Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Confessions of a Sommelier Serial Killer

So it was the first guy I killed that gave me the taste for it. You know how you were a young wannabe somm once, and you’d tell your wine-ignorant friends that you hated Chardonnay, but then your mentor tasted you on a Raveneau Premier Cru Chablis and from then on you couldn’t ever get enough Chablis? My first taste of blood was like that. I mean, back then I was kinda squeamish. My palate was pretty primitive. Now, well, now I can blind taste and tell the difference between type O and type AB. O has more garrigue in the mid-palate. AB smells like Côte-Rôtie. Oh, man, I love a good saignée.

I don’t remember that first guy’s name, but I remember why I killed him.

Goddamit, I’m a Master Sommelier, one of the few women who’s achieved that goal. You’d think I’d get some respect. You’d think that pin on my lapel would convey the same authority for me as it does for a guy. If a guy has one, he wears it around on his suit and people think it’s the fucking Congressional Medal of Honor. That’s pathetic. Knowing a lot about wine isn’t particularly admirable. The people who make the wines don’t wear any pins. Wearing a Master Sommelier pin is like declaring yourself a Nobel Laureate because you know the words to every Bob Dylan song. Who the fuck cares? But I wear my pin and people think I got it on my prom date. They think I found it in a Thrift Store and thought it was cute. Have you seen the MS lapel pin? It’s ugly! It looks like Michael Jackson going to a toga party, fer Christ’s sake. I deserve the same respect as a dude who’s a Master Sommelier, don’t I? Maybe more. None of those dudes had to put up with being hit on by their mentors.

So I’m working the floor one night and this guy wants to speak to the sommelier. I go over to his table, he’s there with a bunch of other guys, and he looks at me and says, “Is the head sommelier here?” Well, to be more accurate, he looks at my tits and says, “Is the head sommelier here?” I tell him I am the head sommelier. “Oh, good”, he says, “I could use some head.” Then he runs his eyes over me like he’s judging for the 4H club and says, “I’m looking for something to go with my meat.” His buddies start to chuckle. “Looking at you,” I tell him, “I’m guessing it’s not the bone-in cut. Must the the old hanger steak.” He just smiles and orders the Silver Oak. Death was too good for him. I mean, Silver Oak? Really? Why don’t you just wear a hat that says, “When Only Mediocre Will Do.”

I made sure to get him nice and drunk. I bought him several glasses of Port as an apology. Then I ambushed him in the parking lot and cut his throat with a box cutter. Wow, I remember thinking, Raveneau Chablis all over again! I need some in my cellar. So that’s where I put him.

You always remember your first. How many since that asshat? I don’t really know. It’s like when you’re a sommelier, people always ask you how many bottles you have in your cellar. You’re never sure. A lot. That’s all you know. You can’t remember the names of all of them, but you know there are a lot. But you do have your favorites.

I love the guys who slip me their phone number when their wife goes to the bathroom. Like I’m supposed to be flattered. You want me to be flattered? Leave me a tip as big as you leave the guy somms, jackass. It does make it easy though. I call them up, arrange to meet them somewhere dark and intimate, and then I kill them. For laughs, I make them share a bottle of orange wine with me before I poison them. I find I like poison more and more. And the orange wine makes the poison undetectable. They’re virtually indistinguishable when you drink them. Hell, some of them don’t even need the poison to paralyze you from the neck down. But, in fact, a bit of anti-freeze nicely fills out the middle of a skin contact Pinot Gris. I’m told, anyway. Adds a tiny bit of stone fruit to the finish. Prestone fruit.

The misogyny in the wine business is terrible, and it’s everywhere, and no one seems to care. Yeah, I know, there’s misogyny in every damn business. But wine claims to be so civilized, so emblematic of sophistication and learning. And then, like our President, it grabs your pussy and shouts, “It’s gonna be YUGE!” And nobody says anything about it. I guess I just decided to make being a pig a little bit more dangerous. Maybe you’ll remember me the next time you meet a woman in the wine business, maybe you’ll think twice about harassing her. You’d better.

I really thought I’d quit after a couple. But I’m an overachiever. Duh. I’m a Master Sommelier. Come on. Being a woman AND a Master Sommelier? That’s the equivalent of being Jewish AND a Breitbart contributor. Killing, it turns out, comes easily to me. Though, really, I don’t have the time to kill all of the idiots I meet. There are so many! It’s like being a Peregrine falcon in New York City. Jesus, how many stinking pigeons are there in the world? Same in the wine business. Only in the wine business, nobody notices how they’re crapping on everybody.

If I somehow managed to kill every guy in the wine business who mistreats, belittles, infantilizes, insults, gropes, condescends to, mocks, patronizes, overlooks, propositions, embarrasses or underpays women, there’d be more empty suits than an executive meeting at Treasury Wine Estates. So I’ve got my work cut out for me. In more ways than one.

I don’t mean to say that killing misogynists is right. No. It’s not right. It’s fun! I’m sure I’ll get caught eventually. Just hope it’s not in the middle of my shift. Fuck, the chef I work for is a real stickler for being arrested on the floor. “Do it on your day off,” that’s what he’d say. I’d have killed him by now, but, well, he was on “Top Chef.” I love that show.


ReportMonkey said...

Raveneau Premier Cru Chablis- I used to hate Chardonnay too.

Dean Tudor said...

I pray for the return of Lo Hi Qui (or is it, I prey for the return of Lo Hi Qui?). I cannot spell these days, too much Chardonnay in my bloodstream..

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I haven't seen Lo Hai Qu around for a long time. I think she's abandoned me. But she's flaky, and she may simply reappear one day with some cockamamie story. I miss her, too, some days.

Instead, I get a serial killer. Life as a satirist. I'm sure this post will make everyone think I've lost it. Including me.

Karl Kelsey said...

Ron - I think you lost it a long time ago. Why you keep looking for it is what I wonder.

Goddess of Wine said...

Many a true word is spoken in jest. And there is a whole lotta truth in your satire. Keep slaying 'em!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You make a valid point. And, trust me, I'm very close to not looking for it anymore.

Goddess of Wine,
This macabre piece, and odd voice, was inspired by a piece I read the other day:


I'm not sure "inspired" is the right word. Anyway, the Bosker piece, combined with other sexist tales I've been told by a variety of women in the biz, stuck in my head. When I sat down to write, there was a voice in my head repeating that first line, "So it was the first guy I killed that gave me the taste for it." Grammatically, it should be "who gave me that taste for it," but "that" was more appropriate, making the misogynist an object instead of a human, and the key to the mind of the serial killer I was comically channeling.

Rare to have a woman who is an MS. And rare to have a female serial killer. I love the overachievers!

The joy of writing a blog for free is that I get to do whatever moves me. I tend to love the stranger pieces I write, and then I write something more lighthearted and simple just to stay in practice. This piece was fun to write, I love having a strange voice in my head, but probably not the sort of piece people come to HoseMaster of Wine™ to read. And so it goes.

Thanks for being a common tater!

Andrea said...

Sweet Jesus, Ron...this may be your best one yet...
In 1986 when I was living in Austin, I got asked to judge the Dallas Morning News wine competion. I was flat out told that I only pretty much got asked because I was a woman...I sucked it up because I really wanted to get the opportunity. It was all men. Some of them complained that I couldn't possibly judge wine because I wore lipstick. I politely explained that I wore lipstick with a Matt finish that was fragrance free. Sigh...fast forward to 3 weeks ago...I attended a wine lunch. Our of the 12 attending, I was, once again, the only female...and like so often before, I was the only one asking good, entertaining questions. Sigh...and your Silver Oak comments were dead on...short story...MS was sent to the bar to help a guy pick out a wine...he whined about there being no Silver Oak or Jordan on the list..."don't you have any wines of consequence on this list?" "Yes, we do, "as he snatched the list away from the guy, "but they are only for customers of consequence!" Lol
Anyhoo, I laughed my ass off at the fine piece of prose from you. I'm hanging with a bunch of Somms this weekend at the Pebble Beach event, and will be sure to make them all read it...especially the guys.
Oh, and that first judging? It was Dan Berger who took me under his wing and gave me great pointers on how to judge wine...he is, for sure, one of the good guys.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

It continues to astonish me that the blatant sexism and misogyny of the wine business is so rarely addressed. Every woman I know in the biz has stories like yours, most of them far worse. It makes me angry. Hell, I'm not perfect. I'm sure that at some point in my career I did something stupidly sexist, but, I hope, not very often. It's shameful the way women are treated in the biz--from Jagermeister girls to Master Sommelier candidates. And so I lend my weary and unheard voice to the cause.

And, hey, why isn't the HoseMaster ever invited to Pebble Beach Food and Wine? Look into that for me, will you, Andrea? I've never been. They need me to write about them. Yeah, I'm trying to weasel a freebie. I deserve it.

Yes, Dan is one of the good guys. I'm judging in his competition the first week in May. A shame you're not judging, too, Andrea. Be fun to meet.

Have fun at Pebble. Say Hi to Raj for me. Tell him I miss crapping on IPOB...

Allison Levine said...

Too much to love about this piece but I laughed out loud at this ironic statement: "Being a woman AND a Master Sommelier? That’s the equivalent of being Jewish AND a Breitbart contributor." So many ironies in life!

Thanks for all of the wonderful insight you always provide!

Charlie Olken said...

Nicely done. A lot of great lines and laughs. Odd voice, yes, but in many ways, your new voices bring out your best. If only you had filmed it all and put it on YouTube.

Karen MacNeil said...

Ron: Some day I'll tell you about the NY somm in an expensive restaurant who leaned over me (after I'd chosen the first bottle of wine to go with our appetizers), moved his body closer and whispered in my ear, "Madam, I regret to inform you that you've made an unwise wine choice."

Bob Henry said...

When Hoser injects a link into a comment, it becomes an epochal moment -- and all bets are off:


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks. As for insight, I'm not sure mine is wonderful. Just mine.

I was going for creepy, but not THAT creepy. I think that in my recent crapola I've been working on voice. Trying to find comedy in odd places and odd people in order to make whatever point I'm trying to make. Coming up with strange voices has held my interest in writing lately, and fueled my creativity in some mysterious way. Also, I think it channels my anger more effectively. Oh, who cares? It's just a weekly exercise in self-absorption anyway.

I'm hoping the story ends in a dark parking lot with a box cutter.

It's my casino, you don't decide when the bets are off.

Bob Henry said...

A modern day "Rick's Café Américain."

Dooley [Wilson] noted.

Andrea said...

Ok on all fronts! This is my 10th PBFW, and I worked all but 2 Masters of Food and Wine before that. Whew! Give Dan my very best..I haven't seen him in ages...ask him if he remembers kicking out some old timer for coming back to judge after smoking a cigar...but they were all over my ass for wearing lipstick! (Kinda like Hillary..."but her emails!") Amirite? Ciao for now...I'm sure we'll meet sooner or later. ;)

Douglas Trapasso said...

For some reason, I had "Hip to be Square" by Huey Lewis/News playing in my head while reading this one (Bret Easton Ellis reference).

Arabicspkr said...

You are a breath of fresh air in what is a horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible world of wine writing. It's unreadable. I check Grape Collective and Terroirist every day. I rarely find anything readable.

You are the best!

The only Trump voter here

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Well, I'm not sure it's a great idea to wear lipstick to a wine judging. I stopped years ago. Now I only wear it to industry tastings--screw those people. Have fun at PBFW. La Paulee for the La Paulookas.

If you have to explain 'em... And you might want to see a neurologist.

Those are kind words. Thank you.

Terroirist is a waste of time, in general. And I agree with you that there is very little worth reading when it comes to wine writing on the intergnats. Or wine writing, in general. Wine is a very tough subject to write about on a regular basis. It's infinite in its sameness. So it doesn't attract much talent. Which, of course, makes me look better than I actually am!

Thanks for being a common tater.

Vin de Terre said...

I found myself cheering her on. And wondering, with everyone on medication nowadays, if there's such a thing as organic, additive-free blood? And biodynamic blood? Would you have to drink your own compost tea?

Don Clemens said...

You had me at "Oh, man, I love a good saignée." Really one of the most fun posts of yours that I've read in a while, and I don't mean to denigrate any of those that preceded this one. It just caught me in the right mood. I was laughing too much while reading it. Several co-workers were looking at me nervously.

Keep up the search for "voices". Although, I'm not sure if that's psychologically a good direction...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

As long as there are no sulfites in the blood, with minimal intervention, then it's very natural blood. Besides, my imaginary sommelier isn't concerned. She's an MS now. She's owned by folks who make large production wines from all over the world.

I'd revisit this voice, but only if I had somewhere interesting to take it.

Oh, it's definitely not psychologically healthy, but that ship sailed a long time ago. And sunk.

gabriel jagle said...

forget about minimal intervention. I just read about a local winery that uses ULTRA low intervention. Minimal intervention is for tinkerers.