Monday, March 23, 2015

California's Dear Jon Letter

O Jon,

I guess I knew this day would come. Doesn’t make it any easier. I knew you were unhappy with me, that you were feeling the itch to move on. Did you ever think that itch might be wine business herpes? That you walked around too many vineyards with Red Blotch Virus waving your meat dowser around? Just a joke, Jon. Though I know you were sleeping around, you didn't exactly make a secret of it (you made me a laughing stock, thanks for that) sleeping around with those Natural Wine whores. Don’t bother denying it. I could smell them on you. You should wash your hands after you cheat on me—a little Brett might be fine for some, but for me, it smells like “fucked.” You fell in love with them, with their “natural” ways. They smell, Jon, and not good. That’s not terroir, Jon, that’s carelessness, not that you care. I dressed up for you, I was always perfect. I spent hours and hours making sure that I was polished and professional, not a flaw to be detected. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, Jon. Not like some “natural” slut who just steps directly out of the vineyard, doesn’t worry about cleanliness, doesn’t worry about preservation or beauty, just pretends to be about being earthy and open, but thinks smelling like a barnyard is attractive. Which it is. To pigs.

I’m sorry. I’m a little angry. Relieved, but still angry. And I think I have every right to be. You used me. You never loved me. I see it now. I kept thinking I must be wrong. That it was just my insecurity. I’m young, I’m still learning, I’m still growing. Those others you love, they’re older, more sure of themselves, and they’re French. God, I should have known when you went on and on about the French, making me feel like a second class citizen. The French wouldn’t have you, so you tried to make me French. Tried to make me leaner and more subtle, make me speak with an accent. Merde! I know what those French whores do for you. They make up for your insecurity, they make you feel like a man. I get that. But they don’t care about you, Jon. I care about you. Or I tried to. But you just wouldn’t let me get close. You fucked with me, Jon, and now you’re proposing we just see each other once a month? So you can just play me? Insult me in your subtle way. Say I’m full of potential while implying I’m overly alcoholic and clumsy? You want to just show up at our old place, where you first came into my life, and fuck me once a month? Are you nuts?


No, forget it. How can I forgive you, Jon? You wrote a goddam book about me. A book that praised me as “New.” But you didn’t mean “new,” did you, Jon? You meant Hopeless. The title you meant was “The Hopeless California Wine.” Admit it. You hate me. You traveled all over to find the smallest people you could find, wineries with less production than the prostates of the Vienna Boys Choir, and then praised them with all of your mightiest journalistic firepower. Can’t you see how that felt to me? You tell me you love me, but you only praise the freckle on my butt, the birthmark in my most intimate place, my quirky left nipple? WTF, Jon? What about the rest of me? I gave you everything I had. I let you inside places I never allow anyone else. And all you do is praise the places no one else can see or ever taste? How do you think that made me feel?

My friends warned me, but I didn’t listen. They told me that you saw me strictly as a fixer-upper when you first appeared in my life. That you saw yourself as Professor Higgins, and that I was your Eliza Doolittle. I was just your little ego project, wasn’t I, Jon? You thought you could waltz into my life and make me better, that with your infinite wisdom and perfect taste you could teach me to be better. You could teach me how to enter the world stage and fool everyone into thinking I was from somewhere else, that I wasn’t just some juicy, dolled-up, manipulated, hot tramp from California. And then you could brag about it, brag how you “fixed” me. I’m so stupid. I hate myself.

You knew I had low self-esteem from my last boyfriend, the one you have always been jealous of—Bob from Maryland. At least he loved me for what I am, Jon. Well, maybe not. He wanted me to get implants, to be the absolute biggest I could be, go with him to Hedonist retreats. Yes, he treated me like an object, and that made me do a lot of things I regret now, just to please him--a lot of foolish pandering and very sad makeovers just for him. He fucked me up for good. I was stupid with him, too. God, I’m such an idiot when it comes to men. Maybe I should switch to women—but Virginie Boone? Please.

You were just jealous of Bob, of his power and virility. His points were always bigger than your points, and you couldn’t get over that. I never should have told you when you asked me. I should have said, “Oh, Jon, you’re just as big as Bob, only your points are harder.” But I didn’t. I told you the truth. That Bob was bigger than you. Maybe that was the beginning of the end. I don’t know. I didn’t say it to hurt you. I see now it made you angry, and you made me pay. I did this to myself. You’re right to move on from such a loser. I don’t blame you.

O, Jon, what am I going to do without you? Who’s going to tell me when I’m going overboard? Who’s going to correct me? I think I’m this successful person, praise and success are heaped on me, everything you hate about me makes me the envy of the world, but I need you. Like the shark needs the remora. I know you’ll keep doing it, keep correcting me, but it will be from the safety of your true lover’s arms. I hope she knows what she’s in for. You’ll probably write another “Hopeless” book about her, "The Hopeless French Wine." One that will insult her in the guise of praise. Oh, you can write, Jon. But so could the Marquis de Sade. Maybe one day people will refer to gleefully painful wine writing as “Bonism.” Wouldn’t surprise me.

And yet I wish you luck, Jon. Our romance, if that’s what you want to call it, was brief. I like to think there were times you loved me, all of me, but as I look back, I see now it wasn’t very often. I was just someone you used. I was a stepping stone to something bigger. You got your book and your reputation out of me, and then you threw me away like a used condom. Well, I’ve been around bigger dicks, Jon, don’t forget that.

I’ll be fine. Bob still loves me, and I just might run back into his arms. Jim is steady and reliable, if a bit dull and, well, impotent. There are a lot of Fish in this wine critic ocean (Oh, God, please, no, not Fish). For a while I’ll look forward to those monthly “checkups.” But I’m forgetting about you right now, Jon. You’re fading from my life. You left me scarred, but unbowed. A little part of me will always love you. I plan to have it amputated.

Farewell, Jon,
I’ll Forever Be,
California Wine


Daniel said...

"Bonism"...what a way to get the old brain started up this morning. Shouldn't that term apply to nearly all writing out there now days? thanks for starting my day off right!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

When Jon announced his departure from the Chronicle, my brain almost immediately conceived of the idea for a "Dear Jon" letter. Then I just had to find the tone I wanted, and once I began, I knew the tone would be that of the jilted lover. From there, the piece wrote itself.

There's been quite a bit of backlash against Jon since the announcement, but, in my mind, that's a tribute. When a critic leaves, those he's evaluated are supposed to be happy. If they're sad to see him go, that's not really a good sign. Of course, the reasons for the anger are also important, but, in general, it wasn't his job to make wineries happy.

Plus, when I announce my retirement, I expect lots of backlash from those who find me unfunny and worthless.

Francly Speaking said...

"wineries with less production than the prostates of the Vienna Boys Choir" brilliant! - made me cry and almost made me wet myself!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sounds like you should have your prostate checked. Or do a self-examination. Thanks for the kind words, and for showing up as a common tater today.

I did worry that this piece would be too "inside." Jon is fairly well-known in the US, but I'm guessing a lot of folks who read my crap in Australia or South Africa will have no idea what I'm talking about. What else is new? They can look it up on the Intergnats.

Bob Henry said...

"The Truth About Romantic Love"


So girl, get over it, already!


Dear Abby and Ann Landers

Eric V. Orange said...

gleefully painful wine writing as “Bonism.”
Holy cow, I'm dying.

You rock.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

"Love" and "Truth" don't belong in the same headline together. Just like "Wine" and "Arsenic." One of each is poison.

Thanks for the driveby, Eric. I have this feeling "Bonism" is going to have legs.

italianwinegeek said...

"A little part of me will always love you. I plan to have ti amputated". Holy shit, I am dying. You really make me laugh. Thank you!

Dave Miner said...

Who is Jon? Was he here?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You're welcome. Thanks for taking the time to write such kind words.

Sorry, buddy, you're not part of the New California Wine--you're just that same old California Wine, so Jon wasn't interested.

Everyone's worried about arsenic in wine, what about arsenic in wine writing?

Great to hear from you, Dave.

napadavid said...

Unlike you lucky SF area residents I haven't had the pleasure of Bonne's prose.. so I googled him to see if his writing was insufferable as you portray.. found a piece on Terroir where he asked Bob a longwinded question and Parker rightly pointed out that a lot of these natural wines are horribly made and he hates the idea that somehow anyone who likes fruit and alcohol is a Neanderthal.. fuck new California wines, gimme those old ones any day..

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I wouldn't portray Jon's writing as "insufferable" at all. In fact, he's a very talented writer. This Dear Jon letter is meant to reflect the animosity many winemakers in California feel towards Jon. I like Jon, personally. He's smart and funny and interesting. Of all the people in the wine biz, I'm the last to confuse a writer's persona with who he is in everyday life.

I think Jon always intended to set himself apart from Parker. Parker owns the territory of the big, traditional, California wine. Jon found a way to be a critic who doesn't follow Parker's lead (Wine Spectator has always followed Parker, in tone and style and scores). And, in doing so, he made a lot of people unhappy. My foolish satire reflects that, I hope.

Thanks for being a common tater.

Jo Diaz said...

As soon as I was told (years ago) that he was sick of me telling him about varietal statistics, about one certain variety, I knew the honeymoon was over. Now... sigh, the air has been cleared. Brilliant as usual, Hosemaster.

Joe said...

Huzzah, Ron. Good stuff. The longer I find myself in the wine business, the better your words speak to me.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, "brilliant" is thrown at my work like "great" is thrown at wines under $20 that are nowhere near great. But thank you, coming from you, I take that as a high compliment.

I don't expect to hear from Jon, after all he's moving to New York where most of the bloggers take great care to ignore me, but I couldn't let him leave without a tribute from the HoseMaster. Early on in this blog's life, it was Jon who had a piece written about me for the Chronicle, about my anti-blogger humor, that really helped launch whatever success I've had. It was kind and generous of him. And I try not to forget those kinds of thoughtfulness. Though this piece is hardly a Thank You...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, man, long time, no talk.

It's funny, I saw a nitwit on a chat room say he thought I deleted negative posts about myself from my comments section, leaving only the praise. Man, the longer I do this, Joe, the more I'm amazed at the imbeciles that try to pass as smart on chat rooms. It's part of the wine biz, too, the part too few people ever even mention for fear, I guess, of samples and invitations drying up. The wine biz, like most businesses, is full of fools. I just like to point them out.

This was a fun piece to write. Very few are, so I'm glad it seems to be popular.

Anybody! Feel free to comment here about what an idiot I am, how boring, how stupid, how I only pick the low-hanging fruit. I won't delete it. Or will I?

Marcia Macomber said...

Love this! The tone is perfect. It so reflects the jilted state (sigh). Score another one for Hosé!

Charlie Olken said...

I, for one, will not regret the loss of a critic whose bias was so palpably obvious and whose collected works were so brilliantly captured in your piece--whether you believe it or not.

A critic's place is not to be loved. We are not cheerleaders, after all, but most of us understand that we are also not so singularly gifted that we can insult, belittle, speak ill not only of the wines that we do not like personally but also of the very people who like those wines.

His comment, "Kosta Browne Pinots are for novices" is but one good example of why we are well rid of such a negative, self-serving voice.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
Thanks. Tone is something I think about quite a bit. It can make or break a piece of writing easier than almost anything else. In fact, the piece is more about tone than anything else--not that many "jokes," just all about attitude.

Puff Daddy,
Haven't seen you around these parts for a few posts. Thought you'd forsaken the old HoseMaster. Glad to see you back at your regular common tater spot.

A satirist's place is not to be loved either, which I'm good at. Not the satire, the not being loved.

I won't defend Jon, or his critical positions about wine. You're a more reasoned voice, with decades of experience in wine criticism behind you. I think it's fair to say Jon has an agenda when it comes to wine, but this is the age of agendas in just about every medium. It's hard to be a successful critic these days without a narrow agenda, witness FOXNews or Bill Maher. Did I agree with Jon? No, not most of the time. But all I care about is how easy it is to spoof someone, and he made it easy.

I will miss him, in some ways. Writing for PUNCH can only help his paramour Talia, it can't help him. I never even look at PUNCH, it's way too dull for my taste, so I'll miss his writing voice. DECANTER is far too humorless and pedantic for my taste, too, so I won't read him there. I know what you mean, though, Charlie. There's a point where an agenda is too limiting, too un-inclusive, especially when it comes to a subject like wine that is about diversity and style. Jon was probably guilty of that. said...

Hilarious. Good thing I wasn't drinking wine at the time (natural or Parkerized) because it would have shot out my nose.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I seem to cause a lot of liquid to fly from various bodily orifices, you were lucky to escape. Thanks for chiming in!

Unknown said...

You love French people,don't you?

Unknown said...

Love all the adjectives attached to the word
You are very smart!

Unknown said...

Love all the adjectives attached to the word
You are very smart!

Karl Kelsey said...

Ron - I advise you to stay far away from Pierre LeTongue. He can taste, talk, laugh and spray all at once. He is more known for tasting French wines but he does live in California and has vast experience losing fluids - particularly recently on Bill Maher.

John M. Kelly said...

I'm getting quite a chuckle out of the image of you picking at your low-hanging fruit.

Even bigger than the chuckle I got at Jon's exit piece decrying the degeneration of the SF wine scene, eerily (or conveniently) coincident with him absconding to New York.

Insufferable puffery. Or something...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

He sounds like the Le Petomaine of wine. Thanks for the heads up. I'll make sure not to be funny when Pierre LaTongue is around. Which is easy for me.

Wow, even you're here. Good to see you again, my friend.

Jon seemed intent on burning some bridges, so I guess the Golden Gate was the logical choice. Even if his piece about how SF's wine service is in decline was sincere, the timing was ridiculously poor. So, yeah, it ends up being self-serving. No doubt the quality of California wines will revert to Parkerized wines now that he's leaving, too. Though look for those New York wines to be fantastic in a few years, after he fixes them!

I love the lonely sausages on wine chat rooms. They make me laugh. And scratch my low-hanging fruit. Fucking gravity.

John M. Kelly said...

Ron - I'm coming back, baby. Been scratching at my own low-hanging fruit for long enough.

Jon may be gone, but we still got Raj. Maybe Bonné went to NYC in pursuit of balance between the two Coasts.

Bob Henry said...

"Everyone's worried about arsenic in wine, what about arsenic in wine writing?"

I believe you mean arsenic in wHine writing?

And since you're too modest to be self-aggrandizing, let The Missing Link proffer the following (which coincidentally I found in my hoary archive three weekends ago):

"As Wine Blogs Mature, What's the Impact?"

Thomas said...

Many years ago, John Simon (theater critic in NY) blasted Liza Minelli not for her Broadway performance, which was good, but for her nose, which is on the Vincente Minelli side of the family.

That was the day I realized that I was no fan of aesthetic criticism.

I don't understand why the public has to revere the subjective desires of someone just because he or she has a column.

In any case, New York is a great place for critics: there's one in every citizen...

Thomas said...

I may have misspelled Minnelli, but not on purpose, just through sloth.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I don't know why anyone reads my blog, so I agree with you. However, as a lover of literature, there are book reviewers I pay attention to, not only for their recommendations, but for their talent, their ability to write. How that translates to wine, I don't know.

But with Jon's departure, the wine columnist for a major newspaper job is down to just a precious few. Which probably proves your point, as unlikely as that seems.

gabriel jagle said...

First of all, I loved this piece. One of my favorite hosemasterpieces in a while (even if you are boring and stupid and only pick low-hanging fruit).

I think the interesting thing about JB is the change in wine consumption that he represents. I am hard pressed to think of a better "anti-Parker". It's less about natural wines, and more about the lean wines from obscure regions that hip, young, industry insiders like to drink. I can only imagine how his writing will change once he is free from California to write about Jura and Pet-Nat.

Personally, I was initially a fan of the pendulum swing away from the "bigger is better" philosophy. But, like most cultural changes, the pendulum eventually swung too far in the other direction, and now people believe their own bullshit.

I've always thought that every wine has it's place, and simply can't understand why everyone has to choose sides. It's like arguing whether Thai food is better than Italian. Anyone who can't appreciate both is only demonstrating their limited palate. But I guess that would make for a boring story.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, and I'm glad you liked the piece. It's been very popular--more hits than anything else I've written in a while. Don't know why. Of course, I hate just about every piece I write, but I still hit Publish once or twice a week.

You're right about everyone starting to believe their own bullshit--but that's what makes writing satire so much fun. Jon was good for the wine business in California. Ruffling feathers is a critic's job a lot of the time. It may be how he ruffled those feathers, mixed with his less than ebullient personality, that made people unhappy. So what?

It is best to try to appreciate every wine on its own terms. That takes some time to understand when you first become fascinated with wine. Winemakers change style, consumers constantly change preferences, it's all part of the circus. I love the whole three rings of it.

Thanks, as ever, for being such a thoughtful and candid common tater.

Paul Wagner said...

I love the way this satirizes both Jon Bonne and the California wine business at the same time. It's almost as if you created a breast-enhanced bombshell with an austere and cynical personality.

Think Dolly Deneuve

Ron Washam, HMW said...


In a way, it was a kind of poignant piece to write. All relationships end, and hindsight often makes you see your own culpability and weaknesses more clearly. And then there's the anger. It works on a comic level, especially when it's about wine, and not a real human. I mean Jon.