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When you annoy people in the name of comedy, you get letters. Slinging unwanted barbs at people can be dangerous work, ask any porcupine. But it ain't satire unless you ruffle some feathers, and HoseMaster of Wine has ruffled more feathers than Big Bird masturbating. I thought I might share some of those angry epistles with my loyal readers.
After I referred to Mr. Jess Jackson as "Huckleberry" a few times I received this note:
Dear Mr. Hosemaster,
I'm going to hunt you down and beat you like a Fred Furth voodoo doll. Your implication that I have lost my grip on reality is libelous, insulting and I own thirty wineries. None of which are currently making any money, Sweetcheeks, and I resent the fact that you say they are. Just where do you get off saying that Murphy-Goode wines taste like the grapes want revenge? I bought a perfectly nice blogger, Hardy Burgundy, or some stupid fucking name like that, and look at all the good that's done me. I can't even race the mule. I love mule races. No money in them, not like owning thoroughbreds like Verite, but it's fun to watch those big stupid animals like Hardy Breakfast run in circles. But, hey, don't try to confuse me, I'm here to make a point. I own thirty wineries. Thirty. Calling me Huckleberry rolls off me like integrity rolls of Marvin Shanken, another mule I own, and a good one. I'll buy every blogger alive, don't think I won't. I got the money right here in my pants next to where I keep my keys to the thirty (THIRTY) wineries I own. Which don't make money no matter what you say in your stupid blog. Hey, don't I own you as well as that Hardy Handshake fucker? I need to ask my wife. She must be around here somewhere. She's not in my pants. Hell, she's probably at one of the thirty wineries I own and you don't, Hosemaster of Shit.
I've taken a disproportionate amount of cheap shots at Alder Yarrow whose blog Vinography wins Best Wine Blog every year, which says more about wine blogging than anything I could say. (Sheesh, there I go writing like Alder, who punctuates like an orangutan.)
While I very much appreciate your background in wine, your rise from lowly comedy writer to sommelier, the passion you've shown for the bounty of the grapes, the wit and eloquence with which you skewer wines, the wine business, wine bloggers and people with deformities, mostly of the mammary persuasion, your mission to redefine wine blogging, an admirable mission, a Sonoma Mission, if you'll pardon my attempts at your trademarked humor, by making me a personal target leaves me ill at ease.
I came to the wine business late in life, some would say so late I missed that ferry, and the one after it. But I've been posting religiously and frequently about wine for five years. I want to thank, first of all, my wife, whose patience and understanding have been astonishing given that writing about wine is not my main occupation! I know, I know, it's hard to believe! Wine is not my main career. How could it be? That would be like a brain surgeon operating with hand tools. Or like a tennis player with no balls. Or like Kevin Costner. My blog is among the most widely read and admired, especially by wineries who know I learned my lesson from my mother who used to always say, as mothers do, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. And if you say something nice, expect free stuff." Aren't Moms always right?
I am ill at ease because I can't think of anything nice to say to you. You're mean. You make my tummy all woozy. When your blog comes up in my Google Alerts, oh, God, don't you love Google Alerts?, I get all sweaty and I want to go downstairs and talk to my wife, only she's not there, she's just out with her girlfriends, she'll be home before I'm done posting Vinography and I'll once again be able to guess what wine she's been drinking from her breath and the stains on her dress, and people still say I can't taste blind. Then I read your mean remarks and it just makes me wish I'd never gotten into the wine business. Just stop. Go after that BiggerThanYourHead guy, he's the real doo-doo head. Sorry, Mom.
And I couldn't believe it when this note showed up in my email.
Dear Mr. Washman,
As publisher of Wine Spectator I take offense when you call it, "a lifestyle publication for those dweebs who sorely need to get a life and get a style." We take great pride in our reader demographics, which skew towards the upwardly mobile, the active, and those who read at a fourth grade level. So, basically, people who run for City Council. Compare that with your readers who wouldn't know a Rolex from a Timex, a Cuban cigar from a horse turd, or a bottle of Hardy Rodenstock Jefferson Bordeaux from a fake. I knew it was a fake all along, by the way, I just didn't say anything. See Thomas Matthews' article on "The Billionaire's Vinegar" in the next issue of Wine Spectator--OK, OK, we have timeliness issues, but we're working on it. It runs right after the article about Jess Jackson's search for a Social Media Director at Murphy-Goode and the piece about William Foley buying Michael Jackson's remains.
And I don't much appreciate the potshots at my weight. "Marvin is so big that last year the tent for the Napa Valley auction was one of his old pair of underpants." "Marvin was a big hero at Sebastiani Winery when he noticed a leaking foudre and quickly secured it with his belt." And, "After Marvin's last visit to Cuba to pick up cigars, 79 people used him to illegally sail to Florida." What is your stupid blog, The Marvin Shanken Roast? (ED. NOTE--which would be enough to feed the city of Florence.) Get off my back, Hosepunk, or I'll sick Laube, Kramer, Steiman, and Suckling on you. Worse than that, I'll give you a lifetime subscription to Wine Enthusiast. See how you like that.
Marvelous Marv Shanken
And those are just three out of the gigantic pile of hate mail the ol' Hosemaster receives! You should read the one I got from Robert Mondavi, postmarked Hell! Maybe next time...
The number of articles and studies done on wine and health is astronomical. I've always sort of wondered about this fascination for proving that wine benefits us. We know that it doesn't. We know that we drink too much and then graciously act as case studies for crash test dummies. We know that it harms our kidneys and livers and makes us sleep with people we'd otherwise touch only with oven mitts. We know that it kills millions of brain cells, and, worse, as a corollary, creates hundreds of wine blogs. Yet, being human, we insist that it's good for us. In moderation, as though anyone practices moderation. Moderation is like birth control--it's for other people. People who don't want to be on "Maury." We rig endless clinical studies so that the results say wine is good for us. We know the studies are bogus, but we believe them anyway. Like we believe wine publications that accept advertising are objective. Like we believe wineries when they say they don't filter. Like we believe "organic" on Safeway produce.
But the studies about drinking wine continue. Here are some of the latest findings.
In a recent study, drinking wine was shown to eliminate halitosis. An astute observer noticed that Alder Yarrow had the freshest breath despite unmitigated and frequent buttkissing. This lead to the study. A similar study concluded that wine not only relieved halitosis, it also removed women's mustaches. That study was done on walruses.
When fed a steady stream of expensive Napa Valley Cabernets, mice overestimated the size of their penises by a factor of three. Mice fed Shenandoah Vally Zinfandel started a boys choir.
In a test done on Rhesus monkeys it was discovered that the primates fell into two categories according to the amount of wine consumed. The monkeys who drank less wine were more likely to be aggressive and warlike. The monkeys who drank steadily and moderately were more likely to be the Rhesus Peaces.
People who consumed moderate to heavy amounts of wine were shown to be far more immune to Swine Flu even though they slept with far more pigs. Many became Swine Connoisseurs.
A large and comprehensive study showed that people who drank a lot of wine on a daily basis usually died peacefully in their sleep. Not like the other people in the car.
Another study showed that there is a significant correlation between moderate consumption of wine and the belief in ones ability to speak foreign languages. After three glasses of wine white people often believe they can speak Ebonics.
Moderate consumption of wine has been shown to lower your risk of catching fly balls. This is good news for the flies.
Oh, I could go on. But, really, all this academic hooey trying to prove wine is part of a healthy lifestyle is stupid and basically wrong. Drinking wine doesn't improve your health, it improves your attitude about your health. Just look at the people you know who drink a lot of wine, who drink if for a living or as a hobby, they're all sallow, bloodshot-eyed, out of shape people several teeth short of a full grimace. This is the picture of health? Who cares? Not one of us drinks wine for his health, not one of us. We drink it because it tastes good, and because it gets us drunk. Saying you drink wine as part of a healthy lifestyle is like saying you read Playboy for the interviews. Like saying you had a vasectomy to lose a little weight. Like saying you eat panty shields for the fiber.
Wineries, the wine industry, promote wine drinking as part of a healthy diet. Oh brother, who buys that crap? Didn't they used to sell cigarettes the same way? Look where that got the tobacco companies. Beer gets it right. It's fun to get drunk! Gorgeous babes are drawn to drinkers. Drinking is democratic--anyone can do it and look stupid. Time for wineries to get on that bandwagon.
It's time once again for my collection of wine wisdom culled from countless wine blogs. I learn so much as I surf the Net reading all the many and wise bloggers. Much of this will seem trivial, perhaps useless, but, in fact, much of what is really interesting about wine is trivial. Of course, in a real sense, everything about wine is trivial. What passes for debate on wine blogs is truly just the mindless yammering of asylum inmates convinced that their delusions are reality and that convincing others of that is paramount. In fact, if you read the comments section of blogs in the voice of, say, Shepard Smith, or some other professional psychopath, they actually start to make sense in a pathetic way. And it's a fun party game! Not my stable of commentators, of course, I'm talking about other blogs. If I have any commentators left. Anyhow, more wine wisdom from the blogosphere.
Not every wine region in France is subject to Appellation laws. In a few places you are required to marry your sister or first cousin as designated by the Appalachian rules. This is true in Burgundy.In Italy, winemakers often determine if grapes are ready to be harvested by throwing them against the wall to see if they stick.Native yeast prefer to be known as Fungi Americans.Pinot Noir is distantly related to Liberace.
Many traditional French fishermen age their catch in expensive barrels but have to be careful they don't get a rash from the poisson oak. When finished the barrels are then sold to Sterling.
The most difficult part of the M.S. exam is the obstacle course. Most candidates are unable to climb Larry Stone Right without pitons.
Taste is 70% smell, 30% body odor.
Organic vineyards are allowed to use tiny roach motels for phylloxera.
The person who makes wine is a vintner, the person who makes barrels is a cooper, the person who makes numbers up about wine is an idiot.
"Chateauneuf-du-Pape" means "new home of David Ortiz."
Sancerre is a highly effective douche. Pouilly-Fume is great for destroying ant nests.
Walla Walla is best known for beriberi, tsetse flies and Russ Meyer starlets. Walla Walla is Native American for "Nice gazongas." Left, natives of Walla WallsMuch like the brandy for Port, all Oregon Pinot Noir is the same and is aged for a year in the Spruce Goose.
Wines that are unfiltered are a greater risk for cancer.
Scientists have proven that grapes can feel pain, especially when planted in the Malibu mountains.
In the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux there were actually Eight Growths, but two Growths were surgically removed and the other turned out just to be gas. Chateau Pavie is that Eighth Growth.
Robert Parker is still dead, but is planning a new book on the wines of Purgatory. They're a lot like Madeira.
All the Champagne bottles aging in caves in France laid end to end would nearly encircle Marvin Shanken.
An Homage to Tom WarkEvery now and then I come across a wine blog that has a totally amazing and wonderful voice. I may not agree with everything she says, she has a way of talking too much and about things she doesn't understand, like the pressure I've been under lately, but Millie Ennial of WineWiped has a voice, loud and screechy, but a voice. I think she represents the best intentions of wine bloggers, she writes with passion and sincerity and knows enough to edit it out.
When did you begin blogging and why?
I began in late 1996. There weren't any blogs then, at least not on the Internet, so I wrote copious wine tasting notes on a roll of toilet tissue, a la Jack Kerouac. That's where my blog name comes from, WineWiped. Sadly my old blogs were destroyed in a food poisoning accident. I started to blog because I have something interesting to say about wine. And I say it over and over.
In two sentences, describe the focus of your blog.
Obtaining free wine. Obtaining free wine.
What sets your blog apart from the pack?
I have no interest in learning about wine, just writing about wine. I don't believe you have to know a lot about wine to be a wine blogger, that's just the same tired old elitism that's ruined the wine business for decades. I mean, really, when you want to learn about wine, about what wine to choose, are you going to listen to the same old guys who've been writing about wine for thirty years or are you going to ride the wave of democratization and listen to a gal who really loves the stuff. Oh, and I love kitties.
How would you characterize the growth in readership since you began your blog?
It's grown a lot since the Charmin days. Is this where I lie about how many hits my blog gets every month? 25,000. Many of them incarcerated.
Do you accept samples for review?
Wine, food, urine...whatever. What kind of moron doesn't accept samples? But I never promise a good review. Why, that wouldn't be ethical! But like all wine bloggers, I can promise a profoundly inexperienced and ignorant review, and that works out best for everyone. I don't really have the background or experience to have tasted widely, and my Charmin notes are somewhere in a septic tank, where they belong, so I just wing it. And I love wine. Rarely met one I didn't like. But don't worry, if one comes along I don't like I sure as hell won't tell anyone. Again, simple blogger ethics.
What kind of wine rating/review system do you use, and why?
I use the one-ply, two-ply and Ultra-Soft system because I think it expresses how most people feel about wine. A one-ply wine is fine but a little rough. Two-ply is very satisfying, putting it between your cheeks is memorable. And Ultra-Soft, well, those are wines you want to take extra time with, wines that make you flush with joy.
How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
I don't edit, I don't spellcheck, I don't fact check, I rarely read my comments and I don't think very long or hard about what I write. So it's easy.
Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Every post has a provocative title so that it pops up in search engines more often. This month I've posted, "Naked Cheerleaders," "Latest Celebrity Sex Tape," and "Grannies with Trannies." The last one got the coveted Ultra-Soft rating.
In your view, how, if at all, is wine blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Wine blogging is more better.
Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
The list is almost too long! OK, I read Vinography for the pretty photos and because Alder knows how to get free handouts better than a legless Indian beggar. And I always check in on 1WineDude because he never uses any big words. And I love to read the blog over at Mutineer Magazine because it takes me back to when I was in grammar school and the unpopular kids had their own newspaper. BiggerThanYourHead is a must read, I'd say, particularly if you have a sleep disorder or feel a strong desire to experience waterboarding. I used to read HoseMaster of Wine, but he's become so bitter, like the finish of a one-ply wine, that I don't think anyone thinks he's funny any more.
Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
I believe the entire future of the wine industry depends upon us. Print media is dead--will someone please bury Heimoff after you wipe that stupid smile off his face? Now that Parker is dead, and that secret, held tightly by Squires and Schildknecht and all the other wine Munchkins at The Wine Advocate, is finally getting out, people are going to go online before they make their wine purchases and read the recommendations of lonely bloggers before they go to Trader Joe's and spend their six bucks. Those wineries charging fifty bucks and more for their wines better wise up and start getting those samples out to bloggers! We are the wine culture. We are the voice of the consumer. We know the truth about wine writing--no one can dispute your opinion about taste so don't sweat the details.
Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Are you hitting on me?
Pet: Dog or cat?
Isn't this a little personal, Tom?
Airplane reading: New Yorker or People?
Do these lines work in whiskey bars?
Car: Prius or BMW?
For God's sake, Tom, stop with the stupid questions! I'm not going to sleep with you.
Chablis or California Chardonnay?
I love the way you asked that. That sort of smoky, peaty tone in your voice...
Describe what you would have at your last meal.
Oh, that's so romantic, no one has ever asked me that before. I'd really like it if you were at my last meal. I'll be the appetizer if you'll be the entree.
What is Heaven like?
Oh, God, it's a lot like where your hand is right now.
If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would bring the wine?
Shut up and kiss me, Fermentation Boy. I want you to eat my sugar while I create alcohol and finally release all the CO2 I've been saving for someone just like you.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Do it! Do it, Tom! Do it, do it, do it, do it...done already?
I am bone weary of all the endless talk on wine blogs about the place of Social Media in the wine business. I'm talking to you, Heimoff. Endless carping about how wineries need to use Social Media, find a way to incorporate Social Media into their marketing plans, must utilize Social Media or risk losing their future customers to wineries that do use Social Media. Well, for those of you still wondering what purpose Social Media plays in the wine biz, I'll tell you--Social Media exists solely to reinforce its own importance. It don't mean crap. Is it just me, or whenever you hear Social Media do you think of what they used to call Social Diseases--syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia? Wineries can't wait to get screwed and catch Twitterrhea, Scarfacebook, and Bloggerballs.
The Social Media effect is simply making folks stupider and lonelier and less well-informed. But, hell, wineries pay marketing people a lot of money to try and achieve the same thing. Marketing is about manipulation, just like text messaging. Marketing is about creating a fictitious face for the winery, a Hardy Wallace, just like Facebook is about creating a fictitious persona. Marketing is about simple and dull statements that reach the lowest common denominator just like Twitter. After all, stupid, lonely people spend money, mostly to make themselves feel better, why not convince them to buy your overpriced Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir by taking advantage of that? Tweeters actually want to believe several hundred people give a crap about what they're doing, despite massive evidence to the contrary. Folks on Facebook believe they have 216 friends, which dilutes the meaning of friendship down to the equivalent of Soave Bolla. Text messaging, while requiring great thumbs, makes a mockery of communication, substituting its own little lingo for what we think of as language, and mimics actual relationships with inanity and empty thoughts.
But boy oh boy, the folks who are addicted to Social Media are convinced it will change the wine world--democratize it! What an insipid and jejune opinion. And it's mostly held by the folks that either earn a living directing Social Media, or those that do it instead of actually living. When every winery in California, to stay local, is on Twitter, what possible meaning does that have? Do consumers pick the best Tweeter? (I don't know, but with all this attention barking of lonely humans, it shouldn't be Tweeter, it should be Woofer.) You buy wine because the hired Social Media consultant is a better Tweeter? You feel connected to him because he subscribes to your stupid Tweets about your recent bowel movement or what your cute kitty has done lately to Mommy's hidden sex toys?
Wineries, and lots of other folks, believe Social Media will be the next big movement in the wine biz because they really want to believe it, and every time they turn on their computers they read another stupid opinion that says it will be the next big influence on wine buying. And they want to believe it because they can't sell their overpriced wines at the moment. Wine inventories are bulging like Fred Franzia's eyes staring at grape surpluses. Restaurants aren't buying high end wines, the Las Vegas market has dried up like the Australian wine country, wine shops are just shopping for deals and wines under $15, and wineries really want to think that if they cleverly Tweet, start a Facebook page, kiss bloggers' butts, the cases will go flying out of the warehouse. They believe this right into bankruptcy.
Wine and the wine business are about personal relationships, and always have been. Wines come with a story, for the most part, and the more compelling the story, the more you feel connected to the wine or winery, or to the merchant you trust, or the critic you've come to trust (a tip of my Hose to Puff Daddy), the more likely you are to respond to them. Social Media Stooges think you can establish this kind of relationship through blogging or Tweeting or texting, but, really, even the people who use Facebook know that those 216 people aren't really their friends, they aren't really people they can trust. Most of them are former friends they don't really want to even know any more, or people more important than they are, people they hope will make them seem more interesting. And even Tweeters know no one gives a shit about their Tweets unless it's a link to the latest Hollywood celebrity sex video (seen the Jonas Brothers menage a talentless?). Texting is only about what you have to say, not what others think. So how will this democratization sell wine? About as well as it's selling universal health care.
I'm sure the four people who read this will disagree wholeheartedly. Look at Gary Vaynerchuk! Why he's a celebrity! Like that's praiseworthy. He's an idiot about wine. Great at Social Media, an idiot about wine, and he makes the rest of us look like the Marquis Chimps. But all the folks that will disagree have something to lose by agreeing, either self-esteem or a job. When it comes to the wine business, Social Media is a disease that serves only to reinforce its own
importance, like cancer.
The best wines will endure, the best wines will sell, have no problem selling, with or without Social Media. And folks will not turn to bloggers and Tweeters and Facebookers for wine advice. Unless they have already established their credentials in the same old ways they've always established them--talent, experience, integrity, taste. Do any of those words remind you of bloggers?
When you travel to wine country, any wine country, it can be daunting. So many wineries to choose from, so many tasting rooms to visit, so many activities, what is a first-time tourist to do? If you're in the business--and I don't mean you, wine bloggers, you're not in the business, you're like waiters who think they're actors, you're not any more in the wine business than your server in Hollywood is close to a career in movies from acting in an Equity Waiver production of "Equus" where he wears the horse's head over his face and takes it from Harry Potter up the backstretch--you know which wineries to visit, you get treated like royalty, you know how to turn your third-rate, non-paying, non-air conditioned wine shop into a vacation bonanza. But for those of you new to wine country your HoseMaster of Wine can recommend these interesting and specialty tours for your visit to California's wine country.
NAPA VALLEY CHEESY TASTING ROOM TOUR
A few people actually come to Napa Valley to taste the wines. Not that many. Oh, sure, once upon a time folks lined up to taste the wines, purchase cases, and enjoy them for many years to come. But, frankly, who can afford the wines now? Doesn't it feel a little painful to spend $100 for a bottle of Cabernet when the kid who made your shoes in Indonesia doesn't earn enough to afford the online Appellation America? Now most people just shop when they come to Napa Valley. Even if you can afford them, you can't take the wines you purchase on a plane any more because, well, the terrorists actually won. But shirt, hats, coasters, all that carnival crap, is easy to put in your carry-on, and it's more affordable. The Cheesy Tasting Room Tour hits all the high points in Napa Valley kitsch. Your knowledgeable and taste-free guide, think of her as your own personal Leslie Sbrocco, will escort you to all the finest purveyors of schlock in the famed Napa Valley. You'll visit Darioush, where quality and taste go to die. Visit the gift shop at Niebaum-Coppola--all the taste of Vegas, all the glitter of Spencer's Gifts! And to wrap up your glorious day, a trip to Castello di Amorosa and a visit to their famous torture chamber--OK, it's the tasting room, but Gitmo's got nothing on these wines! Napa Valley's tasting room gift shops rival the best that Six Flags has to offer!
RUSSIAN RIVER WINE ROAD UNICYCLE TOUR
The Wine Country of California is crawling with smug bicyclists. Though "smug bicyclists" is redundant. Folks who work in wine country deal with them on a daily basis as they wind their way down the beautiful, vineyard-lined country roads slowing traffic, causing head-on collisions and clogging roadside drainage ditches. They ride miles and miles on hot summer days and then graciously lend their presence to tasting rooms, using the bathrooms, begging for water, and never spending a dollar. They are much beloved. But for the truly arrogant, there is now the Russian River Unicycle Tour. Imagine the moral superiority of someone who has unicycled to the nearest winery! Picture yourself dismounting your unicycle in front of Rochioli knowing that you have left no carbon footprint that day! That the people driving cars and purchasing wine are your intellectual and moral inferiors! Even the bicyclists in their pathetic helmets and Lance Armstrong testicle-free bracelets will have to stand in awe of you on your unicycle! Can't ride a unicycle? Don't worry. Our vans will drop you off secretly fifty feet from the tasting rooms and you can walk. We won't tell. We hate bicyclists too.
THE SANTA BARBARA COUNTY INFERIORITY COMPLEX TOUR
Anyone who has toured the wineries of Santa Barbara County can tell you, these are serious people spending serious money to make strikingly average wines! But they'll never let on. They are going to ride that "Sideways" horse until there's not enough meat on it to feed their migrant workers. They're going to swear the Santa Rita Hills produce the best Pinot Noirs in California despite twenty years of evidence to the contrary--but, well, folks believe OJ is still looking for his wife's murderer, so why is this any different? Hell, some folks think Dick Cheney isn't a traitor--facts don't really persuade people. And, frankly, in the case of Santa Barbara County and how they hopelessly promote their wines, it's just about insecurity. The Santa Barbara County Inferiority Complex Tour takes you and your guests to four different wineries where you'll hear winemakers and owners swear that their wines stand up to any in the world. Knowledgeable guides will ask them which Burgundies their Pinot Noirs are better than--the ones that have Hearty in front of them? Sure, Tuscany has Florence, Burgundy has Beaune, but Santa Ynez Valley has Solvang! I don't know about you, but when I think quality wine, I think Holland! Oh, it's a hoot! But be careful what you say around Fess Parker. He may just skin your retriever and make a Labcoat out of him.
Fess in his starring role as Dick Cheney
Announcing the HoseMaster of Wine ClubTM! Yes, now you can drink the best wines available at just dollars above their actual value! Don't be fooled by all the other wine clubs! They're scams, disingenuous schemes to rob you of your valuable drinking dollars. Just look at who's started wine clubs, why would you trust these yahoos?
Sunset Magazine Wine Club--The people who believe in-depth reporting is all of two paragraphs written in sixth grade English want to sell you wine! Every month receive two bottles of wine about as challenging as a pregnancy test. Hand-selected, because their feet are covered with manure. Who the hell buys wine on Sunset's recommendation? Your grandmother?
KQED Wine Club--OK, fine, it's good to support public television. I can't get enough of Wayne Dyer's recycled Tao bullshit (I don't really have the TaoJones), I can't stop watching Broadway show tunes and singing along, I can't wait for Ken Burns' next documentary about the great American tradition "Bowling with Midgets," but I sure as hell don't want PBS picking my wines for me. Of course, it's not like they do it themselves--they hire a company to do it. And since everyone along the chain has to make a profit, well, those bargain wines, those wines wineries are willing to unload for a song to the KQED Wine Club knowing they'll be sold for their full retail price, by the time you get them, well, they're full price! Act now and you'll get a book autographed by Deepak Chopra's assistant--the same ones on the bargain table at your local Barnes and Noble!The Wall Street Journal Wine Club--From the people who brought you amateurs reviewing wines to go along with their amateur movie reviewers and professional stock market mystics, a wine club! And why wouldn't you buy wine recommended by the WSJ? Sure, you've a perfectly competent wine shop nearby with an owner who's spent his life learning about wine, but that's nothing compared to UPS dropping off a box at your house with the WSJ return address, is it?! A box filled with wines all the titans of industry would be proud to serve at their next angry stockholder meeting when announcing their million dollar bonuses. And is there a better pair of guides to wine than Gaiter and Brecher, the lovely couple who manage to write a weekly wine column loaded with residual sugar? But you can be sure when it comes to Open That Special Bottle Night they aren't referring to your recent WSJ Wine Club wines.The New York Times Wine Club
--Oh, this ought to be good. Now, in a desperate move to try to actually make some money, because, now pay attention Bloggers, even the New York Times can't make a profit from their online product (monetize that, dimbulbs), the venerable newspaper is about to start a wine club. One of the great newspapers of the world has to resort to marketing fire sale wines at nice profit margins in order to pay for their journalistic efforts. What's wrong with this picture? We expect everything except porn online to be free--it's our God-given right, we're paying Comcast for DSL, that's plenty to pay for the Internet--but we are willing to pay for the right to drink mediocre wines chosen by a panel driven mostly by profit and only occasionally by quality. We can't expect free wine, after all! Well, not unless we're Bloggers and we're the next channel for wineries to sell wine! Then we deserve it. And if the New York Times can't make a profit, tough. Who needs them? We've got Sean Hannity to tell us all the news that fit to distort.
So why join any of those stupid wine clubs when you can join the HoseMaster of Wine ClubTM? I personally select the finest wines, negotiate discount prices from suppliers, then resell them to you at fantastically exaggerated prices! And I include detailed tasting notes, exciting recipes culled from Sunset magazine, and tons and tons of throwaway advertising in every shipment! So what are you waiting for? Operators are standing by! Call toll-free! 1-877-SUCKERS!
If I were you I wouldn't actually dial that number...
Time for another mythbusting edition of HoseMaster of Wine! In this occasional series (see "You're Mything the Point" from the June 15th edition) I debunk myths about wine and the wine business for your edification. No need to thank me. Just doing my job.
Myth #1 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes.
This is a common assumption with no basis in fact. Most of the world insists that "wine" be produced 100% from grapes, except in Austria where you're allowed to use petroleum byproducts. But New Zealand's climate is lousy for wine grapes, so their Sauvignon Blancs are actually fermented Tasmanian devil urine (which is also used for most Australian Chardonnay). Oh sure, there are vineyards in New Zealand, but they're just a front, sort of like how MacDonald's pretends their hamburgers are made from actual meat. The grapes never ripen in those vineyards, they're just for show. And, as it turns out, there are only two producers of "Sauvignon Blanc" in New Zealand and they produce all of the Taz Blanc for the couple hundred labels you see in wine shops. This is easy to confirm. Conduct a blind tasting of fifteen "different" New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and try to tell them apart! You can't. Because they're all from the same marsupials!! New Zealand "Pinot Noir" is a different story--it's made from sheep dung.
Myth #2 Wine Tasting is Subjective.
I love this one. This is what wine experts say to people who don't know shit about wine in order to avoid making them feel like their opinions are stupid. But nothing could be further from the truth. Most people's opinions about wine are, in fact, stupid, and only made worse by the fact that they think they are entitled to their opinions. There aren't three correct answers to a question on your driving test, there aren't six answers to a geometry problem, and, really, there aren't any real disagreements about wines. We wine experts just say wine preference is personal taste all the time because it's way too much work to teach you ignoramuses about the fundamentals of wine. We know what wines are actually perfect, fantastic, amazing, and when some imbecile says something like "It's too bitey" we just say, "Well, everyone's different. Just drink what you like." Which is essentially our way of telling you, "You're stupider than a Tim Fish 'Wine Spectator' feature." Don't believe it for a minute. Every wine has an objective and iron-clad rating. You're just not privy to it.
Myth #3 Robert Parker is still alive.
Just as Scientologists, who just lost their great champion in Eunice Kennedy Shriver, still profess that L. Ron Hubbard is alive, Parkerbots claim that Robert Parker is still alive. It's not true. RP died in 2004 when a 100 pound scale fell on him. But his death was covered up, mainly by the French and Australians who knew their sales and prices would plummet without his inflated ratings to sell them. A Parker impersonator was hired, a man equally skilled in butchering the language, who attends charity tastings where he is provided with a script ghostwritten for him by Rod McKuen. Many in the business who are aware of Parker's demise worry what will become of the wine industry when consumers become aware that the great man is dead. Where will they turn for advice? How will wine shops sell wine without the "RP" POS signs? Will they have to resort to actually knowing the wines they sell? And how far will the price of Bordeaux fall without the Wine Pope's blessings? Will they become as unsellable as high-end Australian Shiraz, which even with Parker's wholehearted endorsement people recognize as Bardahl? Who will decide the next California cult wine? Steve Heimoff? James Laube? Alder Yarrow? A different undiscovered industry suckup? It's going to be scary.
The late Mr. Parker getting a snootful of a TCA.
Myth #4 Corked wines are faulty.
There are a couple of myths rolled up in this one. First of all, the idea that a "corked" wine is caused by contamination from the cork. This is a lie cooked up by the folks who make and advocate screwtops, and has no basis in fact. The off-aroma that is defined as "corked" is caused by a chemical compound known as TCA, which is short for Tightly Clenched Anus. It's a result of the bottle of wine having been stored too close to a septic tank. Aside from that, there are actually many wine connoisseurs who prefer corked wines and actively seek them out. They love the specific quality of a corked wine, that alluring aroma of wet blogger, and feel that the corked bottle is superior to the noncorked bottle. Most of the time it is hard to disagree with them.
As HoseMaster of Wine, I spend so much of my time here hosing all the fools and hypocrites in the wine blogosphere and the wine world that I don't often get to show off my impeccable taste in wine. And you know I have impeccable taste in wine. It's easy to tell. I mean, really, how many other people out there can stick their nose in a glass of wine, take a small sip, swish it around in their mouth and then come up with "89 points!?" This takes years of experience! It only sounds ridiculously easy, but, trust us, we who review wines, it ain't. You may disagree with "89 points" after you buy the wine and it sucks like a bucktoothed lamprey, but I'm the expert, my friends say so, and I have a blog and a keyboard to prove it. And numbers can be confusing for novices. They ask stupid questions like, "What's the difference between an 89 and a 90?" Forgivably ignorant question, but ignorant nonetheless. The standard answer is "I liked the 90 slightly more than the 89." The actual answer is "Ad revenue."But I do have kind of a soft spot for what is known as the monthly Wine Blogger Wednesday. I enjoy this like I enjoy Jay Leno's Jaywalking spots--it's like wallowing in a warm ocean of human imbecility and misinformation. Nothing but laughs. Like someone will propose writing about wine and music pairings. And, can you believe it, they all do! It's not enough to just match wine with the appropriate food, now you have to pick the right music to accompany the wine. What about clothing? I know, let's blog about how what you're wearing affects the wine!
I opened a bottle of Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay. It was pretty good with my stonewashed denims, and maybe even a little better with Lederhosen, but when I put on my merkin and a codpiece, the wine just sang. In a falsetto, but it sang.
It's not enough you display your poor taste in wine, you have to mix it with esoteric music too? Oh God, I can just see it now. These dorks taking not only their own wine into a restaurant, not only their appropriate Riedel stemware (Riedel--the MG of wine glasses), but also their iPod with the music best suited to their 96-point Australian wine (A Flock of Seagulls, or Olivia Newton-John, which is more gooey?). Yeah, yeah, music affects your brain waves, but these folks don't exactly have the stuff of tsunamis in their skulls. They've barely enough to drown a mosquito.Like most of you, I drink a bottle of wine every night. I try to drink interesting wines. After so many years as a sommelier, there aren't very many wines I don't have some appreciation for. I don't get free samples any more. I don't get tasted regularly on expensive Napa Valley Cabernets or flashy Burgundies or esoteric Italian wines, but the upside is I also don't have to taste all the manipulated and manufactured crap that desperate wine reps hope will end up by-the-glass so they can make the payments on their bar tabs. Now I just drink. Here are my impressions of a few of the wines I've tasted in the past week or so. Remember, friends, comedy is easy, wine descriptions are hard.
LONE MADRONE 2005 TANNAT GLENROSE VINEYARD PASO ROBLES
I have this thing for Tannat. Don't know where it started, with some bottle of Madiran I had a long time ago, but now, I seek them out. For me, it's To be, or tannat to be, that is the question. (OK, new Wine Blogger Wednesday idea--wine with Shakespeare! To paraphrase, What fucking fools these mortals be.) Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, but Lone Madrone is his own label. Neil also has a thing for Tannat, there is even a bit planted at Tablas Creek thanks to him, so when I stopped at the Lone Madrone tasting room on HWY 46 W a few weeks ago (his were some of the best wines I tasted that trip--Paso has a lot of wineries, but very few actually worth tasting at) I was hoping there would be a Tannat to taste. And here it is, Tannat, in its gigantic glory. Man, this stuff is darker than Dick Cheney's soul. Darker than a spelunker's wet dream. Darker than the negative of a Johnny Winter photo. I love good Tannat (and Tannat is a pedigreed grape--Tannat is to Uruguay as Malbec is to Argentina, as Carmenere is to Chile, as Gruner Veltliner is to the Land of Stupid Sommeliers). Tannat is like Petite Sirah with some actual complexity. The 2005 Lone Madrone begs to be decanted, but there isn't enough oxygen in Scarlet Johansen's lungs to open this baby up. I gots Scarlet fever! Inky and brooding, very late in the evening it starts to get blueberry and cassis flavors, dark chocolate, a bit of briariness. And always the tannins. This wine is about as subtle as a lie from Sean Hannity's lips. And don't miss Lone Madrone's 2006 Roussanne! Fantastic example of this wonderful grape.
BREGGO 2007 GEWURZTRAMINER ANDERSON VALLEY
"Breggo" means sheep in the strange lingo of Boontling. As the farmer said to the lonely shepherd, "Leggo of my Breggo!" Breggo is a relative newcomer to the Anderson Valley scene, but, wow, are their white wines good! I stopped at their tasting room on HWY 128 to get some of their Pinot Gris, but it was sold out. I bought this Gewurztraminer instead, and now I wish I hadn't been so damned tight and bought a few more. You can list the Gewurz worth drinking in California on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to give me one. Navarro, Fogarty, Arista...now add Breggo. This '07 Gewurz had everything. A beautiful nose, filled with lychee and apricot and peach and flowers, a sensational, slightly oily texture (there may be some residual sugar here, but it only added to the impression), and a long, almost Vendange Tardive finish. I know Breggo is sold out of this wine, and they should be. I'd be wary of buying the '08 because of all the wildfires in Mendocino that year. Every wine up there has the possibility of smoke contamination. And when there's a fire in Mendocino, even the Breggo get the munchies. Break out the Fritos and sheep dip!
SKIPSTONE 2005 OLIVER'S BLEND ALEXANDER VALLEY
There's been a lot of buzz about this estate nestled in the hills above Alexander Valley. The owners are certainly throwing money at it like Obama at a banker's convention. They hired Ulises Valdez, Phillipe Melka, Emily Wines, and even a winemaker! I call this the New York Yankee approach to the wine business. Looks great in the preseason predictions but can all this overpriced talent create a winner? For years folks have tried to make a sensational Cabernet based wine in Alexander Valley. Jordan made the appellation famous and graciously set the bar very low. If it were limbo no one could beat them. In recent years it has been Huckleberry at Stonestreet and Verite attempting the feat (Robert Parker aside, Verite is about as interesting as a James Laube column, only easier to buy, if you can afford it), as well as Lancaster, whose wines have definitely improved under David Ramey's consulting. But Skipstone just might be the real deal. The 2005 is damned nice wine, 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and the rest split between Petit Verdot and Malbec. This is still one of those work-in-progress wines, but for a first release it's pretty impressive. It already seems to have an identity, a nice seamlessness, a vividness to the fruit, a loamy richness that speaks of the vineyard. I liked it very much, and it was worlds better the second day, which is always a good sign. If the wines improve over each vintage, Skipstone just might be the Bordeaux blend that puts Alexander Valley on the map. Or maybe they could trade for Michel Rolland and a player to be named later.
With the success of "Sideways," piece of crap that it was (Does anyone actually buy that those two guys are friends, or that those two women would have anything to do with them? Probably the same people who think young actresses want to sleep with Woody Allen, or be adopted by him, which amounts to the same thing), and the other recent independent films that prominently featured wine, Hollywood has quite a few new wine films on tap for the coming year. Here's a preview of some of them.
TWO BUCK CHUCKYA nightmarish film about Fred Franzia (a stirring performance from Tom Arnold) terrorizing, torturing and terminating Napa Valley vintners. In the film's most frightening scene, a desperate Robert Mondavi (Wilfred Brimley) is forced to sell off his best vineyards for cash to satisfy his back-from-the-grave Zombie shareholders in the wake of Two Buck Chuckie's disemboweling of Woodside wines. Forced to eat his own young, the tortured Mondavi is also cruelly forced to tour Copia. Other scenes that depict Two Buck Chuckie's relentless and pitiless torture of his hired immigrant laborers may be too much for a sensitive person to watch. Rated PG-13.
RUDYThe charming story of a lonely and crazy Austrian philosopher named Rudolf Steiner (Arnold Schwarzenegger in a thrilling return to the screen after his Oscar-nominated performance as an addlepated Governor) who convinces the wine world that Biodynamics is essential for great vineyards. Something of a cross between "A Simple Mind" and "The Sound of Music," director and screenwriter Oliver Stone shows us the inspiration for Biodynamics, Steiner's love of bullshit, and then takes us up to the present day and Nicolas Joly's (an impeccably accented Carrot Top) infatuation for the great man. Oscar buzz already for Jennifer Lopez's portrayal of Steiner's true love, Bessie the Guernsey.INDIANA JONES AND THE LOST CAVES OF MAMMONLucas and Spielberg set their latest Indiana Jones flick four thousand years in the future. Indy (Larry the Cable Guy) and his gorgeous sidekick Mary Tage (RuPaul) have unearthed the Lost Caves of Mammon, the recently rediscovered wineries of Napa Valley. Much like the Pharaohs, Indy discovers, early 21st Century Napa Valley Vintners spent fortunes building shrines to themselves, ludicrously expensive monuments where ignorant people came to worship them and drink of their mystical beverages. In cave after elaborate cave, Indiana and Mary uncover the horrors of the era and battle the ghosts who had long lain dormant under the rubble. They barely manage to escape all the devious and evil booby traps left behind by the wineries--wine clubs and allocation lists and nightmarish hidden filter pads. And they try to understand what killed this lost civilization, try to understand the culture's obsession with Mammon. In a pivotal scene, after being forced to eat Mammon tartare, Indy flashes back to the 20th Century and hallucinates that he is Bill Jarvis and he nearly dies of terminal cave envy. Mary saves him by showing him her cave doesn't really exist (a brave RuPaul).CITIZEN MARVA fictionalized version of the life of Marvin Shanken (Divine, in his final role) and the rise of his publishing empire. Marvin takes a failed newspaper, Wine Spectator, and with the clever theft of elements of Gourmet magazine, Robert Parker's (a nice set piece by John Candy, also in his final role) Wine Advocate, and the vocabulary of Dr. Seuss, creates a wine reviewing dynasty. But his ultimate downfall at the hands of bloggers (great to see so many Little People in a film) leaves him gasping this final mysterious word on his deathbed, "Payola."Divine, as a not yet housebroken Shanken on original Wine Spectators
Many thanks to Tom Wark for turning me on to yet another wine blog in his recent post, A Glass After Work. Though I confess, I thought he wrote A Glass After Wark and it was a blog about hemlock. I perused A Glass After Work on Tom's recommendation and was utterly captivated by yet another complete waste of time. There is something oddly pathetic about reading someone's tasting notes for Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay (so much superior to their regular Frei Brothers Chardonnay--or else they couldn't call it Reserve could they?) that end with knitting and Harry Potter. But if Tom says this is a good wine blog, who am I to criticize? But it was a lot like spending ten minutes with your elderly aunt with halitosis. But to her credit, Alleigh, the creator of A Glass After Work, learned very quickly to beg for samples, but, hell, yarn ain't cheap, my friends, and wineries are plenty stupid, so it's a win-win. Looking forward to posts on St. Supery, Hahn, Murphy-Goode and all the other dull as W. wines in California.
But I'm a little sick of Tom Wark being the designated Blogmeister. He's not the only guy who discovers new wine blogs. Your HoseMaster has been surfing the net in search of new and thrilling voices in the wine blogosphere and I've found some great new sites. Do yourself a favor and check these out.
Sex For Wine
Corky Screw (a pseudonym? Nah) has a fantastic new blog with something for everyone. She writes fantastic tasting notes. And she willingly has sex with anyone who gives her a decent bottle of wine. Unlike most blogs where tasting notes are dry and unimaginative, Corky's notes are very clever and creative, and hint at all the fun she's having writing her blog. Here's an example:
"On my scale of 5 Orgasms, 1 being I faked it to 5 meaning it was great served alone, the 2006 Cakebread Chardonnay was a 2. Man, I've done it fifty times if I've done it once. Same old crap. I took a sniff, I put it in, hell, been there done that. Yeah, it's fine, but this is the kind of style that is best done cold, and I mean I just found out you had sex with my sister cold."
Corky writes that her cellar is rapidly filling up. I'm hoping this isn't a metaphor. I think she means that folks are lining up to give her wine in exchange for sexual favors. Sadly, I couldn't find out whether that's her real name. Or where she lives. Sorry, Hardy, I tried. And that's "good" wine, without the "e." And you need some balls.
Fox News Wine Blog
It might seem odd at first glance, but, really, who can you trust more than Fox News? Come on, friends, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh? There aren't three bigger assholes in the Ringling Brothers elephant compound, but they know their wines! And they are not afraid to speak the truth, they're not big old liars like those Africans running the country. (Warning: You do have to have a link to your birth certificate to enter this site so if you are a person of color or are from a Muslim country you might want to go to their alternate site first, www.wehopeyoustarvetodeath.com, to save some time. And if you're Muslim, why are you reading wine blogs? Hell, if you're not Muslim, why are you reading wine blogs?) Here's Rush on his favorite Bordeaux:
"Ladies and gentleman, I know it's French wine, and the French, well, they're cowards and their President would have sex with an eclair, but if you haven't had Chateau Margaux, well, your life is shabby and miserable and you'll never have health care if I have anything to say about it. Nothing I like more than a big glass of Margaux from a good vintage, say 2000 when Bush was elected, matched with a prescription pain killer, a big dose, Oxycontin from around 2007, with a gorgeous fake prescription label. Friends, this is the kind of pleasure a man is grateful to have had. Just isn't the same with some crappy Third Growth and a Midol. Ask Ann Coulter."
Add Hannity and O'Reilly to the mix, the Twin Towers of Human Waste, and, well, this is wine writing at a level of prevarication only the best bloggers, the AWBA winners, can achieve.
A Couple of Bottles A Night
I love this guy. Ralph Chunks writes a blog about his habit of drinking two bottles of wine every night, and the funny consequences that follow. Always a great story when Ralph's around. In one recent post, Ralph writes about drinking a bottle of great Chablis and following it with a bottle of Clos du Bois Chardonnay. When he's driving home he gets stopped by a cop who asks him what he's been drinking. Ralph tells the cop, "A great bottle of Raveneau and your mother's piss." Hilarity ensues as the cop beats him senseless and Ralph wakes up in jail with some guy groping him. But is there a better description of Clos du Bois Chardonnay than that? In another yarn, Ralph drinks a bottle each of two different Siduri Pinot Noirs but then goes on a drunken rampage because he's convinced it's the same goddam wine in both bottles! His email exchange with the folks at Siduri is hilarious, as is his conclusion about the two wines, "These two Pinots are about as different as my left nut and my right nut tasted blind in my bag." Yup. Ralph Chunks nails it again.
I didn't know what to expect upon first meeting Hardly Walleyes, Social Media Director for Murphy-Goode Wines, but I certainly didn't expect flowers. It's not like I'm a bigshot blogger feigning humility or anything. And it's not like I expect something for free, like wine samples, airline tickets, front row seats for my favorite concerts (oooh, I hear the Captain and Tennille are making a comeback) or unmarked bills sent directly to me at Vinography: The Wine Shill, 1313 Puffpiece Lane, SF. (Let's say I did get some free stuff, I certainly always put a Full Disclosure statement at the end of each post, which is more than any of those New Jersey rabbis did at the end of their Saturday services.) But the flowers were a nice touch. And to think Hardly had gone all the way to the Healdsburg Cemetery to get them just for me!
It's hard to imagine any of you reading this don't know, but Hardly Walleyes was the lucky winner of the Murphy-Goode Social Media Position. Murphy-Goode's original idea was to pay a person $1000 for every point of their IQ over the course of the six months that blogger/tweeter/podcaster/poseur worked for the winery, up to $120,000. The stumbling economy forced them to set their sites a bit lower and when Hardly scored a dazzling 60 on the IQ exam, it was a win-win situation. After spending an afternoon with him at the personal request of Jess (call me Huckleberry) Jackson, tasting the wines and helping him tie his shoes, I can say that I believe they made the right call. Hardly Walleyes is Murphy-Goode wines. And I wouldn't be surprised if he stays on after his six months have gone by. The little guy makes the perfect pet.
Jess and the Murphy-Goode gang livin' the lifestyle! A Vinography Image
Hardly comes from our own wine blogosphere having written a never-nominated wine blog called dirtymouthwine for the past several years. Like so many of our finest wine bloggers, Hardly makes no claim to having a wide knowledge of wine, and it shows in his posts. I find it refreshing in this day and age of so-called "experts" that a person with so few qualifications can successfully make a name for himself in the wine business. I know how hard that is. And I was flattered that Hardly confided that he looked up to me as a role model in that regard. He told me that as I was positioning the flowers on an old fence rail in front of a vineyard at sundown for one of my patented Vinography Images that proves how sensitive I am. (I'll be posting that image the day after tomorrow, right after my scathing commentary on the great Rieslings of Oregon--a hint, only 24 of the 28 scored 9 or higher!)
Hardly's experience as a marginally talented wine blogger will serve him well in his new capacity. Casting an uncritical eye on the wines of Murphy-Goode is exactly what Huckleberry was hoping for, and it's hard to imagine even a dozen more IQ points would have changed that, but here is Hardly Walleyes hard at work writing and tweeting and blogging about the Sonoma County lifestyle. Oh, it's a big adjustment moving to the sleepy little town of Healdsburg after the bright lights of Atlanta, the town Sherman should have burned. But Hardly is nothing if not resourceful and he's filled his new digs with things to remind him of home--little no-skid flowers on the shower floor, Flintstones vitamins in the cupboard and all of his Jonas Brothers posters! In just a few days Hardly has made Healdsburg his home, and Healdsburg is better off for it.
Hardly and I strolled over to the tasting room in Healdsburg so I could sample the fine wines of Murphy-Goode with Walleyes as my guide. We got a little lost, but Windsor is lovely this time of year, I took another trademark Vinography Image of the Windsor Square, so captivatingly abandoned as always. When we finally arrived at the tasting room and I'd helped little Hardly zip up, the wonderful Murphy-Goode hospitality team had more flowers waiting for me, and a new Prius, which was thoughtful, and oh so Sonoma. But it was the fantastic wines that I had come for. These fine Sonoma County wines sourced from so many different vineyards are such a treat to taste, and so easy to write about with none of those long and bothersome single vineyard names all over them from appellations I think are so confusing. The Murphy-Goode wines are simple, like the great Hardly Walleyes, the little guy all wrapped up in Tweeting and Blogging and Facebooking and the Jonas Brothers, but give them a chance and they'll make great pets.
Full Disclosure: No animals were hurt in the making of this post.