Monday, December 8, 2014
The HoseMaster's Letter to Santa 2014
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.