Monday, February 16, 2015

The HoseMaster Regrets the Errors

I am now willing to admit that I may have been exaggerating when I said that I was the person who made the Cabernet Sauvignon that won the 1976 Paris Tasting. I was once in Paris. Ms. Hilton was drunk and immobile at the time, but I may have confused that encounter with the Paris Tasting. I never meant to mislead the public. I was 21 years old the year the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine that won the Paris Tasting, was harvested, and being of legal drinking age at last may have become confused in my mind with making the wine. I’m sure you can understand why. In my defense, many Napa Valley winery owners claim to make their wines when, in fact, they have highly paid “consultants” that do the actual winemaking. So claiming to have made a wine that you actually didn’t make is a time-honored tradition in wine. Like disingenuously mentioning that your vineyard is right next to Screaming Eagle, implying that it must therefore be as good as Screaming Eagle. I may have been right next door to where the wine was being made, so I may have been the winemaker. I see now where people may have perceived my statement as a lie. I regret the error.

When I said that I was the first wine critic in the world to use the 100 Point Scale, I may have been confused. I thought of it first. You can ask my Mom. Well, she’s dead. But she was there the night I said to her, “You know what would really help people to know what wines to buy?” And Mom said, “A magazine that reviewed all the wines in the world and then recommended them with little Happy Faces?” (As an aside, my Mom at that moment invented Happy Faces—Fuck You, Walmart.) “No, Mom, a magazine that rated all the wines using a 100 Point Scale!” “Oh, son, that’s just stupid,” she said. And though she was right, and so I abandoned the idea, I guess in my head I thought I was the first wine critic to use the 100 Point Scale. I regret the error. And I’ve already apologized for losing my temper and killing Mom. Just how much longer do I have to keep saying I’m sorry? As a Mom she was a 98, but as her son, I used a .45.

Now that I think about it, it’s possible I haven’t won a James Beard Award eight years running. Yeah, that’s kind of silly. Even Tom Cruise has won only two Beards. I may have been thinking about the eight merkins I have, but those are Richard Beards. But if I had to guess, I think that I confused my Nobel Prize for Wine Writing and my seven Pulitzers in my trophy room for Beard Awards. I know this sounds like a stretch, but if you’d ever seen my trophy room, you’d understand. It’s really dusty. And, really, I’ve been nominated for, like, 57 Wine Blog Awards, which you can cash in for a James Beard Award at a Wine Idea Recycling Center (otherwise known as Palate Press). I just haven’t had the time because I’m running for President. I regret the error.

I unequivocally stand by my assertion that I write under the pseudonym “HoseMaster of Wine™.” I have ample evidence to prove that assertion. However, and, again, I regret any inadvertent confusion it may have caused, I may have mistakenly claimed to have written under the name “Michael Broadbent.” I most certainly didn’t write the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey Riesling” under that name. I may have accidentally left out a word in writing about an episode where I wrote the word “Blowhard” under the name Michael Broadbent in an issue of Decanter. In which case I also write under the name “Andrew Jeffords.” Also, there has been some confusion concerning an interview I did with CBS News where I may have said that I’d published 42 wine books using the name “Jancis Robinson.” I simply misspoke. I meant to say “Jackie Robinson,” who famously wore the number 42. Jancis Robinson never broke the color barrier, though she fucked up a glass ceiling once. Boy, can that girl spit. I stand behind the fact that I first translated the works of Emile Peynaud to English, though I’m a bit abashed that my original translation of “The Taste of Wine” was “Wine Gave Me Gout.”

I never intended for people to believe that I created biodynamics. I apologize to the Steiner family. I was the guy who told Mr. Steiner, “Why don’t you take your bullshit and bury it in your fucking vineyard,” but I see now that that doesn’t give me the right to say I came up with the idea. I regret the error.

I may have written that I was the high bidder at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. In hindsight, I might have been confused because I did pay a lot of money for a glass of Caymus Cabernet at the Meadowood Lounge one day, and there was an energetic game of Ping Pong being played nearby. I did attend the Napa Valley Wine Auction, but I only bid on a special Caribbean Wine Cruise with Robert Wagner—they only serve wine with no Wood. So, let’s get this right, I was not the high bidder at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. I regret the error.

When I said on “Late Night with David Letterman” that I was the first person to pass the Master of Wine exam, the Master Sommelier exam, and a tapeworm on the first try, I wasn’t being dishonest, I had simply misread some correspondence. The first two had told me to “blow it out your ass” when I took their exams, and I confused that with the tapeworm. I believe I may have inadvertently asserted that I had identified blind all twenty wines in the Master of Wine exam absolutely perfectly. Upon review, I realize I identified the First Growth Bordeaux as “Lee Harvey Oswald.” I regret the error.

I recently sat in on a Merlot tasting. The results aren’t especially interesting. But the tasting made me wonder what happened to my love for Merlot. I can still remember the excitement that surrounded the release of the first Duckhorn Merlots, especially the ’78 Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot. Before that bottling, Merlot in California boiled down to Clos du Bois and Rutherford Hill and Markham—hardly thrilling wines, but well-made and successful. Duckhorn changed the landscape of Merlot in California, really lifted Merlot into the same conversation as Cabernet Sauvignon, where it belonged. Not long after Duckhorn, along came Newton, Matanzas Creek, St. Clement and Shafer, among others. I still think the ’87 Matanzas Creek Merlot, made by David Ramey, was one of the best Merlots from California I ever tasted. But the memory of an old romance can be deceptive. They become more beautiful in your mind than they really were, the experience more sensual; and also, in my memory, I was wise and worldly even though still something of a wine novice.

There were ten wines in the Merlot tasting (not conducted blind). Sadly, the Chateau Clinet 2012 was corked. Of the other nine, which ranged in price from $51 to $225, only one aroused that old Merlot love of mine—the 2012 Leonetti from Walla Walla. Oh my, what a beautiful Merlot, with that gorgeous red fruit lightly accented by Merlot’s trademark leafy green tea, the sweetness of the fruit bringing a satisfied smile to your face, the finish luxurious and lingering. And the 2012 Shafer was also very pleasing, a gorgeous young co-ed, as well as the least expensive of the wines. The other seven, a lot of expensive wine, were acceptable. But more like Meh-lot.

I am weary of every Merlot discussion beginning with a line quoted from a lousy Hollywood movie, a buddy film without any flair, a film as dull and formulaic as Clos du Bois Merlot. Go fuck yourself, Miles. (Yes, I know his line in the context of the film is ironic. It’s a lousy film filled with lousy irony.) Merlot can be as good as any red wine. I guess in my eagerness to explore the other great wines of the world, I neglected Merlot, forgot about her, like how we forget the names of former lovers. Or maybe it’s that there just aren’t that many great winemakers who want to make Merlot, because you then have to sell it. Aside from Petrus and L’Evangile and other great Bordeaux, throw in Masseto and others from Bolgheri, who’s bothering to try to make great Merlot? Not David Ramey any more. Though I wish he would. I sort of miss my old love affair with Merlot.

Or, maybe, really, you just can’t rekindle those old flames once they go out.


Unknown said...

I feel your pain about Merlot. I remember when Duckhorn limited the public to 2 bottles at the winery, no more. The HdV 2007 Belle Cuisine (60% Merlot at the time) rekindled my interest in Merlot as potentially beautiful

Unknown said...

Oops, not Unknown, Steve Pinzon

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Steve,
Where have you been? Just lurking? OK, that's how it goes in the blog biz.

HdV has gorgeous wines. I was really sad the Clinet was corked because I tend to love Clinet. I can't afford L'Evangile, but I used to love to drink that beauty. Maybe Merlot and I just weren't meant to be. Sigh.

Nigel said...

I had a fantastic Merlot from Rocking Horse at a non-profit banquet a few years ago. Are they still going strong, Ron?

Mike Dunne said...

Wow, the zingers here came a lot faster, a lot more often and a lot more to the point than they did in last night's 40th-anniversary toast to SNL, but that might not say a whole lot. Nevertheless, a fun and timely read.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

As far as I know, Rocking Horse isn't around anymore. I remember the wines--some good, some just OK. I went back and forth on them...

It's a thankless task to assemble a 40th anniversary show. Imagine all those egos in one building! Eddie Murphy's alone could fill Madison Square Garden. I watched about an hour of it, and felt like it was the best that they could do under the circumstances. But I'm more forgiving of comedy than most.

When the Brian Williams scandal broke, I knew it was a great premise for me to use. We all lie about our past. What's hilarious is how a network television anchor is expected to have huge integrity--as though that's why they hired him, not for his ability to read off a teleprompter, his good looks and his charisma. It's television. It has the integrity of a rodeo.

imkarenp said...

A couple of notso meh-lots - Fidelitas and Paloma.

David Pierson said...

I didn't mind Sideways.. worth it just for that scene where Miles describes a Pinot and comes across like the total jackass most Pinot snobs are.. with just a hint of asparagus.. but you want pain? Try About Schmidt.. really tear your ass with boredom, plus the horror of seeing Kathy Bates naked.. couldn't bring myself to another 2 hour snooze fest with Nebraska.. why people rave about Alexander Payne I'll never know.. kind of like the so called comedy of Robin Williams for me.. all that manic gibberish.. before he kicked it, someone wrote on the I Hate Robin Williams website, this guy is less funny than incest..

Marcia Macomber said...

"...a special Caribbean Wine Cruise with Robert Wagner—they only serve wine with no Wood" Ba dum dum! Great line! (But don't regret the error.)

Here's to hoping Merlot sees another heyday (or hay day, whichever works and gets it out there).

You sure you weren't there for that White House dinner, the first one to serve....?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Never had Fidelitas. I'll keep my eye out. The 2011 Paloma was one of the wines in the tasting (again, not done blind). I'm a big fan of Paloma--I bought the very first vintage, and every subsequent vintage, when I was a sommelier, long before WS put it on the map as a Wine of the Year. But the 2011 didn't thrill me. I attribute that to the vintage, and not to any failure on the part of Paloma. 2011 might be the worst Napa vintage in the past 50 years. So I will completely agree with you that Paloma is not at all Meh-lot. And, honestly, the '11 is pretty darn good.

Well, I'm not writing a movie blog, but since I brought it up, I didn't like "Sideways" from the very first. There's not a single relationship in the film that I buy--not the two best guy friends, and not their romances. And it's painfully contrived. Giamatti is good, but he's a good comic actor (he should go back to comedy more often). The rest of the cast has zero comedy chops. But the script is pretty flat and entirely predictable. Other than that, I liked it.

Marcia Love,
No White House dinners, but I was the sommelier for the Last Supper.

Nigel said...

"Back and Forth~" I geddit!

Thomas said...

Mike and Ron: that may have been the clinkiest comedy show ever. I turned it off after forty-five minutes.

Re, Merlot: It was my introductory red back in the day, from the Right Bank. Having said that, I've been partial to Chateau Coufran, Haut Medoc of 85% Merlot. Go figure.

I believe the problem here in the U.S. is that Merlot became too "in{, which of course out it on a fast track to "out".

Thomas said...

Here I go again--correcting after the fact. One day I'll learn to read before I click.

too "in", which of course put it on a fast track to "out".

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh no, whatever you do, don't read your comments.

What, no Long Island Merlot? I'm so disappointed.

Certainly Meh-lot's popularity contributed to weakening its profile, but you'd think that wouldn't affect Merlot on the high end. I think it's just me. But, truly, I don't see or hear much buzz about great Merlot anymore.

Funny how "Ephemera" generates most of the comments. Not what I expected, but I'm glad. It's a fun outlet for me to talk about wine, review a few, and the wine biz from my own perspective, not the HoseMaster's.

Bob Henry said...

"I am now willing to admit that I may have been exaggerating when I said that I was the person who made the Cabernet Sauvignon that won the 1976 Paris Tasting."

Are you still taking credit from Al Gore for inventing the Internet?

"When I said that I was the first wine critic in the world to use the 100 Point Scale, I may have been confused."

But in your defense, you did invent the One Million Point Scale (bonus points for payola -- like free bottles and swag bags and "press" [sic] junkets). Although that defense is worthless regarding the Mom situation . . .

But the biggest fib of all is posting that silly "icon" on your site: "Winner Wine Blog Awards 2014 Best Writing"

C'mon, everybody knows you stuffed the ballot box with your Monday morning "Valentines" to the wine trade.

(And finally, this exaggeration: "Profile views - 12860")

Ron Washam, HMW said...

See how good you are without links? You're the Internet Tiger Woods.

Al and I created the Intergnats together, but he always forgets to mention that. By myself, I invented the microwave Internet--blogs AND popcorn!

Ah, yes, the legendary Million Point Scale. I should resurrect that. Or Mom. One or the other.

I love my stupid WBA icon! Remember, that's the entire award. Nothing else. Except the undying contempt of my peers. But, yeah, sure, the whole thing is rigged.

I had no idea I had that many profile views! I feel like Alfred Hitchcock. Wow. You have 46.

Bob Henry said...

Best California Merlot I ever tasted was 1989 Sullivan.

Wait. What?

Who ever heard of them? And who ever had any high hopes for the indifferent 1989 vintage?

But it blew away Duckhorns and Matanzas Creeks and other producers from better vintages tasted in its company.

A mini-me "outlier" akin to 1947 Cheval Blanc.

I have searched mightily for a second bottle. Implored the Sullivans to raid their wine cellar. (Alas, they have none.) Hawked the wine auction house catalogues for this unicorn.

I remain empty-handed and crestfallen.

Bob Henry said...

I am the Missing Link.

I had more views when I used to sign in as "Bob Henry (wine industry professional)."

Done initially out of "full [fool] disclosure" should anyone think I had a hidden agenda when opining on wine.

Now by dropping that parenthetical text, I have lost my following.

Or gained a new one. (Maybe it's the head shot. Though not as nice as Thomas's . ..)

Bob Henry said...

Here's a 2003 Wall Street Journal "op-ed" by noted food journalist Raymond Sokolov on sommeliers (discovered yesterday in my hoary archive of wine newsclippings).



"It transpires that a well-paid oeno-babbler named Andrew Brisker gets a percentage of the tip at each of La Caravelle's tony tables, and the rank-and-file grease-skimmers and dish-fetchers [read: dishwashers and busboys] resent it. ...

"I say 'Down with sommeliers!' They are part of an insufferable tradition of pretentious overstaffing in luxury restaurants, which only adds to the expense, not the enjoyment of a meal. Oh yes, there are exceptions, serious experts who really do help you through the pages of a wine list filled with unfamiliar labels and lead you to a few sleepers of value amid the $500 bottles of old treasures. But for most people hoping to find a bottle, any bottle not shamelessly pegged at triple the retail price, the sommelier is just another marketing hurdle in the way of sensible dining out."

Bob Henry said...

"2011 might be the worst Napa vintage in the past 50 years."

Last year I attended the "Sonoma in the City" trade tasting in Los Angeles.

Riedel presented its dog-and-pony-show stemware tutorial. I attended.

Riedel's presenter chose the 2011 vintage Landmark Chardonnay as the white wine to show off.

Praised the wine for its aromatics and flavors.

Not so fast.

Maybe she was just being "diplomatic," but sampled from both the Riedel Chardonnay glass and my Impitoyable Le Taster glass, you could definitely pick up on the mold that afflicted that North Coast vintage.

And later in the Pinot Noir seminars, one could pick up the mold that afflicted the 2011 North Coasat Pinot Noirs.

(To their credit, both James Laube and Steve Heimoff on their wine blogs "called out" the North Coast Pinots for this unappealing characteristic.)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I remember the '89 Sullivan Merlot because I had it on my wine list back then. So I must have liked it a lot. The Sullivan style was definitely blockbuster, as I remember it, and that was a huge, tannic Merlot, but with the requisite fruit to carry it. Great for a gigantic T-Bone. If I see a bottle somewhere, somehow, I'll let you know. After I drink it, of course.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Judging from the quote, apparently I met Mr. Sokolov.

imkarenp said...

2011 was a crappy year in Napa and a lot of the west coast. I have purchased very little 2011 from my usual mailing lists without tasting first. One 2011 merlot that I liked was the Pride Merlot...not as robust as some years but still a sound beverage.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

In Bordeaux a year like 2011 is always referred to as one to drink while the great wines mature. But at least in Bordeaux the lousy vintages cost less. Not enough less, but at least less. In California, not usually a price reduction. Not at first, anyway.

Bob Henry said...

"After I drink it, of course."

I won't expect anything less. (Is there "anything less"?)

Sullivan's 1984 Cabernet was also stunning -- handily eclipsing these wines in the "Top 3 Vote" at my single-blind tasting at The Biltmore Hotel:

# 1 B. R. Cohn "Olive Hill Vyd."
# 2 Beringer "Private Reserve"
# 3 Beringer "Chabot Vyd."
# 4 Silver Oak "Alexander Valley"
# 5 Silver Oak "Napa"
# 6 Joseph Phelps "Insignia"
# 7 Joseph Heitz "Martha's Vyd."
# 8 Chateau Montelena [“corked” bottle]
# 9 Caymus "Special Selection"
# 10 Hess Collection "Reserve"
# 11 Sullivan Vineyards
# 12 Dominus
# 13 Ridge "Monte Bello Vyd."

Bob Henry said...

Merlot “Top 3 Vote”

Wines poured single-blind in this order:

1982 Clos du Bois - 0 points
1983 Sterling - 0 points
1986 Robert Keenan - 0 points
1986 "Marilyn Merlot" - 3 points
1986 Clos du Bois - 3 points
1987 Shafer - 1 points
1987 Clos du Bois - 0 points
1987 Bellerose - 0 points
1988 Gundlach-Bundschu - 2 points
1988 Pine Ridge - 0 points
1988 Wild Horse - 0 points
1989 Hess Collection - 0 points
1989 Sterling - 2 points
1989 Flora Springs - 0 points
1989 Sullivan - 26 points
1989 Matanzas Creek - 11 points
1989 Vichon - 4 points
1989 Shafer - 16 points
1989 Havens - 5 points
1990 Leonetti (Wash. state) - 16 points

"Top 3" Wines Taste-off:

1989 Sullivan - 31 points
1989 Shafer - 22 points
1990 Leonetti - 23 points

"Top 3 Vote” records each participant's overall 1st / 2nd / 3rd preference "vote" at the conclusion of the single-blind tasting.

Points are assigned to each preference vote using this formula:

3 points for 1st preference
2 points for 2nd preference
1 point for 3rd preference

Summary of vote points establishes "Top 3" overall ranking.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

OK, now you're getting on my nerves.

Wines for the People said...

Best Biodynamics origin tale ever! And truth, as far as I know. I will be spreading the, um, shit.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Wine Peeps,
Technically, it's supposed to be cow shit from a lactating cow. But, in practice, it turns out to be full of the bull's contributions.

Thomas said...

I thought it was from a malolactating cow...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Dairy funny.

Thomas said...

I should write a dairy funny book to curdle up with in a warm bed.

I know, I know.

Charlie Olken said...

Too bad about Merlot. There are still plenty of good examples, but the wine has been killed by its own success.

First came the waves of the plantings in all the wrong places by those who tried to jump on the bandwagon and missed it.

And then came the "Cabernet lookalike" crowd in which Merlot was not allowed to look like Merlot but some form of ersatz Cabernet because that made Merlot more "serious", when what was really happening was folks adding backbone to wines without any because they had been grown in all the wrong places in the first place.

Enter "Sideways" with just enough essential truth to become the poster child for all the underfilled, underfocused Merlot in the world.

Not even tons of bullshit masquerading as lactating cowshit can save grapes planted in the wrong place and trying to be something that they will never be.

Charlie Olken said...

BTW, "Dairy funny" is.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Except for Pomerol, and the other Right Bank appellations, Merlot is always second fiddle to Cabernet. Maybe it deserves to be, but it seemed like there was a time when Merlot was going to come into its own. As you remarked, its popularity (easy to pronounce, a bit like more expensive Cabernet, trendy at the time) spelled its doom. Personally, as I wrote, there was a time I loved Merlot, in that late '80's heyday. Attending that tasting made me sad, in a way. I really wanted to love those wines. Alas, I did not.

Now the problem with "Ephemera" is that no one tells me anymore how brilliant I am at being funny. They comment on my commentary instead. Or, actually, maybe that's what I want...

gabriel jagle said...

Ron, you're a victim of your own Ephemeral success. If it makes you feel better, I will tell you that I spit beer onto my computer while reading this last post (I read these too late at night for a coffee spit-take).

As far as merlot is concerned, I have been having serious Merlot nostalgia lately. I am too young to have experienced the merlot boom of the late 80's, but old enough to remember all the great cheap merlot that became available once Sideways came out. I think it is still out there, it is just disguised as "red blends" from Napa Valley or Bordeaux. But I do miss that smooth, fruity, not-too-bombastic style of Napa claret that merlot used to promise. I imagine it will come back in style once millennials get sick of drinking blackfraumisch

Charlie Olken said...

I have figured out your problem with the latest batch of comments.

We are all wine knowledgeable and have opinions about everything in the wine universe.

We also love satire, but the best most of us can muster is to tell you how hard we laughed. Aside from Anon 1, most of us cannot write comedy. So, when you give us a chance to write about wine, we do.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, don't mind me. I actually enjoy the common tater remarks generated by Ephemera. I started Ephemera just so I could have a place to actually talk about wine instead of writing comedy about it. As soon as I hit the Publish button I realized it would sound like I was begging for compliments, which it does, for which I apologize.

Merlot is sort of that family member who drifts off never to be seen much of again. You get nostalgic for her, but then you go right back to forgetting about her.

I don't think she'll come back into style, but I'd happily be wrong.

Anonymous 1 don't come around here much anymore, though I know he's still reading HoseMaster. And, yeah, he's a funny dude.

The longer I write this blog, the more interesting it becomes for me. Common taters come and go, my audience grows bigger, then smaller again, I'm "discovered" about every six months, then widely's very strange, and has always been unpredictable. Something new like Ephemera keeps me involved. There's a part of me that's tired of satire, tired of the sound of my own HoseMaster voice, but it's fun, and a challenge, to persevere.

Thanks to everyone for sticking around.

Charlie Olken said...

BTW, Anon 1 was recently quoted fairly frequently in a recent Lettie Teague column. His presence helped a lot.

Thomas said...


You do something long enough it can become tiresome. After ten years, I recently gave up a regular column because for the life of me could not think of anything else to write in it without sounding tired, which I had become. Unlike a personal blog, I couldn't just start writing whatever I felt like writing; editors don't much care for that stuff.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I think about this a lot, and discuss it with my wife quite a bit, and the main, if not only, reason I continue to write HoseMaster is for the surprises that my twisted mind springs on me. Those rare moments when I write a line and it makes me laugh--which might happen once a month. I recognize other lines as being clever, even witty, but few catch me offguard and make me laugh outloud. There's pure joy in that, and also a kind of pride.

Comedy writers are insecure, self-loathing people. We crave praise, and at the same time dismiss it. We are graceless at accepting kind words, and even pretend they don't matter. I've lived like that my whole life, and accept it. Now and then my neuroses slip out and I sound pathetic. Truth is, I am.

Thomas said...

It's a rare writer (comedy or otherwise) who isn't insecure. We write to convince ourselves rather than to convince others.

Charlie Olken said...

Gee, I thought I was writing because I saw a way to make a living talking about a part of my life that had become a near full-time hobby.

I still feel that way decades later. It continues to amaze and thrill me that I can live well writing about my hobby.

Olivier said...

Merlot doesn't kill people. People killed Merlot.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Catchy. Make a nice bumper sticker. Along with, "When putting on a tight waterfowl, use a Duckhorn."

Olivier said...


It will go well with my license plate. It reads "SOMM-1". At least people know they are not following a wine blogger.