Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mis(s) Feiring

This particular satire of a controversial wine writer appeared on HoseMaster of Wine™ in May of 2010. The reaction to it was bigger than I had expected. I hadn't read a single word of Alice Feiring's work, but she was a polarizing figure in wine, so I spent an hour or so reading her blog, The Feiring Line, just to try and pin down her voice. Then I began to write, and this is what appeared. I heard from several friends who know her that she was unhappy about my piece. A few of my regular common taters felt it was harsh as well. You can decide for yourself. Satire doesn't need defending, and it has always been my goal to walk up to that imaginary line one isn't supposed to cross, and make everyone fear I'll actually cross it. Kind of a hobby...

So, here, from May 2010, is the legendary (sort of) Mis(s) Feiring:

What am I looking for in wine?

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


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

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

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

I probably shouldn't have sung it out loud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm so lonely.


Douglas Trapasso said...

I met her once. Seemed pretty OK in person, we were at a conference so I didn’t get too much one on one time with her. I actually am in sync with many of her points. But she writes in such a holier-than-thou style that’s it’s hard for me to really like her. She’s the Dr. Laura of wine, and Alice, if you’re reading this, you are welcome to use that as part of your shtick.

The Sommeliere said...

"I'm the leading authority on Natural Wines. No. Make that I'm the Only Authority on Natural Wines. I'm asked to speak often. I changed the world."
What modesty!

I should add that she is the one who
"SAVED the world from Parkerization of wine." (or words to that effect, but I am too busy to look up the title.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

When the "Best Of HoseMaster" (a low bar to get over) pieces first appeared more than three years ago, the number of pageviews each received, according to Google Stats, was around 150. Now my readership is considerably larger, proving you can fool most of the people most of the time. So, when my life doesn't allow me much time to write, I can spend a few minutes going through my back catalog and revisit a piece, knowing that most of my readers haven't seen it before.

What's interesting is how much the pieces have changed in my own mind. In my memory, Mis(s) Feiring is a completely different piece. I don't edit or rewrite the "Best of" pieces, though, believe me, I really want to. But in my memory, this was a much rougher piece than it reads here. I do recall, however, that I removed the cruelest parts right before I published it, something I almost never do. Wish I'd saved them.

Also, I think that, in some ways, I enjoy these reruns because they show how much I've struggled over the years to find my satiric voice. The Church of Aimee Semple McFeiring is a much better piece than this. Yet the point is about the same.

Anonymous said...

As Leonard Pinth Garnell would have put it " Wasn't that bad?" It was. fully up to standard.

Unknown said...

Funny, but I remember thinking this was harsher when I first read it, not unfairly, but definitely written right up to the line.

Today, it just seems spot on. Of course, I've read more Feiring since then.

Pretty impressive for such a short immersion in her writing.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Nice obscure cultural reference! I hadn't thought of Leonard Pinth Garnell in a very long time. Nice going!

I had the same thought, my friend, when I reread it. That it had been nastier. Interesting.

Parody is easy when someone has a distinct, and rather strict, point of view combined with a writing style that is forced. And, for the most part, people reveal their character far more than they believe when they write from a personal viewpoint. The hardest people to parody are "journalists," who are trained to step back from the words and try to write objectively. But, for the most part, they aren't worth parodying.

Unknown said...

Not enuff. Short. Sentences..does she really write this bad??

Ron Washam, HMW said...

No. Not this badly. I certainly exaggerated her style, and my impression of her writing came from her blog posts, not her books.

As I often (too often) say here, I write these pieces as exercise. In this case, as I remember it (it was three years ago), I was trying to channel Ms. Feiring more than imitate her. Capture something of the person who so singlemindedly and endlessly pursues the "natural" path of wine and winemaking. And, of course, try to be funny. How successful I am at either of those goals is certainly up for discussion.

Tim McNally said...

The fellow who assists me with my website,, was not amused when I posted the Restaurant Gouge HoseMaster column. He thought it sophomoric and bordering on obscene.

I don't think I'll show him this one. Just post it myself. Tim

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Tim,
Everybody wants more humor in the wine business, only they want Noel Coward, or Andy Griffith's Mayberry. Idiots.

I am called a lot of things, but most often it's sophomoric, snarky, or bully. I've come to wear those epithets, mostly hurled by the simpleminded and witless, with great pride.

Bob Henry said...


We know your hero in comedy was Jonathan Winters.

And know your fervor for skewering the ignoramuses and bloviators in the wine industry. (Exercising your exorcising.)

How 'bout penning a paen to one of your heroes in the wine industry, as one more “exercise”?

~~ Bob

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Jonathan Winters was one of my comedy heroes, but hardly my only hero. Most of my other heroes were comedy writers the likes of David Lloyd and Larry Gelbart and Mel Tolkin, among others.

There's enough hero worship in the wine business, from Parker to Alice to Jancis. I'll just keep doing what I do, thank you.

Unknown said...

I thought the rapture piece was a bit harsher, way funnier, and much better. To paraphrase a recent STEVE piece, I think we're entering a golden age of Hosemaster.

As for Mis(s) Fiering, I can attest that she was the first to recognize a huge shift in winemaking philosophy over the past decade; but I will agree that she grates on me something awful. My biggest objection is that the entire winemaking philosophy that she reported upon (and kudos to her for doing real wine reporting, instead of just writing an opinion) is now somehow linked to her self-aggrandizing personality.

Sorry that this was so poorly written. This is a subject near and dear to my heart, but I've been working 12 hours a day for the past 5 weeks, and just sucked down an entire bottle of wine. Ask me again in ten days, after I've spent a full weekend getting stoned in the bathtub

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, as always, for chiming in. I post these "old" HoseMaster pieces as a way of taking a day off, and as a way for me to look back at those posts and see what I was doing back then from a writing standpoint. Some pieces still shine (though I only reluctantly admit that), while others have taken on the patina of old age. This post is the latter.

I'm still just about the only guy doing this sort of wine comedy on a regular basis. And, frankly, I'm getting very weary of it. I don't really think the HoseMaster is having a Golden Age. If anything, I get harder on myself as I progress and the pieces are far more challenging to write. Are they better? Now and then. However, the pieces I am most proud of are usually the pieces that fall flat with my audience (all 14 of you), while a piece I hate ends up lighting up the stats and the Intergnats. 'Twas ever thus.

I like it when you're a happy, drunk common tater, Gabe. You say far more interesting things under the influence. I've never been stoned in the bathtub, but I've had shit hurled at me in the street.

Alexandre Raymundo said...

Amusing, as always. I love the "concrete joke", well thought. Cheers!

Unknown said...

thanks Ron. I'm wrapping up my sixth harvest this week, and hope to get back to tatering more commonly. It's too soon to make an assessment on wine quality, but it feels like 2013 has been the most difficult vintage I've experienced.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

In Napa and Sonoma 2013 has been a terrific vintage, if a bit compressed. It's all about the jet stream. All the rain ended up in your neck of the woods, while we had nary a drop. Other vintages, Oregon shines and California bears the brunt of the fall wet weather.

Getting a tough year under your belt can only be growthful. In wine, and in life. Six harvests! Man, time to start your own label. JagleMeister. Yeah. And start auditioning those JagleMeister girls too.

Unknown said...

Lol. I've got a couple projects in the works. But I try to remind myself that Cathy Corison worked something like 30 vintages before she started her own winery. I'll keep Jaglemiester on the short list of possible names ;-)

The rain did indeed hit us at the wrong time. It lead to a slow start in the first couple weeks, and a total shitstorm in the last three weeks. We pressed our last pinot bin yesterday, so I think I'll be getting my life back soon. Today is my first day off in five weeks, and I am enjoying some quality time on the couch.

Fabio said...

Ron, and the other 13 followers:
Congratulations on increasing your audience to 14, from 12 last year if I recall :) My own blog has been stuck at 5 for about two years - I think because I still haven't passed my Humour#101.
I had dinner and then gin-tonics here in Madrid with Alice F last year, and what struck me most was that she was a normal person, kind of nice and quiet and introverted and really interesting to talk to!!! I suppose I was expecting the mad flaming eyes of a fanatic eco-warrior, foaming at the mouth, etc :)
Gabe, and Ron:
What's the meaning of these sensible and interesting harvest report type comments? If you keep that up you'll start losing your audience!!!