Friday, July 31, 2009

The Year of the HoseMaster

In August of 2008 an unemployed sommelier (OK, that's redundant) decided to start a blog. Looking back nearly a year later, this still seems like a really stupid idea. I think I've written about 80 posts--that's nearly a dozen jokes! I've insulted virtually everyone in the wine business one way or another, and done the best I can to slap around a few bloggers as well. There are a lot of overinflated egos in the wine biz, and I'm just the prick to puncture them. Originally, I thought I should do the blog anonymously. But anonymity and blogging go hand in hand anyway, and once I'd decided to call it HoseMaster of Wine, well, there went anonymity--I've been the Hosemaster for about 25 years now and a lot of people know it. Besides, I despise the folks in the biz who decide to post anonymously, like
they have something to lose. Usually all they have to lose is their credibility, which was imaginary in the first place.

In its first incarnation, HoseMaster of Wine featured a lot of photos of naked women, tasteful, but definitely naked. When it first came to me to do it, I was very curious to see what sort of reactions I would get. I personally loved the mix of wine blogging and nudity. Hell, I'm mostly nude when I write the posts. Which would explain why they're so sticky. And why I write standing up... The reactions were kind of amazing. They ranged from "Why is he doing it?" all the way to "Why is he doing it?" I just thought it was funny. There is something inherently funny about nudity. It may be erotic, but it's also just funny. We have this cultural notion of beauty, the kind of youthfulness and perfection of the girls in the photos I displayed, but when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we have to laugh. I'm the guy who tries to hold up the mirror to the wine biz. I can't tell you how many women have laughed when I was naked in front of them. Virtually the entire auditorium.

What actually happened was I started getting really weird comments that I had to delete. Sexual stuff, weird spam--and that was just Tom Wark. Then I got slapped by Google with an adult warning page when you clicked on HoseMaster of Wine, and that sealed the deal for me. I pulled the plug. And then the Murphy-Goode Merlot really hit the fan. I started getting lots of emails from people I didn't know who loved my brand of stupidity (trademarked, by the way) and irreverence begging me not to stop. Not to stop with my plan to quit, that is. And almost everyone mentioned the nudies, almost everyone loved the naked girls, people signed on just to see what pinup I had selected. Strange, really. One has the sense that wine lovers are sexually retarded, but having proof is a bit discouraging.

I restarted HoseMaster of Wine six weeks later. Only this time I put a big sign on my computer, just like the one Kirstie Alley has on her Scientologist refrigerator (What's a Scientologist have in his refrigerator? L. Ron Hubbard's head) that says, "NO CHEESECAKE!" Only I obeyed mine. I sure didn't miss surfing the net for nudes, however. Yikes, that was an education. I once made the mistake of doing a search for "naked girl with a baseball bat." I'm begging you, don't go there. Honestly, one should never put a Louisville Slugger in her Pujols. I learned quickly how to avoid the worst kinds of sites; and it's amazing my computer never got a virus. It did, however, get a couple of STD's. So, please, if you're reading HoseMaster, and you're not already, wear a condom or a mouth guard or your usual Saran Wrap--just to be safe.

For me, the strangest thing about writing a blog has been the general lack of response. I have a few regular commenters (My Gorgeous Sam, I am so in love with you), and I am flattered that they stop by (Charlie Olken, Puff Daddy, founder of the rag that I have been consulting since I first started loving wine? How cool is that?), but mostly I just fling this crap out into the Cyberspace and have no idea where it goes or who is reading it. Very strange, really. When I was young and wrote a humor column for the weekly college newspaper (I graduated from the school that Obama just couldn't quite hack--Occidental College) I would get instant feedback on the day my work was published, much of it critical, much of it threatening, much of it angry, but if you're writing satire and you don't make anyone angry you're just performing the Heimoff Maneuver. You grab them from behind and give them a gentle hug. Doesn't save them, but it feels so yummy. By the way, for the record, I pretty much hate everything I write, so I tend to agree with those who don't find me funny--I think they're the smart ones. But it's strange to deliver jokes and get very little response. It's like being Jay Mohr. That's blogging though. The attention barking of lonely poodles.

My original idea was to write about wines, you know, review them, rate them, wait for UPS to deliver free samples then sell them online to monetize my blog. How monumentally stupid are wineries who send wines to the pinheads who blog? Of course, it's no surprise wineries and their marketing people do stupid stuff, this is a given in the wine business. But catering to bloggers, whose credentials are that they can type, is astounding to me. I think I've received all of about three bottles since I started. Marketing people are stupid, but not stupid enough to send free wine to a guy with actual knowledge and somewhat educated opinions. Nor do I solicit samples; nor do I want them. When I have lampooned some poorly made wines, just written what I felt was an apt, if derogatory, description, I've usually received private emails from those wineries either griping about my words, or asking me to visit them and retry their wines. I usually don't respond.

Eventually, HoseMaster morphed into the piece of garbage it is today. A way for me to rail and vent and spew and regurgitate all the useless opinions I have about wine and the people who make it their hobby or passion or business. I decided after a year of doing this I would step out of character for a minute, drop my HoseMaster pants, and share a bit about the strange experience that is writing this blog. There's so much more. The strange people who have passed through and then vanished. The friends I've made along the way (Tom Wark and Gorgeous Sam and Bruce Patch and on and on...) So much that I could never have anticipated.

But that's it for now. Back to being the HoseMaster. I hate that guy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tasting Room Lies

Ladies and Gentlemen, this may come as a shock to you, but the people in tasting rooms are often paid to lie to you. Like Fox News anchors, only not as well-coiffed. (Fox News has more dicks in it than Amy Winehouse on a bender.) So, as a public service, your HoseMaster of Wine is here to reveal common tasting room fibs. I'm like that tubby loser on Fox who reveals the "secrets of magic," only I look way better in a mask. I have a face for Wine Blogging.

Lie #1--"We're basically organic, only we don't want to deal with the paperwork to get certified."

This is basically like saying, "I swear to God, Babe, I basically had a vasectomy, I just didn't want to deal with the surgery." Believe it and you're sure to be screwed. Now, I'm not saying that organically grown grapes are better than grapes grown the old fashioned way, with enough pesticides and herbicides and fungicides to fill the Exxon Valdez, just don't lie about it if your vineyards aren't actually organic. Step up to the plate, tell the truth! "We aren't certified organic because we like our HazMat suits--they're cool, like the astronauts in '2001:A Space Odyssey.' And, hell, those people actually claiming to be organic, they're not so great. They build gigantic goddam mansions on their property, fly around in private jets, exploit illegal immigrants and, worst of all, ignore the plight of polar bears." If a tasting room flunky tells you the "basically certified organic" lie, finish what you're tasting, pour the dump bucket down their shorts, and tell them you love the Pinot stains on their pants.

Lie #2--"This is going to be a great wine in about five years."

So now you're so desperate and confused you're taking the advice of a guy making twelve bucks
an hour pouring crap so tannic Joan Rivers could use it to remove her cadaverous smile. Joan in the early stages of rigor mortis Perfect. I've got a brand new 2010 Chrysler I can sell you for a song. How about a can of Pepsi complete with original singed hairs from Michael Jackson? OK, they're Clarence Thomas' pubes, but they're hard to tell apart. The hairs I mean. Want to buy a New Jersey rabbi? Just how much of a rube are you? This tasting room lie is a classic, and if you stood around the tasting room long enough you'd hear it uttered about every single wine in the place. It's usually a response to a customer who doesn't like the taste of one of their expensive wines, an attempt to convince you you're an idiot when it comes to judging great wines, and, that tasting room lackeys have vast experience with aged wines. The classic response is one I heard 25 years ago from an old man in the old St. Francis tasting room when the cutie pie behind the counter fed him this line about their mediocre Cabernet Sauvignon, "Honey, I'm so old I don't even buy green bananas." If you're not elderly, just borrow a pen and paper, write, "How the fuck would you know?" on the piece of paper, fold it into a tiny square, and then press it into the tasting room dweeb's palm on your way out as though it were a tip.

Lie #3--"This is a special wine from our library."

There are times when this could be true, but if the "special" wine is only a few vintages old, guess what, it's crap they couldn't sell then and they want to sell you now. It's the winery equivalent of the bargain bin at your local store, only the price is higher not marked down. Hmm, that makes sense. It used to be $20/bottle, but now it's $30. It must be good! Well, how many other wineries have aged wines for sale in their tasting rooms? Hell, only all the other ones that make crappy wine. But you know what, it's worth trying a bottle, it will probably be really good in about five years.

Lie #4--"Our winemaker doesn't really like the taste of new oak."

Yeah, God knows most winemakers hate new oak. And, of course, reviewers certainly don't like new oak either. That's why Kistler is so reviled. So you have to wonder why anyone in their right mind would buy new barrels every single year. It's madness, I tell you. Barrels don't wear out. No, it's not that we don't have the money to buy new barrels. I'm telling you we just don't like the taste that new barrels impart to our Pinot Noirs. Really. I mean, some people like their food nice and fresh, we like frozen. Is there a difference in quality? Ours tastes more like fruit, fresh from your moldy basement.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Wine Hall of Fame

Yesterday was the induction ceremony for baseball's Hall of Fame. I've often written about my love of both wine and baseball, both, after all, are best enjoyed rip-roaring drunk and with an organ playing in the background, but baseball's Hall of Fame ceremony, held in Cooperstown, named for D. B. Cooper, beloved by both baseball players and owners for stealing $250,000 and who, like Rickey Henderson, was never caught stealing, overshadows the Wine Hall of Fame induction ceremony, held in Herman, Missouri, named for Herman Munster, beloved by wineries and winemakers for his swelled head. Wow, cool long sentence. So, for those whose attention was on Cooperstown or the Wine Bloggers' Conference, pathetic beings of a different nature, here are the newest inductees into the Wine Hall of Fame.
Hall of Famers Leo Durocher and Barry Bonds


Most of the eligible voters wished that this was a posthumous award, but, to their chagrin, "Marvelous" Marv Shanken is still with us. Often mistaken for a hot air balloon, Marvin Shanken
floats over the wine industry as Publisher and Dead Weight of "Wine Spectator," America's leading wine publication by virtue of there being only crap to compete with it. "Marvelous" Marv is voted into the Hall by unanimous proclamation for his many achievements in the field of wine. Shanken was the first to convince idiot restauranteurs to have their wine lists judged by wine magazine interns and pay for the privilege. Coming next, "Marvelous" Marv initiates the "Pretty Good Better Than Jug Wine Second Best Of Award Of Excellence" for restaurants that serve wines "fresh, as God intended them, we didn't check but we trust people, wines straight from the bottle, when it was opened is your problem." Shanken was also the first to create the wine equivalent of an Elvis impersonator with his savvy hiring of staff clowns who could mimic Parker. As with Elvis, many even have extra padding to simulate "Parker, the Fat Years." Shanken was also instrumental in the now accepted movement to accept advertising in a wine publication so that the appearance of impartiality became irrelevant to wine--a debt wine bloggers will never be able to repay.
James Suckling as "Parker, the Camel-toe Years"


The Veterans Committee of the Wine Hall of Fame voted overwhelmingly to induct Robert Lawrence Balzer, both the King and Queen of California Wine Writers, into the Hall. Balzer's accomplishments are too many to list here, beginning with the irony of his last name. Writing for the Los Angeles Times in the 70's and 80's, Balzer hit for the Wine Writer Triple Crown, managing to lead the wine writing league in the three major categories of Stupidly Florid Descriptions (an amazing .750 average), Payola (Ernest and Julio were major donors) and Paid Appearances, a feat nearly impossible to achieve now unless you work for the Wine Advocate. Balzer is also one of the great characters of the game, a great storyteller, and eminently quotable. Your humble HoseMaster
was once present at a Domaine de la Romanee-Conti tasting where inductee Balzer compared his mouth to a "great wet laboratory." And he always left the door unlocked. Yet Balzer was once the lone voice preaching the greatness of California wines. Now it's James Laube. Like going from the oratory of Martin Luther King to the vocal stylings of Elmer Fudd.


Beloved by wine fans everywhere for his creation of BioDynamics, Steiner is affectionately known as the L. Ron Hubbard of Agriculture. Writing in a style reminiscent of James Joyce with a broken typewriter, Steiner's impenetrable work masked a propensity for prevarication, but not very well. Sort of like Professor Irwin Corey (you bloggers, look him up). Steiner was a self-proclaimed clairvoyant and seer, blazing the trail for the greats who followed him--Robert Parker, Steve Tanzer, Randall Grahm, Michel Rolland, Gary Vaynerchuk--profits, excuse me, prophets, all. It was Steiner who made the critical discovery that nothing sells wine like well-phrased compost. It was Steiner who recognized the need to bury cow horns in the vineyard so that cows could no longer honk at passing cars. It was the great Rudy-Fruity who knew that the best vineyards were planted by the light of the moon, an idea he stole from Mafia hitmen.
And it was Steiner who recognized that most wine is sold based on superstition, myth and cow shit. If it weren't for Steiner, wineries would not be turning to wine bloggers for sales and marketing.

Quite a Hall of Fame class for 2009! Nominees for 2010's class are now open. Who do you think belongs in the Wine Hall of Fame? Present company excluded.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interview With A HoseMaster, Part II

Why aren't you attending the Wine Bloggers Conference?

Sadly, it fell on the same weekend I have my electroshock treatments, though the featured speakers are an adequate substitute.
My Green Lantern costume is at the dry cleaners.
I never taste wine in a room where people are typing.
If I want to hear about the future of blogging I'll listen to Kurt Cobain.
They may have changed the sheets in my usual room at the Flamingo.
I'm allergic to sanctimony.

When you get to Heaven, what is it that you want to say to God?

Couldn't you have given me a bigger penis?

What's the best way to get into the wine business?

Start a blog, kiss winery butt, what you don't know fake, find suckers to get behind you, apply for a job at a big corporate winery as social media consultant. Repeat every six months. Consult your doctor before attempting, ass kissing can be dangerous for those with HIV, gum disease or the least bit of integrity.

Actually, there are many ways to get into the wine business, none of them advisable. It may be your passion, but it's everybody's passion it seems. There are too damn many people in the wine business as it is--find another line of work that's not so crowded. Surrogate for root canals. Enema blogger. Circus washroom attendant. Ombudsman for Wall Street. We don't need more fools in the wine business. We're overstocked.

What wine blogs do you read?

I must spend three to four hours a day reading blogs. I even use Google to translate blogs--and
those are the domestic ones. I hate to single out favorites, there are so many. I read Vinography for my diabetes. I'm a huge fan of 1Wine Dude--I've never missed a post. Never read one, never missed one. When I think my personal life is a mess I head on over to Fermentation to be comforted that I'm way better off than most. And then there are so many "undiscovered" gems out there in cyberspace. If you haven't already, you should read WinePimp. WinePimp solicits wine from wineries and guarantees he will give them a positive review, but if they don't send him a percentage of the sales of that wine he promises to beat them like Rihanna. Hilarious! First guy to figure out how to monetize his blog. Then there's BrettMaverick, who writes about his love for Brett and how it got him a gig as a major wine critic. Claims he invented the 100 point scale. And when I really want to learn something about wine I read Doyouwanttoreallylearnsomethingaboutwine. I've learned a lot about wine from reading blogs, but this one tops them all for valuable wine info. Of course. It's written by a guy who's worked in a wine shop for three years! Way overqualified. I smell an AWBA in his future.
See question #2: If Rihanna can do it, why can't God?

Why do you continue to blog when so many people wish you'd stop?

My idea for "monetizing" HoseMaster of Wine is to get everyone to chip in and pay me to stop. Or, alternatively, if every winery in California sends me a free sample I'll quit. I promise to say something nice about all of them. But not in a blog. I'll be talking to myself. Which, when you think about it, is exactly the same as blogging. Just less typing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In Vulva Veritas

I am so happy to be here at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference! It's like the Oscars only
everyone's wearing GarAnimals. I can't believe I'm actually in wine country, where they grow grapes and stuff. I tried a couple of grapes right off the vine! Kinda green though. I guess they were grapes for Green Hungarian. Can't wait to taste some Chardonnay grapes, but I hope they're not too oaky.
Wineries' preferred wine blogger, right

What a gorgeous place the Flamingo Hotel is. It's luxurious. And you know how when you go to a zoo and you can smell the flamingos, that sulfury, birdshit smell--they pipe that right into the rooms! Unbelievable. If only we could tweet smells! I'd Twitter a little bit of Flamingo right to you. And I'd bet you'd blame your dog.

I've already met so many famous and influential people here. I admit, it's a little hard to think of things to say when you're so nervous. Tom Wark, yes, THE Tom Wark, came right up to me and offered to take me to Mexico for a week. I think he was drunk. He kept calling me Alice and asking me if I believed "In Vulva Veritas." He was cool though. Turns out he invented the Internet! Then I ran into the guys who publish "Mutineer Magazine." If you haven't heard of "Mutineer Magazine," it's like a wine and beverage publication written for sixth graders by sixth graders. The guys that publish it are really smart. I know this because they kept telling it to me. They want everybody to join the mutiny. Not sure how another untimely wine publication is a mutiny, but, what the heck, I'm in!

I never expected so much attention just because I write a wine blog. It kinda makes all that work I've put in feel like it's paid off. I've posted over 50 entries on my blog this year--that's nearly 700 words! And now I'm here in Santa Rosa meeting all these winemakers and tasting their wines with them. You know what's really cool? None of them even care if I get the facts right when I write about their wines! In fact, they like it better if I don't. As long as I write something nice about the wines, they don't even care if I know what I'm talking about! They're sick of journalists, and I don't blame them for being sick of them. Bunch of snooty nitpickers. Wine bloggers are much cooler. We don't care about the facts. Facts? This is the goddam Internet, where facts go to die. We have something more powerful than facts. We have too much free time.

In a little while we're going to blog Live! I'm so nervous. I've never been Live before. We only have one minute to taste a wine and then blog about it. Not sure that gives me enough time to go to the winery's website and use their descriptions of the wine, but I'll try. I'm not really that good at tasting wine without some notes. And what if I get some kind of wine like Tempraniloo (sp?) or Roossane? How do I know if those are good, or what they taste like? Who am I? Hardy Wallace? (Ooh, ooh, I got to meet him! He was wearing a big Murphy-Goode shirt and holding hands with Steve Heimoff.) But I can type like a bastard, so this should be easy. Maybe I'll get discovered, like Hardy, and get a job at a fancy winery like Murphy-Goode. Lots of desperate
wineries here in Sonoma looking for people like me who don't know much about wine but know enough to praise whatever they put in front of us. Like Alder Yarrow of Vinography (he won for Best Wine Blog--he always wins though, he's basically like the Harlem Globetrotters, it's fixed). Alder is every winery's dream blogger. He's like cat litter--no matter what kind of crap you toss at him he makes it all seem fresh and pretty. That's what wineries like. Stupid journalists think it's important to take wines apart, maybe even say something critical of them. That's why wine blogging will replace wine critics--we're much nicer! Who would you send samples to? Not that HoseMaster asshole.

So much more to post about, but I need to go now. I'll write more later. I have to get dressed for the big AWBA gala! I'm going as Uhura.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Lost Nude Photos of Michael Broadbent

I have so many things that I want to write about on HoseMaster of Wine. I was even thinking about writing about wine, but who gives a crap what a wine blogger thinks about wine? No one reads wine blogs to find wines to buy. Hell, no. We read wine blogs to find out what sucks about wines--corkiness, light-spoiled, heat ruined, overpriced, understuffed--and what sucks about the wine business--interstate shipping laws, 1oo point scales, Marvin Shanken. Wine blogs aren't about the love of wine, they're about the love of self. And it takes a lot of wine for that to happen.

I have lists and lists of subjects for HoseMaster of Wine. But here are a few of the ideas that I've
rejected. Feel free to steal them, Blogger Nation.

The Lost Nude Photos of Michael Broadbent
Turns out they weren't lost, just mistaken for a Yeti.
Mr Broadbent on the set of his secret porn film, "Melt my Dipstick."

Music Damaged Wine
A scathing article from Dan Berger about the dirty secret that winemakers and wine shops are keeping from you--loud Mexican music can damage your expensive bottle of wine!! Oh sure, it takes an extremely talented and near-perfect palate to tell, but Los Tigres del Norte completely destroyed the 2006 vintage of Opus One.

The Truth About Shipping Laws
It ain't the laws. California wineries don't want to ship to fucking Kentucky. Unless it's Jess shipping a broken-down thoroughbred there. The Family Wineries of California donate thousands of dollars to keep their wine out of the hands of hillbillies.

The Secret Paris Tasting of 1978
France vs. Italy. Neither country was able to conclusively win. True to form, they both surrendered.

Jancis Robinson is a Man!
OK, not exactly a surprise.

Steve Heimoff is a Man!
Now we're talkin...

George Riedel Arrested in Huge Ponzi Scheme
Bernie Madoff says, "I never screwed people out of that much money compared to George! I tip my prison cap to him."

Alsace Wines All Produced In Mendocino
Wineries in Alsace are just fronts for laundering schnitzel. Navarro secretly produces 40% of the Alsace wines on the market and dumbs them down for wine critics to understand them.

Wine Bloggers Conference Actually Satan Worship
Wine Blogger Awards followed by human sacrifice and impregnating Alice Feiring with the spawn of Robert Parker, the bloggers' incarnation of Beelzebub.

X-Rays Reveal Laube's Taste Buds in His Colon
Left behind by a gerbil, California winemakers vow to massage them anyway, as usual.

M.S. Awarded to Mannequin

Shocking, but not the first dummy to win coveted title.

List of Rejected Ideas for Posts
Only a moron would think that was a funny premise.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Murphy-Goode's Social Media Director's First Post!

Wow, it's me! I'm the new Social Media Director for Murphy-Goode Winery! I'm still in shock. Imagine, Jess (he wanted me to call him "Huckleberry," but I think he meant Jess--something going on there I don't understand...) laid off 20% of his work force, mostly just laborers and stuff though, no one important, in order to pay me sixty grand to Twitter-twatter and Faceybook and blog! That's a lot of pressure on me, but I know I'm going to be worth it. I'm going to be the best danged Social Media Director ever!

That's me with my insect boss!

Welcome to my first blog post. First, let me tell you a little something about myself. I love wine. I really love Murphy-Goode wine. I like how they can take lots of really quality fruit and magically transform it into a totally inoffensive wine. That's just awesome. A lot of winemakers don't know how to blend in order to offend the fewest number of people. But it's kind of a religion here at K-J. Heck, everybody's trying to make the next great wine, reaching for the enological stars, someone has to strive for average! Oh, I was talking about myself. Besides loving wine, my friends tell me I'm a really talented writer like Dan Brown or Dear Abby. I have 782 friends on my Facebook page, and one day I hope to have my entire birthday calendar filled out with friends. Anyone born on February 29th or April 31st want to be friends? I've never lived in wine country before, unless you count Modesto where I spent a summer as a volunteer for a heat stroke study. They say I won't need that part of my brain.

I think I'm really going to like living in Healdsburg! What a wonderful little town. It's so quaint, like a picture post card of "Our Town" by Billy Wilder, only without the dead people. But it's a very small town. Healdsburg is so small the only prostitute works part-time. Oh well, now I'm here. Healdsburg is so small the high school doesn't even have enough kids for a whole football team so they only play defense. They beat Geyserville High last week. Their kid was sick.

But as small as Healdsburg is it is filled with tourists all summer long. And why do they come here? Murphy-Goode, for one thing. It turns out people will come from all over the country to taste wines they could have been overcharged for in their own supermarkets!! I know, it's amazing. They want to see vineyards and they want to see wineries and they want to taste the wines where they are grown. OK, we don't tell them that a lot of our Murphy-Goode wines are grown far away from here--it would be a long way for them to come and feel disappointed. You know what Social Media Directors' always say, "A little bit of prevarication goes a long way." I had to look up "prevarication."

So it's going to be a lot of fun living here. I have a beautiful home to live in filled with lots of souvenirs and mementos from the early days of K-J. There's an old photo of Jed Steele passing the secret formula for K-J chardonnay to some old drunk lookin' guy at Rombauer. There's some history for you! And next to the bed in a drawer, where a Gideon Bible might be, there's a copy of the lawsuit Huckleberry (OK, boss?) slapped on Jed after Jed made him rich in the wine biz. I was so excited my first night here that was the only thing that helped me sleep. And there are photos of Huckleberry and his buddy up at Chalk Hill smoking cigars and sitting in big piles of money like Scrooge McDuck. It's quite a place.

Tomorrow I have a busy day playing Liar's Dice with Dave Ready the winemaker. I guess from the name that I'm supposed to bring the dice. Dave Ready is a really cool guy, and seems happy not to have all the pressure of having to make great wines any more. Shoot, no vineyards, no big winery, no tasting room, he's got plenty of time to escort my butt around and play lots of poker and dice games and drink wine. What's really cool up here in wine country (this is like the first of my insider info that will make you feel like you live here yourself, my writing is so lucid!) is that you can go to other wineries and swap wines! Yeah, you can. It's like wife-swapping but with Cabernet (I made that analogy up just now--I think I'll Twitter it in a minute). So we never have to drink Murphy-Goode. We do. We do because we like it, we just don't have to drink it. We can drink Geyser Peak or Simi or Clos du Bois! I must have died and gone to Heaven, I just drank Clos du Bois Chardonnay for free! I don't know about you, but I find the smell of urine cakes comforting.

I hope you'll follow me on all the different Social Media thingamajiggies. Five months and 29 days to go before the paychecks dry up. I'd better get busy. Just like in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" I have a podcast to make!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, or Wine Typers Special Olympics

I am so excited I can barely keep my frothy mousse from staining my jeans. It's almost time for the Wine Bloggers Conference--the coming together of nearly a single mind under one roof! It's set for Sonoma County at the end of July and just look, LOOK, at this amazing agenda!
WBC keynote speakers, right

AGENDA (subject to change)

Friday, July 24

11:00 AM Registration. As requested by attendees, there will be a body cavity search.
12:00 AM Lunch and Meeting with the Sponsors--Russian River Wine Growers, Sonoma Vintners and the National Council to Eradicate Illiteracy
1:00 PM Lecture: How to Make Money on Your Wine Blog
2:00 PM Lecture: How to Monetize Your Wine Blog
3:00 PM Lecture: How to Sell Your Blood For Money
4:30 PM American Wine Blog Awards presentation sponsored by Riedel, the name you can trust when it comes to planned obsolescence. Alder Yarrow will lead the group in the Wine Bloggers Prayer:

"Our Parker, hallowed be thy Name. Grant me the wisdom to know how many points to give my wines, the talent to find the right page in the thesaurus to describe it, and the faith that anybody gives a shit. Amen."

6:30 PM: Dinner at the Flamingo Hotel, where luxury accommodations go to die, with a guest speaker you've never heard of but, boy, can the bastard type.
8:00 PM: Grand Tasting of Sonoma Wines--Plenty of time to suckup and weasel free samples from most of the desperate wineries in Sonoma County.

Saturday, July 25

7:00 AM Get up, take a dump, nurse your hangover, Twitter yourself feverishly
9:00 AM Board the bus for the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. The folks in Napa are desperate too, you know.
11:00 AM Keynote speaker Barry Shuler on "Blogging and the Future of Social Media."
11:05 AM Keynote speaker Jim Gordon, a guy who used to be important, swear to God, on "The Future of Blogging and Wine Writing."
11:10 AM Alder Yarrow bestows his blessings on all of you. Attendees are invited to take communion with Hahn 2006 Pinot Noir served with leftover Alder Yarrow Pinot Noir descriptor cards as wafers.
11:30 AM Buses depart for lunches at participating wineries. Examples include "Stuffed Olives at Martini," "Certified Angus Beef Burgers with House Specialty TCA Buns at BV," and "All You Can Eat Crow at Robert Mondavi Winery."
1:30 PM Napa Green Presentation--Money not organics
3:00 PM Vintner Discussion Panels. Many of Napa's finest winemakers try to keep a straight face while talking to Wine Bloggers.
4:30 PM Napa Grand Tasting at Quintessa. Watch us smoke those peons from Sonoma.
6:00 PM Dinner at Host Wineries. Wineries are hosts, Bloggers are parasites
8:00 PM Buses return to Flamingo Hotel, where style takes a backseat to mold allergies.
9:00 PM After hours party hosted by the Wines of Brazil ("We're not just about waxing any more."), the European Wine Bloggers Conference ("Hey, we've got geeks with opinions too!") and the Hair Club for Men.

Sunday, July 26

7:00 AM Get up, brush your damn teeth for a change, perform your ablutions (ab-o-lutely), eat breakfast, check your blog for comments from the same morons who always comment.
9:00 AM Bask in more undeserved praise from other bloggers.
10:00 AM Attend breakout meetings reaffirming that one day all wines will be purchased from Wine Blogger recommendations.
11:00 AM Bus leaves for Internment Camps for the Critically Delusional
12:00 noon Wine Blogger Conference ends. Alder Yarrow still talking.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Elegy for Ali

She was the most beautiful horse. An Arabian mare, white, with a gorgeous dark mane and long white tail. It seemed like every little girl who saw her thought she looked like a unicorn. It wasn't just her look, it was the magic she exuded. And now that she's gone she has gained the unicorn's immortality.

What I knew about horses I knew from Santa Anita. There was a time when I regularly attended Santa Anita as a way of disposing of the excess tip money I was earning. I would always work my way down to the paddock when a really high stakes race was being run to see what the great thoroughbreds looked like, how they carried themselves. I learned by watching horses like Affirmed and Spectacular Bid and Cigar that you can see much of a horse's character and heart in the way he carries himself, in his gait, in his bearing, in his aura. More than most animals, humans included, a horse is honest in the way he presents himself. There is a wonderful dignity in that.

The first time I saw my wife Kathleen with her horse Ali I fell even deeper in love with her. If ever a horse and rider were made for each other, I thought, these two were. Ali was simply breathtakingly beautiful. But like so many beautiful females, Ali was shy. Her beauty was a given, she seemed to say, but try and see past it. She walked with uncommon grace and delicacy, as if she were walking on the edge of the visible world all the time. There was kindness in her eyes, not a quality one often sees in thoroughbred race horses, but in Ali it was unmistakable, the same kindness Kathleen radiates. The bond between them was palpable, a living thing that they each held in deep reverence.

Kathleen had rescued Ali from a life of being confined to a stable, weaving all day long (and throwing a pot occasionally to break up the monotony--not easy with hooves) and suffering from bowed tendons. Ali was her first horse, purchased with whatever money she could scrape together, and was paid off slowly. But Kathleen knew when she first set eyes on a photograph of Ali that this was her horse, that Ali was the horse she was meant to ride. Kathleen knew she was meant to ride Ali, but she had no idea the remarkable journey Ali would take her on.

Their journey began thirteen years ago in Southern California and ended last Tuesday in a beautiful pasture in Healdsburg. When I was first getting to know my gorgeous wife Kathleen I asked her, "How did you meet your best friend Melanie?" I still love her answer. "Our horses are sisters." As if that explained it. Yet it was true. Melanie's horse Tawni and Kathleen's horse Ali were sisters. It was Melanie, then just an acquaintance of my wife, who showed Kathleen the picture of an Arabian mare she needed a home for, the picture that changed my wife's life. It was Ali that introduced Kathleen to her best friend Melanie. It was Ali who took my wife for a journey into horse training and healing, into becoming a certified TTouch practitioner, a path that has completely enriched her life. And when we moved to Healdsburg, it was Ali who opened the doors for Kathleen to make new friends. Other horsewomen would stop her, admire Ali, her beauty and carriage, and new friendships suddenly blossomed. Kathleen's shyness together with Ali's shyness was irresistible. It was magic.

I will never forget this beautiful, shy, kind mare. The first time I was assigned to care for Ali while my wife was out of town, I was really frightened. Not of Ali, but of my own stupidity, which, believe me, is frightening. I love all animals, always have. As a child I insisted on going to the zoo on my birthday where my siblings asked for Disneyland. I read countless books about animals and watched goofy old Marlin Perkins on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom religiously. "So while Jim is off allowing the rhinoceros to mount him from behind, I want to remind you not to fall 'behind' in your life insurance coverage..." But I had never taken care of a horse. I'd ridden a few, strictly rentals (a lot like my sex life), but was completely unequipped otherwise.

The first afternoon I went to walk Ali I was very skittish. Ali didn't look too sure about me either. I entered her stall with the halter, she graciously put her nose down to help me slide it over her head, which I did rather gracefully I thought. But there was something strange about it. It just didn't seem right that the rope was extending from Ali's forehead instead of below her jaw. Kind of made her look like a unicorn with a limp horn, but definitely not good for walking her. I'd put the damned thing on upside down. Ali just stood there. Didn't move her head, just eyeballed me with that great giant eye and its feminine eyelashes as if to say, "Even I can't believe you're that stupid." But there was deep kindness in her eyes, the kindness of an old soul. I took the halter off, got it on right side up, and Ali took me for a walk. She could be kind of skittish, Kathleen had told me, so be careful if there are cars near her. We were walking across Riverside Drive in Burbank, Ali and I, I was sweating parimutuel tickets worrying Ali would rear or spook or takeoff with my right arm dragging behind her, when a big damned Chevy truck pulled onto the street blasting mariachi music and sounding like the First Armored Division out to get Saddam Hussein (another skittish Arab). Shit, I thought, now what do I do? But Ali just stopped, perked up her ears, did a little bit of what seemed to me salsa dancing, and that was that. That was the moment I fell in love with that magnificent mare.

Ali fell last Monday afternoon, a serious fall. The lovely woman who owns the property where Ali was boarded called Kathleen to tell her that Ali was unable to put any weight on one of her hind legs. Kathleen rushed to her, called the vet and waited. After the vet had arrived and taken X-rays the news was not good. Fractures and serious damage in both hind legs. Trying to fix her would involve lots of surgery, years of rehab and stall confinement, and then no guarantees. She would never be able to be ridden again.

Kathleen slept on the decision overnight. Well, she didn't really sleep. Ali is her soulmate, her horse Other, her companion on what has been a remarkable journey. Doing the right thing for Ali was all that mattered. I know Kathleen, I love Kathleen, I've never seen her more distraught, more devastated, more forlorn. But I knew that she would make her decision not from a place of fear or selfishness or anger, but from a place of courage and compassion and kindness and love. She did.

Kathleen went out early Tuesday morning to be with Ali. She had made her decision and she had called her veterinarian. She spent hours talking to Ali, thanking her, talking to her gently with words and with touch about making the transition, about the beauty of the place where she would soon be grazing, the always green pastures where she would once again be able to run and run and toss her mane in the wind and carry her tail high and proud and beautiful. She gave Ali treats and reminisced about the ridiculously steep trails Ali and she had ridden together, remembered the feel of the gigantic heart of that gorgeous, courageous Arabian pounding in her chest, astonished at her drive to keep going and going, a drive inextinguishable. And she just sat with her girl, her horse daughter, her horse companion, her horse teacher, and tried to be strong for her, tried to lead her. One last time.

When the vet arrived it was a matter of getting Ali out to the pasture from her stall. Nine hundred pounds and two fractured hind legs. How do you move that? Simple. Cookies. Following the cookies offered to her by her beloved Kathleen, Ali slowly and excruciatingly dragged her self and her two fractured legs into the pasture. She must have known. But she would follow Kathleen anywhere. Wherever you are leading me, I trust you, I love you. And you have cookies.

The vet gave Ali her final injection and death came quickly. As is its custom. Kathleen felt Ali leave behind her beautiful but crippled body and felt that enormous heart stop. Ali's job here at this crazy rodeo was over. Ali had taken Kathleen to places no other living being could have, carried her on her back in real and metaphorical ways, and she was clearly tired. But Arabs, those remarkable endurance horses, never quit until they are at the finish line. Ali had crossed the finish line a champion. But the finish line had come too soon for Kathleen.

Ali was buried where she fell, in a pasture overlooking the Russian River. Ali had found Kathleen thirteen years ago, taken her for a long and beautiful ride, and her job here was done. But Ali will be back. We know she will return. Ali will find her way back to her human soulmate Kathleen. We still have some cookies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The HoseMaster's Buying Guide to Tasting Rooms

I am often asked by wine novices who are heading to wine country for the first time how to know which wines to buy in tasting rooms. Naturally, since I always toe the line when it comes to wine rhetoric, I tell them to buy the wines that taste good to them or received a 94 in Wine Enthusiast, never ones that qualify on both counts. But I also give them a list of what to watch out for when they are in tasting rooms. Signs that knowledgeable wine buyers look out for when deciding where and what to purchase. I thought I should share those insights with my beloved HoseMaster of Wine readers. Both of you.

1. Never buy wine in a tasting room if the hospitality person isn't wearing pants. It's fine if their pants are around their ankles. There's probably just a blogger behind the bar looking for a free tasting. Of course, that is the free tasting.

2. Never buy wine if there are goldfish in the spit bucket. The pets, not the crackers.

3. Never buy wine at a winery that is attached to a rope.

4. Never buy wine in a tasting room that has a life-size cutout of Tom Cruise. Just step over it and leave.

5. Never buy wine if the person serving the wines is wearing a shirt that says, "Will Work for Rohipnol."

6. Never buy wine if the winery dog is licking the tasting room staff's butts.

7. Never buy wine if the person serving it can't pronounce the name of the wine properly. "Our white Meritage is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sommelier."

8. Never buy wine at a winery if the only things edible for sale in the tasting room are panties and cheese made from cat milk. Cat brie is fine but can cause furballs in certain consumers.

9. Never buy wine at a tasting room where the handicapped bathroom has soft music, candlelight and a glory hole.

10. Never buy wine at a winery where the logo wine glasses are emblazoned with women whose breasts are bared when a cold Rose' is poured into them. You're at Armida.

11. Never buy wine if the tasting room staff is speaking in pig Latin.

12. Never buy wine at a winery where all the cars in the parking lot have "For Sale" signs on them. You're probably not at a tasting room, you're at an old Chrysler dealership. You're drunk.

13. Never buy wine at a winery where they ask you to not to spit but to spew it out your nose. Then retaste it.

14. Never buy wine at a winery if the tasting room staff greets you with a French kiss. This happens a lot in Mendocino. The contact high clouds your judgment.

15. Never buy wine if the person serving you has a name tag that reads, "Jesus Christ."

16. Never buy wine if the tasting room only offers a discount if you can make them cry by singing "O Danny Boy."

17. Never buy a wine from a tasting room that only accepts a NAMBLA card as ID. Unless you have one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Pinot Evil

There were nearly 200 wineries serving Pinot Noir at Pinot Days in San Francisco. It wasn't that many years ago that there weren't any wine events devoted to Pinot Noir, now they seem to be countless. Pinot Days, International Pinot Noir Conference, Pinot on the River, Pinotpalooza, Pinotcchio's Nose, Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Pinot Evil (oh, wait, that's a Urology Symposium). You get the picture. Pinot Noir is the new Merlot in the trendiness department. It seems everyone with a bit of talent and a gift card from Crushpad wants to make Pinot Noir. The result is that among the 200 wineries serving at Pinot Days are scattered a dozen or so quality producers who are forced to pour shoulder to shoulder with mediocrity. Remind you of anything? Wine blogging, maybe?

Let me run through the producers I thought had wonderful wines. I tasted the wines of 28 different producers, so clearly this is not a representative sampling of all that was to be had at Pinot Days. I'm sure I missed a few fabulous wineries. I wish I'd missed a bunch I did taste.

I was very impressed with the wines at WesMar. But I've always been impressed with their
wines, and, frankly, I was surprised to see them at Pinot Days. It's certainly yet another sign of our lousy economy, not that we need any more signs. We've seen more signs than Marlee Matson at a speed reading clinic. Marlee with undecipherable sign language opinion of Pinot Noirs at Pinot Days In particular, their 2007 Sonoma Coast bottling and their 2007 "Hellenthal Vineyard" Pinot Noir were sensational. The Sonoma Coast for its pure red berry fruit and luscious, chewy texture, and the "Hellenthal" for the ineffable complexity, the mysteriousness of its perfume, the ethereal texture, the allure of cool climate Pinot Noir.

It was my first time tasting the wines of Ryan Zepaltas, who, as a real job, works as assistant winemaker at Siduri. So he's made 350 vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs (all with genuine terroir!) at Siduri in the past five years or so. His own wines were fabulous, though limited in supply. His basic 2007 Sonoma Coast bottling was quite good, not stunning, but it did possess a lovely spiciness, black cherry and cola fruit, though it was a bit on the clunky side. But his two Russian River wines I tried were superb. The 'o7 "Barton Vineyard" and the '07 "Bottoms Vineyard" were very different, I'm happy to say, but both terrific. The "Barton" had that sweet cherry candy core that many Russian River Pinots have while the "Bottoms" was a bit bigger in structure, maybe a bit more shut down than the "Barton," and also had blacker fruit character. Tough to choose between the two, but as I recall there were fewer than 50 cases of the "Barton" produced, so, of course, try and get that one.

I was pretty pleased with the wines of MacPhail Family as well. His 2007 Sonoma Coast was a lovely, focused, pure Pinot Noir in the sweet cherry and plums vein. (2007 was such a lovely vintage for North Coast Pinot Noir that many of the "basic" Sonoma Coast or Sonoma County appellation wines I tasted were nearly as good as the more expensive vineyard-designate wines in the lineups.) MacPhail also had a nice 2007 Pinot Noir from Mendocino's "Toulouse Vineyard," though I thought it a bit clumsy, and the wine from the actual Toulouse Vineyard in Mendocino is better and cheaper than MacPhail's. My favorite wine at MacPhail was the '07 "Goodin Vineyard," a Pinot Noir with glorious silky texture and a solid core of black and red fruit that speaks to a world of potential. Impressive lineup, really, but too pricey in this market. Buy 'em if your Ponzi scheme hasn't been uncovered yet.

And you cannot go wrong, and should definitely consider buying, the 2007 Pinot Noirs from Benovia Winery, the fantastic, and I mean fantastic, wines from Freeman Winery, the classic and never-disappointing Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir and the gorgeous wines of Black Kite Winery in Mendocino. I've written of these folks in previous HoseMaster posts and they need no further hype from me. Just buy 'em, and buy 'em in this fantastic vintage. Buy just about anything from Windy Oaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains Oh, and don't miss the sensational Donum Estate 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir! This might be the best wine I tasted at Pinot Days. Big wow here for the complex, elegant, concentrated, restrained, black cherry, blackberry, spicy Pinot Noir in this bottle.

These were the wines that stood out for me, the ol' HoseMaster of Wine. Your mileage may vary.

One thing attending a tasting like Pinot Days reinforces is how tough it is to make great Pinot Noir. I tasted far too many overextracted, manipulated Pinot Noirs--cynical Pinot Noirs, Pinot Noirs in Syrah's clothing, Pinot Noirs that magically clipped my nose hair when I sniffed them. It's hard to reconcile notions of terroir with grapes that have been picked with more Brix than every production ever of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Recipe wines: Pick raisins, add water, serve. It was more of a chore to taste the 65 wines I tasted than it ever should have been when Pinot Noir is the featured performer.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Follow the Yarrow Brix Road!

There are any number of ways one can judge wines inaccurately. You can try tasting more than a hundred wines in a day, for example. Sure, there will be some pathetic, nitpicking nigglers who will say your judgments are clouded by palate fatigue, but that's foolish. It's easy to combat palate fatigue. Professional tasters use Tongue Screen. Coppertone makes a very effective Tongue Screen that has 60 SPF (Suspends Palate Fatigue). And, as a bonus, if applied correctly, it leaves your tongue with a very attractive G-string tan. Or you can judge wines inaccurately by judging them at the winery where they were produced with the winemaker standing next to you telling you what his wines smell and taste like. The power of suggestion is an amazing thing. "It kind of reminds me of Chateau Margaux, though I've heard people say it's more like Chateau
Latour. What do you think?" "Oh, I was guessing maybe more like Chateau Marmont; more specifically, the room where John Belushi died." Or, if you really want to get a feel for how to judge wines inaccurately, go to a large public tasting. And, yes, I mean not only is the tasting large, but so are most of the public attending it. Walking up and down the aisles of wineries pouring at these tastings, looking at the backs of the folks tasting the wines at each table, one is vividly reminded of the starting gate at Santa Anita viewed from behind. On the upside, there were plenty of places to set down my wine glass to take notes...
Plenty of spots to put down your glass here at the Pisoni Vineyard table! There's Gary, bottom(s) left

I attended one of these cattle calls (yes, nigglers, I'm mixing metaphors) at Fort Mason in San Francisco, the Grand Tasting of Pinot Days. This is a gigantic room full of Pinot Noir and the people who abuse it. When I arrived I expected the room to be redolent of cherries and blackberries and smoke and earth, but, instead, it smelled strongly of desperation, with just a pinch of hopelessness and fear. Lovely, really. Smelled just like the movie version of "Sex and the City." The coveted souvenir glass of the tasting, a gorgeous balloon glass whose delicacy clearly spoke to its being bulletproof, came with a folded, business-card-sized, piece of paper courtesy of Alder Yarrow at Vinography that listed all the possible aromas one might smell in Pinot Noir. This was an incredibly helpful tool! Especially when I needed to get a piece of food out from between my teeth. And whenever I sampled a Pinot Noir whose aroma I found ineffable, I'd consult my little Aldercard and, voila, the description would be right there. I can't tell you how many wines smelled like business card.

I'd like to start with some general impressions:

"I shall return!"--General Douglas MacArthur
"Trix are for kids!"--General Mills (originally attributed to Michael Jackson--oh, sorry, he's dead)
"Anybody seen my hair?"--General George Armstrong Custer, and me, General Nuisance

OK, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the Pinot Noirs. The majority of the wines at the tasting were from 2006 and 2007, radically different vintages. I had a hard time tasting the '07's, not just because every table looked like a crowded field at the Breeder's Cup, but because it seemed to me that the vast majority of the '07's
I tasted , from Northern California in particular, were in a very primary state, and not New Hampshire. That is, the wines seemed to me to have shut down in the bottle, showing only their primary fruit characteristics and holding back the depth and richness and complexity that I think the vintage holds. So if you read some other tasting notes from Pinot Days, and why the hell would you, keep that in mind. And get you one of those Vinography cheat sheets with all the Pinot Noir descriptors so you can follow the Yarrow Brix Road like all the other mental Munchkins!

My goal when I attend these sorts of tastings is to try to taste wines from wineries new to me, and from wineries who have distinguished track records. By my count I tasted 65 wines in the three hours I was there. I spit every last one of them, not a common practice at these public tastings. There was more spitting at the Gay Pride Parade. But it is really tough to taste wines when the venue, Fort Mason on an 89 degree day in San Francisco, is more overheated than a Republican Governor and more crowded than the unemployment line he's headed for. But, hey, I'm a Wine Blogger, dammit, and I got me a Vinography card and a 10 cent wine glass, I'm can rate some stinkin' Pinot Noirs!

In the next episode of HoseMaster of Wine, the great Pinot Noirs, and the not-so-great Pinot Noirs of Pinot Days. You can just feel the tension...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wine Tasting Wednesday with the HoseMaster

I get a lot of complaints that I don't write enough about wine. OK, I got one complaint. But it was from a real big shot in the wine business. OK, it was from the security guard at Chalk Hill Winery. He may be nobody to you, but he's my connection for black market Zicam. So I thought that every other Wednesday or so I'd write about some of the wines that I've consumed in recent days. Sounds boring, doesn't it? But let's face it, no one has been reading HoseMaster of Wine since I stopped showing tits. So, basically, this is just my little whacking off Wine Journal. But you can think of it as my contribution to the dreary, sleep-inducing world of wine reviewing.

Before Tony Soter sold Etude and went off to Oregon to make sparkling wine (Soter pop), he produced some stellar Cabernets at Etude. That chain-smokin' bastard could really make Cab. And I have always loved the '95 vintage from Napa Valley--it's far superior to the overhyped vintages of '94 and '97--hell, the '97's, highly touted by Wine Spectator in their youth, have gone downhill quicker than David Carradine's erection. There was a period in the mid-90's that Etude was on top of the Napa Cabernet world with a superb bottling sourced from great vineyards like Madrona Ranch, Vine Hill Ranch and, I think, a touch of Creamy Ranch. I was going through my wine cellar and found a bottle of the '95 and thought, Hmm, this should be about ready to drink. This proved to be inaccurate, but then I remembered you have to remove the cork first--then it's ready to drink. I don't know what to say about this wine except that it was amazing. OK, I'll think of something. It's wines like this that remind me why I have Napa Cabernets in my cellar to begin with. When they are good, they are majestic. The '95 Etude was seamless, rich, delicious, balanced, astonishing Cabernet, and the best thing I've put in my mouth that didn't have hair on it in a really long time.

My gorgeous wife broiled a beautiful piece of King Salmon and it's dying words were, "Drink a Pinot Noir with me." OK, it was one of those talking wall-mounted fish, but it was damned tasty anyway. The Dehlinger 2003 was luscious. It seems like there are as many "hot" new Pinot Noir producers these days as there are new wine blogs. They should all put a cork in it. Or, as an alternative, get screwed. Trust me, most of those "hot" new producers make horrible wine. But, gratefully, in small lots. When a new Pinot producer says he only made 200 cases of his new single-vineyard monstrosity it is apt to remind him, "If there were only 200 cases of syphilis in the world I wouldn't want one of those either." But Tom Dehlinger has been making great Pinot Noir in the Russian River for decades and should be on everyone's short list of great Pinot Noir producers. The 2003 "Goldridge Vineyard" was right at the age where I think most good California Pinot Noirs hit their sweet spot, about six years from the vintage. Pinot Noirs are like Olympic gymnasts--they're limber and erotic and lithe in their youth, but you end up throwing them away after eight years because there are new and better ones right behind them. They age about like Olga Korbut (who, coincidentally, hails from the Belarussian River). Showing off what used to be a perfect 10 Give the Dehlinger a 9.5, a 9.0, a 8.5, a 9.5, and a 7.5 from the Chinese judge.


A HoseMaster Best Buy!
I recently paid a visit to Dry Creek Vineyards to taste wine and see Kim Stare Wallace (if you don't read her blog Wilma's Wine World, well, join the club), but the fantastically beautiful Kim was on vacation so I met with Bill Smart, who should more aptly be named Bill Tall. I guess I won't be welcome there any more. After tasting through their large lineup of wines, and coming away impressed by many of them for their quality and fair prices, Bill sent me home with a bottle of their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and a restraining order. I have to say for $23 this is terrific Cabernet, and, I'll also add, a heck of a buy for free! Honestly, it beat the crap out of the '07 Murphy-Goode I wrote about a week ago, a wine at its same modest price point. The '06 Dry Creek has very nice black currant, black cherry, smoky character, modest tannins that are nicely integrated, just a kiss of oak, and a very pleasing finish. I like that its unpretentious nature mimics the unpretentiousness of the winery and the lovely Kim. If you see this wine at retail for around $20, you can't go wrong. Nice wine.

There, you see, I can write wine reviews without a single joke in them. My jokes are a lot like residual sugar in wine--mostly they are under the threshold of taste and very hard to detect.