Monday, December 8, 2014

The HoseMaster's Letter to Santa 2014

Dear Santa,

You were so generous to me last year, I feel guilty even writing to you today. You brought me a brand new Coravin last year, which I used to successfully anaesthetize my cat, as well as drink little tiny amounts of all my best wines, which I refuse to share with my undeserving wine friends. “Coravin—because you know wine isn’t really about sharing©.” Screw them, Santa, these are unicorn wines and I only drink them alone or with virgins. And the only virgin who knows anything about wine is Lettie Teague. So thank you for that! Also, thank you for the subscription to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club! As expected, all the wines have been Standard and Poor.

I am writing you today, Santa, but not on my own behalf. I’m older now, Santa, and I have everything I want or need. Though I wouldn’t mind a few more cat patients. Instead, I’m writing to ask for a few things for my colleagues in the wine business, the people who love and care about wine the way I do, and, yet, seem to have lost their way. Maybe you can help them, Santa, maybe you can make the wine world a nicer place in 2015. I hope so.

Santa, don’t you think it’s time for all of the old wine critics, and I mean OLD wine critics, to retire? What are they, the fucking Supreme Court of Wine? Appointed for life? I did notice the uncanny resemblance of James Laube to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Yes, experience is a wonderful thing, and we should honor their many years of guiding us toward the finest wines, but old is old. It’s time to hang it up. The senses start to fade quickly as we age, like the finish of a cheap Prosecco. We smell what we expect to smell instead of what might really be in the glass, we taste what our experience teaches us to taste, and we assign scores that feel right. Of course there’s score inflation in the wine world, Santa, those old farts are getting sentimental. We’re critical in our 30’s and 40’s. After 60, it’s about acceptance, it’s about forgiveness, it’s about 94 and above. So, please, Santa, give my old critic friends the gift of retirement. They’ve had their day, it’s time to pass the battonage.

And while you’re at it, Santa, why not try to wise up some of the younger wine critics? So many of them jockeying for position trying to be the next Robert Parker. Look at Antonio Galloni, trying to buy influence by acquiring Steve Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, and all Tanzer’s elves along with it. The Vinous acquisition of IWC reminds me of “Dancing with the Stars.” Some C List celebrity trying to curry favor by dancing with a washed up icon and thinking it will revive a career. It’s beneath both of them, like a midget dancing with Sofia Vergara. Santa, can you please let them know that there won’t be another Parker, and that, truthfully, that’s a good thing for wine. Give them the gift of contentment. They’re good critics, informed critics, talented critics—they have no place at the top of the wine review heap.

I know this is a lot to ask, Santa. But I wouldn’t ask you if it weren’t really important, if the very future of wine and wine journalism weren’t at stake. I just have a few more requests, bear with me.

Please, Santa, convince God He’s not Matt Kramer. Much simpler than the reverse.

And, Santa, remind those In Pursuit of Balance that pursuing it requires knowing what to do with it if you catch it. The donkey has been In Pursuit of the Carrot for a hundred years, and he’s still just an ass.

Make the discussions about Natural Wine go away, Santa. The only people who care are very troubled people. They’re the Mormon missionaries of wine, convinced of their own truths, and seeking converts in every backwater. I’m tired of reading about them, weary of their smugness and willful ignorance. I can get that from wine blogs. Wine has given in to the fashionable fanaticism that characterizes our age, and we all suffer. But, in the end, there is money to be made there, a niche to fill, a lonely choir to preach to, so just do your best, Santa. Do it with minimal intervention.

Just for laughs, Santa, make wineries tell the truth about their production levels. Let regular wine folks know that Silver Oak is about as hard to get as food poisoning from a Tijuana taco truck. That Opus One is about as exclusive as the Hair Club for Men. I’d appreciate it.

Maybe you could deliver a nice Christmas gift to Dr. Conti in prison, Santa. I’m thinking maybe a lovely Pardon from the Governor. Fake, of course. But it looks real. Only the Governor wasn’t in office in 1936.

I hope that this year, Santa, the wine business will see the true meaning of Christmas. That would be a first. James Suckling could rate the Virgin Birth 100 Points—“There’s good old conception, and then there’s Immaculate Conception. This one is perfect. God slipped it to Mary like I did to Wine Spectator.” Robert Parker could give 100 Points to countless wines. Wow! He has! Fast work, Santa, thank you. Bill Koch could donate his fake wines to homeless sommeliers, who wouldn’t know the difference anyway. Marvin Shanken could generously endow a wine writer scholarship for terminal patients whose last wish is to review wines—the Make-A-Fish Foundation. Oh, but I’m dreaming, Santa.

I’m simply grateful 2014 is almost over, Santa. I’m amazed I made it another year since my last letter to you. I think everyone will agree I’ve been in the business too long, that my bit is tired, my voice grating, my outrage tiresome, and my jokes lame. So, Santa, if you can, give me some inspiration to continue. When I wake on Christmas morning, I want to find courage in my stocking, and wit. I want to find wisdom and talent under the tree. I want to find laughter and honesty all wrapped up neatly. I’m about out of all of those things. So please bring them this Christmas, Santa. Please.

I hope to write you a letter again next year.


LeoFerrando said...

And Santa, please also make us happy by keeping Ron stocking filled, all year around, with wisdom and courage, inspiration and laugther, honesty and wit. Cheers !

Blaise said...

You got it, Leo. And be sure Santa delivers a mixed pallet of good wine in six-packs for easy handling (I'm sure those reindeer can handle it if I can).

Unknown said...

"It’s beneath both of them, like a midget dancing with Sofia Vergara." Who but the HoseMaster thinks this way? I am still laughing.

Batmang said...

There are always great lines like "it's time to pass the battonage" to be found the Hosemaster's musings. Thank you for the laughs in 2014. I look forward to more in 2015.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Leo,
Thanks, and Happy Holidays. Santa better bring me plenty of those things--I'm damned near out.

Now we're talking! Free wine! Man, it would be like being a real wine blogger! A Christmas miracle.

You know what's funny, the original line was " dancing with Dolly Parton." Crap, how old am I? So I hipped it up to Sofia Vergara. I'm actually surprised the original line wasn't " dancing with Jayne Mansfield." But let's not lose our head--well, like Jayne did.

Thanks! Welcome to the world of common taters. Make a New Year's resolution to do it more often in 2015.

Blaise said...

Is Santa a wine blogger? Yikes! I thought he drank Bourbon (at least at my house he did).
Still, may your wit wishes come true and your wine not sour.

Samantha Dugan said...

If we're putting requests for things in stockings under the tree, I've got a little something in mind....

Thanks for hanging in there and keeping us entertained, and grounded Love. This business of ours needs you, not nearly as much as I do but still. Thanks for the giggles and I do love you so!

Unknown said...

Soooo sharing. POTY. The Filthy Wine Movement needs to be stopped. Mabs we can get a grant from the Make-A-Fish Foundation.

Unknown said...

Permission to reblog a link?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

No, Santa's not a wine blogger, though he does qualify as one, being a fictional character. I think Alderpated is one of his elves. I know 1WineDoody is.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Oh, the business doesn't need me. But it deserves me. I hope you find exactly what you want under your tree, Samantha.

Meet me under the mistletoe. I love you, too.

I think we should apply to the Make-A-Fish Foundation! I know a Tiny Tim that might have an in. God Bless Us, Every One!

Thanks for chiming in, Steve, and Merry Christmas!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey, what the hell, throw another reblog on the fire!

Always nice to have new faces around here. Thanks for reading.

Bob Henry said...

Nice turn of a phrase:

"Also, thank you for the subscription to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club! As expected, all the wines have been Standard and Poor."

In the spirit of Monty Python, I wish I had written that.



Pinotgraves said...

Now Housemaster, I know you were raised by lapsed Satanists but the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without Original Sin, not her Son's conception. Not that Santa cares...

Unknown said...

When it comes to courage, wit, wisdom, talent and honesty you have it like few others. Our gift is your sharing it with us. Enjoy the holidays.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You will.

Happy Holidays!

Yup, I know that, but Suckling doesn't. And I've run laps with Satanists, alright, and the devil if I can keep up.

Thank you, those are mighty kind words. Happy Holidays. You've wit and talent of your own. I may need to borrow a cup one day.

Thomas said...

Santa--Satan, just a misplaced n.

I'm with Bob: the Standard and Poor line was the best.

Unknown said...

As long as we're delivering presents, how about we deliver some merlot back to the wine shops. It's been over a decade since Sideways, can we please start drinking Merlot again? And how about we deliver a paycheck to some of our favorite bloggers, so we can get more blog posts? Finally, how about we deliver some amnesia to my wife, so she can forget about how much money I spend on wine?

As for Santa, that guy is an anti-semite. He stiffed me every year during my childhood. I personally can't wait until my kid is old enough to tell other kids Santa isn't real.

Charlie Olken said...

Happy Hanukah, one and all. What would Christmas be like without Hanukah so that some people can celebrate twice.

I might wish for some Kosher wine that actually tastes good, but, then again, I don't drink Kosher wine.

But, if I did, I am sure it would be Standard and Poor, which by the way is a brilliant line.

Marcia Macomber said...

Happy HoseMastering, Ron!

My such a plethora of wonderful wishes (and digs). May all of them come true! (Does Santa slide down a hose in your world? or the inside of a tank?)

Oh, my! I see the spambots have been attacking. Now no one can escape Captcha-ing. What is the blog world coming to?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks. Agreeing with Bob Henry. You might want to consult with a specialist.

If you got a paycheck, I got a mailing address. But people won't pay for this, they think I owe it to them because their lives are so miserable. They have a point.

Charlie, Chief Justice of the Wine Supreme Court,
If Kosher wine tasted good, that would be counterproductive to the point of being of the Jewish persuasion, wouldn't it?

Oh, pshaw, brilliant the Standard and Poor line ain't. Plus, I used it two years ago, and no one cared. NOW, it's a great line. Oy.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
Thanks, Gorgeous. Sliding down a hose is not for Santa, but maybe Cosby groupies get it.

Happy Holidays to you, and your dachshund. I just always wanted to say that.

Charlie Olken said...

RE the WSJ and S & P, did you use the S & P line in conjunction with the WSJ? If so, sorry I missed it.

It is the juxtaposition of the two that I liked.

Reddangel said...

I tremble to leave a comment here as walking across the pond aint something I know I can do. But I laugh and laugh at your satirical wit. Are you English?

Thomas said...


He's an elf.

I have to type more here so I can justify the monumental letters I'll have to type to get through the capcha, which always makes me go through at least twice, because I never can figure out if those things are o or a, d or a, n or h, r or n, and so the hell on.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Yes, I used that same exact line in a piece a couple of years back. As with any comic writer (which is what I aspire to be), every once in a while a joke demands to be resurrected. Maybe in this context it was funnier. Context is everything, like a blind joke tasting maybe.

Have no fear, you're always welcome as a common tater here. Don't let the old timers intimidate you--they're just the furniture.

Well, I am part English. My surname is English. But I was raised in the US. Funny, though, you're the second person in a few days to remark that I had an "English" sense of humor. Or, humour.

Thank you for the kind words.

It's weird. The captcha reappeared here unsummoned by me. Some sort of NSA trick to try and keep my common taters confused. Like they aren't already.

Hey, I'm not an elf. I just like pointy shoes.

Quizicat said...

Yup the Standard and Poor line was great. And pardon me if I liked Mr. Conti's line too. Keep it up. Happy Gnu Year!

Samantha Dugan said...

First we're "common" taters and now furniture? Humpf!

I got in this amazing Merlot from Tavel in the Rhone, just lovely wine full of Rhone-like flavors that defy you to quick slurping it...almost didn't bring it in, (nd didn't make it our December Wine of the Month) because it said Merlot on the label. Got this woman in looking of a wine for a holiday party, "something easy drinking and food friendly" so I walk her to this luscious little $12 Merlot and she takes pause, cocks her head and with a slightly pinched face says, "We don't like Merlot" but she took a case anyway. Wouldn't you know it, a day later her husband returned, with the case in hand, missing one bottle and tells me, "We didn't like it, we thought it tasted too Merlot-e". Killed me.

Joe Roberts said...

Nicely played!

If I am one of Santa's elves, does that also make me one of Santa's ho-ho-hos?

Unknown said...

Whenever a customer would return a case of Petrus, complaining it was too "Merlot-e". I'd quietly suggest they would be taken much more seriously if they used "Merlot-ish" instead.

Dean Tudor said...

Greetings from Canada, home of the North Pole and its famous ice wine!!! Dr. Conti should have moved into ice wine since it doesn't seem too regulated abroad.

Anyway, I have a case or two of these spurious liquids...I could send them to you as felicitations and welcomes to the Great White North. Did you know that the MacKenzie Brothers came from the MacKenzie Valley of pipeline fame?

Mac -- Mac -- what's her name? Long blond hair, capital of Canada...anyway, Ron have a Merry and a Happy.....

Samantha Dugan said...

Talk about timing, a reader of mine, in an effort to get me all pissed off and fired up, just sent me a link to a recent post/article from the long haired Mac Mac, one where she paired a, "Panettone Brie Tower with Merlot Wine". Ugh.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Long time, no tater. Happy Wildebeest Year to you, too!

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I keep wondering when the "m" word will come back into play. Consumers can be mighty stubborn. Though when I was a sommelier, I could sell Duckhorn and Paloma all night despite them being Merlot. Some producers get a pass.

Oh, and 'furniture' is a term of endearment. I just couched it poorly.

Thanks for hanging out on my low-class wine blog! I like to think that being an elf is an honor, like being a Hobbit, but without all the pretentious babbling.

Happy Holidays!

Hey Doug,
Petrus is Merlot?! Crap. Now I have to drink all of mine, because we all know Merlot doesn't age well--sort of like Rush Limbaugh.

Hey, the gang's all here! I actually have MacKenzie Brothers action figures! Love that SCTV. My favorite all-time TV comedy series.

Happy Holidays to you, and all my great Canadian readers. Nat, and the other one.

Unknown said...


The other day i told a grocery store wine steward that I was willing to pay up to $20 for a nice bottle of California Merlot. First he tried to sell me the Estancia Central Valley Merlot, which is a standard & poor bottle of $10 plonk. When I said I didn't want that, he tried to sell me a bottle of Loire Valley Cab Franc. Needless to say, I went home with a 6-pack of beer. When are you going to move your wine shop to Portland?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I love the idea of a grocery store wine steward. Really? He's just a glorified stock boy. You need advice from that guy? That's like asking for dating advice from a 12-year-old. Which I did once, and it turns out you can sneeze and pee at the same time. If you're 12.