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. 


David Larsen said...

This was even better on the second reading. Good channeling of Andy Rooney!

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Can you channel Roald Dahl?

For those who need an introduction:

Particularly to his short story titled "Taste" (a blind winetasting challenge turned sinister).



Nick Harman said...

Mr Rooney seems to have sound views on just about everything, shame he's dead really.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey David,
Thank you. I remember enjoying writing in Rooney's voice, and though I'm never going to get a lot of hits with "Andy Rooney" in my headline, I wanted to put up this old chestnut anyway.

Others have suggested Dahl, but, sadly, I'm not that familiar with him. And he's probably inimitable.

Aren't all blind tastings sinister?

Just because he's dead doesn't mean he can't express an opinion now and then. That's the beauty of being dead--you can get away with anything. Quite pleasant, one would think. Can hardly wait.

Charlie Olken said...

The other day I was called a geezer by Mr. Parker. Who the hell is he to call me that? I'm not dead yet.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Geezer Daddy,
He's dead, not you. So that gives him the right to call you a geezer. It could have been worse. He could have called you an authentic geezer. Or a natural geezer. Or a Certified Sensitive™ geezer.

And at least he's talking about you.

Joe Rack said...

If the bottle you brought in has a screw cap, is it called a "screwage" fee ?