Monday, July 10, 2017
The HoseMaster of Wine™ Short Listed for a Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Award
On the rare occasions I read wine blogs, I usually wonder what motivates the person behind the blog. Notice I avoided using the word “writer.” It’s a word thrown around far too casually in the wine world, much like sommelier, or authentic, or award-winning. None of those words seems to have any real meaning anymore. It’s painful to read most of the wine blogs out there if you love the written word, or love wine. I recently read a blog that seemed to be aimed at being funny, but was tragically witless. Then I realized it was mine. So what motivates all these folks to review utterly contemptible commercial crap they get for free and rave about it? Why do they think it would be interesting for us to join them on their “journey to discover wine?” They’re the dullest companions imaginable, why would I go an a journey with them? Do they hit “Publish” and really believe they have influence outside of their little circle of other crappy blog owners?
Or do they publish a blog for the community they find online? I think that’s probably the answer for the majority of folks. It’s a perfectly lovely answer. Over the years, I’ve met dozens of bloggers. Most of them don’t like me. Maybe because when they tell me they write a blog, I reply, “No, you don’t write a blog, you type a blog.” I confess, I’ve never been a wine snob, but I am a tiresome writing snob. The human need for self-expression is a wonder to behold, but few possess much talent. But if their self-expression leads to community, that’s a powerful drug. It’s an emotional Opioid (which I mistakenly thought was a rectal problem for a young Ron Howard).
I’m something of a recluse. My idea of a good time is knowing that others are not having a good time. I’m uncomfortable with groups of people. I live in my head, which makes sense if you’ve seen my body. (I found it on AirBnB. It’s a dump, but it’s cheap.) I write because I love wandering around the place where I live. I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t write in order to find a community. As painful as it is, as personally challenging as it is, as utterly worthless as it is, I love to write comedy and satire. Yet despite my best efforts, through writing this blog, I found a community. Just stop and think about how frightening that is.
Last year, I won a Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Award. Out of nowhere. It meant a great deal to me, for personal reasons having to do with my late mother always wanting me to be a writer, not a worthless sommelier (is there any other kind?). Over the Fourth of July weekend, I learned that I am again on the short list for a Roederer Award as the Ramos Pinto (without question the finest producer of Port) Online Communicator of the Year. I’m thrilled, and humbled. It’s a short list of great wine writers. And me. Last year’s win, for me, represented satire being given a seat at the wine writing table. This year, I feel the shortlisting on a more personal level. It’s more about acceptance.
I don’t expect to win. Look at my fellow shortlisters: Tim Atkin MW, Julia Harding MW, Richard Hemming MW, Andrew Jefford, and Wink Lorch, who I thought was a game show host. I’d say that I’m happy to be on a list of wine writers with these five talented people, but, hell, they’d all say they’re happy to be on a list with four talented people, and a clown. I want to win, I want to win very much. The Roederer I won last year looks so lonely when I set it down in front of me wherever I go. I need one for my other hand. But I won’t win, and I’m perfectly content with that. This is the first list I’ve ever been on with five people whose work I can honestly say I admire. Not that they give a Trump what I think about them.
We love to give awards. Boy, do we love to give awards. I always try to remember that awards are for the people giving them, not the folks receiving them. That was hard to remember when I won a Roederer last year, which didn’t make it any less true. I’ve toyed with giving HoseMaster Awards, but it’s sort of what I do anyway. A black eye is a kind of award, I think. If there were awards for awards, I think the Roederer, at this point, might win the award for best wine writing award. I tell people that the Roederer International Wine Writing Award is the MacArthur Genius Grant of wine writing—if you ignore all three of those words. There are the Wine Blog Awards (the Poodles), which are a joke and utterly worthless—the Barefoot Moscato of wine writing awards. I think I’m the only person left in the restaurant and wine business who hasn’t won a James Beard Award. Honestly, I think the number of Beard Awards would have embarrassed James Beard. That’s sort of sad. Yet it speaks to our love of awards, ingrained in us as children, symbols that we are loved when we so often doubt it. Winning an award is reliving childhood moments when a parent expresses pride in your work. You glow, you feel loved, you gain self-esteem, and then you ask if there’s money attached to it.
What amazes me the most about the entire experience of writing HoseMaster of Wine™ is that I sit in my room in my rented house in Sonoma County, all alone, in front of the hated blinking cursor, gazing out at a vineyard, writing the kind of foolishness and dreck that I used to write all alone at a typewriter for eight hours a day when I was young, which almost no one would read. Now, because of the astonishing existence of the internet, at least fourteen people instantly read what I write. There’s an entire generation that takes the internet for granted, who don’t know life without it. It changed my life in ways I don’t completely understand. But the most amazing change of all is that because of the internet and this stupid blog, a recluse found community. I didn’t think that was possible.
The winners of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Awards will be announced on September 12th in London. Wish me luck.