Monday, January 27, 2014

The Lost Introduction to "The New California Wine"

I received from an anonymous source (Edward Snowden), whose identity I am not at liberty to disclose (Bradley Manning), these confidential leaks (W. Blinky Bray) of Lost Chapters from Jon Bonné’s The New California Wine. Due to their controversial nature, the publishers of the book decided to exclude them and keep them secret. The Lost Chapters are available only here on HoseMaster of Wine™, where I am publishing them at great personal risk. The great personal risk of being called a Julian Assangehole, which I find offensive and accurate. I believe the Lost Chapters are relevant to today’s discussion of the new California wines, and proved valuable insight into the author’s mindset for writing the book. So without further ado, or setup, here’s the first Lost Chapter.

INTRODUCTION   (the original-- subsequently rewritten for publication)

“We need you to save California wine.”

Everywhere I went I heard this same sentiment over and over from a new and discerning group of wine drinkers. Though widely criticized as still-living-at-home crybabies, a new generation of wine drinkers was questioning the California wine status quo. Most were tired of spending Daddy’s money on the jammy, homogenous California wines that scored huge points with ordinary wine critics. They wanted to spend Daddy’s money on wines Daddy wouldn’t like, be on mailing lists for wines that might not be recognizably wine. They were looking for a “New Messiah for the New California wine.” Their words, not mine.

I was not in the mood. “I’m working on it. Jesus. It’s not that easy. You try making sense of what those hip, new winemakers are saying.” And this book was born.

In my position as wine critic for the greatest newspaper in the greatest city in the country, I’ll let you Google that, I have a ringside seat at the great match between the Old California wine and the New California wine. You might say I’m the referee, and the match is fixed. But it’s my job to make the battle look legit, and I’m sure, by the end of the book, you’ll agree with my decisions.

In order to find the New California wine, first I had to find the new California. Turns out it’s in Washington, but the newspapers up there suck, so I looked again, and found it right under my nose. In the very state I live in. Vegetative. The new California was right under my feet the whole time, just beneath the old California. It was in the soil. The old California wine was about everything above the land--the showplace wineries, the elaborate tasting rooms, the ostentatious auctions, the bloated critics of bloated publications floating above the land like hot air balloons with gout.

The New California wines were about the soil. It was time that California learned that no matter how much money you throw at making wine, it begins with the dirt. I had to come down from my Shining City upon a hill and walk the dirt, among the people of the dirt, among the winemakers striving to give expression to that dirt. It’s a completely new highway to the New California wine. A dirt highway. Touch the dirt, and you will find the true beauty of wine. Bend over, friends, show me the great dirt highway, and I’ll show you the New California wine.

It’s that great dirt highway that is slowly excreting a new movement. Stand back and you can watch it emerge. There are little piles of it all over the New California, and it wasn’t long, once I started to look, that I was stepping in it. Great big piles of it. And then I began to see it in the finest restaurants being promoted by young and hip sommeliers. They recognized it for what it was, a fresh and steamy alternative to the old California wines. They couldn’t wait to sell it to their customers to see the look on their faces. Here were wines that didn’t rely on reputation or flavor to sell, perfect wines for sommeliers. The wines relied on guilt, and the age-old desire to be rebellious without necessarily being right. Wines for a New California.

When I first arrived in California to be the wine critic for the greatest newspaper in the greatest city in the country (Google it), I had trouble finding California wines I liked. I was like a vegan at a weenie roast. The weenies turned out to be the other wine critics who worked the California beat. They were part of the problem, as weenies often are. They were too busy kissing their own buns with relish to see the problem. And, finally, after years of trying, it was just too painful to push a weenie down the dirt highway. I would have to go it alone.

Coming down from my Shining City upon a hill, I began to find a new generation of winemakers, winemakers unafraid to stake their careers on unusual varieties made with minimal intervention. I gave them my blessing. They asked if I liked orange wines, and I nodded my head in approval. And not long after that, there were dozens of examples of orange wines, wines made from white grapes given extended skin contact. Orange wines have a long tradition in the history of wine, just as in human history there is a long tradition of torture. Yet orange wines are often criticized for being exactly what they are meant to be, experiments in pushing the envelope of what humans can bear. Orange wines, at their best, are prime examples of winemaking at the edge. And it’s the edge, after all, that makes the difference when you’re drunk and fall headfirst into a coffee table. In the words of Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to Holden.”

I also found winemakers working with esoteric varieties so that when the wines didn’t taste right, no one would know. This, too, would be the New California wine. I found winemakers making wines from vineyards planted in unusual places outside the usual appellations so that no one could say they got the terroir wrong. Yet another aspect of the New California wine. There are even winemakers with vaginas. Only time will tell if they’ll be part of the New California wine.


Mike Dunne said...

I look forward to seeing the alternative cover photos that were lost.

Charlie Olken said...

You have really stepped in it this time. Those little piles are the remains of people who drank orange wine and passed away on the spot from amphora-born diseases.

And, all those somms still living at home with mommy are going to be adults someday. I may not live long enough for them to grow up, but you will. And they will remember that you waged holy war on their leader. You have made a cartoon character out of Mr. Bonnet the same way that Buddha, or was it Mohmmmed or Moshe Dianne, was joked about by some Danish character who caused a world wide flap.

But, you will be now be famous, or infamous. And we can say we knew you when. This is not Nat Desplagiarize or Jay or Lettie you are joking about.

This is the leader of the revolution. But not to worry, when the SF Chron destroys its food and wine pages, he will have to go back to NY where they love him for finally putting those uppity Californians in their place.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Mike,
Oh, no, I love the Ted Lemon "Mass Grave" photo. Can't top that in a million years.

Puff Daddy,
Somehow I knew you'd like this piece.

I like Jon, and it was kind of fun to actually read his book (after I'd done a Blind Review some months ago) and then write a parody. I'll leave it to others how good it is. I simply enjoyed the exercise.

There is a kind of strange religious fervor surrounding the New California wine, whatever that is. Well, it's really "Authentic" wine under a new guise. I think it's funny, because it's only wine. Others get far too wound up about it. So I wanted to take a swing at it. There may be more Lost Chapters. I haven't decided yet.

Jon will probably kill me.

Charlie Olken said...

"Jon will probably kill me."

Let me know when he does. I suspect I am next in line. Whatever Jon is or is not, he has made himself famous by attacking CA wine in the very newspaper that lies at the heart of wine country.

Jon may be a supertaster. One of those folks with thousands of extra taste buds. They like boiled chicken because it was so bland. Sort of like Ribolla Gialla.

Come to think of it, my grandmother might have been a supertaster as well since boiled chicken was her food of choice. Or maybe she just could not cook.

voice of reason said...

"...the age-old desire to be rebellious without necessarily being right..."

more gold Ron, keep it coming!

renzo said...

"It’s that great dirt highway that is slowly excreting a new movement. Stand back and you can watch it emerge. There are little piles of it all over the New California, and it wasn’t long, once I started to look, that I was stepping in it. Great big piles of it."

I like my humor dark too. Number two is number one!
"Dirt Highway" is evocative of that other famous byway named after the Pennsylvanian chocolatier.

Unknown said...

The problem with this "lost intro" is that the secret to California wine isn't found on "the great dirt highway". Nope, it's found on the Hershey highway. Anyone who was around the Castro in the 70's knows that. Or so I'm told. I was never there. Well, except for that one night with the thing, and the thing...

Thomas said...

Leave it to the HoseMaster to give us the real dirt--and it's orange.

Unknown said...

Never say Ribolla Gialla is "a bland grape variety." Say, "it shows oak well."

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm just a measly little wine Poodle. No one cares what I think, just that I make them laugh. I try to make fun of whatever catches my attention in this weird wine business. Somehow, Jon just fell into my crosshairs on this day. I doubt he'll even read it.

Hell, two more votes and it's Double Gold!

Truth be told, I need a good editor. This piece veered into the scatalogical a bit more than I would have liked, but I tend to just throw everything against the wall when I write satire, and that shit sticks.

Those are the cheap jokes. I'm least proud of them. Which is saying something.

John Thomas,
Welcome to being a common tater. Yes, you got my drift, but in the context of the piece, Hershey didn't make any sense. Hell, neither did "dirt," but that doesn't stop the HoseMaster.

I'd love to sit and taste a bunch of those "orange" wines with you. What a field day. I wish the category had a better name than "orange wine." Seems just damned insulting to a perfectly nice citrus.

Nice. At wine competitions, judges often say, "You know what I like about this wine? The fruit doesn't get in the way of the oak."

Morgan Clendenen said...

Roses at your feet. I didn't remove the thorns so careful not to actually step on them.

Really, there's so much to praise here, I don't even know where to start.

Thank you, kind, sarcastic, sir. You have said what I could never get away with saying, because you know, women aren't funny.

Thomas said...

Oh, I don't know. I think women are hilarious--ba da bing.

Joe said...

I used to worry that I'd have to start peddling Mendocino County Nerello Mascalese and the like, but I'm already too busy struggling to get suburbanites to buy wines from another super-obscure area called "France".

Incredible, as always. Hate that I haven't been by to read in quite a while. Life has gotten far too busy, so my minimal internet time has been laser-focused on priority number one: pornography.


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Dear Vinous,
Ah, a woman throwing roses at my feet made my day. Thank you for the kind words. Please become a regular common tater--not ever enough women commenting on the state of the wine biz, funny or not.

And, by the way, you'll never hear me saying women aren't funny, or agreeing with anything else Jerry Lewis has to say about comedy. Though I loved his movies as a kid, it's like anything else in life--you never want to meet your heroes.

A "rim shot" in this post makes too much sense.

How the hell are you? You should trying watching that new Orange Porn--extra skin contact with no regard for aromatics.

Don't be a stranger, Subhuman Wino!

Joe said...

Speaking of wine aromatics in the context of pornography (which is where everyone on this thread was probably hoping it was heading): when two older porn stars do a scene, do they refer to the smell of love-making as "bouquet"?