“…any food product that feels compelled to tell you it’s natural in all likelihood is not.”—-Michael Pollan
Monday, April 28, 2014
Dysfunctional Family Winemakers
This piece was the last piece I wrote before taking my 15 month "hiatus" in 2010. Those were the good old days. The piece began with the simple twisting of the Family Winemakers Association into what all families are, dysfunctional. That silly thought led to endless possibilities, the seediest of which I chose to write about. As twisted as a lot of this stuff is, I have a fondness for this sort of tastelessness, which will come as no surprise to any of my regular readers. Anyhow, here, from August of 2010, was my second, or maybe third, swan song, Dysfunctional Family Winemakers...
If there's one tasting I look forward to the most
eagerly each year, it's the American and International Dysfunctional
Family Winemakers tasting ("AInt Dysfun?, as it's known in the trade).
There's an electricity in the air unmatched at any other event in the
wine biz, except maybe the annual Capital Punishment affair held by
William Foley in the majestic ballroom at San Quentin when he executes
the staff of a new winery he's purchased. And he spares no expense on
the food--it's Last Meal for everybody! But there are so many wineries
represented at AInt Dysfun? that it would be impossible to taste at
every table. (Unless you're Alder Yarrow. But he has a distinct
advantage over ordinary humans. Just ask him.) I usually try to visit a
few of my favorite Dysfunctional Family Wineries, after all, who can
pass up a chance to visit with Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, the
poster children for AIn't Dysfun?, but spend the majority of my time
tasting at Dysfunctional Family wineries that are new to me. I don't
spend a lot of time here at HoseMaster of Wine
reviewing wine, mostly because you babies whine when I do, but I came
across some extraordinary wines at AInt Dysfun that I thought you should
There's something really inspiring about the wines from Overly Affectionate Family Vineyards.
First of all, I don't think I've ever seen so many people working at
one table before at a tasting. Seventeen members of the Overly family
were present to share their wines. They had formed a long daisy chain of
holding hands, so only Tricia Overly, the matriarch of the family, who
was standing on the end, had a free hand to serve their wines. I was
curious about how such a physically affectionate family got into the
wine business, but Tricia's answers were constantly interrupted by her
children kissing her repeatedly on the mouth. That didn't bother me. But
breastfeeding at a trade show is crossing a line! Though I was curious
why her son's beard stubble didn't irritate her. I was impressed with
the Overly Affectionate 2009 "Come Here and Kiss Me" Chardonnay.
When I asked Bennett Overly what made it so distinct, he looked up from
where he was nuzzling his eldest daughter's neck and told me that the
secret to Overly Affectionate Family wines was "skin contact, and lots
of it." I don't come from an overtly affectionate family, so it was
refreshing to see a family so openly touching and kissing and sharing
physical comfort, so obviously proud of their family and wines. "There's
a little bit of me in all my wines," Bennett told me, "and a little bit
of me in all my kids too." Yeah, I guess.
After the Overly
Affectionate Family wines I rushed over to wash my hands, then taste at
the table where some friendly guys were serving My Sister's Underwear Drawer
wines. You just can't get more dysfunctional than that! Each label
features a lovely engraving of a different pair of the Bagg brothers',
Scum and Doosh, sister's panties. Reminiscent of the Harlan Estate
labels, except Harlan Estate's Scratch 'n' Sniff smells like money. I
asked Doosh where the name of the winery originated. You don't want to
know. First, I tasted the My Sister's Underwear Drawer 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon "Edible."
The nose was slightly fecal, and the flavors were distinctly earthy, so
I might have mistaken it for a Santa Barbara Cabernet. The My Sister's Underwear Drawer 2008 "G-String" Pinot Noir
was my favorite. The wine simply glides between your cheeks. Doosh told
me the wine is 100% Pommerde clone grown in very chalky soil. "What I'm
really looking for in these wines is the same thing I look for in my
sister's underwear drawer," Doosh told me, "expression of soil..."
As a person who thinks the whole wine and food pairing culture is stupid, it was refreshing to taste with the folks at Domaine Eating Disorder.
Siblings Ann O'Rexia and Bill Emia were candid in their views. "Food,
in general, is disgusting," Ann told me, "and has no place at the dinner
table." As dysfunctional family members, you would expect Bill to
disagree with his sis, "Well, I love food, and lots and lots of it.
Anyone who doesn't eat his weight in trans-fats a day is just not
enjoying life. But wine with food? Don't make me puke." Hard to argue
with winemakers who make such remarkable wines. The Domaine Eating Disorder 2009 "Kate Moss" Sauvignon Blanc
was predictably lean and acidic, though Bill admired its bounty of
grapefruit, melons and Fig Newtons on the palate. Actual Fig Newtons. In
every bottle Bill was able to add a yummy cookie due to a loophole in
the TTB regulations that allows Nabisco products in certain wines.
(There are Oreo cookies in the Eating Disorder Zinfandel from Lodi, but you can't really tell--it's Lodi Zin, after all.) Bill's favorite is the Domaine Eating Disorder 2006 "The Vomitorium" Gruner Veltliner. "If this doesn't make you Smaragd up your dinner, I don't know what will."
seemed appropriate to end the AInt Dysfun Tasting at the most
sought-after cult wine table with dozens of fellow wine bloggers
clamoring for a taste of Personal Failure Wines.
Personal Failure's concept is to bring together people who have never
been successful enough to have pleased their parents under one roof to
make wine. Each bottle has a back label that briefly explains how the
winemaker disappointed his mother or father, or both. For example,
here's what it says on the back of Personal Failure 2007 "You Married That Slut" Cabernet:
was the year I married my wife Betty over the objections of my mother
who told me I was marrying Betty because I was inadequately endowed and
Betty was the first whore who said Yes, and that Betty was certain to
take many lovers and a mockery of me, and that I shouldn't even think
about running back home when Betty dumped me because she'd already be
dead after turning the shotgun on Dad first, What was there to live for?
This is my tribute to her. I hope you enjoy it. And, thanks, Betty, it
was fun.The stories are compelling, and so are the wines.
It seemed that each blogger had a Personal Failure wine he could
identify with, and this, along with the astounding quality of the wines,
made under the supervision of personal failure Tim Mondavi, is what
creates the historic demand for these wines. Here's another, this from
the back label of Personal Failure 2008 "You'll Never Amount to Anything" Chardonnay:
dedicate this wine to my Father, Leonard, who, from the time I was a
little girl, told me I would never amount to anything. And now, after a
stalled career as a surrogate mother for endangered Amazon River tribes,
five failed marriages, three failed suicide attempts, and one failed
souffle, I want my Father to try my 2008 Chardonnay, which was aged 10
months in Ethan Allen oak and was bottled unfined, unfiltered and sadly
unloved.You can understand why the Personal Failure table was so busy. Personal Failure speaks to us all.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"...With sometimes crude analogies and occasional droppings of f-bombs, Washam cleverly uses satire to expose the underbelly of the wine business. It's often hilarious stuff as long as you're not the one being lampooned. Washam takes no prisoners in skewering all that is silly, stupid, frustrating and pretentious about wine, and his favorite targets are other bloggers and writers. No one is immune."
--Linda Murphy in "Vineyard and Winery Management"
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity." --JancisRobinson.com
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."
--Reign of Terroir
Robert (Joseph) was/is funny unlike HoseMaster who wasn't/isn't.