Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Post of 2015--You're Welcome

There’s so much I want to say after another year slogging through HoseMaster of Wine™. The holidays are not only a time to celebrate, they’re also a time to reflect. If a psychic had told me last January what my 2015 would hold, I wouldn’t have believed her. If I had believed her, I might have put down my poison pen for the year.

I certainly managed to offend an unusually large number of people this past year. I know it seems hard to believe, but offending people isn’t my actual goal. In fact, I don’t even have an actual goal, not when it comes to this blog anyway. Well, maybe to meet hot chicks, but that hasn’t really played out like I’d hoped. It turns out that satire offends people. It certainly seemed to offend Georg Riedel. He had the grandest over-reaction of the year when he had his lawyers threaten to sue me for libel. But he wasn’t the only one who took offense at my shenanigans. The folks at Le Pan were a bit peeved, as were many sommeliers, Master and otherwise. More than a few wine bloggers had harsh words for me, in public or in private. And the truth is, I never insulted the people in the biz I’d really like to insult. There are many I studiously avoid lampooning simply because I don’t want to mention their names, for reasons of my own. I will one day, I’ll get to them, but I need the right vehicle, the right moment. I thought I went pretty easy on folks this past year. Yet I still managed to piss off more people than usual. It’s a gift.

In their own mind and heart, no one thinks they deserve to be satirized. Especially those who believe everything they do is a craft—which they believe simply because if they do it, it must be a craft. More than once, I’ve had emails from wine people asking me to lampoon them. There seems to be some sort of badge of honor associated with being the butt of a HoseMaster column—though a butt is just a butt, and rarely honorable. And there have been several occasions when I’ve skewered someone who asked me to, and nearly every time that particular person took great offense at what I wrote and stopped being a fan. We rarely see what’s genuinely funny or hypocritical or foolish about ourselves, even after it’s been pointed out to us. Satire aims to shine a light into all of our dark places (making us the butt, I guess), to spotlight inadequacies and frailties, faults and hypocrisies, using laughter as a weapon. And there is no more powerful weapon. Laughter is the Force. May the Force be with you, because when it’s against you, it can be painful. Combine laughter with truth, and amazing things happen.

And terrible things. This has been a banner year for massacres—an abundant vintage. But it began with Charlie Hebdo. All year when tiny wine people harangued me, I thought about those poor dorks (and satirists are universally dorks, myself included) being murdered. You see, I don’t mind the least bit being insulted on chat rooms or on blogs or even to my face. That comes with the territory. I have it coming. But bullying, or threatening, that’s a much different story. It doesn’t take courage to write what I write here. Not at all. Don’t kid yourself. Comedians are not brave people, even if they speak hard truths. We’re cowards for the most part, we’re afraid of physical confrontation. And we certainly don’t welcome intimidation or threats. But I welcome critics, and I don’t mind that people hate me. I care who the people are who hate me. I’m happy to say that I’m damned proud of my list of people who don’t like what I do here. A more distinguished list of idiots would be hard to compile.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t want to quit. Yes, I know, I threaten to quit all the fucking time. But I mean it every single time, too. Yet it seems like every time I decide, for the last time, to stop publishing HoseMaster of Wine™, something happens to make me go on. So you have only yourselves to blame for this travesty of wine blogging. This year it was many things.

I won’t ever forget the response to Georg Riedel threatening me with a libel suit. The support of the wine writing community, as well as the wine community in general, was amazing, and personally overwhelming. After all of that, I simply couldn’t walk away from the blog. It would have seemed like a victory for Riedel, and I couldn’t let that happen, not after all the kindness and generosity and support that was thrown my way. I’m not used to feeling affection for the wine business. But those weeks, when wine people far more influential and important than I stood behind me, changed my life. I know that, for the most part, they were simply standing up for a cause, and not really for the HoseMaster. It wasn’t really about me. It was about freedom of expression, and standing up to bullies. I knew that almost from the start. Yet the support, its vehemence and rectitude, filled me with pride and purpose. Thank you.

During the course of the past year, I received a lot of kind letters. Many of them, especially those from people in the trade, expressed the same sentiment. That what I write here on HoseMaster of Wine™ expresses thoughts and truths about the wine business that the letter writer wishes he/she was able to express, but doesn’t, for fear of losing a job, or being somehow blackballed. I like to think that I’m expressing truths in a comic manner, but, honestly, it’s hard to know. When peers tell me I have it right, it makes me happy. Thank you.

I also received a handful of personal letters after my piece about “Wine, Memories and Massacres.” People shared their own stories of tragedy, and of how wine has helped them through life, and of how they endured. I don’t usually get that kind of mail, as you might have surmised. Life turns out to be very much about loss, and about how gracefully and honestly we endure it. I endure through laughter, and by attempting to make others laugh. When I inadvertently touch them as well, I’m astonished. I’ve known from a very young age that words have power, that language matters, and that abusing language with sloppiness or ignorance or prejudice is a horrible wrong. My answer for all of those circumstances is satire, is laughter, is lampooning. That I offend the people I aim at never bothers me in the slightest.

I was also invited to speak at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium in February. If this doesn’t ruin its credibility, I don’t know what could. I’ll be sharing the spotlight with people far more talented than I am, many of whom don’t like me. So that should be fun. But Jim Gordon’s willingness to include a satirist in the mix is heartening. And that has kept me writing to an extent, too. Satire should always be present at the table. Maybe not as an honored guest, but, at the very least, as the drunk uncle. If anyone who writes about wine hears the HoseMaster’s footsteps as he writes pretentiously about wine, then my work here is worthwhile. I’m not vain enough to think that ever happens, but I can hope so.

Yes, 2015 was an interesting vintage for the HoseMaster. I’m not at all important, as wine writers go, I never appear on lists of Influential Wine Bloggers (inevitably published by industry nobodies), nor do I have much ambition to be. I just love to write, and wine is my muse. For every single individual who reads my work, I’m very grateful. I know that my work is hit and miss, with miss ahead by a wide margin. I know that it’s foulmouthed and scatalogical and crude. Nothing about its tone or approach is accidental. The HoseMaster, and Lo Hai Qu, are fictional extensions of me, voices in my head that scream to be heard. I don’t need an audience, not really, but there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not astonished by having one, and by your love and kindness.

May your 2016 be filled with a lot more Peace, and a lot more laughter.

Happy Holidays!
From Your Friends, 
The HoseMaster, Lo Hai Qu, Larry Anosmia, Avril Cadavril, Loqueesha, Shizzangela, Splooge Estate, the makers of Boner in a Can®, the members of the Go Fuck Yourself Club™, and, of course, me.


Jim Caudill said...

And May The Farce Be With You in 2016 as well, my friend, I'll definitely be reading....

Bob Henry said...

"... I never really insulted the people in the biz I’d really like to insult. There are many I studiously avoid lampooning simply because I don’t want to mention their names, for reasons of my own. I will ONE DAY, I’ll get to them, but I need the right vehicle, the right MOMENT. ..."

Albert Einstein quipped that "Creativity is the residue of time wasted."

You have plenty of time between now and April Fools' Day . . .

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Gotta say, 2015 was far away one of my least favorite years, for many reasons and none of which matter or pertain to this year end post of yours. One thing I can say, in those times when I felt the weight of several worlds on my chest, coming here to read your posts and hear The HoseMaster's voice, well Love it made things just a little bit easier. Thank you for all you do Ron. Not for me to speculate on what others take away from their time spent here, just wanted you to know how very much you and the, at times, exhausting effort of yours to make us laugh means to me. You have, and continue to, make a massive difference in my life and for that given gift, this stupid blogger has no words....other than thank you and I do love you so.

Rocky Volcanics said...

Bless you, Hosey. You often express what I am thinking, and with a creativity I could never achieve. Happy holidays to you and your cru. And thanks for the subscription. Never have I paid so little for so much.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi Gang,
Even I think these sorts of posts sound like I'm begging for compliments, but I'm not. I'm trying to acknowledge all that I've received from writing this crap, all the support and kindness.

My Gorgeous Samantha, what we have is extraordinary and would never have happened without our blogs. I can never live up to all the pleasure and joy you've given me, all the love and kindness. I know 2015 was a very tough year for you. If my words lessened your burdens, I'm damned proud.

I hope everyone who bothers to read these comments, bothers to read the piece, has a warm and light-filled holiday season. Who knows what next year will bring. I hope that we'll all be here at the same time next year, healthy and happy, having endured another year in this crazy world, a little wiser and a little kinder. Yeah, I know, I have to work on that "kinder" thing.

william gibson said...

I am new to Hose Master but I just want to say I very much enjoy your writing and you make the 'wine scene' much more enjoyable.

Nick Harman said...

As Clive James said, ' a sense of humour is common sense dancing'.

Neil Shea said...

Ron, quite a read. Have at'er old cock. Ya done good!

Les Edgerton said...

Hey Hose, I've been reading your blog for a couple of years after a friend of mine, Tom Rough of Scottsdale, AZ called me and told me "you gotta read this guy." I know nothing about wine and except for a period where I lived with a call girl in New Orleans who drank Chablis daily and wanted me to keep up, haven't drunk much, but I am a writer and I know and appreciate good writing, especially humor, which is the hardest stuff of all to write. And, you've got some serious writing chops. I've even pointed my agent to your column to see if she thought there was a book there (I do), but haven't heard back from her yet. As a guy who has written novels with titles like "The Bitch" and "The Rapist" I know two things--you probably shouldn't provide a dedication for books with those titles and when you come across a fellow writer who is decidedly anti-political correctness, promote his or her work wherever you can. And so I sing your praises everywhere I go. I don't care what you write about, I'll read it. You're one of the good guys who do more for freedom of speech than any ten politicians I can think of. Thank you for what you do, man. Blue skies, Les Edgerton

Dwight Albers said...

I only wish I had a drunk uncle as entertaining as'd be welcome at my family gathering anytime!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks for joining the Common Taters. And for your kind words. I do try to make the wine scene a bit more entertaining. God, it can be so dreadfully dull.

Old Clive did have a way with words. Though when it comes to dancing, I have two left testicles.

Thanks, my friend. Even an old cock needs a pat on the head now and then.

Thank you! Your support is much appreciated. Humor may be the hardest thing to write, I don't really know. But it is hard. That our forefathers wrote Freedom of Speech into the Bill of Rights almost makes up for the Second Amendment. I think they probably go hand in hand. Really, the only defense against free speech is a loaded weapon--and vice-versa.

Anyhow, thanks Les. I'll have to pick up one of your books and return the favor one day.

My nephews would argue your point, but thanks.

And Merry Christmas to everyone!

Goddess of Wine said...

Dear Ron - Don't stop. Please. Hope your holidays are filled with laughter and great wine. You're welcome at my table any time.

Unknown said...

Dear Ron,
Came onto your blog only in the last year; like an excellent series in literature (or wine verticals, of excellent non-score producing quality) - F*#k the 90+pt mentality ) I"m sad I wasn't aware from the beginning. It's now de rigueur for forwarding to peers in the somm world, especially those in (my) class of '07 receiving advanced cert's. from Court of Master Sommeliers. We took ourselves too seriously, wondered why the industry didn't, and so - your regular & consistent skewering of those we licked the boots of have provided a breathe of fresh (and appropriately deflating) air.The Riedel post was my first read, I've been hooked ever since. Live long and prosper, my friend,


Aaron said...

Thanks for all the hard work of actually getting posts done on time, and posting them! Entertaining and amusing :)

And I'd bet you're a great drunk uncle. Or at least, the drunk uncle that brings some reasonably decent beverages to share around, which makes up for everything else :)

Charlie Olken said...

In the immortal words of The Donald, who is my new hero because he is second only to you, my old hero, in keeping me amused, I would like to lift a bottle of my favorite bubbly and thank you for "shlonging" them all year.

It's too bad you don't write about politics also because the opportunities are endless--although I suspect you would get bored quickly--the targets being just too easy.

Ziggy said...

I'll be hoisting a flute of Andre on New Year's Eve looking forward to another year of HoseMaster of Wine.


Ziggy MS, CSS, CSW, CWE, CBP, CWP, WSET Level 3, BS(Expert Level)

WineKnurd said...

You will figure it all out someday man, until then keep on sharing. Or Sharon, if she consents. Or Charon, if you don't mind the ride..

Happy Holidays Ron!


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Goddess of Wine,
Thank you. I hope to make it through another year of this, but I'll have to find ways to entertain myself, as well as you. That's always harder than it sounds.

Well, welcome to my world. And I hope you'll become a regular common tater. Too many sommeliers take themselves too seriously. It's an occupational hazard. Which makes them a fun target for a recovering sommelier like me. Glad you're enjoying my foolishness.

I know that publishing on a regular schedule builds an audience, and I've managed to do that, though at a glacial pace. And with climate change, glacial pace is faster than it used to be. So that helps.

What am I talking about? I don't know, but thanks!

Humor is humor, political, or otherwise. All about human foible. There are lots of people writing political satire. I like my little wine niche. Hardly any of us. And, really, Trump is just a kind of political Gary Vaynerchuk--blowhards make the news, then take the money and run. People love bluster. And easy targets. The Donald, the Chuk? Satirical windfalls.

I'm assuming you mean Andre sparkling wine, and not some guy from the trailer park. Though I shouldn't assume that.

Happy New Year!

I won't ever figure it out. I don't even know what "it" is. But sharing is what I do. Maybe too much. But thanks for showing up now and then, WineKnurd. Make it more often in 2016, help me figure "it" out.

Happy Holidays!

Unknown said...

Thanks Ron - am enjoying being a common tater, and would add that generous dollops of goose (or duck) fat slicks it down quite nicely. especially with the appropriate Chablis / Gruner / Riesling...whatever. Love ya,

gabriel jagle said...

Thanks for all the great writing this year, Ron. My personal favorite was the Napa Valley WIne Train piece. You definitely kept me entertained throughout the year, and I hope you enjoy your holiday break

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thank you for being such an entertaining and thoughtful common tater. Your voice here contributes a great deal, and I appreciate it.

The Napa Valley Wine Train piece, told by Lo Hai Qu, was one of the posts that mightily offended a particular wine blogger. Oh well. There are times I'm proud of who I've offended. And times I'm not. It's walking that tightrope that keeps me writing.

Happy Holidays, Gabe!

gabriel jagle said...

I won't ask which blogger you offended, but if you do write a book, it should be a behind the scenes tell-all of the wine industry. It might be the best selling wine book of all time.

Edgar Znutins said...

Thank you Ron
You are a drop of fresh water in an ocean of deception

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I do a lot of telling-all here, but I'm far from any sort of wine business insider. And I'm sure lots of folks could tell some pretty interesting stories about me. And, beyond that, insider books about celebrities and politicians might sell, but, to the real world, famous people in the wine business are an oxymoron. Most folks--the great majority of people on the planet--don't give a crap about what we in the biz say or do. Which is why a blog like mine is self-limiting, and has a very small audience. Spend your life recommending "great" wines under $15, and you'll have an audience. Though it is not an audience I want.

You're not the first to call me a drip.

Thank you. That's a thoughtful and kind thing to say.

Merry Christmas!

Dave Williams said...

Late to the party as usual and with regrets for not chiming in more with the c-taters. Just want you to know how much your gift to all of us throughout the past year(s) has made getting through the rough times bearable, and the good times more fun than is probably legal in many states.

I will raise a glass to you sir as we enter the coming year wishing you love, good health, happiness, and that continued unique spark that drives you, in whatever directions you so choose.

It's been a helluva great ride so far, as I tell my soon to be 94 year old Italian father-in-law when we raise a glass together.

Cent' Anni e milione baci.

Cheers, Dave

Daniel said...

Happy Holidays Ron and all the taters!
HMW, you make me want to start writing a blog so I can finally be insulted in print, instead of in person.
And thanks for being the prick that pops the bloviated balloons of the pompous parts of the wine business.(I just had to put it into terms you would appreciate!) You say the things here that we all say in our private conversations.

A toast to you, with whatever I find in the fridge, for a happy New Year.

Martin said...

Every cloud has a silver lining and the Riedel crap gave the wine world a chance to show how much they cared if you didn't know it. Hope you're as funny in 2016 and take no prisoners. You set an Olympic standard high bar but they'll be no blood or urine tests so do whatever it takes to get over it. Like so many, I'm a total fan boy,
Martin Moran

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thank you. And a healthy, happy, love-filled 2016 to you as well. I have no idea what that "unique spark" that drive me is, but so long as it continues to burn, I'll be here. Who knows what follies the wine biz will bring next year, but you can be sure that it will be often and plentiful.

Happy New Year!

Thanks, Daniel. I often hear that from people in the trade, that I say the stuff they say privately among themselves. I wonder why more folks don't say it out loud. Skepticism, satire, laughter, cynicism, and most of all, truth, are good for any business. I simply try to make it funny.

Don't start a blog, my friend. Just don't. The world needs it like it needs another "craft" beer.

Thanks for the very kind words. I can't guarantee I'll be funny at all in 2016. But I will try to have fun, and I will try to burst as many bubbles as I can, and I'll try to pass every urine test even though it's no fun to taste it blind.

All the Best to You in 2016!

Gary & Alison Dyer said...

Satire is good. Do not stop.