Tuesday, July 18, 2017
I’ve had a grand time writing HoseMaster of Wine™. It changed my life in countless unexpected ways. Many of those changes were wonderful, many were heartbreaking. Isn’t that life in a nutshell? In hindsight, I would do it all again, only much more critically, much more relentlessly. I’ve churned out more than 500 pieces of satire in the past five and a half years, and made the acquaintance of some strange and remarkable voices in my head—Lo Hai Qu, Larry Anosmia MS, Avril Cadavril, Sam Euthanasia, Trump the Emperor of Wine, and a host of others. I’ve always written for my own enjoyment, and never for money or influence or fame. And I’ve never run out of fools, buffoons, frauds, liars and cheats to write about. I never thought I would.
I’m taking a hiatus. It may be permanent. I intend to still publish on Tim Atkin’s site once a month, because I admire Tim and I am honored to be part of his stable of wine writers. And I may occasionally send a piece to Lisa Perrotti-Brown at the Wine Advocate site, if she'll have me, because I admire and adore her, but I will be publishing far less frequently. You’re welcome.
My hiatus will be good news for many people in the wine business, and bad news for just about nobody. I’ve never taken myself seriously, not on this blog, and not in my entire adult life. It’s people who take themselves too seriously who have been my targets as often as not. I’m happy with the work I’ve produced here, particularly in the past couple of years. It was always my goal to see if I could rediscover my comic voice. I’m content with the results, and, more than anything else, that’s why I’m beginning the process of stepping away. I’ve achieved in my own heart what I set out to achieve. It’s been a long six years. It’s been a lot of hard work. I’m ready to begin to wind down.
Frankly, another reason I’m taking a hiatus is because I’m weary of being part of the noise and worthlessness of the online wine world. Stepping away means I no longer have to spend any time at all perusing the absolute shit that passes for wine writing on the internet these days. I recently received a press release about a new wine website called Seven Fifty Daily. I glanced at it, and it’s such predictable drivel, such shameless marketing mixed in with the kind of hard-hitting journalism one associates with “Tiger Beat” magazine, that I nearly screamed in agony. Fuck, I thought, who reads this shit? Worse, who writes it? Too much Pay for Play going on in the wine biz—but ’twas ever thus. I’m just unspeakably tired of it.
Many would say I’m part of the utter shit that passes for wine writing. I wouldn’t argue. At least I understand I’m part of the crap. No matter. I’ve had a blast. There are dozens of people and common taters to thank, but you know who you are, and you know how I feel about you. I’ll leave it at that.
I’m not entirely disappearing. I don’t think I’m capable of quitting HoseMaster of Wine™ cold turkey. So, if you are an email subscriber, you’ll see when I’m publishing at Tim’s (first Monday of the month), and you’ll know if I’m over at the Wine Journal. And then one day, not so far off, you’ll wonder, whatever happened to the HoseMaster…
Monday, July 10, 2017
On the rare occasions I read wine blogs, I usually wonder what motivates the person behind the blog. Notice I avoided using the word “writer.” It’s a word thrown around far too casually in the wine world, much like sommelier, or authentic, or award-winning. None of those words seems to have any real meaning anymore. It’s painful to read most of the wine blogs out there if you love the written word, or love wine. I recently read a blog that seemed to be aimed at being funny, but was tragically witless. Then I realized it was mine. So what motivates all these folks to review utterly contemptible commercial crap they get for free and rave about it? Why do they think it would be interesting for us to join them on their “journey to discover wine?” They’re the dullest companions imaginable, why would I go an a journey with them? Do they hit “Publish” and really believe they have influence outside of their little circle of other crappy blog owners?
Or do they publish a blog for the community they find online? I think that’s probably the answer for the majority of folks. It’s a perfectly lovely answer. Over the years, I’ve met dozens of bloggers. Most of them don’t like me. Maybe because when they tell me they write a blog, I reply, “No, you don’t write a blog, you type a blog.” I confess, I’ve never been a wine snob, but I am a tiresome writing snob. The human need for self-expression is a wonder to behold, but few possess much talent. But if their self-expression leads to community, that’s a powerful drug. It’s an emotional Opioid (which I mistakenly thought was a rectal problem for a young Ron Howard).
I’m something of a recluse. My idea of a good time is knowing that others are not having a good time. I’m uncomfortable with groups of people. I live in my head, which makes sense if you’ve seen my body. (I found it on AirBnB. It’s a dump, but it’s cheap.) I write because I love wandering around the place where I live. I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t write in order to find a community. As painful as it is, as personally challenging as it is, as utterly worthless as it is, I love to write comedy and satire. Yet despite my best efforts, through writing this blog, I found a community. Just stop and think about how frightening that is.
Last year, I won a Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Award. Out of nowhere. It meant a great deal to me, for personal reasons having to do with my late mother always wanting me to be a writer, not a worthless sommelier (is there any other kind?). Over the Fourth of July weekend, I learned that I am again on the short list for a Roederer Award as the Ramos Pinto (without question the finest producer of Port) Online Communicator of the Year. I’m thrilled, and humbled. It’s a short list of great wine writers. And me. Last year’s win, for me, represented satire being given a seat at the wine writing table. This year, I feel the shortlisting on a more personal level. It’s more about acceptance.
I don’t expect to win. Look at my fellow shortlisters: Tim Atkin MW, Julia Harding MW, Richard Hemming MW, Andrew Jefford, and Wink Lorch, who I thought was a game show host. I’d say that I’m happy to be on a list of wine writers with these five talented people, but, hell, they’d all say they’re happy to be on a list with four talented people, and a clown. I want to win, I want to win very much. The Roederer I won last year looks so lonely when I set it down in front of me wherever I go. I need one for my other hand. But I won’t win, and I’m perfectly content with that. This is the first list I’ve ever been on with five people whose work I can honestly say I admire. Not that they give a Trump what I think about them.
We love to give awards. Boy, do we love to give awards. I always try to remember that awards are for the people giving them, not the folks receiving them. That was hard to remember when I won a Roederer last year, which didn’t make it any less true. I’ve toyed with giving HoseMaster Awards, but it’s sort of what I do anyway. A black eye is a kind of award, I think. If there were awards for awards, I think the Roederer, at this point, might win the award for best wine writing award. I tell people that the Roederer International Wine Writing Award is the MacArthur Genius Grant of wine writing—if you ignore all three of those words. There are the Wine Blog Awards (the Poodles), which are a joke and utterly worthless—the Barefoot Moscato of wine writing awards. I think I’m the only person left in the restaurant and wine business who hasn’t won a James Beard Award. Honestly, I think the number of Beard Awards would have embarrassed James Beard. That’s sort of sad. Yet it speaks to our love of awards, ingrained in us as children, symbols that we are loved when we so often doubt it. Winning an award is reliving childhood moments when a parent expresses pride in your work. You glow, you feel loved, you gain self-esteem, and then you ask if there’s money attached to it.
What amazes me the most about the entire experience of writing HoseMaster of Wine™ is that I sit in my room in my rented house in Sonoma County, all alone, in front of the hated blinking cursor, gazing out at a vineyard, writing the kind of foolishness and dreck that I used to write all alone at a typewriter for eight hours a day when I was young, which almost no one would read. Now, because of the astonishing existence of the internet, at least fourteen people instantly read what I write. There’s an entire generation that takes the internet for granted, who don’t know life without it. It changed my life in ways I don’t completely understand. But the most amazing change of all is that because of the internet and this stupid blog, a recluse found community. I didn’t think that was possible.
The winners of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Awards will be announced on September 12th in London. Wish me luck.
Thursday, July 6, 2017
The threat of global terrorism has finally reached the wine business. Wineries, importers, sommeliers, wine writers—all have found themselves under siege from various loosely organized but determined groups of wine terrorists. Each of these groups has an agenda and is unafraid to use violence, force, and even weaponized Coravins to make themselves heard. It’s a story that the wine press has been reluctant to cover for fear of reprisal, but I’ve spent the last few years infiltrating the secret online hangouts and covert terrorist wine bars (some have fantastic wine by-the-glass selections, and often serve the wines in the new Riedel “Suicide Bomber” stems which self-destruct after each use) where terrorists meet and plot their attacks. In order not to arouse their suspicions, I often posed as someone completely ignorant of wine, using the initials CSW after my name as proof. I carried a dog-eared copy of “Wine Folly” under my arm and wore a T-shirt with the words, “If God exists, She’s Jancis” in multi-coloured sequins. Nearly all the terrorist organizations attempted to recruit me, and several told me I rocked the T-shirt.
I've blown the lid off the terrifying story of global wine terrorism, at great risk to my personal safety. You're welcome. But you'll have to head over to Tim Atkin's site to read the rest of my exposé. While you're there, be sure to leave a comment, I'd recommend anonymity, the terrorists are always watching, or return here in a hazmat suit and drop off your thoughts.
TIM ATKIN MW