Monday, May 23, 2016
Jackson Family Wineries Buys HoseMaster of Wine™
Following on the success of its purchase of Steve Heimoff, Jackson Family Wines announced today that it has agreed to buy HoseMaster of Wine™. Jackson Family Wines owner Barbara Banke had this to say about the sale:
“I just like to buy people. It’s one thing to buy a guy’s label and then make a mockery of him. That’s a hoot. I laugh every time I run into Robert Pepi, or those Murphys and Goodes. I unload amazing amounts of plonk thanks to their fine names. But it’s even more entertaining to buy writers. Steve was my first purchase, and, you know, my boots have never been licked cleaner in print. Gus taught him something, at least. But Steve is one of those nice writers. When he was at Wine Enthusiast, he always gave my wines high scores. I felt like he wanted to be bought. The HoseMaster of Wine™ is a butthole, and I thought it would be wise to just buy him and make him say nice things about our wines. I tried to buy advertising for his site, but he doesn’t take advertising. What the hell kind of wine publication doesn’t take advertising as graft? Come on, that’s how the wine business has always worked. That just makes my job harder. I finally figured out to buy writers like him. HoseMaster of Wine™ is our second purchase, but it won’t be the last.”
Many in the wine trade have bemoaned the consolidation of small wine writers under corporate umbrellas, but others note that it’s a natural progression from free junkets, lavish dinners and boundless free wine samples. “Why shouldn’t successful wine bloggers sell the only thing they have of value, their reputation, to the highest bidder?” asks industry expert Peter Payola. “I think the HoseMaster of Wine™ deserves every penny he received, and I’m sure, just like Steve Heimoff, he’ll continue to insist he retains his objectivity and integrity, though both are clearly on loan from Ms. Banke. It’s the beauty of the internet age, really. Readers only insist on the surface appearances being believable. Truth is for suckers. Politicians have known this for centuries.”
Banke is pioneering a new kind of wine journalism. There have always been wine publications that hire competent wine writers to write stories on behalf of wineries who want some publicity and great reviews. These “Pay for Play” publications are often the major source of income for wine writers who would otherwise be waiting tables and printing business cards on their home computer that say “Sommelier.” Issues of magazines like The SOMM Journal are packed with articles that are transparently advertorials, written by wine writers (in the loosest definition of the words) who are not so much interested in a byline as they are in a buyline. It was Banke’s inspiration to cut out the middleman, and rather than pay the magazine, just buy the damned writer.
“Look,” Banke said, “those magazines are essentially vanity press. I mean, who reads that crap? Every article is 500 words in search of a toilet. They have the depth of a back label, but without the insight. You’d think those wine writers would have some pride. Yeah, I know, that’s stupid. I wanted some vanity press of my own, but I can afford better writers! I’m lovin’ it, and it’s good for business. That HoseMaster guy, he’s a clown, an opinionated know-it-all. But I can use him against those Foley wines, and the Constellation group, the fucking Gallos, and have some fun. I’d sic him on Treasury, but that’s like kicking a castrato in the nuts—adding insult to surgery.”
If Banke’s strategy is successful, it is sure to spawn imitators. Many think it’s just another of Barbara’s hobbies. Her late husband Jess Jackson was fond of horse racing and collected front runners. Barbara has made it clear, judging from recent purchases, that she also loves horse flesh, though of the sort between which the tail resides. Others think it was daring and brilliant to buy a wine writer or two and see if they can maintain their image of independence and disinterest. The move is just a logical next step in the company’s wine acquisitions.
“Jackson Family Wineries is not just known for its large collection of winemakers and wineries,” says wine industry analyst Peter Payola, “they’re also known for their fine museum quality collection of Master Sommeliers, who reside in Banke’s private estate zoo, their own career Hearse Castle, but who also travel the world performing tricks for actual working sommeliers, wine buyers, and others with mental disabilities. It’s wonderful to see how many of the MSs can fit into a little tiny car! I think Jackson Family Wineries will continue to acquire Master Sommeliers, though, frankly, they have almost no resale value.
“Buying Steve Heimoff was a stroke of genius,” Payola continued. “He’s no fool. He can continue to endlessly wax emetic about wines produced by Jackson Family Wineries, proclaim Trumpishly that he can’t be bought, that he is only doing what he does for his supporters, but Banke can rest assured he won’t crap where he sleeps. He’s got a doggy for that.”
Other wine writers have been rumored to be on the auction block. Hell, let’s face it, every wine writer is on the auction block. Astrologically speaking, wine writers are born under the same sign—For Sale. As this is written, dozens of “objective” wine journalists are on junkets paid for by large wine companies or collectives, participating in the wine business’s version of “The Amazing Race.” Log onto their blogs, read the thinly-disguised, prepaid propaganda of their amazing wine journeys and discoveries along the way, and see if you can discern, “Where’s Dildo?” Wherever the wine writers travel the wines are “overlooked,” “underrated,” and “the next big thing.” When these wine writers travel, they have to travel light—no sense packing your palate.
Objectivity and integrity in wine writing are basically the tonsils and appendix—strictly vestigial organs. Only somebody else pays to have them removed.
Who will be the next big acquisition by Banke, or one of the other major players? Buying the HoseMaster of Wine™ was a risky move. He’s been described as a “loose cannon,” especially by people sitting next to him on the bus after his breakfast burrito. But Jackson Family Wineries has a long history of savvy purchases in wineries, Master Sommeliers and winemakers. Though most would argue you need a satirist on your marketing payroll like you need a beaver on your rugby team.
The HoseMaster of Wine™ could not be reached for comment.