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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
"MARVELOUS" MARV SHANKEN
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"
ROBERT LAWRENCE BALZER
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.
RUDOLF "RUDY-FRUITY" STEINER
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.
In the midst of comedy, you have hit on a most interesting truth. Robert Lawrence Balzer, no matter how many other titles he won hands down for years, was also the among the loudest voices favoring CA wine. He deserves a hell of a lot of respect for that.
I would add Leon Adams to that list and Hank Rubin who was writing in Bon Appetit and the SF Chronicle long before I was drinking Tavolo Red and Hearty Burgundy in my misspent youth. I am afraid to ask you if Nate Chroman also qualifies.
And I am mortified by your descriptions of Marvin Shanken and his buddies after the very large salary he offered you to join his forces.
Comedy? I'm the lamest blog on the Internet. Which brings to mind, when are starting yours? Sign me up! I'll proudly add you to my exclusive "Pinch Off Another Blog List."
Nate Chroman deserves induction. He took the fall for a bunch of stuff that EVERYONE else now does routinely. I came damn close to adding you, my friend...maybe next time.
Yeah, Marv even offered to throw in a bottle of every Top 10 Wine Spectator wine of the last five years as a bonus. I turned it down because I knew he'd charge all the wineries for the privilege of doing it.
Maybe next time. I can hardly wait--although how you are going to top calling me "Puff Daddy" remains to be seen. At least, I am not a Bobby. We already have plenty of those.
Gack! Marv has a bit of camel toe happening in that photo....going to go barf.
Let's not forget the inimitable JERRY MEAD. This was a fellow who would routinely open the trunk of his car to receive subtle "pay offs" in the form of cases of wine. He deserves special recognition for taking a junket to Spain at the expense of the Freixenet sparkling wine company and then writing a scathing commentary on how rude the airline was for charging him $3.50 (or so) for a 187ml bottle of Glen Ellen wine on the (free) flight.
Nathan Chroman's nomination gets a "second" from me...Do you recall his finagling an award for the Lawrence Winery at the LA County Fair? The judges refused to give the wines any recognition, so King Nate created a "Chairman's Award" to be sure they got some medal.
Fred Cherry should be enshrined. Hell, he was well-pickled. What can one say about a fellow who was self-embalmed, years before he passed away?
Robert Finigan deserves a bow (or blow). He was the "Jack Shelton of wine writers," well before Robert Parker. Too bad he allegedly gained some sort of preference for "snorting" instead of "sniffing."
Pamela Busch deserves a nomination...she wrote for the SF Examiner and routinely misspelled the names of winemakers/wines/wine regions.
Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal deserve enshrinement, though where, I am uncertain.
Tom Maresca deserves a mention...he wrote an article in Britain's Decanter Magazine last year decrying the use of French oak barrels for Barolo and Barbaresco and then cited a wine, aged in 100% brand new French oak barriques, as a top flight example of classic Barolo.
Frederic Koeppel, a former print journalist, now has a blog called BiggerThanYourHead. I suppose this is referring to Frederic's head, since it must be swelled to (at least) the size of Marvin Shanken's. This blog is a poster child for the self-indulgence and eno-masturbation that IS wine blogging.
Hey Anon 1,
One of the things I'm trying to do here at HoseMaster is talk about the nonsense that goes on in the "glamorous" wine biz that most bloggers, even the ones in the business, don't want to talk about. I have to thank you for contributing to the cause so often and so on point and so articulately. More Hall of Fame posts to come.
Puff Daddy you are, and Puff Daddy you will always be. If I do enshrine you in the HoseMaster Wine Hall of Fame I hope you will take it as a huge compliment, which, in your case, it would be. The others, not so much.
My Gorgeous Sam,
I know, and people used to find my naked girl pictures offensive! I'll show them.
By the way, have I mentioned that I love you?
Fred Cherry? Bob Finigan? Jack Shelton?
How the hell old are you anyhow, Anon 1?
By the way, Bob Finigan lived next door to me in college. I was a sophomore when he was a senior and frankly I don't recall ever meeting him. His roommate, who I did know and who was, even then a genuine nice guy, was Orville Schell, of Niman-Schell meats and a very well-known professor at UC Berkeley.
Thanks for the encouragement...there are copious quantities of nonsense in the wine business. It's grand of you to provide your tongue-in-cheek forum which, on the surface appears to be satirical, but in reality, to quote Lili Von Shtupp in the movie Blazing Saddles, "It's twue! It's twue!!"
Mr. Olken, sir,
As you well know, "age" has little to do with matters at hand here. A wine can be 30 years old and still "youthful."
How old do I appear to be, anyway?
Congratulations on rooming near the esteemed Mr. Finigan when you were a student in college. Did he submit essay assignments in the form of a newsletter, I wonder? Did you write yours using the "three puff" system or were you puffing something else in those days?
If I have learned anything from reading The HoseMaster it's he is always...always willing to offer a little tongue-in-cheek!
Dear Ms. Samantha,
And you, my dear?
Hey Anon 1,
You can't handle the twuth!!
My Gorgeous Sam,
Love, don't spill all my secrets. Well, I guess everyone does know that, if anything, I am cheeky. I'm a big fan of all your cheeks.
Dear Anon 1--
What I puffed is none of your business, but whatever it was, it waited until I moved to San Francisco to find me.
How old do you seem? Old enough to have been selling wine somewhere for years and to have known who Jack Shelton is--all of which means that you are a San Franciscan or Peninsula-ite of long standing.
I think I'm more ass and elbows.
As someone that has been on the other side of it, I would say you have one fierce tongue as well.
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