Monday, May 3, 2010

Mis(s) Feiring

What am I looking for in wine?

I'm looking for the Gertrude Steins, the k.d. langs, the Dizzy Deans. Wines that have a nasty screwball. Which I can relate to. I want my wines natural. Think pubic hair. Think armpits. Makeup is OK, only a little, but no animals tortured. Unless they're my critics who don't get it. I write only for me, about wines for me. But I'm driving a bandwagon. Under the influence, but a bandwagon nonetheless, and I want everyone to be on it. Except Parker. He'd have to sit on the left side and everyone else would have to sit on the right. Balance. Like wines. I seek balance. Think tightrope walker. No balance, they're dead. Naturally. So I'm a wine cop. With no authority. Except my own. I'll write you a nasty ticket if you make wines that aren't natural. I'll throw the book at you. My book. I wrote a book. You have it. It changed you. It changed everyone. I'm a wine messiah. Follow me. I know people. I'll mention all of them. Most are famous. Others should be. Who cares? I'm famous, I'm a wine cop, I'm a messiah. I'm so lonely.


I was asked to speak at a seminar. I'm the leading authority on Natural Wines. No. Make that I'm the Only Authority on Natural Wines. I'm asked to speak often. I changed the world. Like Gandhi. Like Martin Luther King. Like the Exxon Valdez. The only disasters I like are natural too. Earthquakes. Tsunami. Gamay.

I don't like giving speeches. I like giving commandments. Thou shalt not sulfur. I remember Jesus said, "Sulfur little children..." That was wrong too. Where was I?

In a room, issuing commandments, signing books. Michel Bettane was there, he's a wine critic also. He's French. I like the French, they're so natural. He had nose hair like a wire brush. I wrapped my fingers in it. He asked me to sign my book for him. My book. You have it, I know, it changed everything. I was happy to sign Bettane's book but the pen was filled with synthetic ink. Not ink from an octopus or a squid or pasta. I could not sully the book. I pricked my finger and signed in blood. It felt good. Natural. I thought of Carole King. Maybe it was Bettane's nose hair that reminded me of her hair. Jewish hair. Natural hair. "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman!"

I probably shouldn't have sung it out loud.

I signed the book, With Love, Alice. Bettane smiled. I'm so lonely.

Others were there too. Mostly famous people to hear me. Maybe not famous to you. Not yet. But famous to me, and I assign fame only for myself. To myself. I'm a fame cop. Always copping the famous. Many great winemakers were there. Did I mention this speech was in France? I love France. I surrender to the French. No one's ever done that before. Usually the other way around.

I hope that doesn't offend my French friends. But I speak the truth. Someone has to. The wine world is filled with liars and cheats, and, well, then your wine is filled with lies and cheats. Is that what you want in your stool? Shit, I said stool.

Yet another lie. Another commandment. Thou shalt only use wild yeast. I almost typed wild Yeats. He was a poet. And a good one. He was at my speech. But he's dead. Ironic. He often wrote of the dead. I signed a book for him too. "To Bill" I wrote "you were far too cultured for my taste."

No wine can be natural if it wasn't fermented by wild yeast. Though yeast all over the world has been infiltrated by cultured strains and there is no more wild yeast. I don't care. I have my standards, my commandments. Pick out the cultured strains like they pick out illegal aliens in Arizona. It can be done. I can tell when I taste. I know when a wine was done with cultured yeast. It speaks to me. In an English accent. I hate the English. The accent is fake, like my writing style. The wines taste fake. You just know. You do. Ask anybody who agrees with me.

Francois Ghitaine was there at my speech from Domaine Hornswaggle. His wines are natural. When I visited Francois he proudly showed me his cement vats for fermenting. Cement vats are making a comeback. Why? They are better for the wine. There is concrete evidence. Get it? Concrete evidence! Funnier in French. Francois even goes so far as to ferment the wine in the vats before the cement has even set. The flavors of the ground, the rocks, are in his wines. His Petit Manseng is wet cement in a glass. It's perfect. I took a finger and wrote my name in it. "Alice" I'm so lonely.

I was last at Hornswaggle when only Francois' wife was there, Brigitte. She cooked for me while I spoke to her in short sentences. Very short. I asked her about their biodynamic lifestyle. She was blunt. Francois is a pig. She told him to bury his damned man horns in the vineyard stuffed with the manure he'd brought into their lives. I spoke more short sentences to her. She cooked. Eggs, from a virgin chicken. Over easy. Just how I wanted them. And her. She left weeping. The eggs were runny, like her nose. But the wines are brilliant. I'm brilliant.

I'm so lonely.


Samantha Dugan said...

Ouch. Okay never mind, Do Not Do Me.

Arthur said...

I'm getting tons of VE and VA and here....

Sip with Me! said...

Oh… you are such a bad boy ;-)

Charlie Olken said...

This may be the best yet. Funny and zingy at the same time. I cringed for Alice through my laughter. I hope she is like Steve "It's a good thing I have a sense of humor" Heimoff.

I dont quite know how to interpret the password for this post--herrag. Did you do that on purpose?

1WineDude said...

"Earthquakes. Tsunami. Gamay."

Now THAT is goddamned funny!!!

Marcia Macomber said...

I love these pick-me-ups on Mondays! Smiles are ever so needed with a long week ahead.

It's Mz. Feiring to a T...sweetly. I can understand Samantha's... hesitant comment though. Exactly how close to the Real McCoy is safe distance in a HMW Parody???

I loved the rhythms of the punch lines. My favorite may have been the first: Thou shalt not sulfur.

Does Feiring scan? Methinks the HoseMaster hath determined that it does...even in prose! (How I loathed sorting out Trochees and Spondees in school.... It's Mr. HMW, Meter Master!)

Charlie, you think "herrag" is obtuse? I got "bundi." Should I be insulted?

Thomas said...

Good stuff indeed--it is right on.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,

Ms. Feiring was harder to do than Saramago. She reads very much like she's been poorly translated from a foreign language. I spent maybe 45 minutes reading her blog and was strongly struck by what I perceived as a messianic streak tempered by some sort of massive insecurity. That, and her strange writing style, is what I tried to convey.

Marcia Love, I knew that if I went after her viciously it would read more like cruelty than fun. So I intentionally pulled the meanest punches. I always aim only to make folks laugh, take down the mighty a notch. But cringing, Charlie, is also the response I'm after.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Only you can do you, My Love. Though I may try it one day...

I adore you!


Charlie Olken said...

Ron, the cringing was in response to the "I am so lonely" lines. I presume you have read her book which is full of unsuccessful relationships.


Bundi is a comment on buns. This word thing is smarter than we are.

Ron Washam said...


No, I have not read her book, even though I like fiction. I know absolutely nothing about her past. Strangely, when I was about finished writing that first introductory paragraph the evil little HoseMaster in my head typed those four words. I had not planned them. But, honestly, I think that loneliness, if indeed it is loneliness, is the subtext of a lot of her writing.

But, really, I just wanted it to be satirical. So who do I lampoon next?

Arthur said...


(and for the record: I am NOT a blogger)

John M. Kelly said...

OMG. I don't know where to begin. Or end. If I can't find the start, how can I find the finish? I'm so lost.

Yes, it was better than Saramago. Next? How about Gary V as Garcia Marquez?

winebookgirl said...

You know I love you. But, this post bothers me. I have spent more time thinking about it than most of the posts I write--though, given their quality, that might be obvious.

I think the reason this post makes me cringe rather than laugh is that it comes off as more of a personal attack on Alice. Alice is a friend and I am not particularly troubled by criticisms on her work. If I had trouble with negative reviews, I would need to look for another type of employment.

But stating that you had not read her work and then adding the "lonely" comment takes this from parody to personal and it just strikes me as unnecessary and a bit mean.

End of lecture now. Back to whining about author I have worked with for several years who continues to introduce himself as meetings as though we have never met and sends emails to other departments asking what my name is.

Ftr, I got protac. Is someone implying i need prozac?


John Cesano said...

Just all kinds of wow, but it made me glad I will never be a famous wine writer. While brilliant, I cringed a little as well - in between the laughs and smiles.

I think you cut very close to the bone with this parody, but Alice lays it all out there with her own writing.

Thanks for a morning chuckle.

Ron Washam said...


Would that be insulting to Gary V. or Garcia Marquez? Rhetorical question.

Amy Darling,

I love you too. You know that, I hope.

I'm glad you expressed your thoughts here, and, more than that, I'm really glad my post made you spend a lot of time thinking. I take that as flattery.

Satire cannot have any boundaries. Period. I felt, after reading through a bunch of her blog posts, that what drives an awful lot of Alice's work is this subtext of loneliness--it was just a hunch, based only on reading her words. It's not a personal attack on her. I have never met her and know absolutely nothing about her personally. And how did loneliness become a character fault? It's simply the human condition. Alice uses it in her work. I did too.

A cringe is the response I wanted. That feeling of needing to look away when you see a terrible accident. Only you can't. It was the feeling I took from her blog.

I'd only spend this much time "explaining" myself to someone like you, Amy, someone I adore. Otherwise, the work stands, or falls, on its own.


I'll never be a famous writer either. It's why we blog, right? To be famous in a tiny little way, among eight or nine people.

Thanks for the cringe.

Thomas said...

To Amy (and anyone else crazy enough to listen to me).

For the privilege of expressing opinions or lecturing, writers take on a great amount of risk. The risk increases exponentially when their writing is true to their personalities and to their voice.

Comes with the territory.

I'm sure that when Ron gets around to this famous writer (that's a joke) I will cringe at what he has discovered and that I am sure I try hard to hide...

Charlie Olken said...

The fact that we cringed at this post does not make it illegitimate. It does mean that we knew how close it was coming to the bone, and in a personal way. I have told Ron both here and privately, that this was one of his greatest pieces ever in my opinion. Not because it may have been hurtful at some level, but because it rang so damn true that it made me cringe for Alice--who, by the way, may or may not cringe on her own.

Amy (ABC) suggested that there was a mean edge to the piece, and perhaps there is (again, why cringe if there was not), but Ron has written tougher stuff, more accusatory stuff before. It is part of the territory. Really good, biting satire does that.

My wife and I saw a play in SF recently called VIGIL about a nephew who comes to care for an ailing aunt who is about to die. She does not die and the despair that causes him is treated in an amazingly humorous way. You know, as you laugh, that this is black humor. You know as you laugh that you too will feel the same thing when you get to care for an elderly person of diminishing capacity. You know as you laugh that you should not. But you do because the playwright has found the right voice, the right cadence to capture the irony. So you laugh at the prospect of death.

Humor is not always neat. It is not always kind. Sometimes you just have to cringe while you laugh. Great satire digs deep.

PaulG said...

I made it halfway thru her book before the cringing overtook my intention to see where (if anywhere) it was going. You nailed it, but could have gone further. Where is the whining about the sub-par accommodations? The dicey weather? The cold caves? The dismissal of all corporate wines as garbage, while happily chowing down at the corporate troughs? Onward HMW, and if necessary, I'll take my hit if it comes.

Ron Washam said...


How can satire not be personal? It is funny that there was very little stir when I lampooned Alder. Satire is always funnier when you think the subject deserves it. When the subject is someone you like it's suddenly mean and unfunny. I've heard this my entire writing life. And I'm far from a great satirist, I'm simply having fun and trying to make folks laugh. Though cringeing has its place.


Thanks for the support. As I said, I haven't read Ms. Feiring's book. I lampooned her blog, not her book.

Somehow this debate is about being mean. Why? The wine world is not immune to comedy or criticism, I don't care who it is. Should I?

Charlie Olken said...

Yes, of course it was personal. If it had been generic who would have laughed? Who would have cringed?

Not to worry. And don't take these comments too personally either. The fact that some people got uncomfortable has to go with the terrority if you are going to go right to the heart of the matter.

But, that does not mean that some of us won't cringe from time to time. That also goes with the territory, and so do comments left here that we cringed.

OK, I think we have covered this topic in enough goo for the day. I think I will go greet my tasters with a pie in the face tonight and tell them that Ron made me do it.

Oh, and secret password is Hank Stram. What the hell does he have to do the price of tea in China?

Dave said...

Honorable HMW,

Yes, do Gary V. I learned of him through my godson/nephew (25ish) whom we have been bringing along the twisting, turning wine road. The Vchucker really seems to resonate with the younger demographic (is Vaynerchuk Ruski for vomit?). Regardless, he provided some links to the V's spewing, including the one about eating dirt, tile grout mold, and old bandages from sucking chest wounds to help develop one's palate, and asked for my honest opinion. Not wanting to put the lad off on further exploration, I diplomatically said that the V also resonates with me, but did not add my comparison of him to a stack of 500W Marshalls with cracks in the bass speakers, tweeters gone terribly bad, and a sound man on a cocktail of meth, ecstasy and bad gin. Hmmm, this may explain my aversion to Twitter.

Light the barbie and dig out the skewers. Satire has no requirement to be pretty.

Ron Washam said...


You'd think by now I'd know better than to start talking the nuts and bolts of satire in the comments section. I've said it a thousand times, if you're writing satire and not pissing somebody off, you're not doing it right. And, you're right, we've effectively talked this subject to death.

The good news about wine blogging is that two days after you post, no one cares. It's just another post in the archive that no one will read.


I've only watched a Gary V. post once, and have no desire to watch him again. He's not a blogger, he's a huckster. That's why he's making money. A written parody of a guy who is a "personality" (much like American Idol features "talent") wouldn't work. Plus, in order to lampoon him I'd have to watch a bunch of episodes, and, frankly, I'd rather spend the weekend being waterboarded.

H20 Daddy said...

" frankly, I'd rather spend the weekend being waterboarded. "

Come on over.

Ron Washam said...

Great! I'll bring the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.

Arthur said...

Ron, you know that waterboarding is more effective when you use Gruner Veltliner...

Ron Washam said...


Making anyone ingest Gruner Veltliner in any way is strictly prohibited by the Geneva Convention, and all that we hold sacred.

For God's Sake, I'll talk!!

Thomas said...


You do realize that when the Geneva Conventions convened Santa Ragamita wasn't popular.

Pity they don't have an amendment process on the Convention the way it is with the U.S. Constitution; imagine initiating a prohibition on Santababy.

Cabfrancophile said...

Wow, you brought out the Feiring squad and hosed Alice down real good. Based on her reaction to a few comments on my blog re: she thinks all CA wine is gooey carp, I don't think she'd be amused by this. It's too spot on . . . .

I think you need a little Gruner V boarding in the form of some Gary V watching. Bet you've never heard sheep's butt and bouquet used in the same sentence . . . .

Ron Washam said...


It wasn't intended to amuse her, it was intended to amuse everyone else. Well, amuse a few people anyway.

I can't believe how many people have asked me to go after Vainupchuck. Sheesh. I just don't think I have the heart and stomach to watch that cretin.

Charlie Olken said...

I don't want you to go after Gary V. I love cartoon characters.

Have you given some thought to fictitious conversations between wine personalities like Helen Turley and, oh, say, Alice Feiring.

Or Samantha Dugan and Charlie Olken discussing CA wine.

Or publishing Alder Yarrow's response to your expose on Vornography.

Or new wine book titles and the authors who could write them.

Or going back and figuring what the hell was really happening on the mean streets of Healdsburg with all those MS candidates dying.

Or what was it like being wineboarded? How many varieties could you pick out?

How about "Inside Dan Berger's Mouth--What Its Like To Taste Wine With When Your Mouth Has A pH Lower Than Pickle Juice".

Those would be just a few ideas.

winebookgirl said...

Or you know, you could just help me out with my Giro challenge and find me a wine or food for each stage:

Oh wait, I am the only one interested in that.

Steve said...

Fantastic post sir!

Can't blame you for not wanting to go after the vayne one, and agree with Mr. Olken that it would be hard to do satire of a such a cartoonish figure. Leave the hucksterchuck lampoon to South Park, and keep on skewering your way...

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Thanks. Every time I do a blog parody I get the most amazing and scary responses. That's why I keep doing them.

Vainroastchuck would be incredibly easy to do, so at this point I won't bother. His is self-parody and requires a very heavy and cruel hand. I can do that too, but don't feel compelled. And by the way, that kind of talk is VERY insulting to cartoon characters.

Matt Mauldin said...

Quite entertaining... this post and the next one have been the highlights of my day, albeit for much different reasons. Goes to show you the broad range a person's psyche can span in a matter of minutes :)

Anonymous said...

Lyle Fass told me to read this today. He was right, it's a pisser. And you pulled many a punch, too.

Alice in person is completely different from the strident fundamentalist harridan she has created as a persona in her writing. And you're right, her literary style seems a bit like a translation from the Lithuanian at times.

You hit on that and the loneliness very accurately. For satire to succeed you have to hit the target right smack in the middle, and you did.

(See, Samantha Dugan, I'm not always a fucking smartass.)

Samantha Dugan said...

I never said ALWAYS...
Kisses to you kid

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Thanks for the kind words. I did, indeed, pull punches, because there is a line a satirist can cross and the work becomes about simple nastiness and contempt, and I wanted it to be funny, not a bludgeoning.

I doubt I'll ever meet Ms. Feiring. All accounts say she is a lovely woman. I just parodied the person she portrays on her blog. As it happens, people also think from my work that I'm a jerk and probably very lonely. In that case, they're right.

Tell Lyle thanks for all of his support.