Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Natural Wines of Splooge Estate

Thank you for joining Ejaculate™, the Wine Club here at Splooge Estate and Winery. You’ll be receiving your first load in the next few weeks, but I wanted to thank you for joining, and outline the many benefits of your Ejaculate™ membership. As you know, Splooge Estate is an organic estate and all of our wines are natural wines. We take every precaution to insure that every Splooge is as natural and as satisfying as it can be. It just tastes better that way.

We’re happy that you’ve joined Ejaculate™ at the highest level, the Mother Load. Four times a year you’ll be receiving a Mother Load of our natural wines. We know you’ll enjoy tasting each and every Ejaculate™ selection, but, rest assured, should you feel that a Splooge is not to your taste, just spit it out and we will happily replace it. That’s our Splooge guarantee.

Your June Mother Load will consist of the three latest Splooge releases:

2011 Splooge “Spray of Pink” Rosé of Pinot Noir
Our natural pink wine is produced from our estate Pinot Noir grapes that are harvested by hand, not using any sharp tools that might harm the stems. Harvesting with grape knives is cruel and painful for grapes. Splooge grapes are harvested by gently twisting each cluster until it gently falls into the fur-lined harvesting basket. Our Rosé is carefully bled from our finest lots of Pinot Noir and then fermented at very cold temperatures using local nuns who sit on the barrels. Serve it chilled with our local bivalves. A recipe for “Splooge’s Famous Cloister Oysters” is included with your Mother Load shipment. For all we care, you can go shuck yourself.

2010 Splooge Estate Pinot Noir “Dos Huevos Vineyard”
We know that you expect your Splooge to be handled with the greatest care. We never use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides in our vineyards. In fact, we basically ignore our vineyards altogether in order to make the most natural wine possible. We do occasionally walk through the vineyard waving pruning shears, but that’s just to let the vines know we mean business. Our vines are intimidated naturally, not by modern methods that harm them psychologically, like pruning and leaf-pulling or suckering. Ever been suckered? Yes, you have. You joined a wine club.

2010 Splooge Rouge
Splooge grows five different red grape varieties. Well, last time we checked it was five. We don’t really look that often, that’s unnatural. Each of the five (?) varieties is harvested individually. Most are gently twisted from the vines, but we let the Zinfandel fall to the ground when it’s ready. We’ve found that the Zinfandel vines are most comfortable when they decide when their fruit is ready. The grapes are gently picked up, placed in canvas bags from Whole Foods (this makes the grapes feel self-important), and then placed in our specially designed bamboo fermenting bins. Our Splooge Rouge is for when you just feel like Splooging after a long day at work.

Your Ejaculate™ membership has many benefits:

Free Tour of the Splooge Estate (normally $30/person)
One of Splooge Estate Tasting Room Jerkoffs™ will take you and up to five guests on a walking tour of Splooge Estate, explaining the natural way we grow and produce wine. Because we are natural wine producers, this is a clothing optional tour, so wear plenty of sunscreen and put a muzzle on your friendly dog. Along the way you’ll visit our world-famous compost heap, where we not only make our own compost, but we use the internal heat generated to bake our famous Splooge bread! Depending upon what’s available in the garden, your friendly Jerkoff™ may instruct you in how to eat an all-natural shit sandwich! At Splooge Estate, as part of our commitment to nature, we also cultivate rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes help control the rodent population, as well as helping to supply the compost heap with local winery dogs. Except in the winter months, you’re likely to see many of our Splooge Snakes. Just don’t get bit on yours!

Discounts at our many Splooge Events
Our Splooge Estate Events are all about having fun naturally. We put on many events over the course of a vintage, and as a Mother Load Splooger, you are given a sizeable discount. We know that our Sploogers enjoy many strokes, and we deliver! Events change in any given year, but there are certain events, the ones that are the most popular with our Ejaculate™ Members, that are held annually. Don’t miss the Splooge Native Yeast Festival in August! The featured entertainer is Miss Sugar, a local ecdysiast, and guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite yeast and try to convert Miss Sugar to alcohol. Miss Sugar loves the native yeasts and converts easily. Those who are cultured she can barely stand. Needless to say, there’s plenty of Splooge on hand for everyone to enjoy. You’ll also want to save the date in May for our “Unnatural Wines Suck” Celebration. Compare our latest Splooge Estate releases to wines that are not naturally made and discover the difference for yourself. Our neighbors’ wines might taste better, they might have less bottle variation, but our natural wines are wines as God intended them to be—punishment for your sins.

And, finally, our natural wines’ finest benefit

The smugness of knowing you’re full of Splooge
Natural wines are simply better. Natural wonders are better than other wonders, right? Natural foods are better than other foods—only the disenfranchised and poor eat foods that aren’t natural—coincidence? I don’t think so. The only wines that have any meaning are natural wines. Just ask the people who make them. Wine is not made to be enjoyed. Every wine you consume is a political statement, no more, no less. And your membership in Ejaculate™ proves that above all you value everything else over taste.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The 2012 Wine Blog Awards! Let's Karaoke!

It’s that time of year again. Nominations are open for the Wine Blog Awards, or, as I call them, the POODLES. If you lean in and listen closely, shhhhh, there’s one now, you can hear the bloggers surreptitiously nominating themselves. The categories include Best Overall Wine Blog, Best Writing on a Wine Blog, Best New Wine Blog, Best Industry Blog—or, as they’re collectively known in Track and Field, the Low Hurdles.

No one knows how many wine blogs there are. But all you have to do is see one, and you just know there will be thousands more. Like cockroaches. Or butt pimples. The wine blogosphere is a lot like a karaoke contest. Most of the people doing it don’t really have much of a voice. And they all tend to pretty much sing the same damned songs over and over.

Unlike most awards, the POODLES judges remain anonymous. Oh, but you know they’re qualified. How do you know? Each judge received at least 96 points from the organizers. There, that’s proof positive. Why are the judges’ names kept secret? Simple. Much easier to nominate their friends that way. Or win awards themselves. Wait, that seems way too cynical. No, the judges are anonymous in order to protect those judges from lobbying or pressure from nominees. And that’s understandable. We all know Poodles are so damned articulate and persuasive—look at how much wine they sell. And, besides, judges are usually kept anonymous in every great democracy. Say, North Korea. One can really only trust the decisions of anonymous judges. Ask Justice Clarence Thomas.

There is about it all the feeling of the elementary school playground. “Pick Me, Pick Me!,” mixed with the sincerity of Sally Fields, “You like me, you really like me.” A lot of bloggers, in a wondrous blaze of shamelessness, will ask their readers to nominate them. I wonder if this happens for the Nobels. “Yes, it’s time once again for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I’ve worked hard all year, written a brilliant, self-published novel, and, well, Phillip Roth is never going to win, so why not nominate me?” Now in its sixth year, the Wine Blog Awards have become something I only barely recognize—a joke. Or maybe a Wark in Progress. It boils down to awards for typing. And typing often.

I was going to start my own POODLE awards. I know that an award from the HoseMaster would be far more meaningful than one from some imaginary and self-appointed Wine Blog Awards website. (Hey, this post is about vanity, I’m entitled to my Cher.) I was going to start my own wine blog awards because the current categories for a POODLE are useless, and don’t reflect the reality of the wine blogosphere.

May I suggest a few categories that might be far more appropriate? Oh, you know I will. And I’m actively seeking nominations.


No, this isn’t for a blog about natural wines. The winner of this category is a blog that doesn’t add anything at all to the wine world. It is a blog as nature intended. Natural blogs do not contain anything from outside the blog that artificially enhance it, such as pirated photos, lame ads for the California Wine Club, or anything cultured, like yeast or literary references. A blog is either an unnatural wine blog or a natural wine blog, but natural blogs are clearly superior. There are countless natural wine blogs that add nothing to the conversation, and this is an award to recognize their facileness. (Many have their own FacileBook page.)


There was a time when one of the most common topics on wine blogs was how to “monetize” your blog. That topic has vanished. Primarily because wine blogs are like the junk people take to “Antiques Roadshow” and the expert says, “What you have here is an item that should be strapped to a suicide bomber.” So, this award asks, is there a wine blog you would actually pay to read? I think we all know the answer.

As an aside, I personally love the blogs, like W. Blinky Gray’s, that ask for a donation through Paypal. There’s a guy outside my local Safeway with a sign written on cardboard that says, “Any Spare Change Apreciated.” I give him money because I think he’s more interesting to read.


It seems all wine bloggers try desperately to have zero comments on their posts, at least judging by how interesting those posts are. This award celebrates the wine blog that manages month after month to have the fewest comments, with none being the perfect score. This promises to be a hotly contested category.


We all know this clown, the one who haunts the “successful” blogs posting comments relentlessly in order to troll for hits on his/her own useless, ego-driven blog.  I think it’s time we honor those tireless and shameless advocates for themselves. Devoid of original thoughts themselves, they want to sidle up next to those who have something to say and nod their virtual heads in agreement while pretending they’re part of the same intellectual team.

Ultimately, it is they who epitomize the finest in Poodledom.

And for my previously published explanation of most of the categories for a Wine Blog Award, follow this LINK.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wineries Need to Jump On the AntiSocial Media Band Wagon

When it comes right down to it, the wine business is habitually slow to capitalize on new societal trends. This is because alcohol dulls the brain, though it does make you wittier and more attractive to immovable objects at high speeds. Wineries have been notably inept at utilizing FaceBook and Twitter, and most winery blogs read like they were written by a committee of lawn furniture. They’re about as engaging as C-SPAN, but without the guffaws. But the Social Media revolution has passed. Everyone is on FaceBook. It’s the modern day White Pages—genuinely influential people are unlisted. Twitter is the finally realized statistical dream of an infinite number of chimpanzees typing on an infinite number of keyboards while waiting for “Hamlet” to suddenly appear.

What’s happening now is AntiSocial Media, and wineries and marketing people would be wise to jump on the AntiSocial Media wave before it too becomes overpopulated with the endlessly self-absorbed Millienials. Pay attention, now, here is the HoseMaster’s Guide to AntiSocial Media.


It’s a world filled with phonies, and now there’s a place online where they can congregate, network, and continually lie to each other—FakeBook. FakeBook celebrates everything shallow and disingenuous about our culture—so what better place to sell wine?! Users can create their own FakeBook page and fill it with their imaginary credentials, meaningless accomplishments, and spontaneous, ill-informed opinions. (So it’s like FaceBook, only honest.) Then you can link to whomever you hold in contempt. It’s a great way to spot a fake. Imagine how many “Deriders” a guy like James Suckling would attract! And what an honor it would be if he “Derided” you back. Last I checked, Jay McInerney had 3500 Deriders—pretty good, unless you consider that he has enormous contempt for more than two million readers of the Wall Street Journal.

I would encourage wineries to begin a FakeBook page as soon as possible. FakeBook is a place where you can proudly display all the Gold Medals you’ve won from prestigious wine competitions like the “International Nose Jobs Gone Wrong Invitational,” the “Special Olympics for Wine,” and the “Enter and Win A Gold Classic.” Wineries can also use their FakeBook page to pretend their wines are allocated, a time-honored winery tradition that translates perfectly onto FakeBook’s platform. In fact, all of the traditional wine marketing ploys are exactly right for FakeBook—no need to alter those shallow and disingenuous techniques for this platform! Now imagine that James Laube gives your $150 Cabernet made from “ambient yeast,” whatever the fuck that means, 84 points. You can immediately hold him in Contempt on your FakeBook page and be pretty certain he’ll Deride you back. On FaceBook you would never point out that Laube had a rare case of tongue stroke, which paralyzed the left fork, but on FakeBook it’s considered mandatory to do so. That’s the beauty of FakeBook.


Squealer is what Twitter aspires to be. Members generate as many “Oinks” as they like every day, but the Oinks are not allowed to have any words that are more than two syllables. This is AntiSocial Media, so the object is to play to the lowest common denominator and then make fun of them. The most successful Squealers will be a combination of plagiarist and illiterate, two words not allowed in Oinks, but skills that are useful in Social Media as well.

How is Squealer useful to wineries? Where else can you gather so many stupid people to follow your thoughts, make them believe they’re important, and, ultimately, buy your wine as thanks, while openly berating them? As well as keep them informed about new releases and upcoming events. Here’s a few sample Oinks to keep in mind:

“New Picpoul release today. It’s white, like a polo team, like everybody in the wine business, like Casper’s sheet hole, moron. Buy some.”

“Farm to Table Dinner Tonight. What goes with horse? Marelot?”

“New Pinot rates 88! It’s good enough for you.”

Twitter is so yesterday. The Millenials don’t Tweet any more, they Text. Twitter is for the lonely, delusional and thunderstruck. Twitter is only for seeing who died in the last ten minutes. It serves no other purpose. The hip are all Oinking.


When it comes to AntiSocial Media, there is no improving on Yelp.  It’s where angry ex-employees go to seek revenge, where the opinions of self-important dimwits can cost people jobs, and where the great unwashed masses go to unreservedly complain about hard-working people instead of improving their own lives. Yelp prefigured AntiSocial Media. It created the idea that fear is the best way to create better customer service and that kindness is always second best to generosity. God Bless Yelp.

Wineries should proudly display their negative Yelp reviews on their FakeBook pages and proudly Oink, “Ted from Bumfuck Yelped that our wines blow. We wish him luck with his Erect Tile Dish Function.”

Hate me on FakeBook and Follow me on Squealer @ HoseIdiotofWine!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012



Chapter 4: The Bodily Fluid Fandango

Master of Wine. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But what does that make us? They’re Masters, we must be servants. That’s certainly how they look at it. But what is it they’ve really mastered? Memorization and taking tests, primarily. Or maybe it’s more like the Masters Golf Tournament. Only there are a lot more holes when it comes to M.W.’s, and they think the more strokes the better. There is always a parade of sycophants lined up to sit for the M.W. exams. Yeah, “sit.” They also learn “beg,” “roll over,” and “when you’re done licking yours, lick mine.” I was glad Larry Anosmia was dead. But now that I’d accepted the case, his murder was getting under my skin, like a James Suckling video, or a tick. I’m creeped out by that kind of insect. I don’t like ticks much either.

I needed to learn more about Anosmia’s murder. Why did the cops think it was a suicide? Yes, they’re small town cops, and not really familiar with murder. The usual crimes in Healdsburg are drunk driving, jaywalking and being Mexican. The cops don’t see a lot of dead bodies unless they visit the Ferrari-Carano tasting room and talk to the hospitality crew. And a murder means an investigation, means gathering evidence, means chasing someone capable of slashing a guy’s throat with a piece of glass. They’d just as soon a dick like me does that. The more I thought about it, the more this case made me nervous. It was already starting to smell worse than a four dollar Argentinian Malbec, the ones that retail for forty. And I’d only just started.

Avril Cadavril
I decided I needed to talk to Avril Cadavril about Anosmia’s death. Avril and I had been doing the bodily fluid fandango for several months now, ever since she had dropped more blubber than Captain Ahab. She was a whole new woman, not afraid to show off and share that magnificent new poopdeck of hers. And I had just the seamen to do it. Avril only worked part-time as the city coroner. The rest of the time she worked as a butcher. The girl could handle meat.

Was I in love with Avril? Love doesn’t exist in the world I live in; neither does justice or honor or truth. I live in the dark underbelly of existence. I deal with betrayal, dishonesty, violence, hatred, and BevMo’s 5 Cent Sale. At the end of my day, I can’t wash the smell of evil off my skin, not even with Drew Barrymore Pinot Grigio and water. Which adds up to hot water. And now I was wading into the M.W. cesspool. Maybe Anosmia wasn’t the suicide, maybe I was. There are quick suicides, like a gunshot through the roof of your mouth, or jumping off the top of Thomas Keller’s ego-inflated toque; and then there are the long, slow, but every bit as deliberate suicides—smoking cigarettes, binge-drinking, and, maybe for me, listening to M.W.’s.

Avril wasn’t at Big John’s, where she usually worked as a butcher. She was quite the draw now that she’d become a babe. Guys were lined up at her meat counter. I guess you could say the same about Crystal. Rather than drive over to the coroner’s office to see if she was there, I dialed Avril’s cellphone. My call went directly to voicemail. “Hello, this is Avril. If you have a dead body and want to know where the night deposit box is, press 1. For roasts, prime ribs, rack of lamb, and all your butchering needs, press 2. If you want to pork loins, please leave a message at the beep.” I don’t leave messages, so I hung up and headed over to Avril’s office.

When I got to her office, the door was open. That made me suspicious. Avril always kept the door locked, even when she was there. Quietly, I pushed the door open. I didn’t want to scare her, but I also didn’t want whomever was in the office, in case it was someone other than Avril, to hear me. It was one of those moments when I wished I carried a piece. Not a gun, a hair piece. But I’d forgotten it. I was beginning to think there would be hell toupee later.

I had one foot in the door when I heard heavy breathing. It wasn’t Avril. I knew what her heavy breathing sounded like, we’d done the tongue triathlon tango enough times that I’d know her panting anywhere. This was much heavier breathing. It sounded more like Robert Parker walking all over Jay Miller. And then I knew who it was.

Tiny. The local gossip columnist for the Healdsburg Herald-Flatulence. Nothing happens in Healdsburg that Tiny doesn’t know about. The first half of that sentence could stand alone. As did Tiny. All 400 pounds of him.

“Hey, Tiny,” I said, “what are you looking for? Avril’s diet books?”

Tiny didn’t even seem surprised to see me. “HoseMaster, man, haven’t you heard?”

“Don’t fill me with all of your stupid gossip. I want stupid gossip, I’ll read wine blogs.”

“Well, I guess you haven’t heard,” Tiny said, with a smirk on that fartyface of his, “Avril’s disappeared.”

From the pounding of my heart, I thought maybe I was a little in love with the butcher babe. Maybe she’d finally tenderized my meat.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom: A RePost for Mother's Day

Originally posted May 2010

My Mother died in December of 2007. A week after she died I sat down and wrote this brief and inadequate tribute to her.

A sincere Happy Mother's Day to all to whom it applies. I still miss her.

Early in the morning of her second day in the Intensive Care Unit at Long Beach Memorial Hospital my Mother, Beverly Richards, was startled awake by loud beeps and bells. Her blood pressure had dropped precipitously and her hospital monitoring equipment was alerting everyone. Four nurses, who had been instructed in no uncertain terms that no heroic measures were to be taken to sustain her life, lined the wall she faced. Once Mom understood what was happening (she told me that for a moment she believed that death had finally arrived) she gathered her wits and said, "'...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.'" Always the perfect line. But, much to her chagrin, she was not Donne yet.

I awakened this morning at 6:45 AM, the exact time Mom passed a week ago, and felt urgently compelled to write a bit about her. I write only about the woman I knew, not the one you knew or my sister knew or my brother knew or my father knew. Those are different women. I can only speak of the woman I knew as my Mother.

She forever made me laugh. Not with jokes or wit, but with character, the essence of all great comedy. One afternoon when I was at my desk at my apartment in South Pasadena the phone rang. I answered and heard my Mother say, "Hello, this is Beverly Richards, I'm calling to see if my prescription is ready yet." Altering my voice a bit I replied, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Richards, I don't have any record of any prescriptions to be refilled for you." Nothing drove my Mom crazier than incompetence. She said in a stern, teacherly voice, "I phoned yesterday afternoon and spoke to someone, it may have been you, and they assured me that my drugs would be ready today." "I'm sorry, I just don't have any record of that order. Are you certain you're calling the right pharmacy? Maybe you're confused." Oh, man, that really got her. "You must be confused," she said, "for you've confused me with someone who doesn't know what they're doing." "No need to get snippy, Mrs. Richards, I'm trying to help." "I'd like to speak with a manager," Mom said. "I am the manager, Ma'am, and I'm glad that you're speaking to me because I'd hate for one of my employees to have to deal with you." Now she kicked into her fed-up mode. "I'd like your name so that I can write a letter to your employer," my Mother demanded. "Yes, Ma'am, my name is Ronald Washam." There was a long pause. Over the phone line I could hear the gears in her head buzzing. Then the light came on. She laughed. She had hit the wrong number on her automatic dialer and called me instead of the pharmacy. She was a bit peeved that I'd messed with her like that, though she admitted it was funny. Then she asked me, "But are my prescriptions ready?"

It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I realized that my Mom was one of the smartest people I have had the privilege to know. She had always turned to literature and poetry for wisdom and guidance, and she was indeed incomparably wise and contemplative. When she went into the hospital for the last time on Thanksgiving, she made sure to take her homemade book of poetry. The book is her personal collection of poems, from Frost and Shakespeare and Wallace Stevens and Edna St. Vincent Millay and Whitman and innumerable others. The poems are torn from books and newspapers, they are taped and pasted into the book, a Kahlil Gibran Diary for 1976, with her favorite passages underlined with her ubiquitous red pen. Like this excerpt from Stanley Kunitz' poem, "Touch Me."

I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.

She had me read "Touch Me" to her in her hospital bed and spoke to me about that final line. As if to say to me that her desire to live had abandoned her; that desire which had driven her all of her life, as it drives us all, had fled; but that burning desire, desire, desire had driven her to do all the wonderful things and all the foolish things she had done in her long life; only now, at 83, desire had dried up and blown away, like the abandoned exoskeleton of a dead cricket. If you think I read too much into the words of a dying woman, you vastly underestimate that woman.

As a child, indeed all of my life, my Mother allowed me to be myself. That cannot have been easy. I was shy, withdrawn, moody, stubborn and the pickiest eater on the planet. She indulged all of that, and more (as my family will gleefully attest). I often sat in a different room at dinner. My grandmother would make a different meal for me if the family's meal were loathsome fish or disgusting chipped beef or some other food item I wouldn't dream of eating. Subtly, graciously, lovingly, my Mother's acceptance of me gave me self-esteem and power. Are there greater gifts a son can receive?

Don't worry, I won't go on much longer. My Mother's courage and grace the last few days of her life were awe-inspiring. At the end of each of those last few precious days, after visiting with her family and best friends and her saints-for-neighbors she would say, "I had a lovely day today." She's laying (lying?--where are you, Mom, when I need you?) in a bed in her living room, unable to walk, internally bleeding to death, contemplating her mortality, and, for her, it could not have been a better day. She'd ask me to read poetry to her. Another of her favorite poems (you should look these up, friends) "Sunday Morning" by the great Wallace Stevens. Here's one of her red underlined excerpts from that poem:

Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

"we" is double-underlined, it represents a shift in the poem much too subtle for me to have noticed, but language was Mom's stock in trade and little escaped her insight, or her red pen. But, really, "Death is the mother of beauty" is a strange and wonderful thing to read aloud to your mother on her death bed.

The night after the bells tolled for her in the hospital, my Mother stayed awake all night fearing that she would die in her sleep before seeing my brother Robert who was driving in from Las Vegas that night. Inevitably, she found a blank piece of paper, folded it into quarters, unconsciously mimicking the folios of her beloved Shakespeare (or maybe not unconsciously--I, too, tend to underestimate her), and wrote down her thoughts. I know that she would not mind my sharing a bit of what she wrote.

"I stayed awake all night being grateful for all the wonderful, precious people in my life. How incredibly blessed I've been with a brave, loving mother always caring for me, with children who brought so much joy and pride and adventures. How diminished my life would have been without them! I loved the happy days, growing up with my father and mother, my sister and brother, and later in life. The arrival of my dear little grandsons brought new and unexpected joy. And who can express how much our friends and lovers are worth for all they give to enrich our lives?

I stayed awake last night to read the poems I love, many that hold hidden jewels that illuminate life's mysteries in short flashes of insight into our own complex inner being, and the poems that are sheer delight or are beauty made manifest.

My heart is filled with gratitude today, so thankful for one more day."

Mother went into hospice care at home on a Tuesday and had four more days to be thankful for. I am thankful for every day I spent in her company. Her last days fueled my Desire to be more grateful, more thankful, more accepting. My desire to live, not merely exist.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The HoseMaster's Guide to Tasting Room Etiquette


You’ve decided that you want to learn about wine, and that one of the best ways to learn about it is to travel to wine country and taste. This couldn’t be further from reality. Tasting rooms are the major source of misinformation in the wine business, aside from wine blogs, winery press releases and Food and Wine. But your heart is set on it, you’ve booked the cheapest hotel in the county (the bed vibrates, but not as much as the mini-fridge), and you’ve mapped out your tastings. But you’re not really sure how to behave in tasting rooms, what the proper etiquette is, how to appear professional and wine-savvy. Well, have no fear, in this edition of Basics of Wine Appreciation, we’ll learn all about tasting room etiquette.

What do I wear to a tasting room?

One of the most important things to wear to a tasting room is cologne. Tasting rooms are usually pretty crowded, and the aroma of dozens of inebriated humans on a hot day is surprisingly reminiscent of Nick Nolte’s G-spot. Wearing a lovely splash of cologne, preferably something your grandmother adored, like Elizabeth Taylor’s “I’m Dead,” is particularly welcome. It’s natural to wonder how your cologne might interfere with the aromas of the wines being served, but that’s not your problem. Besides, there’s nothing worse than standing next to a woman wearing perfume in a tasting room when you’re without; in which case it is perfectly acceptable to fight back with your Constitutional Right to life, liberty and the pursuit of flatulence. Soil is not just important to wine. Ah, yes, there’s methane to your madness.

When it comes to clothing, yes, it is important to wear it. Have you seen how ugly the people are in tasting rooms?

What’s the proper way to taste each wine?

Your generous hospitality representative will pour you a small taste of each wine. It is not appropriate to insist, “I’ll say when” while they’re pouring. Or, “That’s barely a mouthful--like my wife.” You may then swirl the wine in the glass, though it’s ineffably stupid to do so. The damn wine’s been open all day, you think swirling it’s going to do anything? It’s like Mike Wallace, it’s not going to breathe any more! And, for God’s sake, don’t say something stupid about the “legs.” This is an instant tip-off you’re an idiot. Legs are about as important to wine as they are to snakes and land mines. And no one cares if you think it’s a pretty color either. What are you, six? “Ooh, that’s so pretty.” If wineries cared about the color do you think they’d put the stuff in green bottles?

Once you’ve managed not to look stupid just getting that first taste, now it’s time to actually put it in your mouth. Ladies, don’t forget to apply plenty of lipstick first. This will not enhance your tasting experience, but it does royally piss off the tasting room help who have to wash the glassware. And showing your contempt for them subconsciously reminds them of the sommeliers, wine writers and wine shop owners they are called upon to serve, and makes them hold you in higher regard. (Insider’s tip: If you don’t have any lipstick with you, try rubbing some of the complimentary cheese around the rim of the glass!) Hold the wine up to your nose, put your nose as far into the glass as it will allow, and inhale deeply. Think about what you’re smelling in this pristine tasting room environment. Lipstick? The trembling mini-Chihuahua in the woman’s purse next to you (it’s not a dog, it’s a personal vibrator!)? The guy next to you expressing his Constitutional rights in response to your splash of Lindsey Lohan’s “Jailhouse Rape" perfume? Once you’ve pegged the aromas, take a taste of the wine itself. There, you’ve done it, you’ve managed to taste a wine in a prestigious appellation’s tasting room and not make a jackass of yourself. You’re welcome.

What is the etiquette for expectorating?

It’s not required that you spit, but if you do, make sure it’s wine. Spitting is otherwise frowned upon, though you may pick your nose. It pairs nicely with orange wines. If you decide to spit, step away from the spit bucket (often called a dump bucket, but, frankly, that’s REALLY frowned upon) about two feet and release a long, graceful arc of the wine into the receptacle. It’s best to practice this technique at home before your big trip. Make sure and practice in all kinds of weather conditions, particularly with a strong breeze in your face. It is acceptable to spit the wine directly into the spit bucket, but, really, you came here to have fun, right? Let it fly.

Remember, there are no taste buds in your throat. Those are cancerous nodules you feel. Professionals taste the wine, then spit it out. Mostly because they show up drunk and don’t want to fall down or pass out, but, still, it’s a good idea. And, it gives you the appearance of being an expert, though wearing that bib probably cancels that out.

What will I learn from the tasting room staff?

Tasting room staff are impeccably trained to answer all of your wine questions. However, so is a Magic Eight Ball, which is considerably more accurate. You will certainly learn, however, information that will teach you a great deal about that magical product that tasting rooms are charmingly dedicated to. I’m speaking, of course, about their wine club. They always have cutesy names, sort of like how we refer to our genitals, and, similarly, some come every month, others once a year. The Duckhorn Monthly Bills. Rombauer Selections—the R.S. Club. Fess Parker’s That’s a Giant Crockett Club. That’s what you’ll learn about.

But, honestly, learning about wine from hospitality employees is like learning about horses from the guy who cleans the stalls. Shoveling manure is a gift, and both vocations are accomplished at it.

Is it OK to show up drunk?

Tasting room employees are carefully trained to refuse service to anyone visibly intoxicated. Don’t let that discourage you. You planned on visiting six wineries a day, you don’t like to spit because, “That’s a waste!,” and if you can just eat a dozen more tasting room crackers you’ll be fine to drive the country road and stop at more than half the stop signs and barely clip the bicyclists (if done gracefully, you may be awarded both ears and the jersey). You’re fine. Don’t worry about it. Just mention how interested you are in the WINE CLUB! Always, always, mention the wine club. This soothes the fears of tasting room employees, makes them see you as visibly intoxicating, a crucial difference.

You’re in wine country, dammit, the whole economy relies on insobriety. You’re simply being a patriot. Is it OK to show up drunk? What kind of question is that? It’s not only OK, it’s your solemn responsibility. Give me liver failure, or give me death!  


Thursday, May 3, 2012

What We're Reading

Compiled by the editors of HoseMaster of Wine

DR. VINO:  Check out this week’s impossible food-wine pairing—crow! Dr. Vino eats a lot of that, and wonders what wine would best accompany it. First guy to say Ravenswood becomes the next impossible food-wine pairing—human prairie oysters. Pretty sure Leslie Sbrocco knows what pairs with those pairs. In another post, Dr. Vino investigates wine labels. “They just don’t come off in hot water any more. Can the glue be good for the environment? Are our children being poisoned by big corporate wineries?
Can I drum up another fake controversy?” If you can’t, who can?

WINE ENTHUSIAST:  Paul Gregutt writes about the unheralded star of Washington wines—Paul Gregutt. Steve Heimoff has an interesting feature on the “Hairiest Winemakers in California” and bemoans the fact that not enough of them are men. Virginie Boone talks to readers about the importance of vineyards in “Oooh, They’re So Pretty.” And Roger Voss wanders around the Loire Valley because he’s too proud to ask for directions.

CONNOISSEURS’ GUIDE: Editor Charles Olken predicts what’s ahead in wine in the coming year. “More wineries will send me samples, sommeliers will be headed for the unemployment line, and Jon Bonné will marry a chimpanzee.” Co-editor Stephen Eliot writes a haunting piece that wonders why Charlie is planning to move the apostrophe back a space.

WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Jay McInerney is invited to a hundred-year vertical of Chateau d’Yquem by Justin Bieber and wonders which one is sweeter in the mouth. And don’t miss Lettie Teague’s assessment of the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, “Great vintage, but I prefer Cabernet.”

PALATE PRESS:  Palate Press is the “My Weekly Reader” for wine bloggers. Check out the fascinating feature on Malbec in “How Many Words Can You Make from ‘Malbec?’” Clam…Came…Blame…Beam…LAME… In “Wine Conversations,” there’s an interview with the Robert Mondavi winery dog, Poopus One, that will leave you howling. And, finally, the ultimate guide to being a successful wine blog, “Write Really Fast.”

eROBERT PARKER:  The investigative report is in, and Dr. of Love Jay Miller is exonerated. Yes, some money changed hands, Robert Parker writes, but Miller was inflating scores long before that; and Spanish wineries weren’t promised access to Miller, they were only promised access to Miller LITES! Simple mix-up it only takes 3000 pages to explain. And Antonio Galloni talks about dumping on Parker’s California cult wines and creating his own. “I don’t hand out 100 point scores like they’re condoms in Africa. When I hand out 100 point scores they mean something. Power. I’m the new Pope, Baby! I speak for God.”

WINE SPECTATOR:  “Wines are tasted completely blind when reviewed by Wine Spectator critics,” says publisher Marvin Shanken in a hard-hitting editorial, “it’s those damned ad sales people that screw with the scores.” The new Grand Awards for restaurant wine lists are announced—the crappy one at Greystone is nowhere to be seen. Tim Fish on his love affair with winery logo polo shirts.

NEW YORK TIMES:  The New York Times tasting panel rates Chinese wines in honor of Jeremy Lin. The result? Read “Knicks and Nix—both Overrated.” Eric Asimov visits rich people that own wineries. “They just smell better.”

PLAYBOY:  Wine columnist for Playboy.com 1WineDoody lists his favorite jug wines.