Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seven Wine Blogs to Be Avoided at All Costs
, from the magazine for folks who brought down the American economy, recently published a list of seven Must Read Wine Blogs. Naturally, this amounted to a list of the usual suspects. I was reminded of the great Woody Guthrie song, "This Bland is Your Bland, This Bland is My Bland..." But it's what one would expect from a pedestrian and dull publication that no one reads or quotes unless they've come out with their list of the world's wealthiest people, or, as I like to call them, Republicans--a pedestrian and dull list of wine blogs.

Do these seven Must Read Wine Blogs really need the help of Forbes? They've already got thousands of readers monthly. My readership hasn't increased an iota since I started this masturbatory meditation on all things wine. Not that I can tell anyway. I haven't the vaguest idea how to measure readership. I just go by the personal hate mail I receive, and, well, that's about the same. But I'm thinking of spamblocking my family. Wouldn't it have been nice if had shown a little initiative and highlighted seven Wine Blogs that
Ought to Be Avoided at All Costs? You know HoseMaster of Wine would have been at the top of that list, though almost everyone already successfully avoids it. But the thought got me to thinking, what are the seven Wine Blogs that Ought to Be Avoided at All Costs? Which would you choose? Here's my list.

I don't know, does the world need wine reviews written by the president of the local chapter of NAMBLA? Sure, priests know about wine, but, really, all the guy likes is the really young stuff. The wines too. The mind boggles at his reviews, though I did think he was pretty perceptive about the Rodney Strong samples the winery sent him. But it is creepy that his favorite winery is Mounts.


I was searching online for information about motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, you know, the guy who killed three people in a sweat lodge in Sedona (which breaks the old record of two set by Suzanne Somers and several beavers), and it turns out he also has a wine blog! Who knew?! It's mostly focused on Madeira. Obviously. I like his take on Madeira, actually. Ray thinks you should drink it till you puke. Then die. But I'd avoid this wine blog, it's just a rehash of Alice Fiering.

OK, at first I thought this was the BrixChix blog, but it's actually a blog written by an Inuit (a tribe closely related to the tribe of wine bloggers, the Iduits). This blog centers around the search for the perfect wine to pair with blubber. While occasionally enlightening, the post about the 27 different words the Inuit have for "shitfaced" is revelatory (wow, Shankenfaced, really?), the relentless descriptions of eating blubber gets a little nauseating. But it turns out the perfect wine to accompany blubber is Kistler Chardonnay. Shocked my blowhole.

You just don't want to go here. Trust me. Sure, it's interesting to hear that Yellow Tail is perfect with earwax, and that when trying to find the perfect wine for toejam it's best to put it on crackers, and that bougars need residual sugar, but, honestly, don't go there. Really, isn't Two Buck Upchuck going a little too far? Is this the democratization of wine reviewing we're looking for? On the other hand, the guy's a better writer than Harvey Steiman.


There's just nothing new here at all. This wine blogger coaches new wine bloggers on the fine art of getting drunk on a budget by printing up cheapass business cards on your home computer so that you can drink for free in tasting rooms all over the country, by soliciting free samples from desperate wineries (he actually provides a list of Sucker Wineries that have marketing consultants who would send free wine to a dung beetle if he had a wine blog), by bluffing your way into industry tastings with your imaginary blog credentials, and by kissing the egotistical butt of every winery owner in Napa Valley. It's a blatant Vinography ripoff.


Oh boy, what do I say about this turkey? The woman who writes this blog, Landa DaLost, is a "natural" woman. From her photograph, it's apparent she's got hair growing in more places than Al Qaeda. And she's not afraid to show it. If you blur your eyes, she looks like a breeding ground for echidnas. Landa only reviews natural wines, of course, and the more organic, the more Biodynamic, the more vegan, the better. And we're talking ripe. Landa, not the wines. But this is just another stupid blog about "natural" wines, and God knows we're all sick to death of that crap.

Wine Library TV

Oh, man, what the hell is this? Some strange little man on a cheap set hopping around like he's leashed to an organ grinder describing wine in ways that can only be described as ludicrous and goofy. Definitely stole my act. Guy should be a wine judge.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"The M.S. Conspiracy"

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 4 Some Look Better--Dead

It seems like I'm always the dick that gets caught in the zipper. I'm alone in a ritzy hotel room with a sexy brunette who's deader than a Matt Kramer opinion and the Chief of Police walks in. She doesn't say anything at first, she's just surveying the room, taking it all in, like I wished Lorna had. My head was still pounding and I kept hearing a high-pitched noise that sounded like Julia Child having an orgasm. I knew enough not to talk or move until Chief Jokes was done checking out the crime scene. Besides, I love Chief Jokes, I always have. I just wanted to watch her for a while.

Jessica Jokes and I had gone to high school together, so, of course, I'm quite a bit older. Jessica had always been an overachiever. She had been Head Cheerleader, Prom Queen, Valedictorian,
and a semi-professional sword swallower. She'd started out on pocket knives and worked her way up. I'd been in love with her since the eleventh grade, but she wouldn't give me the time of day.

"Hey, Jessica," I said when I thought she was done eyeballing Lorna, "you have any idea what time it is?"

"None of your fucking business." See.

Jessica gave me a contemptuous glance, and then slowly walked over to where Lorna lay on the cushy Les Mars mattress. Jessica flipped back the bedspread, squatted down, the pants of her cop uniform clinging tightly to her pear-shaped buttocks like Saran Wrap on a new French oak barrel, and examined the mattress tag. "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law," she read out loud. "Well, at least they weren't scofflaws."

"Did you happen to see a really ugly midget leaving the hotel when you arrived, Chief?"

"I'm going to ask the questions here, HoseMaster. What the hell are you doing in Les Mars Hotel with a dead M.S. candidate?" Just like high school, Jessica had done her homework. Though it turned out the hotel was filled to capacity with candidates for M.S., the exams were coming up. Where did these morons get the money to stay at Les Mars? This whole thing was starting to stink. Or else someone's intestinal cuvee was having sulfur issues, and it wasn't the Prom Queen with a badge.

"So you don't think I killed her?"

"You?" she said scornfully. "You can see that someone broke her neck, and a wimp like you can barely unscrew a Stelvin much less unscrew a woman's neck."

"OK, you're close. But I wasn't trying to unscrew her." The patter was getting a little snappy for my taste, like it had been written by some amateur comedy writer.

"You didn't answer my question, Hoseapoppin.' What are you doing with her, who is she and what the hell did you have for lunch?"

So I told Jessica the whole story, beginning with Veronica and ending with the ugly midget, exit stage left. Jessica seemed intrigued by the midget, thought he might be an ex-cop in a small town, but then she remembered this was a murder investigation. She had called Healdsburg Forensics, which was a winery lab rat with a tape measure, a bad yeast infection and a refractometer. Lorna was dead at 17 Brix. Not very sweet.

"So," Jessica mused, "give me one good reason why I shouldn't arrest you, Hosescum."

The thought of her putting me in handcuffs got me kind of hot and didn't help my sulfur emergency, but I needed Veronica's money, I wanted to find Fugly, and whoever had hit me on my Melon I wanted to kick square in the Baga. "Because, Chief Jokes, this case is somehow about wine, about the thugs at the M.S. Society, and I know a lot about wine and you don't. You're going to need me. I can get to these guys, I know how they think, I know how they take advantage of the young people who come to them, I know how they make shit up about wine in order to steal their money. And Veronica is somehow part of this and she trusts me. You know I'm not leaving town, I'll be around if you want to arrest me later. Just give me some time."

"Bite me, Hosebanger."

"Not give me the time, give me some time. Sheesh. To work on this case." Man, she'd become hardnosed since she'd become Chief of Police. Her nose was harder than a Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet. I could see the gears working as she thought about letting me go. She knew I was right, but she didn't want to admit it.

"So, if the midget didn't snap her neck, and my little Hosepussy didn't snap the victim's neck, who did?"

I finally got up from the floor of the Les Mars hotel room, my cheap suit covered in "Service Animal" fur and the stink of money. I walked over to take one last look at Lorna, shoving aside the Forensics guy, who for some reason had his pruning shears out, looked down at her young, beautiful, deathly still face, a face that had puckered and spit more times than a Congressional page, a face that had turned more than a few heads and ended up with a turned head of its own, and oddly, she looked more beautiful than when I had met her in the Healdsburg Square. But, then, I'd learned, some look better dead. I swore that I'd find the midget, whoever had murdered Lorna and the sonofabitch who clobbered my Melon.

"I don't know who killed her, Chief, but I do know one thing."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"Your ass got a lot bigger since high school."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Opening Up the Ol' Male Bag

It's time once again to dip into the old mailbag and reprint some of the voluminous and enlightening mail that I receive here at
HoseMaster of Wine. The most interesting comments I receive come via my personal email and not as posts in the Comments section. Obviously. Herewith, a few of the recent epistles.

Dear Mr. Washam, Fellow Nobel Laureate,

Congratulations on your Nobel Prize for Wine Blogging. As I was telling Michelle just the other day as I was putting the big Barack to her in the Lincoln library, I never miss an episode of "The M.S. Conspiracy." Never read it, never miss it. But that's not why I'm writing.

Ron, I really think you should bring back the naked girls you used to have on your blog. Now, I'm not the kind of President who thinks naked girls are entertainment, that was President Clinton. I'm still scraping the stuff off underneath the Presidential desk in the Offal Office. Naked women are what made America great, and they should be celebrated. Our forefathers knew about naked women, heck, that's why they're our forefathers. I don't know if you're aware of this, but I can trace my lineage directly back to Thomas Jefferson's slow cousin George. And, in his great words, "Well, we're movin' on up." So those people who have said that it was degrading and exploitative for you to post cheesecake photos on HoseMaster of Wine, well, they're simply wrong. Or they're lying bastards like those assholes at Fox News, where America goes to escape the truth.

I'll see you in Oslo. You may have heard that I won the Nobel Peace Prize. And, hell, I didn't have to kill half the number of people Kissinger did to win it!

Io Triumphe,
President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. Washam,

Perhaps you've heard that "Gourmet" magazine has ceased its print publication. We ran out of recipes. Hell, we were reprinting crap we ran in the '70's, surrounding it with staged photos of shallow pinheads pretending to have an actual dinner party and for some reason no one was buying it. It was my idea to run stories about food and culture, about the history of food, about food as a substitute for sex, especially zucchini. I hired some of the best writers in the business, which ain't saying much, granted, but still, they were the best. And for what? Decreased circulation, like a guy with E.D. I wrote endlessly about my life, about how my mother and my
family influenced me, ridiculously vapid and maudlin stories of growing up with the love that came out of my mother's kitchen, thinking that would get the suckers to subscribe, but, as it turned out, schmaltz only sells so many magazines. I should have gone with more food porn. I've got shots of Rachel Ray removing kernels from corn cobs with her, oh, never mind. Though it does make a tasty goulash.

Anyhow, now that "Gourmet" has gone the way of dinosaurs, passenger pigeons and Sarah Palin's integrity (did you see where her almost son-in-law is going to pose nude in "Playgirl" showing his Alaskan pipeline to fifteen minutes of fame and fatherhood?), I'm wondering if you have any need for a guest blogger on your esteemed HoseMaster of Wine. Oh, I can write all about growing up with wine and how I learned to feel love at my mother's knee as she opened her third bottle of Green Hungarian in the kitchen while Dad was working late at the office again. Or I can write all about wine and culture with all kinds of insight. Did you know wine was Jesus' first miracle? It was. And then he turned the bottles into fish bottles. Or something like that. I'll do some research. Or I can write one of those Gerald Asher type articles that talk all about the history of wine. Did you know the Vikings, when they discovered Minnesota, called it Vineland? Isn't that interesting? I didn't even know they spoke English. I'm chock full of this stuff, and I'm better than Asher. I didn't demote him at "Gourmet" to writing wine pairing filler for nothing. Sheesh, who needs articulate and educated writing when you can have pretentious and laborious pontificating? I know from your work that you wholeheartedly agree.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you to make HoseMaster of Wine the next "Gourmet."

Ruth Reichl

Dear Mr. HoseMaster,

I don't for a minute believe that you know the first thing about wine. Or comedy, for that matter. You never even talk about wine on your stupid blog, you just write idiotic pulp fiction parodies and make fun of real wine bloggers. I don't read wine blogs to be entertained, for God's sake, no one does. In fact, as you well know, the only people who read wine blogs are other wine bloggers, pathetic wine wannabes, and social media consultants for wineries. In other words, Losers.

At least serious wine bloggers have a goal. They want to influence people with their taste. They generously stoop to teach the poor unwashed ignoramuses who just like to drink wine that it isn't enough to enjoy wine, it's more important to preach about it. They remind us that all other wine critics are corrupt and misguided, that opinion has a place in the wine world, just not yours. They live to suck up the free samples taking up space in winery warehouses--OK, they used to be for sale, but now they're free samples. They perform a service, they remind us that wine isn't an adult beverage meant to bring enjoyment with a meal, it's an adult beverage meant to bring enjoyment to a meal if they say it brings enjoyment, and not a minute sooner.

And what about you, Mr. HoseMaster? What is it that you do? Aside from amuse yourself, and no one else, with your snide asides and ignorant opinions? Why don't you just drop the facade and admit you don't know anything about wine? You're not fooling anybody. Of course, it probably doesn't matter, who would buy a wine you recommended anyway? Who would be that stupid? OK, the folks who buy Murphy-Goode, fine.

I suggest you find another line of work and abandon your mind-numbingly stupid blog. I hear there are a lot of positions available in wine marketing. You'd be perfect.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Signs You May Be Mentally Ill

I often wonder if there is a more thankless task than wine blogging. But I guess pursuing anything that is basically psychopathic is in the end always a thankless task. And, actually, bloggers get a lot of credit compared to, say, stalkers, yet both share the same sick need. To prove that we really, really love you like no one has loved you before. And to let you know that if we can't have you, no one can. Wine bloggers are stalkers in training. Hell, look at Gary Vaynerchuk and tell me that guy hasn't broken into his ex-girlfriend's house and put First Growth corks in her underwear drawer to warn her from dating a real man (after all, Gary is inflatable). He's probably wearing her stolen panties under his cheap pants too, though I, for one, don't think that's necessarily a sign of mental illness. Sometimes a guy just lost a bet, right, honey?

The addiction to wine is mental illness. People that don't see the appeal of wine know this. But wine geeks, wine lovers, wine bloggers, others suffering from the same delusions, we don't know we're mentally ill. We think everyone feels the way we do, believes what we believe, that there's absolutely nothing wrong with us. But look at the symptoms.

Feelings of Superiority: Do you have the feeling that you're better than most people because you know a lot about wine? Sure you do. And look at the crazy folks who own wineries in Napa Valley. You know, 3000 years from now archaeologists are going to "discover" Napa Valley. They'll dig up wineries like Jarvis and Hall and Palmaz and Castello di Amorosa and think they've discovered another Valley of the Pharaohs. Another place where rich and powerful men built shrines to themselves so that they could be buried with their toys, so that they would be separate from ordinary men and not have to be associated with them. Why else build such lavish palaces to simply ferment grape juice? Surely these wineries are loud cries for help.

Speaking Incoherently: Ever really listen to wine experts expounding about wine? It's basically speaking in tongues but without the clarity or the snakes (unless the marketing people are present). It's like the babble of seriously schizophrenic people, people unable to hear anything but the voices in their own head. "I find the aroma rather primary with some ml, but the mouth is generous, though a bit abbreviated and lacking in the middle, and there's some r.s. and it's hot." Babbling. And even if you understand all of that wine babble, chances are it's inaccurate 80% of the time. But when you have overwhelming feelings of superiority it just doesn't matter. Ask any wine judge.

Belief in Hidden Messages: Crazy people think that there are secret messages for them being broadcast on the TV or hidden in ads on the bus or that their dog is trying to tell them something ("Now you lick your balls, now you lick your balls, now you lick your balls..."). Wine geeks think there are secret messages in numbers. An "89," oh, they (you know, crazy people talk about "they" all the time) say that's a perfectly good wine and worth seeking out, but what they really mean is it's not that good, that they wouldn't serve it to a Big Loser contestant selling OxyContin to Rush Limbaugh much less someone they were trying to impress. And 100 is perfection without question, and the hidden message of 100, meant just for me, is that I don't understand perfection because I not only can't get 100 point wines but if I did I taste them I would probably wonder what makes them perfect, or, worse, believe that whatever they did taste like actually was perfection. Numbers are wine loonies' Belief in Hidden Messages.

Hallucinations: Mentally ill people sometimes see things that don't really exist. They see Jesus or dinosaurs or Michael Buble. Their minds manufacture these objects and, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, the crazy people believe them to actually exist. Wine lovers have many hallucinations. They believe Wine Spectator rates wines blind. They think the BevMo 5 cent sale is an actual deal for them. They believe Wilfred Wong actually exists. They think Temecula is beautiful. They think the guy they met at a local wine tasting that they drunkenly took home is handsome when he's actually a cardboard cutout of one of those shitheads posed like Captain Morgan. Wine people suffer from continual hallucinations.

Put these symptoms together and there is only one sane diagnosis. Wine lovers are fuckin' nuts.
Which is why I have nothing to do with them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"The M.S. Conspiracy"

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 3
The Big Midget Murders

I was having this fantastic wet dream about Jancis Robinson where she was slowly decanting me over a candle when I woke up. I felt warm wax in my pants. My head was pounding and felt like it had swollen to the size of Robert Parker's ego. I was having trouble focusing. My beard had Velcroed to the expensive carpet. My mouth tasted like I'd sucked down a glass of Madiran and chased it with a cotton ball. Hell, I felt like most Les Mars guests when they wake up.

The last thing I clearly remembered was the feel of the drunk brunette's breast as I led her into her hotel room. So where was she? Who was she? And did Jancis drink what she'd decanted?

"Finally with us again, HoseMaster?" I wasn't sure if there was someone in the room or that voice in my head was back, the voice that usually told me to do insane things like carve the names of First Growths on stray cats. I managed to lift myself off the carpet, slowly and painfully, shake the cobwebs off, I mean literally, hell, don't they vacuum at Les Mars, and when I lifted my eyes I was looking at the business end of gun. That made me focus.

"Did you hit me with that?"

He laughed. Like I'd asked a particularly stupid question. Like I was an interviewer for Mutineer Magazine, wine journalism's answer to Highlights for Children. When I looked up at him I knew why he'd laughed. He was a midget. And an ugly one. Reminded me of one of the Seven Dwarves, I think it was Fugly. He'd have to have been standing on fifty-seven Healdsburg phone books to have coldcocked me. And that would have meant he knew I was coming.

"What were you doing with Lorna?" Fugly asked me in his best Munchkin voice.

"Lorna doin'? My favorite cookie!" Even with a blow to the head I was quick. It's a gift. So when Fugly hit me with the gun I was hoping I'd be even quicker, like I'd hoped to be with Lorna, finish with her before she passed out. From the pleasure, of course.

"I'm not kidding around here, Hoseboy. If you think I am, maybe you should see what happened to your little M.S. whore."

I diplomatically didn't mention that "M.S. whore" was redundant, but Fugly didn't notice. I stood up and looked in the direction he pointed, at the bed. Lorna was in it, naked, gorgeous, dead. Two out of three ain't bad. I couldn't take my eyes off her. She'd come from somewhere all the way to my little burg of Healds to become an M.S. and ended up deader than Merlot by-the-glass. Such a shame. I kind of like Merlot, the way it smells like a bad joke.

As I walked over to the bed I heard the midget take off for the door. Now I started to laugh. Midgets running--a guaranteed laugh. Every time. I let Fugly go. He had a gun and a head start and it's sort of unseemly to chase a Little Person. Besides, it wouldn't be hard to find out who he was, I mean, how many ugly midgets could there be in Healdsburg? Just his other six buddies. I was more interested in Lorna, who she was, how she tied into all this, whether she knew Veronica, how she'd gotten mixed up with the scum at M.S., whether I'd been set up.

That's when the Chief of the Healdsburg police walked in. Speaking of midgets.

To be Continued

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Mounds and the Furry

The call came at 3:00 AM. You’d be surprised how often the HoseMaster’s phone rings at 3:00 AM. Mostly that’s because my phone number is one digit off from 1-800-WETSPOT. So I answered it the way I usually do, “Hello, and welcome to the home of dirty laundry and fine wine, where it’s all about the soil.” Someone with a Norwegian accent asked for me. But Norwegians on 800 numbers are as common as Republicans at whorehouses so I didn’t think a thing about it. “Speaking,” I said. “Are you sitting down?” “No, genius, it’s three in the morning; I’m practicing on my pogo stick.” “You’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize in Wine Blogging.”

Sure, the Nobel was something of a foregone conclusion, but I still thought the call might be a hoax. And I do have a friend who does a killer Liv Ullman impression (his Liv Ullman reading Frost is hilarious—not the poet, the frozen water). But once I confirmed that it wasn’t a crank call I dropped what I was doing, stopped my brilliant work on HoseMaster of Wine, and began working on the acceptance speech I am required to give in Oslo. So I apologize for being away so long. Rumors that I was either unconscious on a hotel room floor or pregnant with the love child of David Letterman are but half-truths. But it was lovely to be missed.

I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m going to share with my loyal band of readers (well, not so much a band as a septuplet) a sneak preview of my Nobel acceptance speech. I go on right after Obama and right before the guy who invented twist ties.

“Members of the Nobel committee, honored guests, fellow Nobel Laureates, it is an honor to be here in beautiful Oslo, Norway. It’s so cold my kippers are frozen solid. It’s so cold I saw a squirrel warming his nuts on a barbecue. It’s so cold the corpse of Trygve Lee voted in favor of Global Warming…”

“It was Alfred Nobel who invented Jimmy Walker and made it possible for me to say that winning this prize is Dyn-O-Mite!”

“When it comes to Wine Blogging I stand on the shoulders of giants. And they’re pretty annoyed with the view. I walk in the footsteps of the real pioneers of Wine Blogging. Men like WineChump, who was the first blogger to solicit free samples from wineries and had the courage and foresight to never publish a bad review; WineChump, who accepted advertising on his blog only if it included the word “frottage;” WineChump, who expanded the very idea of a Wine Blog by writing about his own struggles with alcoholism and vocabulary. And there are so many others whose contributions are incalculable—Dr. Beano and his endless flatulence, 1WineDouche and his tireless self-promotion in the face of severe personality deficiency, In Vino Vanitas and her quest to make the wine world safe for her taste alone… These are the role models of all Wine Bloggers, and no wine blog is empty of their influence.”

“…and so I said to Robert Parker, “Slim, you need something that your readers can hold on to, and I’m not talking spare tires. Wine reviewing is like fish, without scales the damn things don’t make sense. Maybe a 100 point scale would work. It’s stupid, but I think your readers will take to it…”

“I believe in Wine Blogging. I think that wineries, perhaps the entire wine business, would vanish if Wine Blogging ceased to exist. Sure, there were wineries and a wine business for centuries before bloggers, but it was meaningless and vapid. It is because of the rise of Wine Bloggers that the business is thriving today; that the quality of wines has never been better is directly linked to the vision and talent of Wine Bloggers. This is why it is not the responsibility of Wine Bloggers to have any knowledge or experience of wine before they start a blog. Knowledge and experience are red herrings, something you Norwegians are familiar with I’m guessing, they only hinder a Wine Blogger’s ability to get to the truths about wine. And anyone who proclaims that the only Wine Bloggers worth reading are the ones who know about wine, have studied wines their entire lives, have devoted years and years to tasting and understanding wine, is an idiot. It behooves the wine industry to study bloggers, not vice-versa.”

“Sure, I’ve been threatened. What Nobel Laureate hasn’t? Faulkner was threatened by a movie studio mogul with making a movie about Jane Russell and a Yeti called ‘The Mounds and the Furry.’ Faulkner didn’t flinch. Doris Lessing was threatened with a Richard Simmons makeover, Doris didn’t flinch. Jose Saramago was threatened with a daily visit from a Jehovah’s Witness, but the old Walleyes didn’t flinch—that I could see, I may have been on his wrong side. So when wineries and winemakers threaten the HoseMaster, I remember Faulkner and Lessing, I look the other way. And I remember Saramago, I look both ways…”

“The Nobel Prize means I will be able to continue my work in the great glare of the public spotlight. It means that truth and comedy mean something in the wine business, even if there isn’t any. It means that I can replace my shoddy old tastevin with this shiny new medallion!”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dear FTC, I Love You, You're Perfect, Don't Change

All the buzz on wine blogs seems to be about the FTC cracking down on bloggers accepting stuff for free and not owning up to it. Not sure what this is all about. But I know I'm scared. I've got so much to hide. Sure, HoseMaster of Wine looks like some two-bit, poorly funded, badly researched, hopelessly inaccurate and stupid wine blog, are there any other kind, but it's astoundingly lucrative. And if the FTC finds out, my proverbial goose, lovely with an aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape, is cooked. So the only thing to do is come clean, 'fess up. Get all of my disclaimers out of the way, show the FTC that there's at least one wine blogger with impeccable honesty and integrity. It just ain't me. I'm just another lying bastard like the rest of them.

Free Samples

OK, first of all, isn't "free samples" redundant? Like "boring wine blog?" Seems like sloppy language, FTC, but, sure, I get free samples of wines for review. But they sure as hell aren't wines I'd pay for. I'm nobody. The wines I receive are wines that are made to go with e. Coli. Wines so bad that the unfinished bottles have to be treated as hazardous waste (not to be confused with Marvin Shanken's hazardous waist). Wineries don't send wines to guys like me, I might tell the truth about them. No, no, marketing people may be the absolute ruin of the wine business, but they aren't stupid. They carefully scope out the buttkissers, weasels, and parasites and send them samples. Oh, did I say buttkissers, weasels and parasites? I meant movers and shakers. Honest. The movers and shakers give them what they want, glowing reviews and glamorous profiles. They're marketing department stooges, flattered to receive free wine and only too happy to be thought of as important. They provide the positive reviews, the marketing folks forward them to the winery that employs them, the winery posts them on their website, the marketing people bill the winery an obscene amount of money, and the wines still go unsold. It's beautiful, really.

And, yes, FTC, I am very cozy with many winemakers and winery owners and those relationships do affect my judgments about the wines I review. This is always true in the wine business. There's the insiders (US!) and the outsiders (them). The insiders wink at each other about how they review wines blind (kind of like when you're a kid and you have your hands over your eyes playing Hide and Seek but you can peek between your fingers to see what's going on), and how accepting free meals and accommodations and wine doesn't influence their decisions, while the outsiders nod their heads like cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It's a cozy business, the wine business, nothing wrong with that. It worked for Wall Street.

Free Blog

I confess, FTC, I don't pay Google for using their servers for HoseMaster of Wine. I think they just like me. I'm pretty sure most of the other bloggers have to pay to be on Blogger, though apparently most of them haven't kept up with their payments and so they're not allowed to post. They set up their blog, can't afford it, and so they haven't been able to post for six months, though they're still rated in the top 100 wine blogs and are probably getting free wine samples from highly paid marketing experts. But, FTC, on the other hand, I don't charge anything for folks to read my blog. Oh, I've thought about it. Hell, I'd do it for one subscriber. Most wine bloggers want to make money from their blogs, real money. Not me. All I need is one subscriber at, say, $5 a month and at the end of the year I'd have $60, $60 I don't have now after doing this crap for the last twelve months. I'm cool with that. Who the hell needs the aggravation of the democratization of the Internet? I don't need 25,000 readers every month--what a fucking headache that would be. I can barely stand the fourteen readers I have now. Sure, I'd get more (free) samples, but, honestly, I'd rather have the five bucks.

Or I could start accepting advertising. Wouldn't it be cool to have all of the same lame advertising boxes surrounding my brilliant wine analyses that are on every other wine blog? Ads trying to get you to join Wine Clubs where you can enjoy $40 worth of wine delivered right to your door for a mere $100? Or ads for wine gizmos that can improve the taste of the plonk you recommended in your last post, the stuff you received for free? Nah, I'd rather have the five bucks.

Free Jokes

I have stolen countless jokes from countless sources and never paid a dime for them. OK, maybe this isn't the FTC's problem. Probably a job for the FBI, though, in the case of my jokes, it's petty larceny.

Just get this straight, FTC, I'm a wine blogger, dammit. My blog is not for sale, my words are not for sale, my opinions are not for sale, my, make me an offer.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 2
An Expensive Place to Die

Veronica had walked out of my office in her K-J shoes (very big heels) and left me her phone number, a wad of cash for expenses, mostly a big stack of Fred Franzias (two dollar bills), and a bulge in my pants that made it look like I was packing a Rabbit corkscrew. She was certainly a woman who'd make your hare stand on end. Now, like Alice in Wonderland, I was looking for the nearest Rabbit hole.

I decided to wander into Healdsburg proper and troll for some tourist tang of the poon variety. It was early October and the town was crawling with out-of-towners, folks from all over the United States here to taste the local fare. They wander from tasting room to tasting room, girls in sheer cotton dresses that leave nothing to the imagination when the sun shines through and reveals their terroir--their plush hillside vineyards, their volcanic soils, the extent of their pruning. Most of them were ripe and needed to be harvested. The wines they tasted made them feel sexy, the sheer sensual joy of sipping a Sonoma County Pinot Noir leaves them yearning for the touch of a man's hands on their free run juice, the feel of his lips on their gross lees, the tug of his desire bringing them to a long, sensual finish. It was almost too easy to pluck one. Like finding a crappy bottle of wine at Trader Joe's; it's easy, just reach out and grab the nearest one.

It was a lovely fall day and I was feeling flush with the cash Veronica has bestowed on me for "Expenses." If Meaningless Sex isn't filed under Expenses, what is? I figured all I'd need to harvest a tourist was half dozen oysters at Willi's washed down with whatever their cheapest Sauvignon Blanc by-the-glass was and then my lucky foot of Rabbit was going to be very happy. Though I'd rather have Muscadet with my oysters. Nothing like really ripe Melon.

I had fallen into a rather relaxed and contemplative mood, thinking about what Veronica had said in our meeting, wondering just who she'd meant by "my friends," I'd have to look into that, when a rather comely brunette stumbled into the spot next to me on the bench in Healdsburg Square. She was clutching a wine glass that had more lipstick around its rim than David Letterman's Late Night schtick. This was almost too good to be true.

"Hi," she said. She was. Her breath smelled like a Harvest Fair judge.

"Hello," I said. "Nice day. Are you enjoying your wine country visit?"

She didn't seem to hear me. Seems like she'd tasted a lot of wine and hadn't bothered to put anything in that flat stomach of hers. She was just sitting there, staring off into the distance with the kind of blank look on her face I hadn't seen since the last Wine Bloggers Conference. It gave me a chance to look her over. She was really quite beautiful, late 20's I'd guess, long flowing brunette hair that wouldn't be out of place on a male wrestler, and a body that was tight like a recently bottled Syrah. I could feel my Rabbit coming out of its lair.

"I think I'm going to be sick," she said, the words rather slurred but the meaning crystal clear.

"No one told you not to go into the Ferrari-Carano tasting room?" Not much of a wisecrack, but neither was she.

"Can you help me get back to my hotel?" OK, this really was too good to be true.

"Sure. Where are you staying? Is your boyfriend there?"

"Boyfriend? Do I look like I have a boyfriend? No, I'm staying by myself at Les Mars." Les Mars was the priciest hotel in Healdsburg, the damn wallpaper was hundred dollar bills, what was a young woman doing staying there all by herself? There were some alarms going off in my head but I was thinking with my Rabbit and ignored them. Not a good idea. Like ignoring frost
warnings in April, you can quickly find yourself deflowered.

"OK, I'll walk you there." It was just one long block to Les Mars and the whole way I was sure she was going to puke tasting room crackers all over my gumshoes, but she managed to keep everything down, but my Rabbit, and in a few minutes I found myself helping her unlock the door of her Les Mars room, one hand inserting the key into the door, the other hand lodged securely under her generous left breast to hold her up. I'd gotten my Melon for the day after all.

The door swung open and I led her in. That's the last thing I remember. Someone clobbered my Melon with a blunt object. As I fell to the floor I remember thinking, "I hope I don't pee myself." And, "Urine big trouble."

To Be Continued

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Way We Blog Now

There comes a time when every blogger wonders why the hell he blogs. I wonder every time I sit down to write another HoseMaster of Wine post. Just what's in it for me? Oh, sure, there is the endless adulation and parade of groupies, the book offers, the TV movie proposal and the chance to run for Sarah Palin's vacant seat--I just hope she left it down. But it's thankless work. Folks drop by, spend three minutes, and then move on. It's like being the sex slave for a Bob Jones University fraternity. And the vast majority of visitors don't comment, which is a little hard to get used to. It's a lot like being a traffic wreck--folks just drive by slowly and rubberneck. Keep moving, folks, the only thing dead here are the jokes.
So why do I continue blogging? I've done a great deal of soul-searching on the subject and have come up with these answers.

I'm a lonely loser

I know this is hard to imagine given my enormous personal magnetism--hell, I can't walk by a refrigerator without sticking to it. But the truth is writing is a lonely pursuit, and those of us who pursue it as a form of self-expression, instead of, say, embroidering alcohol warning labels in our forearms with a dull razor blade, or trying to knock over empty wine bottles with corks fired from our butts, understand that it's best not to have interpersonal relationships. Readers of blogs understand this--the bloggers who post the most frequently are the loneliest people on the planet. These are sad people who, if they weren't emptying their thoughts onto the electronic page, would be out in public talking to themselves and approaching strangers with their index fingers wiggling through the zippers of their Gap jeans. Come on, look at these losers who post every day, who suffer from OAB (Over Active Blogging) and can't suppress the urge to fulminate. What can their real lives be like? You don't want to know. You are grateful that they are losers, that they have the time to sit and posit ill-conceived opinions for your dissection, that they spend hours carefully talking about things they have no actual, confirmable knowledge of, that their idea of a good time is staring at a cursor like it's suddenly going to turn into a Pong machine. But I can tell you, we are lonely losers. And if it weren't for the Internet we'd be stalking Leslie Sbrocco and The Real Housewives of Yountville.

Wine is endlessly fascinating

I spend hours and hours of any given day thinking about wine, about the wine business, about all there is to know about wine. And I figure everyone is interested in what I think about wine. My thoughts, after all, are damned profound and worth reading, like every wine blogger's. I write to inspire people, I write to make them think, I write because the world would be a much emptier place without me. I feel it is my duty to share my thoughts about wine. OK, have you ever thought of this? Just how many wines are produced in the world in a single vintage? Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. Many of them never even get scores! Imagine that, thousands and thousands of score-free wines! So do they really exist? Or do they break into existence only when they achieve a score? Like, if you were a baseball player who had only 10 ABs in the Major Leagues and went hitless so that your batting average was .000, are you even considered a player? Do you even exist as a ballplayer? Scary, huh? And I'll bet you never thought about it that way either. See, that's what I mean. I have all these brilliant wine thoughts that need to be shared. Here's another one. Does Game Theory apply to wine? Say you set out to find a rare bottle of wine, maybe a bottle of Sine Qua Non or a single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Siduri, just what chance do you have of finding it? Game Theory suggests that if the wine is also seeking you, your odds are great you'll find it quickly no matter how rare it is. But Game Theory also says that if you seek both the Sine Qua Non and the Siduri you're more likely to find them in alphabetical order and be very sorry. Counterintuitive, I know, but there's math to prove it. So I blog to enlighten. Don't we all?

I have serious emotional problems

I crave attention. What did people do before the Internet, before you could regurgitate your profoundly tedious personal torment all over your unknowing public? Sure, there's always NPR, but the goddam pledge drive always gets in the way. You can call people one at a time and dump your neuroses on them, but, hey, you're a blogger, see above, you don't have any interpersonal relationships that amount to more than you see each other at Starbucks every morning while you do the Ken-Ken in the NY Times and wonder what became of Barbie-Barbie. The Internet is perfect. You can ostensibly blog about wine but every now and then you slip in stuff about how your girlfriend just dumped you for some sort of egg that vibrates (must be one nervous chicken that laid that), or that your beloved pet anaconda choked to death on a vibrating egg your ex left lying around, or how you wish someone would send you free samples of wine to validate your
status as a critic. I crave attention and I have delusions of grandeur. I think I have talent and that it would be a crime not to use it. Like all fakes and forgers. I know that I know more about wine than anyone I know, both of them (once again, see above). I believe that with time my influence in the wine world will surpass that of Parker, Shanken, Tanzer and Bipin (my favorite Marcel Marceau character) combined. What's going to stop me but my lack of insight, talent and knowledge? I crave attention, have delusions of grandeur, and I'm trapped inside a woman's body. Next to some fucking egg. I have emotional problems, therefore I blog. I'm searching for my voice, and as it turns out, I'm just God's ventriloquist dummy.
God (left, yes He is Senor Wences) and the HoseMaster

This is the way we blog now.