Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tuesdays With Bobbie

The last lessons of my mentor’s life took place every Tuesday in Monkton. There, lying in the shade of his gout-swollen ankles, Bobbie taught me about the Meaning of Wine. His lessons were drawn from his life, his experiences, his vast knowledge of the boundless gullibility of humans. There were no exams, no wine reviews to write, none of his buttboys around to affirm his omniscience. There was but one student. I was that student.

No grades were given, nothing on the 100 Point Scale, but one was expected to occasionally perform some physical chore. Moving Neal Martin around to where he was most comfortably Bobbie’s footrest. Chiseling years of foie gras from Bobbie’s navel. Adding three points to every Antonio Galloni score when he wasn’t looking. A kiss goodbye earned extra credit, though he had more chins than a Chinese phone book. There was no graduation ceremony. There was a funeral. With a coffin the size of his reputation, and the only mourners a newspaper photographer, the winemaker of Sine Qua Non, and Bobbie’s grieving father. Yes, only Snap, Krankl and Pop.

I had heard that my mentor was terminally ill. Outwardly, he appeared fine, but there were signs. He’d sold his most precious belongings--his publication, his editorial control, and his Lisa Perroti-Brown hand puppet--to three mysterious men from Singapore, one of whom looked suspiciously like Dorothy Lamour. The Wine Advocate was off on the Road to Singapore. Hilarity would ensue, but we’d be left without hope--and crosby. It certainly was a harbinger of Bobbie’s death.

His death sentence came in the spring of 2012. Bobbie had awarded nineteen wines his perfect score, an unheard-of orgy of critical sploogemaking. Wine critics recognized his creeping dementia, and they quietly began to whisper about it. They’d always done what Bobbie had done. Followed his every example, from his pithy, overblown, pornographic wine descriptions to his 100 Point Scale, they’d obediently followed his lead like he was Temple Grandin and they were cattle. They knew the steaks were high. Though it would leave the wine critics bereft and desperate for someone else to copy, they began to openly talk about Bobbie’s imminent death. The cattle stampeded.

I decided to pay a visit to my wine mentor. Bobbie seemed fine to me at first glance, hale and chipper, suitably snockered for ten in the morning, and he greeted his prized blobber warmly. “HoseMaster,” he said, “it’s wonderful to see you. Make me laugh and I’ll pee my pants for you.” Judging by his pants, he’d already had a few chuckles that morning. And one serious damn guffaw.

“Good to see you, too, Bobbie,” I said. It was his response, the clarity of his dementia, that broke my heart. “2013 was the greatest vintage of my lifetime in Napa Valley,” he said. “And I have a small fortune in Twinkies in my sphincter. Will you come every Tuesday?”

Though something was clearly eating his brain (I suspected that Zombie Stephen Tanzer, whose palate was clearly that of the walking dead), there were many hours Bobbie was lucid. He would speak eloquently about wine, about wine criticism, and about life. It was never stated, but it was clear that I was meant to be his last voice, share his fading wisdom with a world starved and ignorant when it comes to the bounty of the grape. Yes, there was a bounty of the grape, and Bobbie was our Captain Bligh, listing starboard and besotted with Port.

“Wine,” Bobbie said to me, “is proof that God loves us, and hates Mormons. Wine is meant to deliver pleasure. Pleasure is wine’s only job, like a cheap whore. Always remember this, HoseMaster, and your life in wine will be infinitely finer--wine is a cheap whore meant only to deliver pleasure and then be tossed aside. You can dress it up, you can make it look like Julia Roberts, but it’s still a whore. But how does one measure pleasure? Answer me, HoseMaster. How?”

“A fake scale?”

“Yes, Grasshopper, you have learned well! But you miss the real point. Just like with a cheap whore, deep down you always fear your own performance when it comes to wine. The scale, your assigning an imaginary and wholly worthless value to that wine, that cheap whore, validates your wisdom and knowledge and virility. Always seek control of wine, my friend, not mastery. Leave the ‘mystery’ of wine to the sissies, the lazy thinking proponents of Natural and Authentic wines. Let them talk about their ‘journey’ like they’re actually going somewhere, the cretins. You don’t need to master wine, you simply need to judge it. Gods don’t master, Gods judge.”

Naturally, there came a Tuesday when I asked Bobbie about his love for wine, his obvious passion for what is, after all, mere alcohol dressed like a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant.

“Maybe I just had to love something,” he said. “Wine has prestige and status, though no one understands why. Like soccer. We are defined by who we love, what we love and how we love. Love is the yeast that transforms us, and makes us palatable to other people. Without that yeast, we just smell like old barrels. Did I choose wine, or did wine choose me? There is life’s mystery. I like to think we’re one. I am wine, HoseMaster, and wine is me and only me.”

On our last Tuesday together, Bobbie had a few parting thoughts for me. I think he felt Death was near, though James Laube had just left and, well, he does that to most people, and he had a few truths to share one last time.

“Remember to dance, HoseMaster, preferably with your pants down. Remember that it’s only wine, and it’s only numbers—it's just fools and rich white guys that think they go together. Remember that love and wine have one thing in common—when you’re clueless about either one, just make shit up. No one will ever know.”


Unknown said...

You owe me a new keyboard, man.

Say, I still need a picture of you with that present. In fact, just post it here.

Marcia Macomber said...

Favorite line: "With a coffin the size of his reputation, and the only mourners a newspaper photographer, the winemaker of Sine Qua Non, and Bobbie’s grieving father. Yes, only Snap, Krankl and Pop." Perfect! Another Classic Hosemaster post. Yum.

Samantha Dugan said...

Naval gazing, whole new meaning...and image now. Ewe. Oh and you're right, pants is always funny. I love you!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Andy,
For those of you just tuning in, Andy presented me with my very own Blinky Gray T-shirt. No photos, Andy, unless you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Marcia Love,
Thank you. If anyone cares, the piece was inspired, in my usual peculiar manner, by Parker's unsolicited praise of me on his chat room. Somehow in my mind that led to a lame parody of "Tuesdays with Morrie," that maudlin piece of crapola. People ask me over and over where I get my ideas--ideas are all around us all the damn time, one just has to learn to recognize them because they often have very short half-lives.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
"Pants" is the classic comedy word. "Monkey" is right there, too. And I'm a big fan of "Fart Water" too.

I love you, too!

Anonymous said...

Hosemaster, you are starting to impact my productivity!!! I laughed so hard I almost choked on my Mollydooker. Was reeling from the Lisa Perroti-Brown reference when you dug deep for the Temple Grandin reference, that did me in (I'm a big Temple fan, from my Alma Mater).

On a more productive note, since you are clearly on your way to supplanting Bobbie as the most influential wine writer on the planet, I'm hoping you can support the new 110 point scale system. This way I can routinely give my wines 100 and cross reference you in support. Seems like a good marketing strategy to me......

voice of reason said...

Hosemaster, you continue to amaze me! Although you were clearly referring to RP, as I read your words I found RP morphing into Marlon Brando If you read a few of Bobbie's quotes in Brando's voice, you could be a Youtube Star as well as a Blogger Star!

Thomas said...

Having recently gone back to making entries on my old blog, has given me new appreciation for those of you who continue to blog. How the hell do you keep up with the spammers?

In any case, since my blog has never attracted more than the attractive few, I suppose I'll give it up again--for good--and get my kicks reading the Hosemaster. At least I know where that leads: ruining one's keyboard and choking on Mollydooker.

Two lofty accomplishments, I might add.

Rogue Wino said...

I'll second the suggestion to read Parker quotes as Marlon Brando! Genius.
Great send up of Bobbie, the opening descriptions in particular had me shaking laughing

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Jeff C,
You're new around here, but my longtime peanut gallery remembers the HoseMaster's Million Point Scale, which dwarfs your measly 110 point scale. The theory is, no one will taste a million wines in a lifetime, so each wine, beginning at ZERO gets its own specific number. Feel free to adopt it to give your wines 785,340 points!

You're onto something. Stick a few cotton balls in your cheeks and read Bobbie's quotes, and, bingo, that's comedy! But no way I'm going on YouTube, though Andy stuck me on it with an interview from a couple of years ago. I'm even duller in person.

Don't give it up, man! You can't post twice a year and expect a huge following. Do it for love and passion and to it more often--OK, now I sound like your wife.

Rogue Wino,
Are you in SF? I saw your comments on Samantha's blog. I was at Tre Bicchieri today! Amazing wines. Email me and come to Sonoma!

Yeah, the Brando thing works, doesn't it. Way to go, David Fish!

Thomas said...

No Ron, my wife thinks I'm stupid for trying to do it at all...and at my age!

Rogue Wino said...

I know I missed it cause I had to work, why, why did they do it on a Thursday this year?? It's the one night of the week that's difficult for me to get covered.
I'm up in Sonoma frequently, visiting friend/fam and doing a little wine tasting. We will have to meet up some time

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Rogue Wino,
A shame you missed the Gambero Rosso tasting. It was tres bicchieri, which is French for very crowded.

Any time you're coming up to Sonoma send me a PM, my email is on my About page, and we'll hoist a few. It's always fun for me to meet a member of the HoseMaster peanut gallery.