Monday, March 26, 2012

What We're Reading

Compiled by the editors of HoseMaster of Wine

STEVE!: A fascinating look at how a working critic manages to have spotless integrity in a world of wine reviewing corruption. STEVE! wonders why he doesn’t have more fame and influence arguing that, “while there are, understandably, differences in opinions about the same wine, only my scores come from a deep, dark, needy place.”

WINE SPECTATOR ONLINE: A wealth of interesting posts this week. James Laube relates the country’s raging contraception debate to the cork controversy in a column titled, “Just Pull the Damned Thing Out.” Matt Kramer explains the difference between white Burgundy and red Burgundy, and, in so doing, sets a Wine Spectator record for most words used in stating the obvious, a record previously held by everyone on the editorial staff. And, finally, Tim Fish discovers the wonders of tasting room crackers.

SAMANTHA SAMS CLUBAGE: Samantha’s latest post explores just why French wines are better than any other goddam wines. It has something to do with the tingling of the little hairs on her girlie parts. As good an explanation of terroir as I’ve ever read ensues, with Samantha taking the position that “terroir is like Dave Mathews--hard to explain, but I know it when I taste it.” But she really gets going with her tribute to what Grower Champagnes do to her “bits.” “I’ve got mousse in my caboose,” she begins, “ and en tirage in my garage.” Yahoo! I love when she gets down and dirty. This girl writes like a dream, a wet one.

DINER’S JOURNAL: Eric Asimov, writing under his pseudonym Eric Asimov, talks about the Natural Wines being produced in Arbois, which he tasted while on leave for Jura duty. “Natural wines,” he states in his low-key authoritarian voice, “seem to express more about the people advocating them than anything else—that they are seriously flawed.”

SERMONTATION: Tom Wark invented wine blogging, which is why he is particularly reviled. Today’s post is about the Constitution and Tasting Fees. Tom argues persuasively that our Forefathers expressly forbade Tasting Room Fees under the Eighth Amendment which expressly says, “…nor excessive fines imposed…” Oooh, he’s got you there, tasting room scum! Tom suggests that consumers refuse to pay tasting room fees, and if they run into problems not to forget their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Tom’s blog makes one wish there wasn’t a First Amendment.

FOOD AND WINE: More on the mysteries of pairing wine and food from the magazine that is completely baffled by it. “Cabernet with Eggs” is a delightful article that argues the perfect match with what comes out of a chicken’s cloaca is full-bodied Cabernet, and offers a recipe for Egg Foo Young Red Wine. In the penetrating “Trust Your Palate,” Wine Editor Ray Isle says that the trick to matching food and wine is to have faith in your own taste. A convincing argument for canceling your subscription.

ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON THE WINE TRAIL IN ITALY: Alfonso transports us to another time and place with his blog—I think it’s Hooterville circa 1960.  Today’s post, “Pasta My Prime,” is a gorgeous lamentation about aging and some other stuff I couldn’t make heads or tails of. The words flow like a busted sewage main, and leave you thinking, Was that a brilliant post, or an eye chart?

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Jay McInerney writes for the 1%--that is, the 1% who are happy he replaced John and Dottie. His column this week focuses on his visit to Sting’s winery in Italy, where he practices Tantric sex with himself. Meanwhile, Lettie Teague has one more retraction to make about yet another mistake in her column, “I regret that I mistakenly wrote that ‘Romanee-Conti’ referenced a gypsy whore.”

1WINEDOODY: In today’s post, Doody makes the case for Portuguese white wines. Entitled, “Who You Callin’ Vin, Ho?,” in Doody’s signature Look at Me I’m Hip style, he argues that Vinho Verde belongs at your table, especially since he had to travel all the way to f***ing Portugal, on their escudo, to teach you this. It’s quite a convincing romp, and, best of all, we can look forward to his Tweets about Vinho Verde this coming weekend! Example: “This 2008 Vinho Verde makes me want to rush to the airport and have my junk touched! A+”

VORNOGRAPHY: Alder talks about the rash of counterfeit wines on the auction circuit and offers his services pro bono heado. “Line up those 50,000 bottles of old wine from that Rudy Dude’s cellar, give me 36 hours, I'll taste them all and I’ll tell you which ones are fakes. And, as a bonus, I’ll post some spectacular photos, mostly of kitties.” Hard to argue with a guy who definitely knows about fake.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Grab a Perfect Pair


In this edition of the Basics of Wine Appreciation we’re going to talk about wine and food pairing. Food and wine go together like death and old people. You can’t talk about one without talking about the other. But it makes you uncomfortable. You feel overwhelmed by it, ill-prepared, even scared. But Grandma’s gonna die anyway. All you can do is try to make sure it isn’t ugly. So it is with food and wine.

How does wine enhance food, and vice-versa?

Imagine a meal so wonderful it erases the need to get drunk. Yeah, I know, you can’t. Yet imagine a wine so amazing you don’t feel the need to eat. Easy, right?! So really what we’re talking about is the meaninglessness of food without wine. I’d no sooner eat a meal without wine than I’d watch TV with my pants on. Which can get tricky in airport terminals. (And explains the public address warning to not handle a stranger’s package.) Wine enhances food by altering your consciousness. One minute you’re thinking, “This dinner sucks,” but a glass of wine or two later you’re thinking, “I’d better eat more or I’ll be shitfaced.” Oh, there may be other reasons wine enhances food, but, honestly, that’s the only one that matters.

What are the basic things to remember about matching wine and food?

First of all, you should remember that it’s always important to have way more wine than food. A good rule of thumb is one bottle of wine for every three ounces of meat. (If you’re inviting vegetarians over for dinner I’m not really sure why, but you’ll need a lot more wine just to get through the damn meal. Hint: Gruner Veltliner is basically Beano.) Secondly, remember that the price of the wine and the price of the food should be in inverse proportion. As the price of the wine rises, the cost of the dinner should get lower. What are you, a sheikh? Would you like fries with that sheikh? Serving very pricey wine with fancy-schmancy food is a ticket to culinary disaster, like making reservations at Hooters for Mother’s Day. Stick to cheap wines with your expensive meals. You don’t need Chateau d’Yquem with your foie gras! That’s nuts. You can get the same experience serving it with Barefoot Moscato. Use common sense. And when you want to feature a very expensive wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion, why ruin it with an expensive meal? That bottle of Screaming Eagle? Hot dogs and Tater Tots. Napa Valley’s most expensive and snootiest cult wine screams for pig intestine and floor sweepings. Which might also describe their mailing list.

You also want to remember that wine just isn’t meant to go with food from many foreign cultures. There are people that will tell you that the perfect wine with Thai food is Gewürztraminer. Have you ever had Gewürztraminer with Thai food? It’s like trying to put out a house fire with Chanel No. 5. It’s the same with Indian food. People always ask what wine goes with curry. Something red? Something white? Something with residual sugar? No. Actually, I use Indian food as a foil for the corked wines from my cellar. Something about a touch of TCA that brings out the best in Indian cuisine. (Hint: That same wet dog component is wonderful with Korean food.) Don’t force stupid wine and food pairings. Just get over it. There isn’t a perfect wine match for every food, and anyone that tells you otherwise is an idiot. Or writes for Food and Wine. Same thing.

What’s the best way to approach pairing wine with food?

It’s always best when planning a dinner party around wine and food to pretend you’re going to be dining alone. If it were just you eating that carefully prepared feast, what would you drink? Reflect upon your past experience eating alone, no doubt quite extensive if you’re always annoying your friends with food and wine pairings. The answer is, obviously, you’d drink whatever the fuck you felt like drinking. So treat your guests as you would treat yourself. Just open some goddam wine and get over it.

Aren’t white wines better with fish and red wines better with meat?

It’s a little known fact to everyone except experienced wine people that red wines are better with everything. Everything. I repeat, everything. White wines aren’t designed to accompany food. They’re all messed up with acidity, and you serve them really cold. OK, maybe you serve white wine with really cold food like gazpacho, ice cream and everything served by that really drunk waitress at IHOP. But otherwise, always think red wine with dinner. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that Champagne is great with food. Just think about it. Underripe fruit fermented in a bottle until it bubbles? What are we, homeless people? No. Champagne, if it’s any good, ruins the taste of food. It does, however, taste really good on human flesh.

So why do we spend so much time and effort on matching food with wine?

There’s a huge Food and Wine Cartel that makes unspeakable amounts of money intimidating people about what wine they should consume with their food, that makes them feel they are missing out, that they’re culinary and social failures. There are whole cable channels devoted to it, countless magazines, an endless parade of winemaker dinners and wine-pairing menus. Let the experts tell you what to drink with your gourmet meal! You’re stupid, you’d probably ruin it with that wine you just like to drink. All you need to do is subscribe, or tune in, or leave it in our hands, and a world of sensual pleasure awaits you, a world unobtainable to mere mortals, those without the secret metrics. What better way to rob folks of the pleasures of both food and wine? Talk it to death. 

Monday, March 19, 2012



CHAPTER 2  Ticket Out

Why do babes always seem to need dicks? It’s like they have a hole, right in the middle of their being, that only a guy like me can fill. I’ve seen ‘em all. The babe who thinks her looks are going to last forever, only to look in the mirror one day and see more sag than a Russ Meyer movie. The babe who bad luck follows around, like the saps who keep betting on Syrah to be the next big thing, as if a horse that always finishes last is suddenly going to find a way to get to the finish line first. Good money being thrown after bad—like buying a second bottle of Prosecco. The babe who thinks she’s got life figured out, only to end up deader than a Matt Kramer opinion. But I wasn’t sure what kind of babe Crystal Geyser was, except the kind that men want. And not just men, M.W.’s too.

“So your friend was murdered. And other friends of yours have been murdered too. You’ve got more dead friends than Lou Foppiano’s FaceBook page. Care to tell me how that happened?”

Crystal just stared out my window onto the Healdsburg Square, small tears developing in her dead eyes. Hell, I thought, the Square isn’t that ugly. Unless it’s Barrel Tasting Weekend. Then it’s filled with the saddest of self-deceiving humans. The ones who think that if you go to a bar from 11 to 4 you’re a drunk, but if you go wine tasting you’re a connoisseur. The lifeblood of our little town. The whole town blows. It blows a .15.

Crystal slowly sat on my luxuriously appointed office couch. I could hear the bedsprings creak. I couldn’t help but notice her tight skirt sliding up to her as yet unapproved appellation—the Petaluma Gap. The nights are cold there, I thought, but there’s a warm patch if you know where to look. I knew where to look. Just above the dark wind tunnel.

“Look, HoseMaster, I confess, I’ve got a thing for guys who know a lot about wine. Yeah, they’re the worst lovers, always drunk, and softer than a five dollar Moscato.” She stared at me, but I knew what she meant. But it’s nature’s way of making sure M.W.’s don’t reproduce. The male M.W.’s anyway. The women? Yeah, well. They're for blind tasting.

“But since I was a teenager I’ve fantasized about them,” Crystal continued, her voice rising like the price of 2009 Bordeaux--that is, fueled by stupidity. “I didn’t know then what I know now. I just lusted for a man with a silver cup around his neck, like Sammy Davis, Jr, only always white. When I found out that M.W.’s existed I was smitten. These were the men I wanted, in the worst way, these Gods among us. Yet I knew that many, many bimbos threw themselves at these men. Hugh Johnson groupies, Michael Broadbent groupies, Tim Hanni groupies…OK, not so much Tim Hanni, but you get my drift, don’t you, HoseMaster?”

“Sure, you got the hots for wine boors. Guys who can explain terroir with a straight face and a forked tongue. What’s that got to do with your friends you claim were murdered?”

“Don’t you see, HoseMaster? I couldn’t have any of them, not a single real M.W., they weren’t interested in women, not unless you owned a Burgundy domaine or dressed like Angelo Gaja, as if they make women’s clothes that small. So I went after boys sitting for the M.W. exams, hoping to fall in love with one who ultimately passed, who maybe even passed because I inspired him.”

“So your friend who just had his throat cut, he was studying for his M.W.?”

“Yes.” She was whispering now. She had a stunned expression on her face, the kind of dead stare you see on people listening to Alice Feiring speak. But something didn’t seem right. “He was about to sit for his exams. Everyone knew he’d most likely pass on the first try. I thought he was my ticket out of this miserable, lonely life.”

“And, instead, you were his ticket out.” OK, sure, it was a cheap shot, but I wanted to wipe that dead smile off her face, see if there was something underneath that cold exterior. Like how you warm up a cold glass of Vinho Verde with your hands, only you find out what it had going for it was that coldness. So you end up with a glass of warm, fresh from the bladder.

“Yeah,” she said, “I guess I was.”

“Miss Geyser,” I said, “I don’t believe you for a minute. I don’t know what your game is, Girly-girl, maybe it’s some weird wine game, Shoots and Lattices, maybe Monopole. Whatever it is, I don’t want anything to do with it. Now get out of my office.”

Babes. Always trouble. All I could think about was heading down to the Square, cruise for drunk tourist cooze. I wanted nothing to do with anything M.W.

But Crystal had pulled a piece, and it was pointed at my spacious forehead.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dr. Conti, Prison M.D.

“On Thursday, Mr. Kurniawan, 35, was arrested on charges — filed in federal court in New York — of trying to sell fraudulent wines, which, if genuine, would have been worth $1.3 million, and also of counterfeiting wine.”—Eric Asimov, New York Times, March 13, 2012

So, kid, what are you in for?

Counterfeiting. You?

I bilked thousands of people out of money with a Ponzi scheme.

Yeah, I know Ponzi. Makes crappy Oregon wine. Though I loved him in “Happy Days.” I prefer Burgundy. Ever had 1923 Richebourg? I sold a bunch to some douchebags in LA. It was actually Lawry’s beef au jus, but those blowhards couldn’t tell. They just thought it had a dollop of Syrah in it.

I’m not talking about wine, I’m talking about taking millions of dollars from people who thought I was investing it in the stock market, then paying them dividends from money I stole from other stupid people who thought I was investing it. I should have been smart like you and just printed counterfeit money to pay them with.

No, I didn’t counterfeit money. I counterfeited famous and rare wines.

So, like submitting imaginary wine lists for Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards?

No, the actual bottles of wine. I forged bottles of wine to look like famous old wines, then got auction houses to sell them for me. Man, it’s a rush when your case of 1947 Cheval Blanc goes for $20,000 and it’s really a case of forged Cheval Blanc bottles filled with ’64 Louis Martini Cabernet I found at an estate sale. Even if they open the bottle and taste it, those chumps can’t tell. It’s not the wine they’re drinking anyway, they’re drinking the prestige, the label, the imagined history, their own hubris. Hubris tastes really yummy with foie gras.

Didn’t the auction houses suspect something was weird when a kid like you showed up with hundreds of bottles of rare wine?

Yeah, sure. And FaceBook cares about your privacy. It’s just a show, man. It’s entertainment. Like if you go on a game show and tell them you’re an elephant trainer when you’re really just a waiter—they don’t care if it’s the truth, just as long as your story is good enough to fool them. If it fools them, it will fool their audience. That’s the basic litmus test.

But why would they trust you? You certainly don’t look like any kind of wealthy wine collector or expert.
I smell a sucker.

Man, don’t let my looks fool you, I’m Dr. Conti! Do you know why they called me that?

You’re a gynecologist?

What? No. I had cases and cases of old Romanee-Conti, 90% of it fake, but still. And I’d always go to the best restaurants in New York and L.A. and if they had old DRC, I’d buy every damn bottle and drink it with these dupes, then pay for dinner. I’m guessing half the old and rare bottles of wine in those restaurants are fakes. I know most of the guys ordering them are. I spent so much money on Domaine de la Romanee-Conti wines, they started calling me Dr. Conti. It’s like I was a Chinese Dr. J.! Fooling those clowns was a slam dunk, that’s for sure.

But why are those old wines worth so much money? They’re just wine.

Amazing, right?! Wine collectors are nuts. They think that drinking these old wines gives them some sort of power, like Popeye downing a can of spinach. They try to one up each other. It’s a guy thing. My dick is bigger than your dick. Ever had 1870 Latour, they shout? Ever put ’59 Margaux in your mouth? Ever used ’45 Mouton as an enema? These are some seriously delusional guys. Wine defines them, gives them status, creates an imaginary aura of class about them, something they sorely lack. Watching them bid on my counterfeit wines was hilarious. They’d compete against each other for those fake wines like two guys wrestling naked in a D.H. Lawrence novel. Very homoerotic.

Hmm, that’s interesting. So I took the rich folks’ money by convincing them I’d make them even richer; you took their money by convincing them you’d make them more important and enviable.

Yup, you gotta either out-greedy the greedy, or out-vain the vain.

Dr. Conti—Vascular Surgeon!

Vains my specialty!

But how did you get caught? Me, I just gave in under the pressure and confessed. I should have just cashed out and gone into hiding. I should have moved in with Bin Laden. Or Martha Stewart. If there's a difference.

I made some stupid mistakes.

Got drunk and confided in someone?

No. I mean, I guess, in hindsight, I did a lot of stupid things that could have given me away. Like I would always take home the empty bottles of those rare wines I ordered in restaurants, so I could use them for fakes, or copy the labels.

That does seem odd. No one thought that was weird?

You’d think so. But, hell, I’d just bought these bottom feeders a $25,000 dinner. I could have taken home their empty marriages if I’d wanted. These were rich guys, stock traders and types, or they were “wine experts.” So also professional con artists. Nothing easier than conning a con—they’re the ones who are sure they can’t be fooled. I told them I was having a room built for these empty bottles of famous wines. Yeah, like collectors show off empty bottles. Losers display empty bottles of the ten great wines they’ve consumed, not guys with supposedly endless cellars.

So what brought down your scam?

Oh, I made up some bottles of wine that actually never existed, vintages of famous wines that pre-dated the actual winery, stuff that was clearly fake. It was stupid. I guess maybe deep down I wanted to get caught. My whole life was a fraud. I just wanted to be loved and admired.

Yeah, I was exactly the same way. And now I’m here in prison. Oh well, I think you’ll like it here, Dr. Conti.

I’m sure I will. Do they have any art classes?

Yes, they do. For rehab. Why?

I’m going to start working on labels for 2009 Bordeaux. By the time I get out, they’ll be worth a fortune!

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Personal Wine Diaries

Before wine blogs existed, those glorious days of yore, I kept copious journals of my wine experiences. From the very beginning of adulthood I knew that wine would be my chosen career, and that one day I would be called upon to heap scorn and ridicule upon it, as one lovingly does for ones children. (My mother once told me I would have been her favorite child except it cost her a lot to have my tail docked.) Recently, I was reviewing my journals of the past 35 years and found some interesting, even prescient, passages. I thought you might be interested…

I LOVE WINE!  June 26, 1975

I’m beginning this journal to write about my love of wine. I hope you will join me on this great adventure. I almost don’t know where to start! I went to Trader Joe’s today and bought six(!) bottles of California wine. Spent all my tip money, not really wise for a struggling paperboy. They’re all made from different grapes. There’s a Chardonnay, a Pinot Chardonnay, a Merlot (the “t” is hard, like Grandma’s morning drink), a White Zinfandel, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Fume Blanc. I think the only difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc is that the latter is sold to stupid people. Sort of like French Fries and pommes frites. I wonder how much more money you could get for Mr. Pommes Head.

I want to explore the world of wine. There is so much I don’t know! Like why do they waste so many corks—they don’t just grow on trees! And what do they add to the grape juice to make it smell like peaches and pears and Dad’s old collection of Gent magazines in the garage? Also, I want to taste all the greatest wines in the world! Chateau Mateus and the great German wines of Heitz. Though I admit, I am a bit nervous about tasting those German wines. I’ve developed a fear of Heitz. ACKrophobia.

But I know that wine will be a passion of mine for as long as I live, like Atari and Pet Rocks and Onanism, which also are some of the cornerstones of civilization, and equally addictive. Come along with me as I try my hand at all of them.

WHITE WINES  October 13, 1979

White wines are stupid. It’s why the French call them “blanc,” as in “blanc stare,” which is what I get when I announce I want to be a sommelier. I’m even taking sneering lessons. I want to be the greatest sommelier that ever lived! (Editor’s note: Mission accomplished! Voted Greatest Sommelier Ever at the 2003 National Condescend-Off. I left Andrea Immer in the dust!) Everyone knows white wines are garbage, yet wineries continue to crank them out. Why would anyone drink white wine when there is red wine? Oh, because it goes with fish? Who the hell eats fish? Catholics on Fridays? Who else? Other trained seals?

I’ve heard wine “experts” say that German wines are some of the greatest wines on the planet. Yeah, and one day a black guy will be President. (Editor’s note: A black guy is President.) German wines are made from Riesling! Ever had a Riesling? No, I didn’t think so. Let me tell you, Rieslings all taste exactly the same. And they brag that the best ones smell like petroleum! Which they do. It’s like drinking a glass of Jerry Lewis’ hair. That’s Riesling. Yeah, great wine.

You won’t catch me spending much time with white wines. White wines are for people that don’t really like wine, just like white people are for people who don’t really like people. I love wine. Red wine is the only wine worth drinking. (Editor’s note: Red wine is the only wine worth drinking—I read it on Suckling’s blog so it must be half true.)


I found out that Napa Valley is wine’s Mecca. Once a day wine writers bow down in its direction and pray that they’ll get samples of the best wines from there. (Editor’s note: This still goes on today, and there is now even a charity for pathetic aspiring  wine writers—the Mecca Wish Foundation.) They believe that, if they’re faithful, when they die they’ll be greeted in the after-life by a thousand 100 Point virgins. I’ll settle for two 50 Point nymphos.

I just returned from my very first visit to the beautiful Napa Valley. It was amazing. I learned so much from going to tasting rooms and talking to the wine experts that work in them. Did you know that the vine rows are spaced really wide to allow head room for the winemaker? And that those big propeller things in the vineyards are used to blow the birds away? (Editor’s note: Actually, they’re for destemming the grapes right as they’re picked!) Yes, it’s true. I was told those interesting facts by the very same people who were pouring me tastes of wine, so you know they’re true. Everything you hear in a tasting room is true—something to remember when traveling to wine country.

My first appointment was at Sterling Vineyards up near Calistoga. Wow, what a place! The winery architecture is Moorish (Editor’s note: Oops. It’s actually Boorish.)  The Moors are well-known for their love of sky rides. I love the Moors, Othello and Mary Tyler. I rode the sky ride up to the Sterling tasting room, taking in the breathtaking view of their service road. In the tasting room, my lovely host explained to me that Sterling is owned by Coca-Cola. This explained why the wines all tasted the same. (Editor’s note: Coca-Cola sold Sterling Vineyards soon after that when they discovered wine couldn’t be made according to formula—sorry, Coke, it is now!) I tasted all the wines but my favorite was the 1977 Sterling Reserve Cabernet, which I thought was far better than the 1977 Diet Sterling Reserve Cabernet. I threw up in the sky ride on the way down.

From Sterling Vineyards I drove north to the famous Chateau Montelena winery. Chateau Montelena is very famous for their Chardonnay being chosen as the best Chardonnay over many famous French white Burgundies at the Paris Tasting of 1976. All of the judges for the competition were French, so it’s not surprising they picked a California wine. If they’d all been American, they’d have picked a French wine. French and American people both like to pretend to be open-minded. But a big deal has been made about the results. I think the results are unfortunate. All that will happen is Napa Valley will get a swelled head, prices for land will go up, and rich people will replace actual farmers. (Editor’s note: Told ya so.) Oh, what do I know? (Editor’s note: You’re a genius, my friend, simple as that.)

More excerpts from my youthful journals in future posts. I’ve left out the torrid sex scenes. Onan would be proud.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Parkenstein! Explains Perfection


If you look back at the April 2007 issue, you’ll read that I predicted 2009 as the greatest Bordeaux vintage ever. That prediction has come to fruition. In my 35 years of reviewing Bordeaux, I have only declared 15 Greatest Vintages Ever. (I define “Ever” as Eternity, since I’ve been dead now for four years and intend to declare hundreds more Greatest Vintages Ever.) Ten of those vintages have proven unequivocally to be the Greatest Vintages Ever. The other five proved to be the Greatest Subscription Boosters Ever, and must, therefore, be considered extremely important. Personally, I think 2009 is the most important Bordeaux vintage of my career, primarily because it means no one is talking about that unethical fat jackass I fired a few months ago any more.


The great oenologist of the Bordeaux Institute, Denis de Menis, lists five conditions that need to exist in order to have a great vintage. 2005, the Greatest Vintage Ever, only managed to achieve four of the conditions. 2000, the Greatest Vintage Ever, only managed three, but it was the Greatest Vintage Ever so it doesn’t matter. According to Denis de Menis, the five factors necessary to a great vintage are, (1) an early flowering which, in France, usually leads to a youthful deflowering and makes those old boys happy; (2) a healthy set, preferably perky nipples pointed at the North Star, and unrelated to the set that unethical fat jackass I fired has; (3) early veraison, which gets better reception than AT&T; (4) the grapes have to ripen fully which simply means that they have to ripen fully, what’s so hard about that, dimbulbs?; and, most importantly, (5) I say it’s the Greatest Vintage Ever. Only if (5) is true is it a truly great vintage.


Yes, the prices for the 2009’s, at the top level, will be in the $1000 to $2000 per bottle range. You’ll never get to taste these wines, so don’t bother to criticize how many of them I scored 100 points. You can pretend you’ve tasted them, like most of my buttboys in my chat room, but everyone knows you haven’t. For one thing, you’re not Chinese, and they’re the people buying these overblown caricatures of wine. For another, who would sell you these wines? You don’t have the clout. Just get over it.

The good news is that at every level, even the cru bourgeois of the Medoc, the 2009’s represent great wines that are great values. Don’t focus on the best wines, the 30-50 Classified Growths and the cult wines of Pomerol and St. Emilion, you can’t afford them unless you sell your daughter into the Thai sex trade (more on that in my next “Hedonist’s Gazette”). Instead, check out my glowing reviews for even the bottom tier of crappy ass Bordeaux (as I affectionately call it when I’m wandering through BevMo in my bath robe and laughing my ass off at Wilfred Wong’s ratings). These wines represent sensational bargains and will certainly drink well for many years, or at least until I rate 2010 as the Greatest Vintage Ever, at which point they’ll begin to taste like your biggest regret.


I’m certain that there will be a tendency after reading through my report to believe that either I’ve changed the way I score wines or that I’ve succumbed to score inflation. This is certainly not the case. I score wines exactly as I have always scored wines—whimsically, and without any reproducible method. I find that this is the most accurate way to be largely inaccurate. It is my method to first declare a vintage the Greatest Vintage Ever, then I assign large numbers, rather creatively and unpredictably I like to think, to many of the wines, thus confirming it as the Greatest Vintage Ever. I do the same for “Wineries to Watch.” I declare them a Winery to Watch and a few months later I assign them, rather whimsically I think, high scores. Voila! I told you they were Wineries to Watch! My system remains the same.

Have I fallen victim to inflationary scores? Hardly. I only awarded 19 perfect 100 point wines in THE GREATEST VINTAGE EVER! This is remarkable restraint on my part.  But, want to hear something funny? Imagine the poor bastards I gave a score of 99+ to, I think there are about 15 of them. They’re going nuts now trying to figure out why they didn’t get 100 points. Pretty fuckin’ funny, don’t you think? What’s the difference between 99+ and 100? I can tell you in one word. Penmanship. But now all these crazy French Chateau owners will go nuts because 100 point wines are worth a LOT more money than 99+ wines. And a 94? In The Greatest Vintage Ever? Crap, that’s damn near worthless. So let’s stop this stupid talk of score inflation. You heard me. Just shut up, or I’ll sick my buttboys on you.

I invented perfect wines when I invented my 100 point scale. Until I came along, there were no perfect wines. I know perfect wines, and I’m telling you there are 19 perfect wines from the 2009 vintage. How do I define a perfect wine? I’ve always said that greatness is defined in wine by (1) the wine’s ability to stimulate the palate and the intellect in the 90 seconds I devote to deciding it’s perfect; (2) the difficulty normal people will have in obtaining it; (3) the ability to improve with age, especially financially; (4) me. The 2009’s indisputably meet these guidelines.

Much has changed since I first began reviewing wines professionally some 35 years ago. And by “professionally,” I mean I paid to have my notes published myself. I didn’t know crap about wine. Yet despite decades of being the King of Wine, admired and feared by everyone in the wine business; despite countless honors bestowed upon me by the French government, including a Lifetime Pass to Paris Disneyland and the much-coveted French Liver Society’s “Lesion of Honor;” and despite 35 years of tasting 150 wines a day, my palate and methods remain unchanged. Why would they change?

But wine, and especially the 2009's from Bordeaux, which I’m willing to stake my reputation on, is more perfecter than ever.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another Few Minutes Decomposing with Andy Rooney

I spend a lot of time communing with the dead—and I don’t mean wine tasting in the Finger Lakes. Some of my best friends are dead. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time talking wine with Andy Rooney, joined by his other dead friends, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, and Charlie Rose. Rooney, at least, has the courtesy to admit he’s deceased. Andy has interesting opinions about wine and the wine business, and he asked me to share a few more with HoseMaster of Wine readers. Remember, the opinions expressed are those of a dead guy. They certainly smell like it.


I hear a lot of people grousing about the three-tier system, mostly malcontents who don’t have a piece of that lucrative pie. I wish they’d just shut up. It’s the three-tier system that makes this country great. I mean aside from baseball, and those really tiny vibrators that attach to your finger. I love those things. I found one in Leslie Stahl’s dressing room one time. They’re great for stirring your martini and trimming your nose hair. I don’t know why God gave us hair in our nose, do you? Maybe because toenails wouldn’t fit there. I’d hate to think about a nostricure, wouldn’t you? I think the polish would give me a headache.

Our great country runs on the three branches of government--the judicial, the executive, and the whores. Those are three tiers. And think about wine itself. It relies on grapes, winemakers, and marketing. “Marketing” is just a marketing word for lying. I like to call lying lying. Marketing is when you push a cart around in a store. So even wine has three tiers. Everything runs better with three tiers. Think about insurance. It’s a three tier system, and everyone loves it. You pay a premium, the doctor sees you, and the insurance company pays the doctor most of the bill. I don’t hear anyone complaining about insurance. Except the people that don’t have it. It’s the same with wine. It’s the little wineries, the ones who think they’re better than the big wineries, that complain about the three-tier system because they don’t have it and they think the fact that it exists gets in their way somehow. I think they should stop trying to end the three-tier system, and, more importantly, stop whining about it.

I hope we never lose the three-tier system. If we do, the terrorists will have won.


I went to my favorite restaurant here in Hell the other night, it’s a really cozy little joint that serves only Prosecco and Gold Medal Reds from the California State Fair competition. It is Hell, after all. I don’t understand why people like Prosecco. It smells like the bathwater at the “Biggest Losers.” I brought my own bottle of wine to the restaurant. When the bill came there was a charge for Corkage. It was $35. Corkage is a funny word, don’t you think? If you brought your own eating utensils would they charge a Forkage fee? Or if you brought Harvey Steiman to dinner would they charge you a Dorkage AND a Porkage fee? OK, Harvey’s not here in Hell yet, but he will be. It’s no coincidence he’s blind to the smell of sulfur.

$35 is a lot of money, but I understand why restaurants have to charge Corkage fees. You don’t go to JiffyLube with four quarts of Pennzoil and ask them how much it costs if you bring your own lubricant. They need to make money. The best restaurants employ sommeliers, and they don’t work for free. You know who the sommelier is, don’t you? The sommelier is the person whose job it is to sell wine to people he’s never heard of, from wineries they’ve never heard of, at unheard of prices. Sommeliers are like pitchmen for infomercials. Fast-talkers selling drunks stuff they don’t really need. You also don’t take your own rubber gloves to your proctologist. I tried that once. He left them where he put them.

Next time you go to dinner, don’t complain about corkage fees. Just be grateful the sommelier isn’t trying to sell you Ginzu knives.


I don’t understand why wineries call the place where they serve wines to the public “tasting rooms.” No one there is tasting. They’re drinking. When you taste something you only put a little tiny bit in your mouth in case it doesn’t taste good, like when you taste some exotic food you’re not too sure about, something made from a tarantula or served at Olive Garden. Olives don’t grow in gardens, by the way, they grow in orchards. You’d think they'd know that.

My uncle went to his local bar three times a week from 11 AM until 5 PM. He was a drunk. If he’d gone wine tasting, he’d have been a connoisseur.

Why don’t they just call them what they are? Bars. The Bar at Robert Mondavi Winery. I think that has a nice ring to it. It’s not wine tasting, it’s bar hopping. They even have a “tasting room” at Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley. A guy in Napa Valley built a gigantic Italian castle and makes wine there. At least he’s more honest about his tasting room. He calls it the Torture Chamber. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012



CHAPTER 1  Dead Smile

It always starts with a babe. Hell, it usually ends with one, too. But isn’t that life in a nutshell? We squirt out of a babe the day we’re born, and one drives us into our grave. The circle of life I think they call it. They being morons.

The wine business is my specialty. I’m famous. I’m the biggest dick in the wine business. I go by HoseMaster. That’s not the name on my birth certificate. That’s Squirt. Not really, but it seems like a joke. There’s a lot more death in the wine business than you’d think. Most of it goes unreported. A cellar worker dies cleaning a stainless steel tank. A wine critic is murdered for a lousy review. A woman dies of cirrhosis, sometimes of the liver, sometimes from sleeping with Australian winemakers. It happens all the time. You just don’t hear about it. But I do.

I’ll never forget the gloomy day she first walked into my Healdsburg office. It was one of those dark winter days when vineyard managers pray for rain and depressed winery owners think about tossing lit winery cats at the propane tank and waiting for the insurance money. I’d just finished doing Avril Cadavril on the slab at the local morgue so I was tired. Avril, our local coroner, and I had been having a torrid affair. When we had sex at her office I always felt like there were several pairs of eyes on me—because there were. She was a sloppy coroner. But she was a perfect lover for me. She knew how to handle dead things. I was asleep at my desk reading wine blogs. They give a lot of insight into disturbed minds. And vacant ones. I was awakened from my snooze by a gentle tap at the door. I composed myself, quickly putting a bottle of Silver Oak on my desk to appear sophisticated and overpriced, and asked my visitor in.

When she walked into my office you could have used her buttocks to destem Cabernet. She had perfect legs, two of them, and where they met seemed like the perfect place to plant Pinot Noir. I know I badly wanted to check the soil. My eyes ran up and down her body like Kobe Bryant on a basketball court—only, unlike Kobe, I knew I’d try to make a pass. The skirt she was wearing was tight enough I could see her Geneva Double Curtain, and her blouse could barely contain her. If most women sport barriques, this woman was packing foudres. I finally remembered to look at her face.

“Hello,” I quipped, “what can I do for you?”

“Are you the HoseMaster?”

“Yes. Who are you?”

“My name is Crystal. Crystal Geyser.” I liked the sound of that. She’d Peaked my interest.

“And why are you looking for me?”

Crystal seemed nervous. Her beautiful brown eyes, the color of old Madeira, were darting from the door to the window. I told her to put them back in her head. There was a slight sheen to her forehead, more charlie than martin, and she seemed out of breath. At least her chest was heaving, and after my session with Avril I was close to heaving myself. I wish Avril didn’t insist we make love in the morgue. It was the only way she could climax, surrounded by a bunch of stiffs. Yeah, stiff, I remember that. Crystal was bringing my meat thief back to life.

“A friend of mine was murdered,” she blurted out, “and the cops won’t believe me when I tell them he was murdered. They say it was an accident, but, really, how do you accidentally cut your own throat with a Riedel Pelaverga Piccolo glass? It’s not like they break easily. I know he was murdered. I know it!”

“Wait,” I told her, “slow down. You’re talking nonsense. There’s a Riedel Pelaverga Piccolo glass?!”

“Not any more. I just told you. Someone broke it and slashed my friend’s throat.”

“And you want me to find out who.”

Crystal just stared at me with those gorgeous brown eyes. I tried to guess her age, but she wouldn’t let me look at her rim. She had begun to compose herself and for the first time since she’d walked into my office, that day I’ll always regret, always remember, never tell the whole truth about, like judging at a wine competition, she smiled. I felt unnerved. Crystal was a woman who had always had her way with men. Had her way and then discarded them, like Wine Advocate employees. Something was starting to smell funny, and it wasn’t the formaldehyde on my stripper pole.

“I think if you find out who murdered my friend, HoseMaster, you’re going to learn a lot about your precious wine business.” She continued to smile that smile. That smile still haunts my dreams, like a Cheshire cat that wants me dead. “He wasn’t the first of my friends to be murdered, just the one who meant the most to me. It seems a lot of my friends end up dead.”

“Just friends, or lovers?”

“Is there a difference?” she said in a flat tone. “Is there a difference between organic and biodynamic? Is there a difference between unfined and unfiltered? Is there a difference between Jordan Cabernet and that Silver Oak on your desk? Sure. But the difference is about lies. Like the wine business, like M.W. exams, like all of it, this whole crummy life.”

She had a point. And that dead smile. And like the augur on a corkscrew for dimwits, I was headed down the RabbitTM hole.