Monday, April 27, 2015

Corky Taint, Terrorist Sommelier

It wasn’t the first time Corky Taint had run away from home. But he’d always returned before. Gotten scared, or corraled by a cop, or hungry. Except for a few months ago, when Corky suddenly vanished one night, leaving no clues behind for his desperate family. Months later his family learned the horrible truth. Corky had been recruited online. Hours and hours spent on a website chatting with older males pretending to be his friends, and he had decided to leave everything he knew behind, his friends, his family, his dignity, to join a radical group of misanthropes whose sole aim is to intimidate and brutalize everyone who doesn't agree with them, who doesn't follow their path. Corky had left home to join a highly secretive and dangerous group of people, a group that has systematically and successfully recruited large numbers of young people from across every economic background to terrorize modern society, to intimidate ordinary citizens, people like you and me, in such a way that we are frightened to do something as basic and simple as go out to dinner. Corky had left home to become a sommelier.

Corky’s story is not the least bit unusual now. All over the United States, young men and women are joining this terrorist organization. Where once the United States was home to but a few dozen sommeliers, experts now believe there are tens of thousands. “Sommeliers are proliferating like cockroaches,” says the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Chief Noah Clue, “cockroaches that can spit.” Many, if not most, of the new members are recruited online, at seemingly harmless websites and chat rooms that turn out to be radicalizing young men, and the occasional woman, into believing that they know everything about wine, and that those who don’t agree with them, or aren’t as knowledgeable, are beneath contempt, and deserve overcharging. Once recruited, these young people are subjected to further brainwashing, as well as tests of endurance and training in the fine arts of oenological torture. Let loose on an unsuspecting world, these radicalized fundamentalists of wine spread chaos and misunderstanding, intimidate hundreds of people every week, extort large sums of money to fill their organization’s coffers, and just generally degrade society. And yet there are many who say there’s little proof this is happening, that there aren’t really more sommeliers than there used to be—these are the microclimate change deniers. Time has proven them wrong. One can no longer lift a seat without seeing a sommelier floating in the bowl.

FBI forensic computer specialists were able to track Corky’s online whereabouts before he disappeared. Without his parents’ knowledge, Corky was haunting a particularly subversive website, a website known for its subtle but persuasive propaganda and dick-wagging. The site is WineBozerkers, a male-dominated forum where women are allowed only if they swear to God they’re wearing a veil. Corky’s first post, dated September 11, 2012, was commented on by most of the iMams (so called because they love Apple and mammary glands), who profusely welcomed Corky to their online world. This is how it usually starts, according to Noah Clue. “Women who comment are usually universally ignored, or asked if they like blush wines, or Randall Grahm. This is a way of making them feel isolated and unwelcome. Young men are embraced, and made to feel that their comments, though often as naive and as uninformed as their female counterparts’, are intelligent. Acceptance into this secretive world makes the young men feel important. It doesn’t take long before an insecure guy like Corky, and this is a terrorist group that personifies insecurity, feels like part of the group; and soon he begins to preach and believe the basic tenets of the iMams. He’s fucked. And not long after that, he tells everyone he’s a 'sommelier.' The two things together make perfect sense.”

Criticism of the iMams of WineBozerkers is forbidden. In the guise of “civility,” members are slowly brainwashed into conforming. From there, it’s a short road to believing you’re always right, incredibly insightful, and one of wine’s chosen people. Most leave it at that and waste their lives on the chat room. But many young men, believing their own press, convinced of a superior palate, feeling invincible and drawn to the mysterious mystique that surrounds sommeliers, take the next step. They move to a different Internet site, lured by the promise of fame and money and a hundred virgins in the afterlife, most of them wine bloggers (almost all of whom, judging from their About photos, are clearly virgins). Corky took that next step. He moved over to the website of the Court of Master Sommeliers. It is every parent’s nightmare.

Each year, hundreds of young people register on the site to try to join the Court. Simultaneously enriching the Court and providing it with young, disposable meat, these young people give up their free time pursuing what for most of them is a completely unreachable goal—becoming a Master Sommelier. In reality, they fall under the spell of a handful of that terrorist organization’s most famous and powerful members, including the ironically named Fred Dame. “If he were a dame,” says Clue, “he’d never have made it past the first test.” The FBI has a list of Master Sommeliers it watches. I wasn’t allowed to view the list, but one assumes it also includes men like Geoff Kruth, thought to be at large as a Jay McInerney impersonator, but without the humility, and Larry Stone, one of the men most responsible for Master Sommelier plots to terrorize the public. “We sent a drone to watch Stone,” an FBI man who wished to remain anonymous for fear of having Stone send him some of his crappy Oregon wine in retaliation, “but it couldn’t find the little bugger. Or, we think maybe the drone felt a kinship to him as another little machine and purposely threw us off the track.”

Master Sommeliers believe their time has come. Their websites are filled with delusional proclamations telling their members to be prepared, that they are the new arbiters of wine, that the old men who have been running wine for years now are impotent and disgraced. Their diatribes tell their followers to take every opportunity to declare “Death to Parker!,” “Death to Shanken!,” “Death to Asimov!” They urge followers to be prepared for war, be prepared for doubters, but to rest assured that sommeliers will conquer, sommeliers will rule, sommeliers will dictate, all at 300% higher than cost. And the Court just doesn't care how many young lives are ruined along the way. The ruthless leaders of Master Sommeliers seem to truly believe their tastes are the future, that they, and they alone, will determine what the public will buy. This is always the way of nearsighted and misanthropic zealots.

Corky Taint, some time in the year 2014 (everything about the Court of Master Sommeliers is shrouded in secrecy, except how often they mention they’re Master Sommeliers, which is more often than Elton John mentions he’s gay, only louder) passed Level One of the Sommelier exam. They all do. The Court makes sure even the dumbest among them pass. Corky was hooked. From a young man with a passion for wine, with a great future and a supportive family, Corky’s online path had led him to the shady underworld of the sommelier. No one knows where he will surface. But when he does, when yet another sommelier infiltrates our society, slips through our complacency and our underfunded security measures to keep them away from vulnerable civilians, who knows how many people Corky will make suffer. And then expect a tip.


clay h. said...

Oh man have I been waiting for this! Time to pop a good fer servadou? I've grown weary of Pinot d'aunis.....

Claire Gabaldon said...

Wow, that was kinda dark but I'm still laughing. Perhaps Corky's parents could put his photo on the side of a wine bottle like they used to do with milk cartons back in the day.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Sorry to have kept you waiting, but no Madiran, the wait is over.

I was thinking about all the teenagers who were being recruited by ISIS and Al Qaeda online, and somehow that translated in my twisted mind into recruiting young minds into being wine snobs, and then dangerous sommeliers. Darkness seemed appropriate, and as long time HoseMasterminds know, I use my blog to practice writing satire in various styles just to keep myself interested.

And it's fun to see where my Voice takes me week after week. It's often lousy, often misguided, but usually weird and occasionally interesting.

Thanks for being my new favorite common tater.

Claire Gabaldon said...

Hooray - I'm your favorite! I'll enjoy basking in this glory until some upstart usurps me. I appreciate you mixing it up. My writing is rather limited in scope but perhaps I could get away with my next wine club newsletter introduction being in the style of Winston Churchill.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Your wine club newsletters and HoseMaster of Wine™ have one thing in common--nobody actually reads them. And rather than Winston Churchill, why not in the manner of Thomas Paine? You can quote him on foot-trod grapes, "These are the wines that try men's soles."

Or not.

Thomas said...

Ron, this is the quote:

These are the wines that dry men's sole

Claire Gabaldon said...

Not likely. If it wasn't for Thomas Paine, I might have an electric kettle and a selection of fine teas in my office break room instead of a lousy coffee maker. If I were to pick an historical Thomas it would be Cromwell. He probably said many clever things about wine but no one saw fit to write them down at the time. I'd totally follow him on Twitter if he was alive today.

Thomas said...

"He probably said many clever things about wine but no one saw fit to write them down at the time."

The story of my life...

Bob Henry said...


"The story of my life..."

Don't be so hard on yourself.

Let Hoser do that for you.

With gender identity featured prominently in the news this week (e.g., Bruce Jenner TV interview), seems the leaders of this insidious testosterone-fueled sommelier movement self-disclose as iMan.

(No iWoman allowed.)

David Pears said...

(there was a spelling mistake in the first comment)


It is good that you - as a ex-radical terrorist - aknowledge this movement's violence and regime.

I wonder how the exit program will be like: Five years of Two-buck Chuck? Eight years of cheap, sweet, undrinkable ripasso? Two weeks of HoseMaster of Wine blog pieces with comments read aloud by MaryAnn Worobiec on tape?

How will we deal with this potentially dreadful terrorist organization?


Judd Smith said...

Seriously, had me rolling laughing. Great read!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Which is why you need to write them down yourself. Ain't no Boswell in your future.

Many of them could more accurately be described as iPhoney. Chat rooms are a great place to pretend you're someone you're not, and wine chat rooms a good place to pretend you're an authority when the actual authorities are nowhere about.

I've long fought the notion that an encyclopedic knowledge of wine is something to admire. It's not. In the grand scheme of things, being a sommelier isn't in the top 200 of occupations to admire. And I can voice these opinions with some confidence, having wasted my life at said occupation.

Now I'm wasting my life at this.

Thanks. Much appreciated.

Bob Henry said...


Expounding on your thinking about what "rehabilitation" should comprise:

~~ Restricted to "house (wine) arrest" Two Buck Chuck.

~~ Wearing not a location-monitoring device around one's ankle -- but a TasteVin. (Only purpose the stoopid thing is good for.)

~~ Random drug test monitoring for WineAway consumption.

~~ Force feed viewing of James ("I'm 100 points on that!") Suckling wine scoring videos.

(Recall this scene from "A Clockwork Orange":'71.jpg)


David Pears said...


Great ideas - especially the ankle Coravin.

Every time you recommend an overpriced wine, you simply a glass of blood retrieved from your system and the same amount of argon shot into you. So if your ego is bloated, soon your legs will be too!

Charlie Olken said...

I once knew a good sommelier. He also became a blogger. Oh, but that is a story for another time.

I would be happy to meet the somm who only marks up his wines three times wholesale (which is little more than twice retail).

I am a great fan of wine knowledge. But I am also a fan of wine humility because even great somms like Larry Anosmia don't know everything.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You'll be interested to know that when I was a sommelier, the restaurant where I worked had a very fair markup. It was twice the cost of the wine plus $10. So a $75 retail cab was $110 on my wine list. This wasn't always true. For the truly rare wines I had in the cellar, the Marcassins and Harlans and Sine Qua Nonananahs and Petrusessessess, we came up with a price that reflected their scarcity and value. But those were but a couple of dozen of the 500 or 600 wines on my list. Alas, the prices there are no longer that fair.

I don't envy somms these days, truthfully (not that I ever did). Clowns like me constantly sniping at them doesn't help. Sommeliers have almost nothing to do with pricing in most restaurants, and blaming them for the prices is like blaming tasting room employees for wine prices there. They might make the selections, but they don't set the prices. You should aim your scorn at the owners of the restaurant, if you don't already.

I had no idea where this piece was going when I began. I ended up insulting the bozos at Wineberserkers (not all the common taters there are bozos, I might add, just a lot of the more vocal ones), and then wandered into MS land, ending up with jabs at sommeliers. I don't think most people like this sort of dark satire. That suits me just fine. Often, the tone of a piece reflects my feelings about HoseMaster of Wine™, and I haven't been feeling great about it lately. So I try to make everyone else hate it too.

Yeah, I know, I'm weird.

Marcia Macomber said...

A HoseMaster Classic! Dark but hysterical. It's the simply things, like "Noah Clue," that just crack me up.

gabriel jagle said...

I have a six-month old son, and we've recently started giving him wine bungs to play with. I told my wife I would love him if he's gay, addicted to drugs, or a republican. But if he gets into the wine industry, he's dead to me.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
Ah, yes, the simple things. Kind of my specialty. Thanks, Love.

So you're giving him wine bungs to play with, but you don't want him to be part of the wine industry. Sound strategy. Maybe feed him milk from a thief, too.

gabriel jagle said...

C'Mon, you're talking to a guy with a fifteen gallon barrel of chardonnay in his mud-room. How can I prevent this kid from playing with my bung? But I like the wine thief idea. Maybe I'll start with a pipette and work my way up...