Friday, January 29, 2010

Notes On a Sellout's Book

HoseMaster of Wine is a lot easier than I make it look. Wine and the business of wine are subjects I've spent my life studying, and the results are clear. I've wasted my life. What I should be writing about, the subject most wine bloggers find endlessly interesting, is myself. And I would, only my life is duller than the finish on a wine from Sterling Vineyards, and my readership is already plummeting off a cliff like a Toyota Camry with its accelerator stuck. (I don't know, why is it that Toyotas suddenly make me nostalgic for kamikazes?) So I won't bore you, all nine of you, with stories of my day, my past, my hopes, my dreams, but I will bore you with a bunch of random thoughts that have been rattling around in my subpar brain.

The recent Gomberg Fredrikson report (isn't a Gomberg made up of frozen gom?) about the California wine industry states that sales of California wine over $15 have nosedived in the past year. Much has been made of this, but, really, isn't the only rational conclusion that people really only drink wine to get drunk? That for all the tortured tasting notes printed in endlessly monotonous wine magazines, for all the "reviews" faithfully posted by the parade of witless wine bloggers (too many to list here, but for the very nadir of witless check out WineHarlots--makes you want to ralph nadir), for all the wine tastings, and food and wine pairings, and pomp and circumstances of the wine trade, all consumers really want is to get drunk. That's the only conclusion that makes sense. They're not drinking less, they're drinking cheaper. So they don't give a crap about numbers or reviews or quality--they need to drink themselves into oblivion. And they don't care where it's from--Argentina, Bulgaria, South Africa, New York, all those places where English is a foreign language--so long as it's cheap and has at least 14% alcohol. All the damn ratings in the world can't sell your $40 Syrah right now--it's a $15 world. 96 point Merlot for $35? Who cares? Trader Joe's has wine for $5.99, and it tastes just fine. Who the hell cares about your wondrous Corvina from a tiny estate in Valpolicella that tastes like sunset at the Algonquin round table (not a pizza restaurant, by the way)? The consumers have loudly and overwhelmingly voted in favor of a cheap drunk. Oh crap, I have to stop reading Tom Wark.

I've always had this theory that wines are more reflective of their winemaker than they are of their terroir. For example, when you meet a typical Australian winemaker you begin to understand why his Shiraz is so loud and forward and high in alcohol. So is he. It's weird how this works. A thoughtful and contemplative winemaker tends to make wines that are subtle and understated and, well, thoughtful, if a wine can be thoughtful. Which it can't. Loud people make loud wines. Fat people make wines that are often overblown. It goes on and on. Just sayin' Oh crap, I have to stop reading Samantha Dugan.

Not that I check it obsessively, like Lady MacBeth washing her hands or Oprah working the
panties out of her crack, but I notice my readership is declining. Is that because I'm not compulsive about Twitter or Facebook? Or is it because everyone is tired of my twaddle? Or is it because I suck? Maybe it's because I insult bloggers so often, and the only people who read blogs are other bloggers. Should I start being nice to other bloggers? Hang around other blogs and post fascinating comments? "Gosh, Steve, Wine Enthusiast is so powerful, and your events are so important! Thank you for reminding us." "1WineDude, man, I'll contribute a dollar if you'll just shut up." "Gary V., how does it feel to be the Millennial's Reverend Ike, only way less pretty?" Or should I just quit?

Why is it that wine blogs make me like wine less and not more?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 11
Bullet From Nowhere

Lately I'd been in more cavities than Mike Tyson's dentist. I was holding the three slips of paper in my hand, Veronica gently weeping in the background, and thinking, Well, I always wanted to be a crack detective. Be careful what you wish for. We like to think that the Universe is benevolent but I've always found that it's a vicious practical joker. Turns out God is an old Jewish man named Allen Funt. Lorna had found that out. She'd come to Healdsburg to get a couple of letters behind her name, pursuing her dream of becoming an M.S., and that's what the ol' Practical Joker had given her. A Murder Suppository. Smile, You're on Candid Chimera.

But somehow the killer had made a mistake and put Lorna's message in my dumpster and mine in hers. That seemed like an honest mistake. I have a nice ass. And that was certainly Lorna's strong suit. So the difference was strong suit and hirsute, but apparently in haste to escape, Lorna's murderer hadn't noticed. It didn't matter. But how many damn sisters did Veronica have?

Avril Cadavril was replacing the morgue sheets over the dead girls. Veronica was still crying a
bit, her nose running all over Jessica's uniform. Something seemed to be going on between Jessica and Veronica, a strange chemistry had developed that was making me uncomfortable. But grief can do that to people. I'd had my share of grief, sunk to the sort of depths that only slime and wine bloggers can survive, and it had made me do all kinds of foolish things. Slow dancing with Robert Lawrence Balzer at the Wine Spectator Experience. Proposing marriage to Kevin Zraly (he said Yes, you're my Window on the World!). A menage a trois with Paul Prudhomme. But this felt somehow different. While the three ladies were distracted, I once again slipped out.

My entire investigation seemed to be going around in circles. All Veronica had hired me to do was to get her an interview for an M.S., get her into the exams that were scheduled for a few days from now. I'd been distracted by a midget, Tiny, Allen Funt and a couple of dead girls. I hadn't even been able to contact the thugs that ran the M.S. program. I'd been coldcocked in Les Mars Hotel and busted in a public rest room. So, all in all, the same old routine.

When I opened the door to my office I found I had visitors. Fugly the midget was sitting on my couch. Wait, I don't have a couch. Fugly was sitting on Tiny's lap, his Jimmy Buffett shirt made Tiny look like he'd been upholstered in a Roman vomitorium. And standing next to them was an unfamiliar character, but he smelled like a sommelier. You know, cheap suit that had just come back from the dry cleaner. He probably should have taken it out of the plastic before he put it on. But that's an M.S. for you, more plastic than anything else. But I was more concerned about Fugly. He was pointing a gun at me. Just once I'd like to meet a midget who wasn't sitting on a fat guy and packing a piece.

"I hear you're looking for me," the Man from Glad said.

"I don't even know who you are. But I can guess. You're a Master Sommelier, one of the examiners. Yeah, I'm lookin' for you. I just finished conducting exams on two of your candidates. Turns out they both passed. They both passed notes. Who are you? What's your name? What the hell are you doing in my office with Fat Man and Little Boy? I've seen enough dead bombshells for one day."

"You're right, HoseMaster, I am a Master Sommelier. My name is Larry Anosmia. Our friend Tiny here said that you were looking for me, for the M.S. judges. And it seems you've been busy knocking off all of our leading candidates. Just what is it that you want?"

I lunged for the pompous prick, but I stopped when I heard Fugly cock his gun. "I didn't kill those two women, but I think you know who did. And call off your midget before I pour cocktail sauce on him and throw him in the Cyrus dumpster for Tiny. Tiny loves a shrimp cocktail."

Anosmia turned to the midget and said, "It's OK, Mr. Teebagger, you can put away the gun. We're not here to cause any trouble for the HoseMaster." Fugly, or Mr. Teebagger as it turns out, put his gun away. "Now, HoseMaster, what is it you want from us?"

I strolled past Tiny and Mr. Teebagger and sat down behind my desk. Anosmia hadn't moved, he was just casually standing there in the way that sommeliers do, smirking like I'd just ordered a bottle of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from a poor vintage. Any of them.

"I have a client. Her name is Veronica. She knows a lot about wine and she hired me to get her into your exams next week for M.S. That's all I wanted to do, get her an invite."

"Well, HoseMaster, you didn't have to kill a couple of candidates to make an opening for her. This Veronica, I'm sure she didn't hire you for that."

I just stared. "I don't know who murdered those girls, but it wasn't me. And what killed them was their idiotic desire to line your pockets with money so you'd give them two letters after their names, two letters they thought would help them be somebody in the wine business, two letters they thought might validate their passion for wine, make people admire them, come to them for wine advice. Two letters that proved they know about wine. Shit. It's all shit. All it got them was an early trip to the Jim Jones Tasting Room, a permanent position at Copia, a reviewer's job at Wine and Spirits Magazine...Death. But you and the rest of your M.S. poseurs, the fake Gucci bags of wine connoisseurs, the counterfeit Rolexes of the wine world--hell, an M.S. is just fake tits for wine lovers--you'll just keep on taking money for your meaningless letters, your bogus degree, your manufactured status. The whole thing is a scam, and an ugly one, and now it's cost two lovely women their lives and I'm going to find out what's going on and I'm going to take you and all your fucking M.S. midgets down..."

I think I heard the gun go off.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pollan Count

I get a kick out of aphorisms, those little nuggets of wisdom that sound smart but deconstruct into simplemindedness upon examination. The reigning master of that form is Michael Pollan. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Very nice, has the comforting ring of a cheesy Hallmark greeting card. "Eat food. With your mouth. Mostly fart." See, it's kind of easy once you get the hang of it. So I was thinking that I could achieve similar fame and notoriety if I assembled a bunch of wine aphorisms. Kind of do a little Pollan collecting of my own. Hey, I'm simpleminded, I'm a natural. Just hope I don't break out in hives. Here's what I came up with. Feel free to throw them around like your own wisdom at the next wine tasting you attend. They also make wonderful Tweets for all you idiotic Twits out there.

You can judge a winery by its dog and, if you're lucky, by its pussy.
There, you see, catchy and true. Rolls off the tongue. The aphorism, I mean.

Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be shitfaced all the time and have sex with strangers.
Theology is perfect for aphorisms. Here I quote from the Book of Britney 3:18. Testify!

Read blogs. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.
A pithy and accurate little assessment of wine blogs makes for a perfect catchphrase. The vast majority of wine blogs are written by vegetables for intellectual vegans.

Think of bubbles in Champagne as you would elegant farts in the bathtub--both delight the senses.
OK, it sounds better in French.

Points are like venereal diseases. The people who give them should be shot.

See, terse and clever and implies a connection between critics and folks getting screwed by numbers. This is a keeper.

If you want a hug, give her Silver Oak. If you want a kiss, give her Burgundy. If you want a blowjob, give her a spit bucket.
Alright, this has drifted off into tasteless exploitation. So it's perfect.

There are no atheists in bungholes.
There, six words, deep meaning, ties together the miracle of wine with the mundane tools that create it. Here we have the essence of aphorism writing, haunting and concise word choices. And it sounds dirty. Another winner!

Oak is catnip for humans. Rombauer Chardonnay is catnip for cougars. Vinography is catnip for cretins.
Gratuitous insults are the stuff of aphorisms. Aphorisms give the ring of truth to absurd generalizations and glorify the empty opinion. Just not in this case.

Taste in wine is subjective, except mine, which is objective.
In a nutshell, what every wine person believes. Except me, I'm objective.

You can put an M.S. after your name, but you're still an asshole.
See, simple and true. Feel free to quote me, but, please don't forget to credit the HoseMaster. I don't care what they say about me, as long as they spell my name right. Oh, another jejune nugget. Somebody stop me!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cleaning Out the HoseMaster's Mental Fridge

In the course of the intensive research I conduct for HoseMaster of Wine I accumulate hundreds and hundreds of little tidbits about wine. The juiciest tidbits end up in my breakfast, my usual morning meal of crow on toast with a side of hat. Other nuggets end up as posts. But there are a lot of leftovers. Here are some leftovers. It's cleaning out the HoseMaster's mental fridge day.

Wine was shown to help alleviate the symptoms of Tourette's Syndrome in mice. Fucking rodents.

Two of the thirteen allowed varieties in Chateauneuf-du-Pape are Creamy Ranch and Spicy Chipotle.

Botrytis cinerea originated in Robert Lawrence Balzer's sock drawer.
Right, from my sock drawer

Saumur-Champigny is named for the sounds Voltaire made sneezing.

The only wine dogs will drink is Gruner Veltliner because it reminds them of licking their own butt. Cats like Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc for the same reason.

James Suckling. James Suckling. James Suckling.

Scientists now believe life may once have existed in Lodi.

In a startling coincidence, Rachel Alexandra was named Horse of the Year in the same year her owner was named Horse's Ass of the Year! You can take that to the Banke.

French oak can result in tongue slivers. Or bung slivers.

Jesus converted water into wine. Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio does the opposite. And don't forget to attend ZAP on January 30th--Jesus died for our Zins.

There is a special Hell just for people who make Zin puns. Dante's Zinferno.

Before he was a world-renowned winemaking consultant, Michel Rolland was a leg model. Now he only occasionally has one to stand on.

All of the wines tasted for the California State Fair Wine Competition in 2009 were Yellow Tail Shiraz. It was awarded 15 Double Golds, 123 Gold Medals, 157 Silver Medals, 567 Bronze Medals, and Miss Congeniality. It did best in the "Chardonnay $14.99 and Under" category.

In the altar wine winemaking process, yeast converts sugar to Roman Catholicism.

In a patented and highly secret process, the alcohol levels of Napa Valley Cabernets are routinely lowered through the use of spinning cones and human bladders. Avoid using tasting room toilets.

In order to help the notoriously late-ripening Mourvedre, BioDynamic winemakers in California venture out into the vineyards in October and sing, "The sun'll come out, Mataro, so you better hang on till tomorrow, come what may! Mataro, Mataro, I love you, Mataro, you're always a day away!"

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?


I haven't the vaguest idea how this bottle got into my wine cellar. I broke an opener a few days ago and left it for the Screw Fairy, maybe this was my reward. If you don't have a Screw Fairy I suggest you get one. I did a search and it turns out they're easy to find on Craigslist. Actually, I do remember at one time I was on the Kenneth-Crawford mailing list, back in the day when I was on mailing lists like Amy Winehouse is on mind-altering substances, that is, way too many, none of which seem to have conferred any talent. What's odd is that I normally avoid hyphenated wine--though I do like Dashe. But here was this bottle of 2004 Syrah from the hyphenated boys at Kenneth-Crawford made from grapes grown at LaFond Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills which had magically appeared in my cellar. I recalled that 2004 was a vintage notable for a nasty heat spike at harvest and I was a bit concerned that the wine would be a victim of that, taste raisiny and unbalanced, like Pat Robertson. But, hallelujah, it bore not a trace of the sulfurous stench of the evangelist. In fact, it was heavenly. I fancy myself something of a Syrah fetishist, and this Kenneth-Crawford definitely had me on a leash. I surrendered to its blackberry and blueberry domination, crawled on my belly for its fine tannins, and let its acidity arouse me. And then I drank it. I had no memory of this wine, but, somehow, I was smart enough to have bought some and cellared it. It still has years ahead of it. I suspect I paid about $30 for it, and that turns out to have been a huge bargain. I loved it so much I went immediately to their website. These hyphenated boys know their way around Syrah.

The HoseMaster Score: 889,065 Points

Disclaimer: For all I know this wine was a plant. For all you know, I'm a plant. Like Alder Yarrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Profiles in Discourage

I've done countless things in the past that filled me with discouragement. I campaigned for Voluntary Euthanasia to try and help keep health care costs down. But everyone kept volunteering other people. Come on, folks, health care costs are never going to go down unless all the old people decide to use the 15 Items or Less line at the Reasons to Live Checkout Stand! All checkout lines are open, no waiting! I opened a Facebook account in order to start the "Fans Of HoseMaster of Wine" page but the only person to sign up was Chemical Ali. Right, Ali's cousin, Chemical Abuse Ali. Discouragement just seems to be following me around lately. I applied for a job at Constellation Wines and they told me my moon was in Cancer and I should have that looked at. So I went to a doctor and he made me Cassiopeia into a jar while he made fun of my Little Dipper. It's winter, it's cold and dark, and I am severely discouraged.

But none of those discouragements compares to wine blogging. I can't remember ever doing anything stupider than starting a wine blog. OK, aside from joining the Wall Street Journal Wine Club. Though I will say this, the wines in the Wall Street Journal wine club are consistent--always Standard and Poor. A wine blog is a soul-sapping hobby, especially if you like wine more than yourself, an uncommon trait in wine bloggers. I struggle every day with what to write about. I think every wine blogger struggles with subjects, except those who mindlessly blog about whatever wines they've been drinking lately or were sent as free samples. I hate those blogs, every one of them. And they are legion. Who reads that crap? The addlepated? The demented? The unbelievably stupid? Tea Partyers? Their Comments sections read like homework assignments for people who are recovering from blunt force trauma to the head. "Great post, WineCoprophagous! I really enjoyed your description of the St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc as 'perfect with Perry Como,' and I will seek it out. I really enjoy your blog--you use simple words and it's so peaceful here." These aren't blogs, they're cries for help. Google is raising the temperature of the planet two degrees with numberless servers, each the size of an eponymous Napa Valley winery owner's ego, scattered all over the planet so the brain-damaged can log on and read about the free crap some ignoramus received from a Temecula winery? Ah, screw the polar bears, I'm a wine blogger, dammit, and it's important what wine goes with my new Lady Gaga download. (Why, Soave Classico, made with 100% Gaganega...)

Yeah, I know what you're thinkin'. There goes the ol' HoseMaster off on one of his usual rants. Well, you're right, and I'm just as sick of them as you are. But every time I go out into the blogosphere and check out wine blogs I get discouraged. Am I the only one? Probably. I'm the only one in a lot of things in life. For example, I love the long waits in airport security lines--it means more time to play my favorite game, Who's the Ugliest Person in the Terminal? And I'm probably the only person who likes to pick other people's noses. It's really the only way you ever get to know somebody. Yet I don't think I'm alone in being discouraged by wine blogs.

Sure, there are a few wine blogs that are worth reading, present company excluded. The most successful blogs even receive a few thousand hits a day! So the most successful wine blog is the equivalent of the absolute worst porn site on the Interwebs. That's encouraging. And one might assume that the blogs with the most traffic are the best. After all, they say the cream rises to the top. Yeah, so does scum.

When I'm discouraged I even start writing about what all the other bloggers are writing about--say, Sarah Palin speaking at the next WSWA (Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America) convention. You know, it turns out Palin misheard the gig. She thought her agent meant the Wine and Spirits "Hole Sailors" of America and it was her chance to speak against gay marriage. Wait until she finds out it's a convention of alcohol distributors! Don't worry about Ms. Palin, she's nothing if not fast on her feet. She's from Alaska, the home of fast thinkers, and next thing you know she'll be giving a discourse on how she prefers alcohol distributors to those ones that use gasoline in her Jeep.

See, even those jokes are discouraging.

When you first start a blog it's very liberating. Then one day you wake up and you're in a prison of your own making, trapped in a 6' X 9' cell with a Hole Sailor eyeballing you like he's got the hot dog and you've got the bun. And all this for the glory of writing for nine people, eight of whom don't even like you. Yeah, it's discouraging.

But it could always be worse. I could be the featured newcomer at Though I'd never be more popular than Rush.

What's the HoseMaster Drinking?


This is a wine that's an absolute joy to drink. Every Italian wine lover is familiar with the wines of Abbazia di Novacella and their brilliant winemaker Celestino Lucin. And Lagrein is one of the great underappreciated varieties; where it shines is the Alto Adige. So you take a great winemaker, working at one of the oldest wineries in the world (founded in 1142 by Augustinian monks St. Mickey of Dolenz and St. Peter of Tork), producing wine from one of Italy's great red wine grapes, and you get this beauty. St. Augustine of Hippo (not to be confused with Kirstie Alley of Hippo), whose teachings the Augustinians follow, taught, among other things, that "Nothing conquers except truth and the victory of truth is love." Now there's a pithy little aphorism. Though I always thought the victory of truth is divorce. But I would never argue with a guy named Saint Augustine of Hippo. Unless I was Saint Ron of Oxpecker, and, believe me, I know Oxpeckers, I worked with Oxpeckers, I am certainly a long way from an Oxpecker. Baboonpecker, maybe, but no Oxpecker. Oh, where was I? Drinking this gorgeous bottle of red wine actually reminded me of drinking one of the great red wines of the Loire, with its lithe body and insistent acidity. Lagrein isn't always this compelling. Many examples are light and stupid. But in the hands of Celestino Lucin Lagrein shows its powdery, floral, cherry and almond skin beauty. This stuff is as racy as a Victoria's Secret runway show but without that depilatory smell. Tell me that doesn't make you want to try a taste.

The HoseMaster Score: 777,500 Points

Disclaimer: As a young Leo chicken I always wanted to be an Augustinian friar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview With A HoseMaster, Part IV

In this edition of "Interview with a
Hosemaster" I answer questions submitted by loyal HoseMaster of Wine readers. If you have any questions for the HoseMaster, please be sure and include them in your comments and you may be included in the next edition! If your question is selected you may receive two tickets to the next Wine Bloggers Conference, or their equivalent cash value of Not One Thin Dime.

What does it feel like to have one of the least successful blogs in America?

I don't know, ask TheWineWhore.

How does one measure success in wine blogging? That's a bar that's set lower than a midget teabagging Glenn Beck. Put all the readers of all the wine blogs on any given day together and what would you have? The lowest percentile of the SAT's. Factor in the reality that 75% of every blog's readers are other bloggers, and, basically, the whole wine blog world is like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a whole bunch of loudmouths trying to shout over each other, only less dressy. Which brings up another thing--I know it's hard to think about, but, basically, when you're reading any blogger's words, whether it's the HoseMaster or Steve Heimoff or Tom Wark, you have to imagine that they wrote those posts in their underwear, which would explain the stains. My point is, we are all little fish in a little puddle, the kind your poodle makes on the kitchen floor when he's happy, and the notion that one can measure success on that scale is a little like trying to measure the atomic weight of farts. In more ways than one.

And who starts a wine blog thinking about success? Every wine blogger knows there's no monetary reward in blogging. You'd make more cash standing by a freeway exit with a sign that says, "Homeless Wine Blogger--Any Attention Welcome!" Most bloggers just seek praise, and lots of it. Praise for their discerning palate, praise for their agility with words, praise for their originality of thought. And a lot of that is forthcoming. From other bloggers who expect it in return. The wine blog world is one big praise orgy--you stick it in another blog while one is being slipped into yours and everybody leaves with that wonderful feeling of having just been screwed. Which further explains the stains.

But to answer the original question, I love having an unsuccessful wine blog. The successful ones mostly suck.

What are your least favorite wine appellations?

As I do with people, I try to find the best in every wine. And every appellation produces the occasional interesting wine just like every blue moon there's an original thought on WannabeWino. But since you asked...


Temecula is the poster city for the Save Our Pierce's Disease Foundation. Who the hell buys these wines? Drunk Millienials out wine tasting on the weekend, I imagine. Temecula isn't a wine growing region, it's an amusement park for the brain damaged. Has any wine publication ever done an article like "Temecula: Wine's Best Kept Secret," or "Temecula: Tuscany Without the Scores?" Is there a restaurant north of San Diego County with a Temecula section on its wine list? That wants to sell wine? There are more than 50 wineries there now! Fifty! Man, it's like Yankee Stadium urinals. Tasting room in Temecula

I go to ZAP every year. I love Zinfandel, and I'm always on the lookout for producers new to me. I search the ZAP program for names I'm not familiar with and when I find one, the next thing I check is its appellation. If it's Lodi I avoid it like hot oil wrestling on "The Biggest Loser." Yeah, I know, there are lots of old vines in Lodi! I know, I've seen them, they all have court-ordered Do Not Resuscitate affidavits. Palm Springs has lots of old people, Scottsdale has lots of old people, Miami Beach has lots of old people--old living things go where it's too goddamned hot for healthy, vigorous things. Lodi Zins are more baked than a Humboldt State College reunion.

OK, I'm ignorant, but it's like I just ate asparagus and peed into a Riesling bottle.

What do you do with all the free wine samples?

In 18 months of doing two incarnations of HoseMaster of Wine I have received a total of four bottles. I take this as flattery. Wineries send samples to professional reviewers whose scores may affect their sales in a positive manner. To counteract any lukewarm reviews, they send samples to bloggers they know have little experience, proven sycophantic behavior, and the vanity to feel flattered at gifts of free plonk. It doesn't matter what the blogger says about the wine, no one cares, especially if you know something about wine. Wineries just want to be mentioned, to be ubiquitous, to see their name mentioned as often as Paris Hilton or Angelina Jolie or Jesus H. Christ. They call this marketing. Wineries pay marketing people obscene amounts of money to come up with lists of the dullest and most pathetic wine bloggers, and then they send them each a couple of bottles of wine, watch their Google Alerts fill their Inbox, and then sit back and watch sales inch downward. Hell, the wine isn't selling anyway, might as well give it away, then convince yourself you're marketing your brand. The music industry ruined payola for everybody, there are hardly any wine critics on the take, unless you count free trips, helicopter rides, lavish dinners, fake friendship and free balloon animals as payola (pish-tosh, it simply has to be that way), so what road is left to wineries but seeking reviews from unqualified and inexperienced reviewers? Make better wines? Nah. Too much like work.

Remember, if you have a question for the HoseMaster, aside from questions of taste, please submit them in a comment. Perhaps you'll be featured in another edition of "Interview With A HoseMaster!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 10
Queer Patterns

When you're a dick you can get put in some pretty crappy places. I wasn't that surprised that Tiny knew about the paper in my pooper, Tiny makes a living knowing everything, but when had it been put there without my knowing? It had to have been recently; I'd only just given myself my monthly prostate exam--I was a quart low, must be in need of a ring job. The only time that made sense was after Fugly the midget knocked me out in the Les Mars Hotel. But had Fugly done it? It was the nearest cavity for him, sure, but he'd have had to undo my pants, lower my Depends, slip off the fishnet stockings, remove my sheer black nylon panties, push aside my thong, insert the note, then put it all back before I came to. And midgets have a notorious fear of Depends, for obvious reasons.

I carefully unfolded the note that had previously been residing in my ex-wives' Divorce Lawyers Hospitality Suite. It contained a simple message. I'd halfway hoped for a fortune, you know, like "Hey, it's dark in here," or "If you can read this you're following too close." But all it said was, "Here's your M.S. certificate, Shithead!" I wondered what that was about. And then suddenly I knew.

I left Tiny still scrounging for foie gras in the Cyrus dumpster and headed over to the Healdsburg Coroner's Office where Lorna and Veronica's sister should be dressing up the slabs by now. Healdsburg doesn't see a lot of murders, not usually anyway, yet the town has a Medical Examiner. Medical Examiner isn't her full-time job, by day she's a butcher at Big John's market. Stuffs a mean pork loin. Her name is Avril Cadavril.

Avril was getting ready to examine Veronica's sister. Maybe it's me, but drawing those lines all over her and labeling the different cuts seemed a little cold. I will admit, the chuck looked pretty good though, worth way more than two bucks.

"Hello, Avril, is that the girl from the Hotel Healdsburg?"

"Yup," Avril responded. I'd sort of forgotten how unattractive Avril was. Two hundred pounds of sausage stuffed into one casing. But years of being a butcher, having more blood on your hands than Donald Rumsfeld, will take their toll. But, I guess, she knew the steaks when she took the job.

"Have you checked her anus yet?" This is what life comes down to. The joy of childhood turns to the acne-covered ache of adolescence followed by the uncertainties and badly chosen sexual adventures of young adulthood which finally lead to following a real passion--wine; you follow that passion to a small town in wine country thinking you'll finally realize part of your dreams and you end up an illustrated meat dummy with a dick standing over you asking, "Have you checked her anus yet?" God's great plan.

"No, Hosemaster, I haven't. You're the only asshole I've looked at all day."

I slipped on a pair of surgical gloves, quickly put my hands to my ears, fingers splayed, and said in my best Bullwinkle voice, "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!" and gently explored Veronica's sister's Alaskan pipeline. Sure enough, there was a slip of paper.

"Well," I said to Avril, "look what I found."

"Inspected by No. 28?" Hey, it was a butcher joke.

"Not exactly. But, you know, Avril, I'm just trying to help you not be so behind in your work." The paper read exactly like the one that had been put into my Wine Spectator office, "Here's your M.S. certificate, shithead!"

"What do you suppose that means?" Avril asked me.

"Don't know, babe, but I'll do the suppositorying around here, if you don't mind. Where's the other woman's body, the one from Les Mars?"

"Sure," said Avril, "now I guess women are from Les Mars and men are from Anus. She's over here."

Avril walked over to an adjacent gurney and removed the white sheet that was covering Lorna like she was a Forest Lawn toreador and I was an adoring crowd. "Did you check her anus?"

This is what life comes down to. The wonder of childhood turns to the weekly beatings of adolescence followed by the wearing of women's undergarments in young adulthood which finally lead to discovering the joy of substance abuse--wine; you follow that passion to a hick town in wine country only to end up covered in a white tablecloth on a gurney with a dick standing over you asking, "Did you check her anus?" Praise the Lord.

I already knew the answer by the way Avril was staring at me, like she was a brand new shoe and I was a great big turd. I carefully turned Lorna on her side and began to check her Nigerian hijacker runway. As I felt around for the expected Surprise in Every Backdoor Box, the door to the morgue suddenly opened, and when I looked over my shoulder to see who it was I was shocked to see Veronica and Jessica bursting in. Thank goodness they hadn't arrived a few minutes sooner when I was paying a booty call on Veronica's sister.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, Hoseprober?"

"Looking for clues, Jessica. I think I've found something."

"What? Your breath mints?"

"No, Chief," I said as I removed the expected slip of paper from Lorna's Year End Review of Wines, "this." I unfolded the note. But, to my surprise, it didn't say "Here's your M.S. Certificate, shithead." The look on my face got Jessica's attention. I'd gone as white as a picture of wine judges.

I handed the paper to Jessica. "'You're next, HoseMaster,'" she read, "'unless you keep your nose out of strange bungholes.' What's this about, Hosepucker?"

I was about to tell her when Veronica screamed. I hadn't heard a scream like that since the last time I'd has sex with Avril. A loud, piercing, girly scream. Avril looked at me. She remembered when I'd screamed like that.

"What, Veronica," Jessica asked, grabbing Veronica by her shoulders and holding her tightly to her chest, turning her head away from the gorgeous dead girls, "what is it?"

Veronica was crying maniacally, gasping for breath, but she managed to point at Lorna, lying there so peacefully, my bad fortune cookie, my Pez dispenser of Death, and say, "She's my sister!"

Monday, January 11, 2010

The HoseMaster's Dream Dates for 2010

I stumbled on to a wine blog a few days ago,, and the author of the blog mentioned that one of his goals for 2010 was to meet the HoseMaster. Wow. Here's a guy seriously in need of a psychological evaluation. Of course, two of his other goals were to learn to stay inside the lines in his coloring books, and to learn to say "Gewurztraminer" through his sphincter. I wish him luck with all three. Though you might start with "Falanghina," should be a little easier.

But his delusional post got me to thinking. As did a comment by Charlie Olken on this blog to the effect that he'd like to see my list of the people I'd like to have a drink with in 2010, from a play by Tom Wark. Note to people who don't otherwise read wine blogs: Charlie Olken and Tom Wark are imaginary characters I created for HoseMaster of Wine, and bear no resemblance to actual human beings. And, well, since ideas are not something I am much given to, though I can say "Smaragd" with my armpit, I thought, what the hell. Here is my short list of people I'd like to meet in 2010.

Dottie and John

I know, I know, who wouldn't want to meet the folksy and charming couple who used to write a wine column for "The Wall Street Journal?" They created their own dream job, writing a column about wine to pay for their drinking habits without knowing anything about wine. This is brilliant. I wonder if I could get "The Economist" to pay me to write a column about candy. I love candy. I've tasted lots of candy. I have an awful lot to say about candy, and I can do it in a friendly and heartwarming style. And then I could go out and buy all the candy I want and "The Economist" would pay for it, and I'd start an "Eat that Dessert Day!," and I'd be on "Oprah" (which is different than being on Oprah, which is what cellulite does) and you wouldn't be able to look at a Tootsie Roll without thinking about me (of course, you probably can't do that now). It worked for Dottie and John! Why not me? The other thing I admire about Dottie and John is that they had the common sense to get the hell out of the print wine reviewing business before the whole thing starts to stink like your mother's chipped beef on toast left outside by the pool for a week, which is no doubt going to happen the minute Robert Parker dies, or 2009, whichever comes first. And, a bit of a warning, John, I wouldn't leave me and Dottie alone for very long...

Plus, I can't wait to say, "See ya later, Dottie Gaiter!"

Rachel Alexandra

Jess "Huckleberry" Jackson's fabulous four-legged sensation is the filly I'd most like to meet in a wine bar in Sonoma. OK, she's underage, but I've seen her teeth, she looks older. What a babe! Huckleberry isn't just a guy with the rare gift of being able to buy mediocre wineries and then magically transform them into genuinely worthless brands, the guy can sure pick horses! And when he purchased the sexy Rachel Alexandra (after a couple of cocktails I hope to be calling her "Rach") right before the Preakness and had the sense to have Hardy Wallace mount her (but, luckily, not be the jockey), well, is it any wonder Rach is leading candidate for Horse of the Year? And, really, who would you rather meet, Time Magazine's Person of the Year Ben Bernanke or Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra? My thought is, if you're gonna meet a horse's ass, just meet an entire horse.

Dick Cheney

I love Dick Cheney. I love how he fights crime and all the bad guys in the world--Mumbles, Flattop Jones, Pruneface...hell, the whole Bush Cabinet. And the cool 2-way wrist radio, so people can listen to you jerking off. I love Dick Cheney! Oh. I guess I'm thinking of Dick Tracy. Never mind. Who wants to have drinks with Dick Cheney? What does he drink, sneer and tonic? And he'd probably accidentally shoot you afterward. And call you a pansy. And send your kid off to fight in a senseless war. Not my idea of a good time. Forget I even brought him up. Is he dead yet?

Ron Popeil

I always think, what if Ron Popeil had turned his genius to wine? Why didn't he? The guy comes up with Pocket Fisherman and Spray On Hair (which, by the way, looks great on the rainbow trout you've caught with Pocket Fisherman) and, of course, Veg-O-Matic, what might have he invented had he tackled the wine industry? Though I think they did use Veg-O-Matic for Santa Barbara County Cabernet once upon a time. Maybe he would have invented Pocket Port Tongs that you can heat up in one of his rotisseries. Or a Ginzu corkscrew that even goes through a Stelvin and never dulls! But wait, there's more! If you order now you'll receive this handy Magic 8-Ball Point Generator! Just ask the Magic 8-Ball what score your 2005 Opus One deserves, flip it over, and, magically, it displays the proper score in its window! 84! And it's never wrong! It's exactly how the major critics do it! What would you pay for this? $50? $75? If you call in the next fifteen minutes, it's only $19.99 plus shipping and handling! Operators are standing by!

Aside from these five, there are many others I'd love to meet. Among them:

Robert Mondavi, this just in, still dead. But I'm patient. We'll have hot toddies. Very hot.

Osama bin Laden, still living in a cave, but recent intelligence suggests it's at Jarvis.

Stephen Hawking, love him in "Glee." Want to confirm that he's a Muppet.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Morgue the Merrier

The wine business lost a lot of very important people in 2009. OK, they weren't lost, they died. Why do we always say "lost" when they aren't lost at all? We know exactly where they are. Rotting in Hell with all the other inebriates. OK, let's start over. A lot of very important people in the wine business died in 2009. Many were overlooked by the vast majority of the wine-drinking public, but not here at HoseMaster of Wine. You know, my favorite part of the Academy Awards is the Death Montage--the morgue the merrier! So here's a brief rundown of those in the wine business who were bulked out in 2009.

D.B. Cooper (1932-2009)
When you talk to the best winemakers in California and ask them who made the finest barrels, the name that jumps to their lips is usually D.B. Cooper. After a long battle with termites, Cooper could no longer stave off death. Cooper was eulogized by Michael Jordan as "a fellow king of hoops who knew how to perform under fire." Not that Michael Jordan. Cooper turned out perfect barrel after perfect barrel in a world filled with cheap junk foudre. He was our barrique Obama.

Michel Rolland (1947-2009)
The wine world lost its most famous consultant in 2009, Michel Rolland. Michel consulted for over 30,000 wineries worldwide, most notably Chateau C'estmoulle-Plonque in Bordeaux and Blankcheckiet Estate in Napa Valley. In his prime, Rolland commanded as much as $25,000 for fifteen minutes of his time, a salary that placed him right up there with Bill Clinton, Heidi Fleiss and Sarah Palin's speech therapist. He was widely condemned for his contributions to the globalization of wine, though astute tasters could tell the differences between his wines by reading the labels. Rolland was responsible for countless 100 point wines, none of which any of you will ever taste, so stop your whining and go back to your crappy 92 point wines and feel miserable--100 point wines are too good for you and you know it. Rolland was killed in a freak hyperbaric chamber accident where he was micro-oxygenated.

Ann O'Smia (1953-2009)
Ann O'Smia was one of the country's leading wine critics in her role as chief wine reviewer for the prestigious publication "Wine Extortionist." Ann is credited with creating the subtle form of magazine blackmail that asks wineries to pay to have their labels displayed next to their reviews. When that was a success, Ann cleverly asked that wineries pay "Wine Extortionist" not to
publish lousy reviews of their wines. If a winery made horrible wine after horrible wine they were required to place a full-page ad. This practice continues today in every major wine publication--the full-page ad a sure sign that the winery produces crap. Ann's innovations made "Wine Extortionist" the most successful magazine of its era, and Ann its most powerful critic. It was said a bad review in "Wine Spectator" could cost you hundreds of cases of sales, but a bad review in "Wine Extortionist" only 75 bucks; and a great review in "Wine Spectator" cost you the respect of your peers, but a great review in "Wine Extortionist" only 75 bucks. Ann was killed in a rear-end collision with Marvin Shanken--no cars were involved. Ann in her usual tasting mode, wine contortionist.

And, happily, several bloggers died this past year, among them:

Hardy Stew, 45, whose blog about how wine affected his personal life, CirrhosisoftheLover, was the first to combine wine reviews with stories of his struggles with impotence. Though his blog was very popular, he struggled every day with getting it up.

Gary Vainasfuck, 48, of WineLiberryTV, whose illiterate and thoughtless ramblings about wine on his creepy video blog captured the imaginations of pathetic losers everywhere. Gary inspired an entire generation of wine drinkers to believe they too could be wine experts without knowing a single solitary thing about the subject. His death leaves no void.

HoseMaster of Wine, 57, from complications.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wine Blogs and the Rose Parade

I'm seriously suffering from a nasty case of Holiday Hangover. I am so glad that the Holidays are over, the relentless thrum of Christmas and the false cheer of New Year's Eve. I'm starting to think Dick Clark is the perfect host for a New Year's Eve party. Aside from the fact that he gives new meaning to the phrase "stroke of midnight," that partial paralysis is exactly what I feel after all the celebrations, insipid Top Ten lists and obituary recaps. Just the thought of doing HoseMaster of Wine for another 12 months makes me nauseous, like I've just digested another post at Dr. Vino without proper sedation. Much of the discomfort I'm feeling is just post-Holiday melancholy. I wonder why I bother to continue writing my corrosive and largely ignored blog. What is it that drives me to sit down in front of a blank computer screen and try to come up with something halfway original several times a week? Why don't I just give in and be like most bloggers? Recycle winery press announcements like a brainless tool, review wines no one cares about in the least except the marketing cannibals that sent the free samples, spend most of my time commenting on other blogs in the vain hope that their readers will check out my blog and find out how fascinating and insightful my borrowed opinions are? (Give it up Nectarwine, your comments, like your blog, leave one yearning for less.) Why write original material when there's a world of pre-fab wine ideas to pretend are my own? Pride? Nah. You can't be the HoseMaster and have any kind of pride.

There is a constant drumbeat of criticism of California wines that goes, "California wines are too sweet and fruity while European wines are just right, and better with food." I won't debate that here. But my opinion is that if anything is too sweet, too sickeningly cloying, too much like saccharine, it's the vast majority of wine blogs. Ugh, they're sweeter than an episode of "Barney," and less articulate. I wonder if French wine blogs are as noticeably sweet, so incredibly simple. Perhaps I don't have an American wine blog palate, but taking in seven or eight of these blogs every day is certain to leave you in a diabetic coma that would make Aretha Franklin jealous. The complaint against sugar is that it leaves your senses dull, deadens the palate. Well, suck on a dozen wine blogs and try not to end up like Ariel Sharon. You might as well treat your senses to endless repeats of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"--you know Ellen, right, the flat-chested Mike Douglas? Wine blogs are filled with sweetness, way past the threshold of human endurance. Reading wine blogs is like watching the goddam Rose Parade--a succession of giant, lavishly decorated, self-important, artificially sweet, slow-moving creations that vanish from your memory the minute they turn onto Colorado Boulevard. Luckily.

Is it that new wine bloggers, eager to be read, be successful, emulate the most successful wine blogs and that's why most of them are about as entertaining as celery? Try this some time, read them aloud, see if they sound interesting then, or if they don't sound more like infomercials for stuff that is but days away from being landfill. Really, try this. Do it in your best voice, try it with a comic edge, hitting the punch lines with emphasis, selling the verbiage in your most professional reading voice. They are woefully dull, as if you're attending a reading of Henry James in Esperanto. Drives me nuts. And then a new blog appears and it's the same thing, only now it's Henry James in Navajo.

And, of course, now it's all about video podcasts, a la Gary Vaynerchuk. I don't know Gary Vaynerchuk, I've only viewed one or two of his podcasts, but the guy has singlehandedly put a stink on the whole wine business with his idiotic behavior, rudeness, insipid wine descriptions and all-star tribute to Mammon. But he's successful! Like Howard Stern and the guys who make Jackass movies! So let's give him awards, Wine Enthusiast! Glorify this kind of behavior! Why, it's bringing the masses to wine, educating them so that they can go out and know how to behave when it comes to tasting wine! And, hell, maybe if we hitch our minor league magazine to his star we can grab some of his audience! Dignity apparently died with Robert Mondavi.

But at least Gary has some presence, albeit obnoxious, on camera. All the newer wine video blogs, well, let's just say most of them validate why the United States doesn't allow prison executions to be televised. Watching people taste wine and then extemporize about it is about as interesting as listening to someone do a crossword puzzle. "Oh, what's a four letter word for what my opinion's worth? Starts with an 'S' and ends with a 'T.'" I do love the cheap sets however. Always makes me feel like I'm right there with them in the motel where they're hiding from the personality police.

Well, like I said, I guess the Holidays put me in a bad mood. Sorry. Forget what I just said. It's the morphine talking.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 9 Losers Live Longer

When you're a dick things often get sticky. I'm not comfortable around women crying, it makes my scalp itch and my fingers long for the feel of a throat. Veronica had become hysterical at the sight of her sister dead in the tub. Her sobbing had triggered the same in Jessica and it sounded like a reunion of Charlie Sheen ex-wives in the room. I'd had enough. I needed to start pounding the mean streets of Healdsburg. OK, they're not so much mean as they are sassy. I needed to start flatfooting the sassy streets of my town searching for the midget, or for Veronica's friends, or maybe for a reason to keep doing this stupid job. Seeing two lives cut short in their prime was a reminder, a reminder that none of us knows when we'll take our last breath, that our lives, no matter how miserable, no matter how low we've sunk, whether pedophile or wine blogger, have value. OK, wine bloggers not so much. When are they going to make them register so you know when one moves in next door to you?

I left Jessica and Veronica in the room with the sommelier float, hold the ice cream, and decided it was time to pay a visit to the M.S. bigwigs. I knew they were in town, but I wasn't sure where they were staying. Somewhere cheap. Those guys spend money like it's First Growth Bordeaux--only after they've kept it for 50 years. More than likely they were staying somewhere for free, a winery, or one of Huckleberry Jackson's guest houses. They'd be there a week and you'd have to use a pressure hose to get the smell of smarmy off the walls. I had no idea where the M.S. thugs were hanging their fake credibility for a week, but I knew someone who would--Tiny. Nothing happens in Healdsburg that Tiny doesn't know about. Tiny was the publisher and gossip columnist for our local rag, the Healdsburg Herald-Flatulence, and I knew where he was most likely to be. Dumpster diving behind Cyrus.

Sure enough, Tiny, all 550 pounds of him, was shoulder deep in the dumpster behind Cyrus, Healdsburg's finest restaurant, proud recipient of two Michelin puffs. I'd met those two puffs at the bar in Cyrus, oddly enough, but that's another story. I greeted Tiny with our usual salutation.

"Hey, Tiny, what's shakin', aside from your proctologist?"

"Don't bother me now, HoseMaster," Tiny replied, "I'm getting my prix fix."

"I've just got one question for you, Tiny. Where are those M.S. clowns staying?"

"Oh, I heard you were looking for them. This have something to do with that dead babe they found like residual sugar in Zinfandel? You know, sweet but pruney."

"No, no, I just want to talk to them about getting a client of mine into their exams."

"What client? You mean that gorgeous blonde that was in your office this morning? Man, HoseMaster, she was stacked like the barrel room at Clos du Bois."

"Look, Tiny, all I want from you is where those chumps are staying. Do you know or don't you?"

"Oh, man, caviar!" Tiny lived for these gourmet moments. When I'd first met him he was rather svelte. Now he was so big he couldn't fit through the front door of his apartment. What he really needed was to lose a lot of weight, and soon, or he'd lose everything, his job, his reputation, his thong, and then losing the pounds wouldn't help, it would just make him a homeless svelter. He was devouring the caviar rapaciously; then he quickly spat it out. "Nah, that's not caviar. Mouse turds. Though they do taste of the ocean."

I was getting the feeling that Tiny didn't want to tell me where the M.S.-creants were residing. "Come on, Tiny, I don't have all day. I need to ask those guys some questions."

"Just leave it alone, HoseMaster. Don't forget, losers live longer."

"What's that supposed to mean? I'm not going to leave anything alone. I'm already in this up to my nozzle. You know, this whole thing has started to stink, Tiny, and I'm beginning to think you know something about it. Now, are you going to tell me where they are, or aren't you?"

"OK, sure, HoseMaster, I'll tell you where to look. It's somewhere dark and humid, a place a lot of wine has passed through, a lonely place no one would ever want to explore."

"They're staying in the wine caves at Bella?"

"No," Tiny said, returning to his foraging. "Bend over, shine a flashlight up your ass, maybe they're staying there."

I looked. They weren't. But I wouldn't have been surprised. There was something else up there though. A note, folded and neatly inserted. Great, I thought, just perfect, story of my life. Other guys find a mysterious message in a bottle, I get a message in a butthole.