Monday, February 22, 2010

The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes

Whenever I refer to wine books for information about the many and varied varieties of vitis vinifera I never find anything useful. They tell you where it's most famously grown, they tell you some imaginary aromas that the wine supposedly possesses, they tell you other names for it, but what does that get you? You can't impress your wine ignorant friends with that sort of knowledge. They are so impressed that you have a wine blog, you can't appear clueless! They turn to you for recommendations of the cheap crap that corporate-owned wineries send you for free. (Wow, is William Hill Chardonnay really that good?! It must be, it has Phthalates listed on the label ingredients!) They trust you! They buy all their wines based on your "I can't really be bothered to actually say something useful" 140-character Tweets about the free samples you receive. So now that you're up for an American Wine Blog Award (the equivalent of a Smiley Face on your sixth grade spelling test) it's time you learned a little bit more about the grapes that make the wines we love. Useful stuff this time, not that tired old Jancis Robinson crap.


What are we looking for when we taste a Chardonnay? Me, I'm looking for an excuse not to like it. I'm Simon Cowell and every Chardonnay is a contestant on "American Idol." I'm a Republican and every Chardonnay is a National Health Care plan. I'm Hugh Hefner and every Chardonnay is, I forget...what was it, um, where's my fucking Viagra? Everyone tries not to like it, but it's still wildly popular. Like airport security.

Interesting Chardonnay facts:

They try to sell the crappy ones by calling them "Burgundian." This is perfectly appropriate as a way to insult the French, who so richly deserve it.

Chardonnay is considered one of the Noble Grapes. This was 19th Century marketing. It's no more noble than French Colombard except that it denies its nationality. I much prefer German Colombard, which nearly destroyed London in WW II.

Chardonnay is particularly suited for seafood. Tuna drink it by the boatload.

Other Names for Chardonnay:

Cougar Juice
Kistler Piss

White Slavery

Beauner Killer


Sauvignon Blanc is only used as cocktail wine because it goes lousy with food. OK, it goes fine with food, but nobody serves it with dinner because it's too cheap. It's also known as Fume Blanc, a name Robert Mondavi made up in order to sell it, which has confused everyone since and is but one of the reasons he is now in Hell with Ernest and Julio and forced to drink Gruner Veltliner. (Which is what they serve by the glass in Hell, unless you want red, in which case it's Pinotage. It used to be Zinfandel but they ripped it out because it's hotter in Lodi.) Were it not for Sauvignon Blanc there would have been no reason to invent the Stelvin.

Interesting Sauvignon Blanc facts:

The best New Zealand versions can remove your pet's carpet accidents.

It is commonly blended with Semillon in order to find something useful to do with stupid Semillon.

Sauvignon Blanc is the major white grape of the Loire Valley. This isn't funny.

Other Names for Sauvignon Blanc:

Windex Blanc

Puckerface (often "Fuckerpace")

Lemon Pledge
Pouilly PeePee


Everybody talks about Riesling as a great white wine, but nobody drinks it. So whatever you say about it, how it tastes and smells, doesn't matter, no one's going to drink it anyway. But it comes in a cool bottle and the German ones feature a word puzzle on every label! Riesling often has residual sugar as a trap to try and make Americans like it, but it doesn't work because it doesn't taste sweet really. So how stupid are Riesling producers? Riesling likes to grow where it's cold, so around Andrea Immer's house.

Interesting Riesling facts:

The traditional Riesling bottle is called a "hock" because so many people try to pawn off Rieslings on people.

German Rieslings are categorized according to the sugar levels in the must. The must is like the grape's taint, only sweet. The basic category is Kabinett, which has lower sugar levels and is named for where you store your German wines so nobody sees that you have them. The sweetest sugar level wines are labeled Trocaderobeerandpretzels and often cost more than a Volkswagen Jetta--though they are more dependable.

Rieslings are said to go well with Asian cuisines. Morons say this.

Other names for Riesling:

Aunt Jemima
Other White Wines (wine lists)
Grandma Bait


Thomas said...

Mel! Priceless. How many people got it? Thawt I thaw a puddycat...

Dean Tudor said...

Hey great stuff...but you had a misspelled word. The grape should be spelled Reisling. At least, that's how I've always seen in on wine cards.

Thomas said...


In German, when two vowels sit together you pronounce the second one as a long vowel. The spelling is RIESLING.

PaulG said...

After I wipe the tears from my eyes I'm gonna open up a well-aged Trocaderobeerandpretzels and meander on over to Andrea Immer's place to check the temperature. Please don't stop here. There are so many more grapes needing explication.

Marcia Macomber said...

Thomas - That was the very first thing I thought, too...Mel! (Then we'd have Ron going into his Elmer Fudd version of "Kill the Riesling! Kill the Riesling!" ...There are so many possibilities here....


Thay! All you peopleth that wike wRiethling...thith ith a gweat wine no matter how you thpell it.
But you thould be wery, wery qwuiet when youwre hunting fowh a wRiethling.
And I thawt I thmelled a putty kat when I thuck my nothe in a glath of Thauvignon Blanc.
Hey Hothmathter, I wook fowrawd to you expwaining some wed gwapeth becauth I weawwy, weawwy wike a dewicious weg of wamb wit wed wine.
Thay hewwow to youwr fweind Thamantha and the other thircuth memberth here.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Welcome Dean and Paul,

Nice to see a few newcomers to HoseMaster chime in. Hey, Thomas, Dean was making a joke! That's technically my job, but, hey, the more the merrier.

Seems like a couple of distinguished guys risking their reputations posting here. Way to go. The comments are always the best part of my blog anyway.

I'm sure this will become a regular feature on HMW. Only about 6000 grapes left to do.

Thomas said...

Oh, sorry Dean. If you gonnna make jokes, you have to do it so that we all know, not just you and the man who wears hosiery.

I think I met Dean two years ago at Brock U in Ontario. Did I, Dean?

It may have been a Reesling conference.

Cabfrancophile said...

Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf!

From Cougar Juice to Angry Poodles!

Dean Tudor said...

I really loved the description of the grapes. As you say, only 6000 more to go.

Abouriou to Zweigeltrebe...Have fun. I`ll be checking back often. Can`t stay away...

Dean Tudor said...

Did a posting not get through...I had responded to Thomas, with yes, it was at Brock we met, but at the Riszling Conference. I got bored with typing up 2500 wine notes a year and moved on to such things as my FauxVoixVinCuisine spoofs.

Samantha Dugan said...

You and me both Dean...hooked.
Ron My Love this had me in tears I was laughing so hard. Did I ever mention I think smart funny guys are wicked hot?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Dean,

Just so you know, if one of your comments didn't get posted it wasn't me. I only delete Tish, the New York socialite with two terriers in her purse.

I thought for sure you were going to tell Thomas, "Brock U, too!"

My Gorgeous Samantha,

No, I don't think you mentioned that. By coincidence, women who seduce me also end in tears they laugh so hard.

I adore you!

Dean Tudor said...

Brock U too..Hmmmm

I think we did that at the Roosling Conference. Didn`t we Thomas...

Anyway, I think my message never got through because I did not complete the word verification line: it was not a grape name....

Annie Browne said...

Awesome!!! Love "Cougar Juice". I can just picture a 50-something lady sitting at a wine bar, all decked out with too much make-up, sipping a mediocre chardonnay. And, of course she's doing a very clumsy and desperately obvious job at hitting on the 20-something year old bartender. Hehehehe...more please!

Thomas said...

Nope, Dean. I remember it more clearly now--it was the Razzledazzling conference.

If Ron and Sam are going to have this blogaffair, wouldn't it be nice to serve us voyeurs, I don't know, maybe some popoff corn!

Thomas said...

Nope, Dean. I remember it more clearly now--it was the Razzledazzling conference.

If Ron and Sam are going to have this blogaffair, wouldn't it be nice to serve us voyeurs, I don't know, maybe some popoff corn!

Thomas said...

Hey, the first verification said it didn't go through, so i did it again.

Is this site fuckin' with me?

That was for Sam.

Samantha Dugan said...

Awe baby, I am so proud! In honor of your using the "F" word for me, Ron is going to serve you popoff corn...topless.

Charlie Olken said...

Brilliant stuff, Ron. I am glad I finally found this site now that you are famous. I think I will come back often.

Thomas said...

Well, Ron was skewered yesterday over at

Samantha Dugan said...


I checked it out, (funny thing was I started typing a defensive comment before thinking, "Wait Ron can handle this far better than I ever could. Plus I'm not his mom and junk) and while I hate hearing anything negative about the man I am having a "blogaffair" with, I thought it was not too bad. Least he spelled his name right AND posted a link. Seemed to me more like the guy doesn't get satire and clearly has a flawed or stuck sense of humor, Robert Klein...really?

Thomas said...

Yeah, I chose not to comment. Sometimes I surprise myself with my ability to know when to shut up.

I was about to defend Ron's take on the word hedonistic, 'cause I know a thing or two about the English "langige." But then, some battles just aren't necessary, like Iraq and, oh, better not do that...

Eric V. Orange said...

Okay, I'm a bit dense. Someone splain the Mel thing??


Eric V. Orange said...

I did get the Tish joke though.

BTW, Hi Dean. You've been out there longer than me.
Nice to 'see' you.


Dean Tudor said...

Mel "what's up doc?" Blanc was the voice of WB Loonie Tunes in the 1940s and 1950s...

Hey EVO -- that's Extra Virgin Oil! Wear the moniker proudly!!!

Ron Washam, HMW said...


If you have to explain 'em, they ain't funny.

Mel Blanc was the voice of all the Warner Brothers cartoon characters, as well as one of Jack Benny's sidekicks. Man of a thousand voices.

See, not funny.


Though I wouldn't call that skewering, I had seen his post. From my perspective, if you dish it out, you have to take it. But reading a bit of his blog made me realize he only proves my points. Just another poodle.

And he lives in Louisville so I'm going to send Samantha's son Jeremey over to beat the crap out of him.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Thank you for not commenting on his blog on my behalf. Bad enough Thomas posted a link so the guy will get a bunch of extra hits, though no one will go back after they read that pablum. (Just kidding, Thomas, it's fine you posted his link.)

To illustrate the power of his blog, I got 1 hit from his site. Reacting to that would be like using a bulldozer to knock down a gopher hole.

I adore you!

Eric V. Orange said...

Ah...I...I knew that...ha ha. Too funny...

That's a mighty big word for a twelve year old.


Samantha Dugan said...

Last comment, I swear. That one hit was probably me...I checked to see if your blog was really linked so...

Charlie Olken said...

Well, I am never one to ignore an opportunity to stick an oar in the water so I wandered over to the Louisville Slugger site and discovered a modest and not very hard-hitting comment about The Hosemaster's performance in his SF Chron interview.

Now, folks, be honest. Did you really think that Ron's comments there let Ron be Ron? I didn't, and I like Derrick Schneider, the author, because he is, to the small extent that I know him, honest and analytical. He used Ron, nicely, to prove his own point about wine blogging, not to show Ron off as the second coming of Monte Python.

OK, that said, I looked at Louisville's comments and posted some of my own. To wit--

" Hedonistic. It is one of those words that gets thrown around in wine descriptions and is more often misused than used correctly. I do it far too frequently, and so do other writers.

But, I do think you miss the point. The Hosemaster of Wine skewers everyone and everything that is too comfortable, too pompous, too self-righteous. And he, Ron Washam, does it in a way that is hilarious. He is funnier than Robert Klein, and far more nuanced than Kevin Kline.

The article you cite, I presume because you did not say so, was in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, was essentially an interview by Derrick Schneider, himself a blogger with a point of view that blogging is already being replaced by more immediate forms of interchange. Thus, his choice of The Hosemaster of Wine as a source of not entirely kind views of bloggers. Note, however, that The Hosemaster of Wine is a blog, and a damn funny one at that.

Folks should check it out. His latest bit in which he describes the characteristics of certain grapes has produced belly laughs from professional writers and consumers alike.

And, please always remember, that The Hosemaster is a satirist, not a cheerleader. Go and enjoy. You will come away with an entirely enlarged view of what he does--and a few laughs in the process. We need more humor in the wine biz. "

Puff Daddy said...

Note to Ron:

Alfonso gave me $20 to post the above. When you show up at my place tonight, you can also give me $20. Then I can bribe Heimoff and Yarrow to be nice to me.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


The interview with Derrick was about an hour and a half on the phone back before Christmas. Derrick was very forthcoming about the piece he was pitching to the Chronicle, so I knew what I was getting into. After the piece was published last weekend, I got a note from Derrick. He was a bit chagrined that they'd edited a short part of the piece where I'd told him that the HoseMaster is a voice, a character I portray on this blog for the purposes of satire, and is not me. Believe me, the HoseMaster wears me out most days and I often wish I could exorcise the bastard.

And I thought Derrick captured the essence of my blog pretty well when he asked whether I was the kid pointing at the naked emperor, or the old man yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. Perfect.

And, if I'm not mistaken, wasn't the Lousville Slugger guy at the Wine Writers Symposium? I think Alfonso gave him $20 to give me crap.

Charlie Olken said...

OK, folks. The cat is out of the bag. Ron Washam has appeared in public. He came to my house, drank my wine, ate my food and left.

But, in the five hours or so that he hung out, he made a joke or two, dished a little dirt and turns out to be a very devoted baseball fan.

Samantha Dugan said...

He left?! I was so picturing you two in jammies having a pillow fight! Dashed, my dreams are dashed...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, Charlie,

I had a blast sitting in with you, and I know Samantha is going to be jealous when she finds out we tasted 8 Zinfandels! Sorry to eat and run but I had to get home and wait up all night for the next Heimoff post to go up! And I'm not talking about his blog.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I don't wear jammies, you know that. Charlie and I were going to re-enact the famous scene in "Women in Love" with Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, but, he wanted to be Bates and so did I.

I adore you!

The Ceci Sipper said...

Ok, seriously...this has got to be my favorite wine blog ever. Potentially favorite blog in general. You are outrageous and I love it. I officially became an addicted HoseMaster blog reader today.

Thank you for making me laugh!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi Veronique or Ceci,

How shall I address you?

Welcome to our little wine asylum here at HoseMaster of Wine. Glad you finally found us! Please, please, please feel free to join in with whatever brand of nonsense and wisdom you bring to our happy table. You'll learn the cast of characters here fast enough, but feel free to ask what the hell is going on whenever the urge strikes, not that anyone here knows what the hell is going on, but it never hurts to ask.

Thank you for the kind words. It's all about laughter here, and since you're also a blogger, I hope you don't have thin skin.

I love having a new person at the party! Welcome.

The Ceci Sipper said...

Awesome! Party is my other middle name and I am glad to join this one =P And feel free to call me Ceci, Veronique is what I call my other personality that I don when in France. And don't worry, I am thick skinned all the way!