Monday, May 23, 2016

Jackson Family Wineries Buys HoseMaster of Wine™

Following on the success of its purchase of Steve Heimoff, Jackson Family Wines announced today that it has agreed to buy HoseMaster of Wine™. Jackson Family Wines owner Barbara Banke had this to say about the sale:

“I just like to buy people. It’s one thing to buy a guy’s label and then make a mockery of him. That’s a hoot. I laugh every time I run into Robert Pepi, or those Murphys and Goodes. I unload amazing amounts of plonk thanks to their fine names. But it’s even more entertaining to buy writers. Steve was my first purchase, and, you know, my boots have never been licked cleaner in print. Gus taught him something, at least. But Steve is one of those nice writers. When he was at Wine Enthusiast, he always gave my wines high scores. I felt like he wanted to be bought. The HoseMaster of Wine™ is a butthole, and I thought it would be wise to just buy him and make him say nice things about our wines. I tried to buy advertising for his site, but he doesn’t take advertising. What the hell kind of wine publication doesn’t take advertising as graft? Come on, that’s how the wine business has always worked. That just makes my job harder. I finally figured out to buy writers like him. HoseMaster of Wine™ is our second purchase, but it won’t be the last.”

Many in the wine trade have bemoaned the consolidation of small wine writers under corporate umbrellas, but others note that it’s a natural progression from free junkets, lavish dinners and boundless free wine samples. “Why shouldn’t successful wine bloggers sell the only thing they have of value, their reputation, to the highest bidder?” asks industry expert Peter Payola. “I think the HoseMaster of Wine™ deserves every penny he received, and I’m sure, just like Steve Heimoff, he’ll continue to insist he retains his objectivity and integrity, though both are clearly on loan from Ms. Banke. It’s the beauty of the internet age, really. Readers only insist on the surface appearances being believable. Truth is for suckers. Politicians have known this for centuries.”

Banke is pioneering a new kind of wine journalism. There have always been wine publications that hire competent wine writers to write stories on behalf of wineries who want some publicity and great reviews. These “Pay for Play” publications are often the major source of income for wine writers who would otherwise be waiting tables and printing business cards on their home computer that say “Sommelier.” Issues of magazines like The SOMM Journal are packed with articles that are transparently advertorials, written by wine writers (in the loosest definition of the words) who are not so much interested in a byline as they are in a buyline. It was Banke’s inspiration to cut out the middleman, and rather than pay the magazine, just buy the damned writer.

“Look,” Banke said, “those magazines are essentially vanity press. I mean, who reads that crap? Every article is 500 words in search of a toilet. They have the depth of a back label, but without the insight. You’d think those wine writers would have some pride. Yeah, I know, that’s stupid. I wanted some vanity press of my own, but I can afford better writers! I’m lovin’ it, and it’s good for business. That HoseMaster guy, he’s a clown, an opinionated know-it-all. But I can use him against those Foley wines, and the Constellation group, the fucking Gallos, and have some fun. I’d sic him on Treasury, but that’s like kicking a castrato in the nuts—adding insult to surgery.”

If Banke’s strategy is successful, it is sure to spawn imitators. Many think it’s just another of Barbara’s hobbies. Her late husband Jess Jackson was fond of horse racing and collected front runners. Barbara has made it clear, judging from recent purchases, that she also loves horse flesh, though of the sort between which the tail resides. Others think it was daring and brilliant to buy a wine writer or two and see if they can maintain their image of independence and disinterest. The move is just a logical next step in the company’s wine acquisitions.

“Jackson Family Wineries is not just known for its large collection of winemakers and wineries,” says wine industry analyst Peter Payola, “they’re also known for their fine museum quality collection of Master Sommeliers, who reside in Banke’s private estate zoo, their own career Hearse Castle, but who also travel the world performing tricks for actual working sommeliers, wine buyers, and others with mental disabilities. It’s wonderful to see how many of the MSs can fit into a little tiny car! I think Jackson Family Wineries will continue to acquire Master Sommeliers, though, frankly, they have almost no resale value.

“Buying Steve Heimoff was a stroke of genius,” Payola continued. “He’s no fool. He can continue to endlessly wax emetic about wines produced by Jackson Family Wineries, proclaim Trumpishly that he can’t be bought, that he is only doing what he does for his supporters, but Banke can rest assured he won’t crap where he sleeps. He’s got a doggy for that.”

Other wine writers have been rumored to be on the auction block. Hell, let’s face it, every wine writer is on the auction block. Astrologically speaking, wine writers are born under the same sign—For Sale. As this is written, dozens of “objective” wine journalists are on junkets paid for by large wine companies or collectives, participating in the wine business’s version of “The Amazing Race.” Log onto their blogs, read the thinly-disguised, prepaid propaganda of their amazing wine journeys and discoveries along the way, and see if you can discern, “Where’s Dildo?” Wherever the wine writers travel the wines are “overlooked,” “underrated,” and “the next big thing.” When these wine writers travel, they have to travel light—no sense packing your palate.

Objectivity and integrity in wine writing are basically the tonsils and appendix—strictly vestigial organs. Only somebody else pays to have them removed.

Who will be the next big acquisition by Banke, or one of the other major players? Buying the HoseMaster of Wine™ was a risky move. He’s been described as a “loose cannon,” especially by people sitting next to him on the bus after his breakfast burrito. But Jackson Family Wineries has a long history of savvy purchases in wineries, Master Sommeliers and winemakers. Though most would argue you need a satirist on your marketing payroll like you need a beaver on your rugby team.

The HoseMaster of Wine™ could not be reached for comment.


Thomas said...

"the depth of a back label"

The phrase sang to me.

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, one of your finest -- ever!!!

David said...

Sad to see you go, HoseMaster...

I hope you got it all paid out in 375-ml bottles of Meiomi Pinot, you old sod!
Must have been at least worth 2 or 7 of those on the Bloggers' Acker, Merrall & Condit auction...
Barbara might have to make Maureen Downey have a look at your provenance to make sure that you're not a fake - tell us how the inspection goes, please.

Thanks for another chuckling monday,


obillo said...

The Hidden Gems, Ron! What about the Hidden Gems??

Mark Rader said...

Yours is a rich and fertile imagination, Ron. Diseased, to be sure, but no less rich and fertile. I suspect your choice of fertilizer has contributed to the disease.

PaulG said...

Kendall-Washam Chardonnay anyone?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

When I read articles in much of the wine press, they often read like back labels--derivative, jejune marketing. Some back labels are better written. It's not journalism, it's copy writing.

Thanks. Not sure if that's a compliment, but I'll take it like that. Great to see you here again--don't be such a lurker.

I've been inspected by Maureen Downey and she said I was a fake because I had mold in all the wrong places. This was right after she said, "Cough."

Yeah, Hidden Gems! I've got nothing against bloggers and writers taking junkets, if they want to travel the world for free, why not? But stop pretending the followup article is not payback, not Pay for Play. No one believes that! You're defending your integrity to folks who don't care and know better. It's fine. It's how the world works. You're a stupid wine writer, not Seymour Hersh. Get over yourself.

"Imagination is funny/It makes a cloudy day sunny/It makes a bee think of honey..." What old song is that? Oh, that's right "Imagination." Yup, I'm rather a strange soul.

That's me, my friend, cheap and sweet.

Charlie Olken said...

Give my regards to Steve on your next junket together.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I will if I see him. I'm usually in a crate in the luggage compartment while Gus is in First Class with STEVE!

Unknown said...

Hosey, you ROCK!!
Sue Straight

Unknown said...

I can't read your blog on the subway or bus because it makes me laugh out loud and people are looking at me like I'm crazy. But that's NYC for ya.

Joel said...

Geez Ron;
If I knew you were this 'easy' to buy, I would have signed you up last year to write copy for our store, especially to suck in some of the local Microsofties!
ps--loved it--in the best tradition of John Oliver--I am sure Steve appreciates it, too!

Carl Giavanti said...

Ron, I just wanted to say that none of the wine writers and reviewers I work with fall into this category. Sincerely, Carl

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
You had me at butthole. Never not funny. Cannot believe that JFW woman got here first, I was working on asking you for hourly rates....
I love you!

Anonymous said...

"Waxing emetic." So glad I was in between sips of hot coffee when I hit that beautiful phrase. I hope I get bought. This advetorial writing is for the birds.

Unknown said...

Nailed it on The SOMM Journal - made the mistake of subscribing (sight unseen, my bad); upon opening first issue was mystified by both the poor journalism, and difficulty in discerning between 'articles' vs paid advertisements...then realized there's NO difference! Thank God it's not a paid-subscription mag., unlike Wine Speculator :)

SurToby said...

Ahhh brilliance once again! You never fail to wickedly inspire Ron. I especially loved the line about wine writers printing cards proclaiming themselves as sommeliers...
Thanks for making my day that much brighter!

Daniel said...

you can sell your soul to anyone, as long as you don't have to actually drink their wine. 2,000,000 cases of "Chardonnay", so it must be good! (it's probably ten million now days).
why is everyone afraid to admit that they got something for free and are 'paying' them back by writing about it. I'd have more respect if someone was honest about it.
wine needs more humor, please!

clay h. said...


Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks! See you around.

I get it. It's also hard to write this on the bus. I have to pee my pants not to attract attention.

I'm easy to buy, just hard to return. We'll see how STEVE! likes it. And I'm no John Oliver, but he has twelve writers and I don't even have one. Thanks for the kind words.

Of course not. It's only other marketing people who employ panderers, fakes and shills. But they keep them busy.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Hell, you know me, you can rent me by the minute and have the same results. Save a buck.

I love you, too!

Comedy is all about surprise and word choice. Thanks for laughing. No shame in making a buck, my friend, just know what you're being paid to do. I know you do. Great to see you at the Garagiste event. Some weird wines there...

The ads are on the right hand side of the magazine because that's where eyes go first. True even in legit magazines. Other than that, you're right. They're all ads in SOMM Journal.

You're too kind. It's not so much brilliance as it is outrage and candor. And that sick mind Mark referred to.

I couldn't agree more. It's the transparent disingenuousness of it all that offends. They treat us like we're stupid. I have friends for that, I don't need wine writers to do it.

Tom In Real Life said...

I met a blogger the other day who asked "what the hell is his problem with millennials?" I said "oh sweetie... it's not your age, it's what you represent. I can't speak for Ron, but my guess is it's your narcissistic self-absorbed compulsion to share every moment and every random thought and your incessant need for validation. That and you have your hand out like a doorman at the Ritz".
One of your best yet Ron. I'd say keep it up but I don't want to unnecessarily encourage you. ;-)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Tom,
The truth is I get asked why I pick on millennials, why I pick on sommeliers, why I pick on natural wine lovers, why I pick on wine writers... Satire is always funny until it's aimed at you, and then it's offensive or mean-spirited or immature or tasteless or not funny.

Everyone in the wine biz makes me laugh. That's my nature. Writing comedy and satire gives me satisfaction. So I do that. What's astonishing is that anyone reads my crap at all.

Thomas said...

Today, I got the next best offer to being bought by a winery. A PR hack asked if I'd like to collect some extra money dropping his clients' links into my articles.

He did not understand my explanation for declining the gig. The word "ethics" is not in his dictionary.

Unknown said...

You had me at the title. Did you know that over the last 2years, JFW went from 0 acres to becoming the largest vineyard land owner in the Willamette Valley? I can't speak for other winemakers, but I, for one, welcome our new corporate overlords

SteveH said...

Actually, Hosie, once we buy you, you'll be able to get out of that nasty coach section (where your fat ass can barely fit) and join me and Gus on the JFW jet! [signed] STEVE! and the Guster.

Steve not STEVE H said...

When you slow down in a few years will you be put out to stud down at Stonestreet Farms? I'll bet that was the most important part of STEVE H's deal.

Dean Tudor said...

Oh Hell, I mis-read your headline....

I thought you said Hosemaster had bought Jackson Family Estates.

My bad, my mistake, back to my cage, sackcloths and ashes, humble pie for dinner.

Thought for the day:

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Adam Lechmere chose to leave me out of that story. I should send him a thank you. Adam finds me rather dull in person, he's written, which is accurate. I was thrilled to be part of the NV Professional Wine Writers' Symposium whether Adam noticed me or not. Some Brits love me, some actively don't. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

my little winery can't afford to buy somebody like you or steve, or anybody, really. do you think there is a rental market? after all, i really only need a wine writer once in a while, and i don't want to work directly with the pay to play publications [that seems a bit sleazy].

Ron Washam, HMW said...

You can rent Used Writers, though now we call them Previously Owned Writers. There are lots of them. Just read the list of Contributing Writers for SOMM Journal and pick one.

Marcia Macomber said...

Of course JFW bought Herr Hosé! Glad someone's got some money around here. Does this mean you have to stop using the exclamation point after STEVE!'s name?

I expect to see a string of glowing posts on JFW for the next month...or two! (Is it possible to do glowing and satire simultaneously????)

Happy long wine-y weekend! :-)

Anonymous said...

So now that JFW owns you dick, sock and barrel, I imagine they'll come up with a user-friendly, highly gluggable, high octane 'Washam Down Red' and 'Washam Down White', just to keep the masses of hardly working dead dulled and happy while they're waiting for Trump's inaugural speech.

John Logan said...

Encore! One of your best pieces yet. Hits the target squarely.

Don Clemens said...

I had already laughed out loud several times with this post. And then: "Astrologically speaking, wine writers are born under the same sign—For Sale." You killed it with this one, Ron. Sorry to take so long to get to it - I was on vacation with no WiFi.