regular wine drinker. Maybe just a mixed case—red, white, and a couple of sparkling wines, because we all like to pretend we drink sparkling wine with meals even though no one does. Sparkling wine is the dental floss of beverages—everyone claims to use it more than they do. This explains why so many wine merchants have lousy teeth and bad breath. But not the speech impediments, I don’t know what explains that.

Inevitably, as an authentic wine lover, you’ll need to spend a lot of money. Don’t spend it on stupid stuff, like aerators and corkscrews and glassware. No, spend it on labels, spend it on wines that got a lot of points, spend it on the latest cult wine. That’s where the satisfaction is. Make wine a part of your everyday life—use it to show people you’re better than they are.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Few Minutes Decomposing with Andy Rooney

There was a time when I was playing around with established comic voices on HoseMaster of Wine™, and I decided to do a bit of the late Andy Rooney. I thought my irreverence about his death would have pleased Rooney, and I found that I liked doing his odd "60 Minutes" patter. I wrote three pieces in Rooney's voice, and this edition of Best of HoseMaster is made up of the first two. 

From early 2012, here's Andy Rooney... Note how the topics haven't changed much on wine blogs in the past two-and-a-half years.

I’ve been in touch with the late Andy Rooney recently. It may surprise you to know that I speak with many dead people—Jess Jackson, Robert Mondavi, Robert Parker, Ron Paul, Gabe Kaplan, Richard Dawson… There is a wisdom in dead people that I find compelling. Andy Rooney was kind enough to allow me to publish his posthumous thoughts about wine and the wine business. So if you don’t like the opinions, don’t blame me. I’m just channeling the old fuck. Pardon me, dead fuck.


Every wine critic and wine publication these days claims to taste wine blind. I don’t understand this. They say that tasting wines blind takes prejudice and subjectivity out of the equation. First of all, I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t believe they’re tasting the wines without having any idea at all what the wines are. These are professional wine critics, or so they’d have us believe, you’d think they’d have a pretty good idea all the time what they’re tasting, whether it’s in a brown bag or not. And they’re human, well, all of them except Matt Kramer who’s actually a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, and humans cheat, or leave themselves loopholes. But let’s say, tongue in cheek, that I believe that they taste the wines blind. Why do they think that makes their ratings and scores more legitimate? By the way, most of them score on the 100 point scale and say they know what a 94 tastes like at least as well as the other guys who know what a 94 tastes like. I think Oliver Sacks wrote a New Yorker piece on a man who thought he knew what numbers tasted like. The guy had brain damage.

I think it’s stupid to pretend objectivity when you’re a critic of anything. We know that the critics we like have prejudices. We might even admire his taste in prejudices. A movie critic doesn’t go to a movie and not know who the director is. They don’t have special films made without the credits for a movie critic to view. They don’t send book reviewers galleys that don’t have the author’s name on them. They don’t blindfold Hugh Hefner and give him foldouts that only have Scratch ‘n’ Sniff.

Let’s grow up, wine critics, and forget the blind tasting claims. I think we’ll get numbers that taste better.


I read somewhere that there are more than a thousand wine blogs. Isn’t “blog” kind of a stupid word? It sounds like something you hork up when you have a nasty chest cold, or you’ve been smoking unfiltered Camels for 30 years. Or maybe it’s what camels hork up. A thousand wine blogs sounds like 995 too many to me. Isn’t there something we can do about there being too many wine blogs? Yes, I know, we can simply not read them, and, let’s be honest, even the most popular wine blog gets fewer hits than a YouTube video of a cat using my balls as a scratching post. I miss that cat. I love a good subordinate claws. But even if no one reads wine blogs, it bothers me that they exist. I don’t have anything to do with wine-of-the-month clubs, but it bothers me that they exist too. Are there that many jackasses to support that many wine-of-the-month clubs? It bothers me that there are.

I think wine bloggers should voluntarily start removing their blogs from the Internet. I don’t mean stop writing them, I mean deleting them. We love the Internet, it’s a modern miracle, let’s not leave all this crap just laying around for someone else to clean up. Let’s start with that HoseMaster of Wine. I don’t know about you, but I think he’s about as funny as leprosy.


There’s been too much talk lately about natural wines. Some people even call them naked wines, but that seems counterproductive if you like them. I think most naked things are disgusting, don’t you? When critics and winemakers talk about natural wine I start to get nauseated. Just another wine term no one can accurately define, like “terroir,” and “Meritage,” and “profit.” They make it sound like natural wine is better. These are people who wear a lot of makeup and carefully groom their body hair. Apparently, wine is better when it’s natural, but people are not. I think I’d trust the people who promote natural wine more if they had eyebrows like mine, and abundant nose hair, and unshaven legs. They mostly wear too much unnatural makeup.

I’ve tasted a lot of natural wines and too many of them are terrible. A lot of unnatural wines are terrible too. Can’t we just call crap crap and leave it at that? Crap is a word I can define. You’re reading it.

I spend a lot of time communing with the dead—and I don’t mean wine tasting in the Finger Lakes. Some of my best friends are dead. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking wine with Andy Rooney, joined by his other dead friends, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, and Charlie Rose. Rooney, at least, has the courtesy to admit he’s deceased. Andy has interesting opinions about wine and the wine business, and he asked me to share a few more with HoseMaster of Wine readers. Remember, the opinions expressed are those of a dead guy. They certainly smell like it.


I hear a lot of people grousing about the three-tier system, mostly malcontents who don’t have a piece of that lucrative pie. I wish they’d just shut up. It’s the three-tier system that makes this country great. I mean aside from baseball, and those really tiny vibrators that attach to your finger. I love those things. I found one in Leslie Stahl’s dressing room one time. They’re great for stirring your martini and trimming your nose hair. I don’t know why God gave us hair in our nose, do you? Maybe because toenails wouldn’t fit there. I’d hate to think about a nostricure, wouldn’t you? I think the polish would give me a headache.

Our great country runs on the three branches of government--the judicial, the executive, and the whores. Those are three tiers. And think about wine itself. It relies on grapes, winemakers, and marketing. “Marketing” is just a marketing word for lying. I like to call lying lying. Marketing is when you push a cart around in a store. So even wine has three tiers. Everything runs better with three tiers. Think about insurance. It’s a three tier system, and everyone loves it. You pay a premium, the doctor sees you, and the insurance company pays the doctor most of the bill. I don’t hear anyone complaining about insurance. Except the people that don’t have it. It’s the same with wine. It’s the little wineries, the ones who think they’re better than the big wineries, that complain about the three-tier system because they don’t have it and they think the fact that it exists gets in their way somehow. I think they should stop trying to end the three-tier system, and, more importantly, stop whining about it.

I hope we never lose the three-tier system. If we do, the terrorists will have won.


I went to my favorite restaurant here in Hell the other night, it’s a really cozy little joint that serves only Prosecco and Gold Medal Reds from the California State Fair competition. It is Hell, after all. I don’t understand why people like Prosecco. It smells like the bathwater at the “Biggest Losers.” I brought my own bottle of wine to the restaurant. When the bill came there was a charge for Corkage. It was $35. Corkage is a funny word, don’t you think? If you brought your own eating utensils would they charge a Forkage fee? Or if you brought Harvey Steiman to dinner would they charge you a Dorkage AND a Porkage fee? OK, Harvey’s not here in Hell yet, but he will be. It’s no coincidence he’s blind to the smell of sulfur.

$35 is a lot of money, but I understand why restaurants have to charge Corkage fees. You don’t go to JiffyLube with four quarts of Pennzoil and ask them how much it costs if you bring your own lubricant. They need to make money. The best restaurants employ sommeliers, and they don’t work for free. You know who the sommelier is, don’t you? The sommelier is the person whose job it is to sell wine to people he’s never heard of, from wineries they’ve never heard of, at unheard of prices. Sommeliers are like pitchmen for infomercials. Fast-talkers selling drunks stuff they don’t really need. You also don’t take your own rubber gloves to your proctologist. I tried that once. He left them where he put them.

Next time you go to dinner, don’t complain about corkage fees. Just be grateful the sommelier isn’t trying to sell you Ginzu knives.


I don’t understand why wineries call the place where they serve wines to the public “tasting rooms.” No one there is tasting. They’re drinking. When you taste something you only put a little tiny bit in your mouth in case it doesn’t taste good, like when you taste some exotic food you’re not too sure about, something made from a tarantula or served at Olive Garden. Olives don’t grow in gardens, by the way, they grow in orchards. You’d think they'd know that.

My uncle went to his local bar three times a week from 11 AM until 5 PM. He was a drunk. If he’d gone wine tasting, he’d have been a connoisseur.

Why don’t they just call them what they are? Bars. The Bar at Robert Mondavi Winery. I think that has a nice ring to it. It’s not wine tasting, it’s bar hopping. They even have a “tasting room” at Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley. A guy in Napa Valley built a gigantic Italian castle and makes wine there. At least he’s more honest about his tasting room. He calls it the Torture Chamber. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Linoleum Project™--Philosophy First, Winemaking Second

Harvest is in full swing here at Splooge Estate, and while our neighbors are bringing in their incredibly boring Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—the so-called “workhorse” grapes (“workhouse” because their only worth is to get you plowed)—we’re harvesting more important varieties, varieties you haven’t heard of. The best and most obscure are earmarked for The Linoleum Project™. We thought we’d take a moment of your time to explain in a bit more detail the philosophy behind the wines of The Linoleum Project™. Unlike most wines produced, these are not wines aimed at pleasure. These are wines meant to express the ultimate meaninglessness of life, the charade of importance that is human existence—the very things that make you want to drink. Everyone pays lip service to a philosophy of winemaking, but they put the cart before the workhorse. At The Linoleum Project™ we put philosophy first, and winemaking a distant second. We believe in winemaking by philosophy. We are teachers first, winemakers second. We truly believe in the old saw that, “Those who can do, those who Kant philosophize.”

Perhaps the best way to understand our winemaking by philosophy is to understand how each individual wine is made, how philosophy and overthinking combine to make wines that reflect not only their terroir, but each person’s hopelessness in the face of a godless universe. Certainly one can enjoy wines that only express a sense of place, a minerally and precise Grand Cru Chablis, for example. But there is a price to be paid for living an unexamined life. Isn’t it far more rewarding and satisfying to murder an innocent oyster with a blunt knife and then wash it down with a crisp white wine that celebrates not only the oyster’s salinity, but your own feeling that life is worthless, nothing but a snotty slide down eternity’s esophagus? Of course. Welcome to our world.

2014 Gaglioppo
The vineyard that is the source of our Gaglioppo is in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. While many wineries have complained about the unfortunate earthquake that struck the region this year, at The Linoleum Project™ we celebrate it. In truth, our Gaglioppo perfectly reflects its tumultuous terroir. Put your nose in a glass of any vintage. What do you smell? Faults! You might be tempted to think that those faults are the result of poor winemaking. This reflects your usual simpleminded approach to wine, an approach that believes pleasure is wine’s chief goal. Don’t feel bad. Your limited intelligence is how you became one of our mailing list customers. In truth, it’s philosophy that defines our Gaglioppo.

When we reflect upon our own character, it’s our faults that plague us. As Kafka memorably put it, “Wir sind ein Haufen Scheisse.” (“We’re a pile of shit,” which considering his intestinal problems, is a loose translation.) So not only will our 2014 Gaglioppo reflect its origins in Calabria, it will also reflect man’s ultimate unworthiness. We are our faults, and our faults are us. We live our lives trying to embrace our faults. It’s this basic philosophy that informs the wines of The Linoleum Project™. If you love our wines, you must embrace faults. You cannot love yourself if you cannot love our faulty Gaglioppo. This is how wine can enrich your life—through following philosophy instead of cold, hard, unfeeling chemistry.

2014 Ebola Gialla
We very much like the look of our 2014 Ebola Gialla clusters. Ebola Gialla is a very rare variety, thought to be Ribolla Gialla crossed with a fruit bat. Over the past few vintages, our Ebola has done very poorly with the press. James Laube called it, “maybe the worst white wine I’ve ever had that wasn’t Grüner.” Robert Parker thought it “despicable, though it helped me lose some weight.” Jon Bonné says our Ebola is “maybe the finest white wine coming out of Napa Valley, though, in truth, I hate wine.” These quotes are exactly the point of our Ebola.

At The Linoleum Project™ we take a nihilistic approach to our Ebola. Nietzche is our guiding light, and it was his assertion that all values are baseless, that absolutely nothing can be communicated, that nothing is known. This is the precise basis for all scoring systems and wine reviews—indeed the 100 point scale is baseless, and wine descriptions communicate nothing. “Nothing is known” is pretty much the resumé for Neal Martin.  So it seems appropriate as a philosophy of winemaking as well.  We even take it a step further, utilizing the truth of existential nihilism (not just Nihilism Lite)—the certainty that life itself is meaningless. Then isn’t winemaking itself meaningless? Isn’t trying to assign meaning to wine futile and ignorant? Isn’t this apparent when you read wine blogs? Our Ebola reflects the words of Nietzche, “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” Starting with your liver.

We encourage you to share a glass of our Ebola at your next meaningless meal with someone you don’t particularly care lives or dies. This is more than likely yourself.

2014 Tannat
Tannat is a variety that has gained some popularity in recent years, perhaps because, like life itself, it’s the same thing backwards or forwards. In France, Tannat is the primary grape in Madiran, and an important component of many wines from Cahors. In terms of philosophy, it may have been tempting to place Descartes before Cahors, or maybe mullah over how mad Iran is. But, fundamentally, at The Linoleum Project™ we hate Tannat. Which is why each vintage we seek it out. We don’t believe in working with varieties we actually enjoy. That would give us pleasure, and pleasure leads to complacency, a quality prevalent in winemaking today. No, we make our Tannat with a focus on anhedonia, and we think that makes it taste better because it is incapable of delivering taste.

In our view, too often we expect pleasure from wine. We reach for a bottle with an expectation of joy and sensual pleasure. Only to be routinely disappointed. We want you to know that our Tannat is made with the philosophy that life is better when you are unable to experience happiness, and that our wine is designed to make sure you do not. In this respect, our Tannat shares much with rating wines on a numerical scale, for isn’t that very scale about anhedonia? Can you consume a wine rated 89 and enjoy it knowing that somewhere someone richer than you, smarter than you, and better looking than you is drinking a wine rated 100? When you drink 89 point wine aren’t you denying yourself pleasure, illustrating your basic self-contempt, but, more importantly, not caring. Not caring because you cannot feel joy anyway? This is our Tannat in a nutshell.

Enjoy it alone, in the darkness of your soul, with a nice venison stew.