Thursday, September 1, 2016

Alice in Naturaland, or Through the Isinglass

Lisa Perrotti-Brown was one of the panelists on a seminar about minerality I attended at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers Symposium last January, along with Doug Frost and Jeannie Cho Lee. That’s three MWs and an MS. Four for the price of three, like a BevMo Five Cent Sale, only not a ripoff. Seems like overkill, though I still walked out thinking minerality is to wine what sand is to bathing suits—it might be there, but it’s incredibly irritating how much it comes up.

I never had the chance to speak with Lisa at the Symposium. I never approach famous wine people I may have insulted. Many want to meet the HoseMaster of Wine™, and many really don’t. I am a recluse anyway, so I just wait for people to introduce themselves to me. But a few days after the Symposium, Lisa tweeted that she wished she’d said hello to me, so I tweeted back, and we met for dinner. A lovely friendship was born.

Of course, most of you know Lisa Perrotti-Brown as the Editor-in-Chief of the Wine Advocate. Recently, the Wine Advocate, under her direction, has launched a new website, with a great deal of free content. A few months ago, Lisa approached me asking if I’d be open to writing a satiric piece for the site once a month or so, the aim being to have something more cutting edge on the new site. We had a long talk about it.

My only concern was the obvious one. Nothing is more deadly to a satirist than becoming part of the establishment, or the appearance of same. Except, perhaps, abject poverty. I’ve long had a champion in Tim Atkin MW (what’s telling about the wine world is that the bigshot MWs tend to be very supportive of what I do while the bigshot MSs, now there’s an oxymoron, tend to hate what I do), and I am very grateful for all that Tim has done to promote the HoseMaster. I never expected that kind of support from anyone as famous and talented in the wine business as Tim Atkin MW. And now along comes Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, with the approval of Robert Parker EW (Emperor of Wine), asking me to write original material for the new Wine Advocate site. And pay me.

Lisa is a very talented writer, a woman who originally wanted to be a playwright, and no doubt has the talent to be a successful one. When we talk, she and I often talk about writing, and she’s very insightful and wonderfully funny. She was quick to assure me that she wouldn’t edit my work, something Tim has always adhered to as well. And that I could write whatever I wanted, and never worry about going after Parker, her, the Wine Advocate, or anyone who writes for them. In other words, don’t change a thing. So I said I would do it.

There isn’t much cutting edge wine writing. I love how Wine Spectator calls Matt Kramer “irreverent.” He’s about as irreverent as Perry Como, or George Will. I appreciate how much attention my raucous, ribald, often nasty brand of satire has been getting lately, not because it brings attention to me (anyone who knows me will tell you I dread the attention), but because the wine business needs satire, needs a skeptical eye, the more eyes the better.  That a publication like Wine Advocate, and critics of the status of Tim Atkin MW, Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW and Robert Parker EW (there isn’t any higher status than those three), endorse my work is acceptance that gratifies me enormously.

But enough. Here’s the first piece on the Wine Advocate site. Comments aren’t allowed there at the moment, so feel free to return here and give me a raft of shit for selling out.



Amy Christine said...


Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

You are finally being recognized for all your raw talent and dedicated hard work to knocking that stuffed shirt of a chip off this business' shoulder. I could not be more proud of you. You amaze me still. Thank you for all you do Love. This is so fucking cool!
Sending you seriously deep hugs.
I love you!

Mark Rader said...!!

Jim Caudill said...

Congrats, happy for you and the wine world

Unknown said...

Hi Samanthaaa!!! I've not gotten updates from your blog. What's up with that?
Dear Ron,

You are such a sale out.

Just Kidding man. Its is nice that you backup your decision with some context, but truly, you don't have to. I think your people here know you well enough to trust your decisions. Also, have you seen the new W.A site, its so sleek, mmm ssssexy!!! I just recommend upgrading your servers. This blog is about to blow up. Good luck.

Get that moneyyyyy!!!!

Alfonso Cevola said...

way to go, Ron! very cool...congratulations!

Charlie Olken said...

I don't get why you had to sell out to the competition. I would have let you post for free and saved you all that angst.

Rocky Volcanics said...

After a decade away from WA, I'm suddenly re-interested. Thanks, Ron.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Amy Darling,
THANK YOU! So sweet of you to chime in. It's a fun opportunity for me, and Lisa PB is an amazing woman who I'm happy to work with, and, most importantly, the WA stamp of approval for my brand of satire, as well as the great Tim Atkin MW's, is a huge deal for bringing satire and humor and a bit of truth to the wine writing table.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I've had an amazing year, but I always do when you're part of my life. But starting with the wine writers symposium in January, then the nomination for a Roederer Award, and then the Wine Advocate offer (which came before the Roederer short list was announced, by the way), it's been very gratifying to see my work accepted in the mainstream wine writing world. You've been here from the beginning, My Love, and so many times I wrote for You, for the relationship we found here. So you get credit, too, Baby. Lots of it. Thank you, I love you!

Please. I'm a Stalinist. And a somnambulist, which comes across in my work.

Thanks, man, it's pretty astonishing, but also a lot of fun right now. I hope you're well!

My blog blew up years ago. Now I'm just here sweeping up the pieces. And being a "sale out" is what every blogger wants to be, and mostly is--I don't do junkets, but I do accept cash.

You're another who's been here a long time. Thanks for that, old friend. A few of us with talent have risen to the top. About time...

The angst didn't last long once I sniffed the money. As I've said to a couple of dozen people who have asked me for contributions, I only write for free for myself. Or naked women. You aren't either. But, like Samantha and Alfonso, you are one of my most loyal readers, and your kindness and support over the years, coming from a man with so much status and credibility, are part of why I hung on for the past seven years. It's still too much work, but I'm enjoying, in my own reclusive way, the tiny bit of fame. As I say, wine writing is a very small pond, and I'm just the pond scum.

I'm sure that's exactly what Lisa PB wants, so thank you for that. And thanks for being a common tater, I very much appreciate it.

Richard Heilman said...

Wow, Ron. From being a PS (Prisoner Sommelier) and a buyer having to load up your wine list with overpriced, overblown, and overrated Napa Valley cabs at Engine Co. 28 to satisfy your stuffed-shirt clientele to something this. You've come a long way, baby. Hope our paths cross again at some point and keep me posted if you get down to Santa Barbara. I'll make sure to sell you some dreck if you come by the store. All the best, Richard Heilman

Unknown said...

More eyeballs on the Hosemaster. Can't be all that bad...or can it, We'll see. Good luck with it. No one who takes you seriously (if that's possible) would blame you.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

It was Pacific Dining Car, not Engine Co. 28, but, yeah, it's been a long road, and not one I expected to take. Without being that PS, I couldn't do what I do here, so it was fun, and it was worth it. You never know, I just might make it to Santa Barbara one day soon. Beware.

I'm not doing a thing differently for Lisa and the Wine Advocate. I write my five or six pieces a month. One goes to Tim Atkin MW, and one will go to WA. Only now I have more of an audience, and I get a few bucks for my time. It's gratifying simply for the acknowledgment and approval of influential people in the biz. I never needed it, never sought it out, but by just writing for the joy of it, to make folks laugh at this sanctimonious business, somehow I've become a tiny bit of a success. That always feels good. Thanks for the good wishes, and for being a common tater.

David said...

Dear Ron,

Congrats - I guess that this is part of the new owners of the WA's plot to take over the wine world (a small one, but still...).
Happy to see you get new sources of income for the satire that we love so much.



Unknown said...

Hi Ron,

Congrats on the new gig, it's well-deserved. And I appreciate the heads-up on the new WA site, I need new reading material now that Steve's website has become the hufpo for winos. Thanks for continuing to crank out quality blogs, I'm glad your work is being recognized.

Unknown said...

well done and congrats...always enjoy your writing here and nice to see someone cutting thru the clouds of BS that hang over the industry...Thank You!!!

Ziggy said...

Oh No! What's next? WS?

(BTW, Congratulations!)

Eric V. Orange said...

HOSE!!! You're SOMEBODY now!!
Congrats to you my friend.


Anonymous said...

Wait, what? Well, this is proof that the fourth horseman just saddled up.

In all seriousness, this is as fantastic as it is unexpected.

I knew you when.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Common Taters,
Well, thanks.

I don't think there's any chance I'll be appearing in the pages of WS any time soon. But it's fun to be on the new Wine Advocate site. Lisa seems to be aiming high, having also enlisted RH Drexel to write for her. Content is king, as always, and I hope that my foolishness and mockery drives a bit of traffic Parker's way.

There is an appetite for good writing. But, having perused blogs for a long time now, there is very, very little good writing available. Tim Atkin has championed great writers for a while now (I'm just the comic relief), and maybe Lisa is headed the same direction. It can't all be Decanter and WS, which are too formulaic and predictable. At least Decanter has some talented writers. Wine-searcher is miserable, PUNCH is a wasteland but for Jon Bonne's work, and wine deserves better. Ah, but it's the Golden Age of Wine Writing! Like it's the Golden Age of Suicide Bombers.

I'm just having fun. It's been a long haul. Too many hours in front of a blinking cursor. But I'm on a nice run this year. Never fear, I'll wear out my welcome.

Many thanks for all the good wishes! The comments have always been the best part of HoseMaster of Wine™.

Hawk_Wakawaka said...

Great piece, Ron. Congratulations and a big hug to you, dear one.

Legless in Burgundy said...

A step into the Dark Side...

Man About Wine said...

What is your street address? I have a full raft ready to deliver.

Unknown said...

Happy for you and happy news for me. I always think a larger platform is needed for your pieces to reach broader readers. Thanks to Lisa, the first step is happening. Your work can put readers to laughters and tears, and I echoed before what Parker said and want to say it again: When can SNL have you as a guest scriptwriter?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thank You. It's fun, and it opens me up to lots more criticism, which I enjoy. I wrote an Alice in Wonderland piece for Lisa PB because she loved the one I wrote for Tim Atkin MW. Sort of a strange hostess gift for her allowing me into her home site. I wonder if they'll let me review wines...maybe when Mark Squires starts writing satire. Wait, doesn't he usually?

Dark Lives Matter.

Man About Wine,
Trump Towers, New York, New York

Susan Darling,
Thank you. I'm proud of the acceptance I'm getting from the "establishment," though many of them don't much like me. But as I said to Elaine, I'm happy when the same old wine writing stiffs don't like what I do. I like the criticism. As for SNL, no thanks. TV comedy writing will kill you.

Mike Dunne said...

Congratulations, HoseMaster! Who knew there was a Wine Advocate website? Some very funny lines in your inaugural post, but your editors aren't doing you any favors with the overly extended lines and the faint type. Maybe it's just me, but the punchiness of your style calls for a punchier layout. Nevertheless, I continue to look forward to your lacerating insights.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks. I kinda thought the same thing about the format, but it's not the editors, but the wacky website people. I don't think there's much I can do about it. It's a nuisance to scroll and read on the website, and comedy demands focus. Maybe not mine, but comedy in general. It's a new site, and filled with glitches. Maybe things will improve.

Meanwhile, I'm thrilled to be there, especially with free rein to do as I please. A rare gift for a satirist.

Anonymous said...

This is excellent news Ron!

It isn't selling out. Art that pays for itself is more sustainable art.

I like the signs that more in the industry have faith in satire and a brutal industry self assessment. Like Ricky Gervais being given those Golden Globes gigs. To think otherwise means that perspective gets lost in favour of hyperbole.


Tony T

Thomas said...

Next thing you know, Hosemaster will be the next Squiremaster!

Congrats, Ron.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks. I've been accused of "selling out" by a few folks, but it doesn't concern me. I've never had an agenda except making people laugh at the pretentiousness and outright dishonesty that is part of the wine business. I've only kept writing this long because I've been able to have fun expanding my audience via Tim Atkin's site, and now maybe through the WA site. I don't care about the money, really, though I'm happy to have it. I'm writing the same stuff I would write anyway. That there is a demand for it now, and an acceptance, makes me proud. It's only selling out if you change or soften your voice, which I won't do.

Essentially, Tim and Lisa PB have kept me at the typewriter. Without the attention and support of Tim, I would have quit (again) long ago. I might lose a fan or two who thinks I'm going down the wrong path, but I've always done what I wanted to do, and I always will.

No congrats necessary, my friend. It's just a paying gig. You know how hard those are to find these days, especially for wine satire. Who knows how long it will even last. But I'll have fun with it. If I win a Roederer Wine Writing Award next Monday, then you can congratulate me.

Yeah, like that'll happen...

Thomas said...


Make sure you pronounce Roederer correctly when you accept the award.

Re, selling out: it might be difficult to satire Parker opponents from your new perch, but I'm certain you can find a way.

..and you still use a typewriter? All I have left of those is an office typewriter table, which makes a great drinks cart.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I won't be in London to accept if I win. So I can mispronounce it all I want. Is it Moe-et? or Moe-A?

I won't change my satire at all. I'll be on the WA site once a month, or so, and still publishing at Tim's and here. It's fun. Lisa made it very clear she never wanted me to pull any punches. And if she doesn't publish a piece I write for her, it just goes up here, noting that she didn't publish it. Though I doubt it will ever come to that.

I don't use a typewriter, but a keyboard seems like one to me. Though it's annoying to keep slapping the monitor on the side every time I go to the next line. Old habits...

Unknown said...

Congratulations Ron! Shows that the guys at the Wine Advocate have balls, and a sense of humour. Not sure I´d let the wolf in through the front door... The article is brilliant and the poem made me cry with laughter, which is rather odd given that I make natural, biodynamic wine.... Keep it up!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks very much, though Lisa Perrotti-Brown will be surprised to have balls. Not that she wouldn't know how to use them. It was her idea to hire me for the new WA site, and I'm happy to have the exposure.

I'm glad you liked the piece, despite being a biodynamic producer. Doesn't everyone need to have a sense of humor about what they do? It's the absurdity of life that makes it interesting. And satire's job is to speak to that absurdity.

I've been in a poem-writing mood lately. Not sure what that's about. Coming soon, "A Child's Garden of Wine Verses."

Alessandra Esteves said...

Congratulations Ron! I would say you are on your way to become the next EW. Cheers, Alessandra