Monday, November 28, 2016

R.--I.P.OB: The Death of Balance

OK, so here’s what sucks. Now no one is going to pursue balance anymore. That’s it? Five lousy years and now, the hell with it, I’m just not going to pursue balance again? It’s pretty depressing. For five years I knew where to find wines with balance. There was a list! These guys and girls are pursuing balance! I want a balanced wine? Easy. Read the In Pursuit of Balance list. Buy those wines. Not on the list? Run!!! Those are wines of the unbalanced, especially Bonny Doon.

Oh, Jasmine and Raj, my friends, my mentors, how did the romance end? Who gets custody of the little ones, like Jon Bonné? Where are the true believers to turn? First, Parker and Galloni, then Brad and Angelina, and now this?! You’re turning my wine world upside down! I don’t know where to turn for points, or Rosé, and now Balance. I’m a wreck. I’m drinking wines from the Jura, for God’s sake. And so I left behind a note… I was in a wine shop the other day LOOKING AT ZINS FROM LODI!! Jesus, what the hell? They’ve got the balance of a dead Wallenda. I BOUGHT THE TOP 100 WINES ISSUE OF WINE SPECTATOR! God, somebody help me. It’s only pure luck that all those Top 100 wines are always sold out, and only suckers buy that issue. Which makes sense, Rajmine (see what I did there? I brangelized you two, Raj and Jasmine, desperately hoping you’ll get back together), because IPOB, well, it made a sucker out of me. Out of all of us.

It’s just not fair. Before you came along, Rajmine, I didn’t have any idea what balance was. But then I started to taste the wines you recommended, and I suddenly knew. Balance is simple. Mostly, it’s about how little I now have in my checking account after buying the wines you recommended.

What was especially nice was that you took the trouble to define balance for me, Rajmine. I’ll confess, I was faking it. It turns out, balance is like orgasms. Wineries were faking balance! Oh sure, they’d look you in the eye and say their wines were balanced, but you just knew they were faking it. You’d gone to the trouble of putting it in your mouth, pretending you liked that, so the wineries would fake balance just to tell you what you wanted to hear. Now, thanks to you, I know better. Just like an orgasm, once you experience the real thing, well, you can’t be fooled again. Right? Not that that’s anything I have to worry about. I’m a guy. Women don’t have orgasms, right? Not that I've seen. Not real ones, not the messy kind, right? I’M CONFUSED! DAMMIT, RAJMINE! IPOB is just like me in bed—finished far too soon. I still need you.

I only heard FROM SOMEBODY ELSE that it was all over between you. OK, fine, it’s personal, but I think I deserved better. I have to read about your breakup on the GODDAM INTERNET?! Sorry. But it hurts. Other people writing about it like they meant something to you. People saying that in your short life, FIVE FUCKING YEARS, THAT’S IT?, you did a lot of good. Saying that you changed the conversation. WHAT CONVERSATION?! I don’t remember any conversation. Where was I? Was there some sort of new conversation about balance that I wasn’t invited to join? You didn’t change any conversation. You tried to end the goddam conversation. “Hey, idiots! We know what balance is, and you don’t. End of conversation.” I guess that’s changing the conversation, sort of like how Pierce’s disease changes grapevines.

Look, I’m sorry, I’m a little out of sorts, right now. I mean, a huge part of my world just crumbled. It’s scary out there now. NO ONE IS PURSUING BALANCE, PEOPLE! What if they suddenly announced, “We’ve given up trying to find a cure for cancer?” How would that make you feel? Especially if you had cancer! Think about that for a minute. All of these stupid wines that don’t have balance, that weren’t officially declared to have balance, WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO DO NOW, RAJMINE? Just give up? Try crackpot cures for balance? I mean, after biodynamics, where the hell can crackpot cures go? And it’s all on you, Rajmine. We just have that one lousy list. I’ve tasted most of the wines on that list. Wow, are they fucking balanced! You can’t fake that. Right? You said they were balanced, so they’re balanced. BY DEFINITION! Now, next step, TRY TO TASTE GOOD, TOO! How about In Pursuit of Taste? Though IPOT sounds more like an acronym for my diet plan. Oh, hell, let’s face it,  having balance AND taste are just too much to ask of most wines.

OK, I guess it’s my fault, too. I took you for granted, Rajmine. I’m sorry. I selfishly assumed that you’d always be here to tell me which wines were balanced. I didn’t see the warning signs. The little quarrels, the cold silences, the limelight turning more toward those fruits and nuts in the natural wine movement. Hey, they stole your bit! Creating a fake movement in order to generate attention and sales, that’s your routine! And then they stole your champions. They went out on the free agent market and went big on Asimov and Bonné. And what did that leave you? Nothing but minor leaguers. So maybe you just cut your losses and ended the whole thing. I get it. You must have been tired of it. All the infighting, and all the losers clamoring to get in. It must have been tiring constantly telling people, I DON’T LIKE YOUR WINE! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! FIGURE OUT YOUR OWN GODDAM MARKETING STRATEGY! Which, in a word, is “Balance.”

But think about this, Rajmine. You left us without a definition of Balance. Yeah, you pursued it. Like Hillary pursued the White House. Five years of pursuing that ends in a big fat zero. I went to the rallies, I drank the Kool-Aid, I campaigned, I donated, I believed, I believed, I believed. And then I wake up in November and you’re conceding defeat. Just walking away with a pathetic little farewell speech. Leaving it all behind.

You’re just like Hillary, Rajmine. Cold, calculating, self-interested, and leaving us behind to deal with the unbalanced.


Thomas said...

Relax Hose:

To get you back in balance, every morning stand on one foot at a time for about 30 seconds on each foot. In the end, you'll be balanced and your heels will be worn to one side, so you'll be in pursuit of shoes (IPOS); who doesn't want to shop on Cyber Monday?

Everything is so simple.

Unknown said...

As in Ying-Yang, yes-no, black-white, etc-etc, we may be in risk to hear during the next five years about IPOU, In Pursuit of Unbalance ...

Francly Speaking said...

"The Emperor's clothes are dead - long live the Emperor's clothes"

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, sure, when you explain it like that, it's simple. And this is how stupid I am, I thought you had to live in Cyberia to be part of Cyber Monday.

The unbalanced rule the world right now, no need to pursue.

I'm gonna miss IPOB. Their tastings attracted sommeliers like they were a Sommelier Roach Motel. And now who's going to tell me what Pinot Noirs to buy? I'm so lost.

David Larsen said...

This post was great. So many chuckles and LOL moments along the way. Thanks for starting our week off right!

Unknown said...

Free at last, free at last.....

Ziggy said...

Now you got me wondering if The Emperor of Wine knows that IPOB is toast or if he actually gives a poop?

Now back to West World, episode 9.

Mel Knox said...

I just hope this is the end of wineries creating groups that promote their own selfish self-interests...Maybe Family Winemakers is next??

Ron, what if I name the group and you tell me who started it?

In Pursuit of a Buzz
In Pursuit of a Sugar High..IPOSH!
Winemakers of the Richmond, Sunset and Excelsior..WORSE!
Winemakers of the Richmond District and the Upper Panhandle...WORD UP!

John Lahart said...

--let's face it. Wine writers really have little to write about. So they create them and write about them. I once asked the manager of one of the largest wine retailers in the US how often consumers/customers even mentioned alcohol levels. The answer--hardly ever. See the "issue" was only an issue among the trade.
The market is flooded with wine from everywhere. Wine Makers need an issue to rally around and drum up some interest (read sales). So the door was open for.....A MANIFESTO! Convince the world that wine making was going to hell in a hand basket and a small group of trade folks from wine list curators (you know SOMM's) to wholesale reps wine makers and wine press are out to "save us!"
first it was over oaked, then over extraction then over ripeness then svengali critics (forcing us to like over oaked, over extracted and over ripe wine, then when all that failed to put evil industrial wines out of business it was alcohol--too much!

Alcohol became an "issue" when a certain wine writer lamented he could no longer enjoy a bottle of beloved Bordeaux for lunch and get back to his office. His afternoon nap lasted too long and he was late for dinner (and another bottle of Bordeaux).

So an enterprising wine curator (who also happens to sell his own wine) decided to make some extra money and enlist (for a small fee) some wine makers to form a MOVEMENT!

They did what wine curators and press always do--they tell us what wine should taste like. Their formula placed wine closer to that one beverage that works with all food---water!

I always wondered why "balance" only appears to include alcohol. If high alcohol is a bad thing then why not ban Port or most Amarone? (no wonder the millenials appear to be fleeing to craft beer and cocktails) Nothing like a good manifesto to start a rebellion--away from wine Puritans to freedom of choice!

And what about high acid?
I've had low alcohol wines that took the enamel layers from my teeth and once I had a Northern Italian white that required two pepcids and a Prilosec! I suppose acid reflux is a nice way to enjoy your wine..twice!
(I never heard of a long time in oak barriques or extended "hang time" leading to health issues)

I can't wait to see what the next "hot topic" among those who read each other is.......

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Nice rant. You're right about one thing, at least, wine writers really don't have much to write about. IPOB was all the rage, and then it wasn't. We discover "balance" every now and then, like we discover minimal intervention now and then, and natural wine, and concrete and amphorae. Everyone searching for the real expression of grapes. As if grapes actually have a real expression, or a best expression. I wonder if people who develop dog food have similar discussions. Dogs care!

I have no idea what the next "hot topic" will be. My eleven readers don't care, but it will give me a launching point for my pointless and tasteless exercise in wine writing here. Man, it gets old.

Unknown said...

I'm glad these guys are gone, now I can finally execute my master plan to make wines with NO balance! Mwahaha!

Aaron said...

A little off topic Ron, but I just thought of a possible topic for the HMW to rant about. Wine fridges. Why the primacy of Bordeaux bottle sized wine fridges, and thus making it a huge PITA to fit bottles in any other style. I'm not talking magnums, just Burgundy, or Rhone, or possibly even Champagne bottles. Just so very annoying!

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

I went to that IPOB tasting once and it took just a few table visits for it to become very clear, this is not about balance. It was cliquey as hell and that was the last time I ever even thought about the whole thing....just the same way I tasted highly rated Parker wines and knew the chatter can't convince or penetrate the way I see and taste wine. It's the fantastic part about being someone that buys not for me but for the people that walk through our front door. I am forever thankful for that, and for you!
I love you!

Cris Carter said...

Don't sell yourself short, Ron. I'm sure there are at least fifteen people who regularly read this.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Oh, I thought you'd already launched that plan. My bad. I thought you just didn't care about balance. Oops.

Yeah, well, that's a short rant, though I can probably drag it out a bit. So they want you to take care of your best bottles, but they think your best bottles come in very cheap bottles. It's such a scam. Technology developed in the '80's. They need to have a fridge that holds out of date fridges.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
No matter what, they succeeded in making us talk about them. Or me, anyway. I don't need Rajmine to tell me what balanced is. I'm glad they pursued it, but pursuing it means you only have a small chance of actually catching it. Most of those wineries should have thrown it back.

I love you, too, Baby

Like you'd know. Trust me, I'm full of crap when I inflate the number to eleven.

Arabicspkr said...

So glad this BS group disbanded.

I laugh at folks like them, running around as if they are "New California," while folks like Greg Graziano in Mendocino (doing things like Arneis, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Cortese, Falanghina, Carginan, etcetc, for decades) and Jim Clenenden have been doing pioneering long before lily-tools like Idlewilde, Sandhi and Jolie Laide showed up.

Mel Knox said...

Dear Arabicspkr,
Clendenen was in IPOB. Greg, no, because he does not make pinot noir and nobody but you and me have ever heard of him.

Has anybody noticed that the same people who were making fun of Parker five years ago are now making fun of IPOB?

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I don't think Arabicspkr meant to imply that those "New California" producers were part of IPOB. That's a Jon Bonne reference, I'm guessing.

No way Clendenen would miss the marketing bus that was IPOB.

I know that I was probably the first person to make fun of IPOB. It was transparently a scam, provocative for the sake of self-promotion. I'm the first guy to recognize that technique. Making fun of Parker seems like a very large group of writers. Are they all making fun of IPOB? You might be right.

Mel Knox said...

I think what annoyed Clendenen were all the articles about winemakers who switched from from 16.5% alc to 12.5% alc and at the bottom of the page there was mention of Jim as somebody who was doing that all along. Raj threw him a life preserver and he grabbed it. Of course, Jim and I both wish Raj were still buying wine instead of competing with us.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


Come on, don't you mean Raj threw him a Beaune?

Mel Knox said...


You are indeed bad to the beaune....M

Wine Country Geographic said...

I always got confused at IPOB tastings - was I at a GQ shoot?

Unknown said...

Scott schultz from jolie laide sent me threatening emails when i started to denounce the ipob under my IPOO org..i win. Maybe thw coke lines and her business card was a bit much, but shes the one writing me at 3 am. We all know what shes doing now. Also heard from my friend burt that she and dad are selling hirsch vineyards. Ph boy, do i hope its kendoll jackson..

Mel Knox said...

David Hirsch was in a terrible accident during the 2015 harvest and I believe he is confined to a wheelchair. Living in the middle of nowhere cannot be easy for them now.