Monday, January 5, 2015

What Not to Publish on Your Stupid Wine Blog in 2015

Shut up about alcohol levels, for Christ’s sake. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And what ABV (Alcohol By Verisimilitude) is it that you’re referring to, the number listed on the label? Moron. Those numbers aren’t real, they’re imaginary, guesses made the same way contestants make pricing guesses on “The Price is Right”—they try to take a shot without going over the actual retail alcohol level. Taking the alcohol listed on the label seriously is like believing the guy’s height or the woman’s weight on How stupid are you? The wine is always going to be shorter and fatter than you expected.

For more suggestions about what to avoid writing about on your Stupid Wine Blog, head over to Tim Atkin's award-winning site. And don't forget to add your own insights about topics you'd rather never see again on wine blogs, either at Tim's, or, for those of you cyber-challenged, right here on HoseMaster of Wine™.


Why doesn’t HoseMaster of Wine™ have a Wikipedia page? I wonder about this. There is no end of worthless crap listed on Wikipedia, why not HoseMaster? Who do I talk to about this? Is there a Sultan of Wikipedia who decides this stuff? I don’t really understand how Wikipedia works. Are there any standards? Are there topics that are turned down that are too stupid for Wikipedia? Doesn’t seem like it. Unless HoseMaster of Wine™ was. That might make sense. This shit bothers me.

In the Switcheroo Department, someone robbed the French Laundry.

My wife and I had a lovely Christmas Eve lunch at Tra Vigne in St. Helena. I brought a bottle of 1998 Chateau Rayas, which, is, of course, the perfect foil for Italian food. Rayas was one of my earliest wine epiphanies, and, like a first love (oh, Evelyne, wherefore art thou?), it forever has a grip on me. I’m a sucker for Rayas, and I suspect that even if the bottle had been seriously corked, I wouldn’t have had the mental acuity to notice, or, if I had, I’d have forgiven it, as one would forgive an old flame with irritable bowel syndrome (Oh, Evelyne, wherefore fart thou?) The ’98 Rayas was grand. It’s the benchmark for Grenache, don’t you think? I wish I could afford it now. While Rayas has had its ups and downs over the past thirty years, it would certainly be on my list of the Great Wines of the World. Speaking of which, for Christmas dinner at home, a beautiful prime rib, we opened 1995 Ridge Monte Bello. Wow. It’s easy to say that Monte Bellos deserve 20 years of age, and another thing to keep it that long, but, well, this bottle of Monte Bello was inspirational. A wine that reminds me of why I fell in love with wine shared with the woman who not only puts up with me, but truly loves me. Such a perfect Christmas.

One of the strangest challenges of writing HoseMaster has been trying to understand what makes a particular piece take off. Many times, maybe even most of the time, I publish a piece and I think, man, that piece is just going to die. No one will like it. It’s not funny enough. It rambles and rambles and doesn’t go anywhere. And then, BANG, that piece takes off. It lights up on Twitter, it makes the rounds of eBob or wineberserkers, and everyone starts to comment on it. The piece “The Emperor in Winter” was like that. I was sure it would tank. Instead, it gets enormous buzz. Then I’ll write a piece I love and, PLOP, it just lies there like a bad date. For the most part, I’ve given up trying to predict a piece’s popularity. But I think about it often, and then I’m really damned sure I’ve got it figured out--but I don’t. Not at all. You people are nuts.



voice of reason said...

Happy New Year Ron!

Rayas is 'da bomb, and I am glad your holidays were grand.

Unknown said...

Ron You picked 2 Beauties. Wine that transcend fashion and the vagaries of the market place. Even if they were not bottled under a 1/4th moon and sulfites were added before bottling! Bob Millman

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I only wish I had bought more Rayas back in the day, though, actually, I probably couldn't have, it was allocated even back then. So I'm down to my precious few.

This "Ephemera" section is just a way for me to publish random wine thoughts, as well as anything else I damn well please. I can sit and write them down as the week progresses, and that keeps me more involved in my stupid blog. I don't know how it will go over, but, as ever, not sure I care. The focus is always on the main piece, today over at Tim's site, but the "Ephemera" are fun distractions for me.

Agreed. Although, from what I know of the man, Jacques Reynaud could be a bit on the eccentric side. I had a friend who traveled to Rayas to taste with him, but because it was a full moon, he wouldn't taste his wines in barrel. I never care how a guy makes a profoundly great wine, I only care that he makes a profoundly great wine.

Charlie Olken said...

Why can't you write a piece without resorting to gutter talk? One would think that you are trying to recapture your lost youth--or you are just a fucking boor or bore.

And besides, who the hell is Mort Hochstein? Maybe a German Jew? OK, that may be in bad taste, but "Hoch" "Stein"? It was too easy to not notice.

I hope Tim Atkins is paying you a lot of money, because I can't see any love coming your way from the blokes.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

It would be hard to imagine that I'm writing this crap so that love comes my way. And I'm fine on that score anyway. I've just purchased two Asian brides. Lo will be very upset.

It's funny, when I get a comment from a prude like that one over at Tim's, I find it sort of refreshing and sad at the same time. The piece didn't really need the profanity, but, this time, it just felt right. That people cringe at the foul language, and miss the point of the post in the meantime, is kind of touching in a weird way.

The more these "gutter expletives" infiltrate the culture, the less power they have to shock. That might be a good thing...

Bob Henry said...

Aside: some years ago, I found the 1988 Rayas on the wine list of Peppone's restaurant in Brentwood (California). Restaurateur-turned-Napa Valley vintner Gianni Paoletti had a long-standing policy of selling wines off the wine list to patrons. I took advantage of it. 85 bucks a bottle. A gift on his pricing.

Ron, to your comment:

"Just once I want a winemaker to say, 'I make really good wines, but they suck with food. . . .'"

Here arew the closest quotes I can find.

Excerpt from the Napa Valley Register
(January 22, 2010):

"The Collapse of Cabernet"


By Dan Berger
"On Wine" Column

For more than a decade, I have hoped for a miracle. Then last week I realized the worst: Cabernet sauvignon has changed so appreciably that I fear we’ll never see it in the way we once did.

Cabernet has undergone a makeover that has, probably forever, made it little more than a parody of itself, entering a realm that 20 years ago I never would have believed.

Today, California cabernet is a virtual wine, made to be consumed as an aperitif and as young as possible. A long book could be devoted to this sad tale of decline. What follows is a brief look at the collapse of what once was California’s most prized possession.

. . .

The most telling — and damaging — aspect of today’s cabernets is what I hear from wine makers, and always off the record. The phrasing may differ, but the sentiment is the same: “I may make cabernet, but I don’t drink it any more.”

. . .

-- AND --

Excerpt from the Napa Valley Register
(March 21, 2013):

"Blind Tasting and Alcohol"


By Dan Berger
"On Wine" Column

The comment was unsolicited and surprised me by its bluntness — and notably because it came from a respected Sonoma County wine maker who makes a well-regarded cabernet.

“I don’t drink my cab,” he said. “I just make it. It has too much alcohol for me.”

His remark was uttered about eight years ago in the midst of a blind tasting of 12 cabernets, one of which was his, and was followed by knowing nods from the other wine makers in the tasting.

More alcoholic wine sells better than better balanced wine, said a few of the wine makers, “and we have to make what sells,” said one.

. . .

Dean Tudor said...

Hi Ron -- You need a wit sharpener like Peter De Vries was for the New Yorker. Or maybe you are Peter De Vries...He died, but you could be him (but alive!!)

He was my hero...Now you are...Awesome writing!!!

Cold up here in Canada right now, -18 degrees Celsius (that's French, you know)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

At one time, Peppone's was the great wine list secret in LA. Congrats on the Rayas sting! Good work. I always loved the '88, but it was the '78 that changed my life.

I'll see Dan Berger this evening at a Riesling shootout. I'm sure some of this will come up, along with the Riesling.

That's far too kind, Dean, but much needed and appreciated. I'm not in the De Vries league, though, perhaps I'll get closer with some good De Vriesling tonight.

Man, that's cold. We're complaining here is Sonoma cuz it's 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is German for "erect nipples."

PaulG said...

Ron, I don't read Atkin's blog (can't understand the British accent) but I like your ephemera. It reminds me a bit of my Facebook meanderings. Speaking of which, I still hope our meanderings will leave us in the same place at the same time for an evening of shared wines and stories. Meanwhile, best wishes for a New Year filled to the brim with Hose-annas!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

What a coincidence--I don't read FaceBook. I can't understand cats.

Thanks. The Ephemera isn't intended to be much more than snapshots of my winesoaked brain. I appreciate the vote of confidence.

I, too, hope our paths cross one day. We came close. Almost happened. I'm still Waitsburging for Godot.

Bob Henry said...

Yup – 1978 was a special “to die for” vintage for Rhones.

At one time, Peppone had the 1985 Cheval Blanc on their wine list for . . . $250? . . . less than the selling price of a “cult” California Cab like Araujo.

I still kick myself for not pulling the trigger, on a wine that Michael Broadbent, M.W. was rhapsodic about -- calling it "perfect."

The other treasure trove of wines was Taix restaurant in Silverlake (a neighborhood in Los Angeles).

The grandson Michael Taix, a classmate in Robert Balzer's wine appreciation course at the time, had no idea I had "[Bob] Uecker-ed him" when I dropped in one night to peruse his list . . . and snagged every bottle of their 1985 Caymus "Special Selection" Cabernet for the princely sum of 75 bucks each.

(This Wine Spectator "Wine of the Year" was going for $150 to $200 at auction.)

But Michael good-naturedly congratulated me on ferreting out this "wine arbitrage" buying opportunity.

Bob Henry said...

"Euphemera" (a.k.a. odds 'n' sodds)

What's old is new again . . .

From NewScientist:

"Alcohol Archaeology:
I recreate beverages with heritage"

[Resurrecting ancient beers and wines is a subtle alchemy, but Patrick McGovern knows all the tricks. He directs the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.]


-- AND --

From the Los Angeles Times
(January 11, 2011):

“Ancient winery found in Armenia;
The 6,000-year-old winery in a cave in Armenia had all the necessary equipment, including a grape press, fermentation vats and storage jars."


By Thomas H. Maugh II
Times Staff Writer

-- AND --

From the Los Angeles Times “Main News” Section
(Saturday, December 11, 2004, Page A28):

“Hints of 9,000-Year-Old Wine is Unearthed in China”


From Reuters News Service

Unknown said...

Well count me amongst the offended. How dare you bad-mouth winemaker interviews. What else are winemakers supposed to do while their assistant winemakers are making wine? A lot of those "winemakers" couldn't tell a plate-and-frame from an ikea table.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Happy to offend! I think the worst winemaker interviews are the ones that are simply questions submitted by email that the winemaker answers. The same tired questions followed by routine answers.

Mike Dunne pointed out to me that I'd forgotten to mention one of the quintessential winemaker questions and answers, "Which wine that you make is your favorite?" The answer, say it along with me, "Oh, I don't know, it's like choosing your favorite child." Shit like that makes me grieve.

Unknown said...

I think that answer would be funnier if you replaced "favorite" with "biggest disappointment"