Monday, September 29, 2014

The HoseMaster's Guide to Drinking Wine at Home

An authentic wine lover drinks at home. A lot. Alone, or otherwise. He doesn’t just drink wine socially, or with a meal. He drinks all the time, and not from fancy glassware. Or if it is fancy glassware, it’s not necessarily clean. Wine is a way of life, best done in the home, frequently, where it delivers the most pleasure—like transvestism. Actually, an authentic wine lover has much in common with a transvestite. They both think they look better doing what they do than they actually do. And they both think other people can’t spot fakes.

Many people who profess to love wine only drink it on special occasions, or in church. But the authentic wine lover sees wine as an ordinary part of every meal, like bread or salt or long, uncomfortable silences. The confident wine lover knows that regular consumption of wine makes you an expert much as regular bathing makes you a mermaid.

You may not call yourself an authentic wine lover unless you make drinking your first priority. Drinking wine on a daily basis is a way to learn your own tastes in wine, develop a better critical sense about wine, as well as have the courage to live. Moreover, it will help you answer a critical question. Do you like wine enough to want to learn more, or are you just another jackass? Chances are you’re a jackass, and you just think you want to learn more, like when you thought it would be cool to take Jazzercise. You don’t really have an original thought in your head, which your wine blog proves incontrovertibly. Still, you aspire to be an authentic wine lover.

Many wine experts will tell you that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to learn about wine, that there are many thrilling bottles between $10 and $20. But you know better. That said, you can get just as drunk on a $12 bottle as you can on a $100 bottle, and still have $88 to spend on frivolities like rent and dog food for Grandma. But the commitment to wine loving is, in part, a financial commitment, and if you’re not willing to fork over a $50 now and then for some real wine, you’ll just never understand. Expecting to learn about wine drinking wines less than twenty bucks is like expecting to be Best Dressed when you shop at the Salvation Army.  You’ll only look like a wino.

People who drink wine on a regular basis are the best people. Everyone knows that. Like baseball fans are the best people, and people who can yodel. It just is. Science has shown this to be true, and you can look it up on the Internet. It’s not really much of a commitment to drink wine regularly and become one of the best people. You also don’t have to drink your wine out of expensive glassware. Remember HoseMaster’s Law, “The pricier the glass, the bigger the ass.” This is always true. Though the appreciation of wine is heightened by nice stemware, it’s not necessary. Just like surreptitiously eating food dropped on the floor can be more enjoyable than eating food served on a naked Japanese woman, and healthier. You can pay an obscene amount of money for a specialty Riedel glass, but it won’t add to your enjoyment of the wine. It will, however, prove you’re an idiot. You can’t even tell what the wine is when you taste it blind, how the hell do you know the shape of the glass enhances the wine? Jackass. It’s like being colorblind and thinking sunglasses help bring out the reds and greens. 

You also don’t need a fancy corkscrew. Or any of that other wine equipment. You paid a lousy ten bucks for that thrilling wine, don’t open it with a fifty dollar corkscrew. A well-stocked wine lover’s cellar only needs a cheap waiter’s corkscrew, a K-Mart decanter, and logo wine glasses from that cheesy Temecula winery where you’re a club member.

And for God’s sake, don’t buy a stupid aerator to pour the wine through. You might as well wear a bowtie that lights up, you’ll look more sophisticated. Aerators don’t work any better than Magic 8-Balls—they’re based on the same science. You can’t make a wine breathe faster, not by pouring it through a Magic 8-rater, not even by tonguing its punt. The aerator you already bought? For big laughs, attach it to Grandpa’s leg bag and watch the cat play with it. It helps the wine just as much there as it does in the neck of the bottle.

Don’t buy a stupid pump for your leftover wine either. Any wine worth drinking is better the second day anyway, you don’t need that gray plastic stopper in it. Though I do enjoy when it queefs. Who doesn’t want a wine that queefs? But as a preservative, it’s wishful thinking. Like Ted Williams’ head.

The committed authentic wine lover doesn’t need a Coravin either. A Coravin is simply a way to taste your older wines to find out they’re lousy without opening the bottle. Something of a time saver, but, ultimately, depressing. Much like masturbating. Really, a Coravin is self-abuse. You use it when your partner doesn’t really want any, and you want to prove to yourself just what they’re missing. Promise me you’ll wash your hands after every use.

Also, remember that you don’t need a lot of wine at hand to be a committed regular wine drinker. Maybe just a mixed case—red, white, and a couple of sparkling wines, because we all like to pretend we drink sparkling wine with meals even though no one does. Sparkling wine is the dental floss of beverages—everyone claims to use it more than they do. This explains why so many wine merchants have lousy teeth and bad breath. But not the speech impediments, I don’t know what explains that.

Inevitably, as an authentic wine lover, you’ll need to spend a lot of money. Don’t spend it on stupid stuff, like aerators and corkscrews and glassware. No, spend it on labels, spend it on wines that got a lot of points, spend it on the latest cult wine. That’s where the satisfaction is. Make wine a part of your everyday life—use it to show people you’re better than they are.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Few Minutes Decomposing with Andy Rooney

There was a time when I was playing around with established comic voices on HoseMaster of Wine™, and I decided to do a bit of the late Andy Rooney. I thought my irreverence about his death would have pleased Rooney, and I found that I liked doing his odd "60 Minutes" patter. I wrote three pieces in Rooney's voice, and this edition of Best of HoseMaster is made up of the first two. 

From early 2012, here's Andy Rooney... Note how the topics haven't changed much on wine blogs in the past two-and-a-half years.

I’ve been in touch with the late Andy Rooney recently. It may surprise you to know that I speak with many dead people—Jess Jackson, Robert Mondavi, Robert Parker, Ron Paul, Gabe Kaplan, Richard Dawson… There is a wisdom in dead people that I find compelling. Andy Rooney was kind enough to allow me to publish his posthumous thoughts about wine and the wine business. So if you don’t like the opinions, don’t blame me. I’m just channeling the old fuck. Pardon me, dead fuck.


Every wine critic and wine publication these days claims to taste wine blind. I don’t understand this. They say that tasting wines blind takes prejudice and subjectivity out of the equation. First of all, I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t believe they’re tasting the wines without having any idea at all what the wines are. These are professional wine critics, or so they’d have us believe, you’d think they’d have a pretty good idea all the time what they’re tasting, whether it’s in a brown bag or not. And they’re human, well, all of them except Matt Kramer who’s actually a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, and humans cheat, or leave themselves loopholes. But let’s say, tongue in cheek, that I believe that they taste the wines blind. Why do they think that makes their ratings and scores more legitimate? By the way, most of them score on the 100 point scale and say they know what a 94 tastes like at least as well as the other guys who know what a 94 tastes like. I think Oliver Sacks wrote a New Yorker piece on a man who thought he knew what numbers tasted like. The guy had brain damage.

I think it’s stupid to pretend objectivity when you’re a critic of anything. We know that the critics we like have prejudices. We might even admire his taste in prejudices. A movie critic doesn’t go to a movie and not know who the director is. They don’t have special films made without the credits for a movie critic to view. They don’t send book reviewers galleys that don’t have the author’s name on them. They don’t blindfold Hugh Hefner and give him foldouts that only have Scratch ‘n’ Sniff.

Let’s grow up, wine critics, and forget the blind tasting claims. I think we’ll get numbers that taste better.


I read somewhere that there are more than a thousand wine blogs. Isn’t “blog” kind of a stupid word? It sounds like something you hork up when you have a nasty chest cold, or you’ve been smoking unfiltered Camels for 30 years. Or maybe it’s what camels hork up. A thousand wine blogs sounds like 995 too many to me. Isn’t there something we can do about there being too many wine blogs? Yes, I know, we can simply not read them, and, let’s be honest, even the most popular wine blog gets fewer hits than a YouTube video of a cat using my balls as a scratching post. I miss that cat. I love a good subordinate claws. But even if no one reads wine blogs, it bothers me that they exist. I don’t have anything to do with wine-of-the-month clubs, but it bothers me that they exist too. Are there that many jackasses to support that many wine-of-the-month clubs? It bothers me that there are.

I think wine bloggers should voluntarily start removing their blogs from the Internet. I don’t mean stop writing them, I mean deleting them. We love the Internet, it’s a modern miracle, let’s not leave all this crap just laying around for someone else to clean up. Let’s start with that HoseMaster of Wine. I don’t know about you, but I think he’s about as funny as leprosy.


There’s been too much talk lately about natural wines. Some people even call them naked wines, but that seems counterproductive if you like them. I think most naked things are disgusting, don’t you? When critics and winemakers talk about natural wine I start to get nauseated. Just another wine term no one can accurately define, like “terroir,” and “Meritage,” and “profit.” They make it sound like natural wine is better. These are people who wear a lot of makeup and carefully groom their body hair. Apparently, wine is better when it’s natural, but people are not. I think I’d trust the people who promote natural wine more if they had eyebrows like mine, and abundant nose hair, and unshaven legs. They mostly wear too much unnatural makeup.

I’ve tasted a lot of natural wines and too many of them are terrible. A lot of unnatural wines are terrible too. Can’t we just call crap crap and leave it at that? Crap is a word I can define. You’re reading it.

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. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Linoleum Project™--Philosophy First, Winemaking Second

Harvest is in full swing here at Splooge Estate, and while our neighbors are bringing in their incredibly boring Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—the so-called “workhorse” grapes (“workhouse” because their only worth is to get you plowed)—we’re harvesting more important varieties, varieties you haven’t heard of. The best and most obscure are earmarked for The Linoleum Project™. We thought we’d take a moment of your time to explain in a bit more detail the philosophy behind the wines of The Linoleum Project™. Unlike most wines produced, these are not wines aimed at pleasure. These are wines meant to express the ultimate meaninglessness of life, the charade of importance that is human existence—the very things that make you want to drink. Everyone pays lip service to a philosophy of winemaking, but they put the cart before the workhorse. At The Linoleum Project™ we put philosophy first, and winemaking a distant second. We believe in winemaking by philosophy. We are teachers first, winemakers second. We truly believe in the old saw that, “Those who can do, those who Kant philosophize.”

Perhaps the best way to understand our winemaking by philosophy is to understand how each individual wine is made, how philosophy and overthinking combine to make wines that reflect not only their terroir, but each person’s hopelessness in the face of a godless universe. Certainly one can enjoy wines that only express a sense of place, a minerally and precise Grand Cru Chablis, for example. But there is a price to be paid for living an unexamined life. Isn’t it far more rewarding and satisfying to murder an innocent oyster with a blunt knife and then wash it down with a crisp white wine that celebrates not only the oyster’s salinity, but your own feeling that life is worthless, nothing but a snotty slide down eternity’s esophagus? Of course. Welcome to our world.

2014 Gaglioppo
The vineyard that is the source of our Gaglioppo is in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. While many wineries have complained about the unfortunate earthquake that struck the region this year, at The Linoleum Project™ we celebrate it. In truth, our Gaglioppo perfectly reflects its tumultuous terroir. Put your nose in a glass of any vintage. What do you smell? Faults! You might be tempted to think that those faults are the result of poor winemaking. This reflects your usual simpleminded approach to wine, an approach that believes pleasure is wine’s chief goal. Don’t feel bad. Your limited intelligence is how you became one of our mailing list customers. In truth, it’s philosophy that defines our Gaglioppo.

When we reflect upon our own character, it’s our faults that plague us. As Kafka memorably put it, “Wir sind ein Haufen Scheisse.” (“We’re a pile of shit,” which considering his intestinal problems, is a loose translation.) So not only will our 2014 Gaglioppo reflect its origins in Calabria, it will also reflect man’s ultimate unworthiness. We are our faults, and our faults are us. We live our lives trying to embrace our faults. It’s this basic philosophy that informs the wines of The Linoleum Project™. If you love our wines, you must embrace faults. You cannot love yourself if you cannot love our faulty Gaglioppo. This is how wine can enrich your life—through following philosophy instead of cold, hard, unfeeling chemistry.

2014 Ebola Gialla
We very much like the look of our 2014 Ebola Gialla clusters. Ebola Gialla is a very rare variety, thought to be Ribolla Gialla crossed with a fruit bat. Over the past few vintages, our Ebola has done very poorly with the press. James Laube called it, “maybe the worst white wine I’ve ever had that wasn’t Grüner.” Robert Parker thought it “despicable, though it helped me lose some weight.” Jon Bonné says our Ebola is “maybe the finest white wine coming out of Napa Valley, though, in truth, I hate wine.” These quotes are exactly the point of our Ebola.

At The Linoleum Project™ we take a nihilistic approach to our Ebola. Nietzche is our guiding light, and it was his assertion that all values are baseless, that absolutely nothing can be communicated, that nothing is known. This is the precise basis for all scoring systems and wine reviews—indeed the 100 point scale is baseless, and wine descriptions communicate nothing. “Nothing is known” is pretty much the resumé for Neal Martin.  So it seems appropriate as a philosophy of winemaking as well.  We even take it a step further, utilizing the truth of existential nihilism (not just Nihilism Lite)—the certainty that life itself is meaningless. Then isn’t winemaking itself meaningless? Isn’t trying to assign meaning to wine futile and ignorant? Isn’t this apparent when you read wine blogs? Our Ebola reflects the words of Nietzche, “Nihilism is . . . not only the belief that everything deserves to perish; but one actually puts one’s shoulder to the plough; one destroys” Starting with your liver.

We encourage you to share a glass of our Ebola at your next meaningless meal with someone you don’t particularly care lives or dies. This is more than likely yourself.

2014 Tannat
Tannat is a variety that has gained some popularity in recent years, perhaps because, like life itself, it’s the same thing backwards or forwards. In France, Tannat is the primary grape in Madiran, and an important component of many wines from Cahors. In terms of philosophy, it may have been tempting to place Descartes before Cahors, or maybe mullah over how mad Iran is. But, fundamentally, at The Linoleum Project™ we hate Tannat. Which is why each vintage we seek it out. We don’t believe in working with varieties we actually enjoy. That would give us pleasure, and pleasure leads to complacency, a quality prevalent in winemaking today. No, we make our Tannat with a focus on anhedonia, and we think that makes it taste better because it is incapable of delivering taste.

In our view, too often we expect pleasure from wine. We reach for a bottle with an expectation of joy and sensual pleasure. Only to be routinely disappointed. We want you to know that our Tannat is made with the philosophy that life is better when you are unable to experience happiness, and that our wine is designed to make sure you do not. In this respect, our Tannat shares much with rating wines on a numerical scale, for isn’t that very scale about anhedonia? Can you consume a wine rated 89 and enjoy it knowing that somewhere someone richer than you, smarter than you, and better looking than you is drinking a wine rated 100? When you drink 89 point wine aren’t you denying yourself pleasure, illustrating your basic self-contempt, but, more importantly, not caring. Not caring because you cannot feel joy anyway? This is our Tannat in a nutshell.

Enjoy it alone, in the darkness of your soul, with a nice venison stew.

Monday, September 8, 2014

IPOB Attacks!

When a hooded member of IPOB trepanned James Laube with a Coravin, and the rebel group posted the video on YouTube, the wine community responded with outrage. It’s a graphic and horrifying video, the gaunt Laube appearing stoic as the Coravin’s needle penetrates his skull, the instrument of torture replacing the fetid air inside Laube’s head with a neutral Argon gas. “No one will be able to tell the difference in Laube’s reviews,” IPOB said in a written statement, “we just wanted everyone to get a little taste of what’s in there. Oddly, we noticed the escaping gas smelled distinctly of skunk.” The statement was entitled, “O Mercaptan! My Mercaptan!”

The trepanation of Laube, explained by the hooded IPOB thug in the video as “putting a C-hole in the A-hole,” was just the most recent offense carried out by the mysterious group of winemakers known as IPOB. To the media, “IPOB” is always said to stand for “In Pursuit of Balance.” But, according to anonymous insiders, the group’s acronym actually stands for “Incredibly Pretentious Organized Blowhards.” In the past couple of years, IPOB has managed to terrorize the wine establishment with its blend of propaganda, fear-mongering and dreadfully dull seminars, all aimed at achieving their ultimate goal—total wine domination.

After Laube’s public trepanation, his employer, Wine Spectator, released this statement: 

“The Coravin-ing of James Laube will not, in any way, deter us from our mission of reducing every wine to a single number up to 100. Winemakers around the world work tirelessly each vintage to produce their wines, risking everything they own, laboring long hours every day, simply for the opportunity to have their efforts summed up by Wine Spectator in a number. We will not disappoint the vintners of the world by succumbing to one terrorist group’s insane call for ‘balance.’ Wine is, and always has been, about alcohol. The call for balance is a thinly disguised neo-Prohibitionist movement, and our colleague Laube’s glorified noogie only demonstrates how un-balanced members of IPOB are.”

Only weeks before, IPOB had claimed credit for the Napa earthquake. “Until owners and winemakers in Napa Valley back off on their obscene ripeness levels and begin to make wines the way God intended—under 13% alcohol—we will continue to use our massive accumulative brain power to destroy the very ground under them.” Seismologists at Cal Tech deny the possibility that IPOB could have triggered a massive quake with their minds noting, “Randall Grahm isn’t even a member.”

Wine terrorist experts are fearful that IPOB has become more and more desperate, and may resort to even more dangerous techniques to try and enforce their beliefs. According to records recently released under the Freedom of Information act, the group had plans to kidnap Robert Parker, Jr and force him to give high scores to the wines made by members of IPOB by waterboarding him with Ribolla Gialla. The plan nearly worked, and certainly would have worked if they’d made the Ribolla into wine first. “Hard to shove those grapes down his nostrils,” one member wryly remarked.

IPOB, according to yet another report, had plans to disrupt the annual Zinfandel tasting organized by its archrival ZAP. A few members of IPOB were planning to form a human barrier to the event by handcuffing themselves together linked to a powerful explosive device and blocking the entrance, but their plans were foiled when hackers for ZAP quickly discovered a way around the Peay wall.

Little is known about how winemakers are recruited for IPOB. Membership information is closely guarded, and the organization is tight-lipped about the actual process. Many who have attempted to join IPOB have been scorned, usually because their wines are said to lack “balance.” Yet a cursory glimpse of IPOB’s roster seems to indicate absolute randomness in who is accepted into its ranks, and who is not. There seems to be something more than “balance” in play, something else that decides what wines are up to Parr. There have been accusations that IPOB uses “balance” as a determining factor for wine the same way Republicans use “valid ID” when it comes to voting—as a red herring. And everyone knows a red doesn’t go with herring.

The brutal and escalating fight over “balance” didn’t begin with IPOB, however. Other businesses have claimed exclusive ownership of the word. FOX News laid claim to being “Fair and Balanced” with equal authority. Creating “balanced” budgets allows our legislative branches a way to legitimize income inequality. Cereal companies sell junk food to kids as “balanced” breakfasts.  Humans love the idea of balance. Most think they know it when they have it, know it when they taste it, know it better than anyone else. They crave it, they admire it, and they fall for it every time. What sort of balance is that?

James Laube was released unharmed, claiming the trepanning didn’t even hurt. “Hell,” Laube said, “I’m a numbskull.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Be a Successful Sommelier

Having the letters “M.S.” after your name doesn’t mean you’re a sommelier. A sommelier works in a restaurant. From the several dozen I’ve met, judging by their occupations, I was pretty sure “M.S.” stood for “Master Shill.” I, also, have letters after my name, letters I awarded myself for my particularly vast knowledge of wine, and who better to recognize that vast knowledge than me?, but the letters, “H.M.W.,” are often misunderstood. Most people assume “H.M.W.” stands for “HoseMaster of Wine.” I can understand the confusion. But, in fact, they stand for “His Majesty of Wine.” It’s only my humility that keeps me from pointing it out more often. Though I’ll thank you all to address me properly in the future. It’s a bit pretentious, but I don’t make the rules. So from now on it’s, “His Royal Highness, Commander of Wine, HoseMaster of Wine the First.” I love titles!

For the rest of my sage advice on how to be a great sommelier, you'll have to jump over to Tim Atkin's award-winning wine site. Leave plenty of witty comments, and a small gratuity for the busboy.

Tim Atkin, MW