Lo Hai Qu seems to have my overflowing wine cellar under control, wineries are killing themselves to get the HoseMaster of Wine™ to review their wines, can you blame them, so, as a reward, I’ve once again turned the blog over to her. She’s sort of a loose cannon, “loose” being the key word, but, hey, everybody loves Lo Hai Qu.
OK, so I’m sitting at this big table, it’s about four o’clock in the afternoon, there’s twelve wine glasses in front of me filled with Nebbiolo, like I know what the fuck Nebbiolo is, I thought it was the company that makes, like Nilla Wafers (which is gonna be my stripper name, which, the way the wine business pays, will be any day now—I already got a Chilean for the job—which is like a Brazilian except the water always flows west), and I’m kinda drunk. Not like waking up with 1WineDoody drunk, there’s not enough Moscato in Detroit for that to happen, more like I think my nipples are asleep drunk. But the thing is, I have to taste all these Benniolos and give ‘em medals. I’m a fuckin’ wine judge, Baby, it’s how we roll!
I’m one famous blogbitch, you know. And blogbitches rule, blogdicks drool. So one day I’m sitting at home playing the Home Version of “Fifty Shades of Grey” with the UPS guy, and can that guy deliver OverNight, and I get an email asking Lo Hai Qu if she wants to be a wine judge for this wine competition I never heard of, “The International Gaia Wine Competition.” Hey, I’m thinking, I’m not Gaia. Me and my girlfriends make out now and then when we’re all buzzy, but that’s just to get free drinks. But then I keep reading, and it’s a wine competition where all the judges are women. So it seems like they’re having a hard time getting women to judge, which is news to me. Judge is what we do. Anyway, they heard of Lo Hai Qu, read my Wine Blog Award winning piece here on Blogdick of Wine™, and they be wantin’ me to judge. I am all over that like white on MW’s.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me, sometimes it’s like my brain goes all dead like I’m the mayor of Crackville, Canada, but I asked the HoseMaster about what it’s like being a wine judge. Eight hours later he finally stops talking. Man, he is so old. He’s got like hair growing out of his tongue. He’s telling me horror stories about judging. Of course, he’s always the fucking hero, he’s the guy who knows everything about wine, and how to judge. He makes it sound like he’s some sort of Solomon Rushdie or something, like wisdom oozes from him, which would explain why you stick to his couch. Anyway, he’s judged like a billion wine competitions, and he’s telling me about all the worst judges he’s seen. All the know-it-alls and crackpots. Like some woman at a competition who only did two things wrong. She wore perfume and she didn’t spit. Fuck, that’s what I put on my OKCupid profile. I just tuned him out and sat there wishing I was having my teeth pulled out without anesthetic instead. Same thing I do when I’m watching Guy Fieri. You ever notice, Guy’s hair looks like guano, like fucking seagulls nest on that numbskull.
I have to admit, I was really nervous the first time I sat down to judge. My pits were wetter than 2013 in Bordeaux. I was with two other lady judges, and I guess I thought they knew more about wine than me. They were kind of eyeballing me funny, like checking me out, and then they get all pissy that I’m having a cigarette before we start. OK, I smoke, so fucking sue me. Lots of people who smoke buy wine, maybe I’m representing those people. Sure, the Gaia Competition has winemakers, sommeliers, journalists…what about real people? I get nervous, I light up. Don’t judge me. Drinking and smoking go together, like drinking and driving. I’m just the only one who admits it. Unlike these two hippo-crits I’m judging with. But I’m a newbie with a doobie, so I put my butt out and get to work, like I’m Nilla Wafers, Wine Stripper.
So not once did anybody tell me that we have to judge 120 wines the first day. After the first flight, I grab my purse and I’m almost outta there when the hippo-crits ask me where I’m going. Where I’m going is the hotel bar, like any good wine judge, where I’m gonna get a cocktail to wash the taste of these cheap goddam Chardonnays outta my mouth, that’s where I’m going. But it turns out we got like ten more flights to judge! Crap.
I was all worried about the judging part, but it turns out it’s easysleazy. You smell every wine, which, really, doesn’t tell you shit. Sure, every other moron tells you that taste is 70% smell. So what. Foreplay is 70% of sex and no one does that. Taste is 70% smell. That’s like saying basketball is 70% hockey. Stupid. Anyway, you smell the wines, like those Chardonnays Under $15 (what kind of fucked up competition is this? Like there’s Chardonnays Over $15…), and then you taste them one at a time. And, yes, I spit. The only thing the HoseMaster told me that made any sense was that judges wait to get drunk until after the judging part, with people they actually like, not the clowns on their panel.
So then comes the weird part. You have to give a medal to every wine. Unless you give it no medal. It’s kinda hard at first because what’s a bronze wine? Sometimes it’s easy, like I had a Chardonnay that smelled like Coppertone, so I gave it a Bronze! See, that’s easy. But then what’s a Silver? Like a Bronze with a nice booty? Gold medals are easy. I like giving Gold Medals, it’s like when you’re a little kid and your teacher gives you all those Gold Stars. Come to think of it, if wine is so fucking sophisticated, why are all the rating systems like what we had when we’re in elementary school? Gold, Stars, and 100 Points! It’s like the wine experts think of us as those special ed kids, the ones who wear helmets all the time, like football players. We’re just so many dumb kids in the class to them. But we must be, I guess, cuz we keep listening to those old white guys.
The two hippo-crits and me tasted like 250 wines in two days. They were kind of stingy with the medals, all picky and up in my face when I gave like 14 Gold Medals in a row. Hey, I fucking needed a butt right then, OK? Maybe I tasted a little fast, but there were judges a lot faster. One panel was done by 11 AM. Three old white women. They haven’t moved that fast since before they had their leg bags installed. We got the job done, my homely girls and me. I hope they invite me back to judge next year! I had a really good time, and, you know what I learned? 70% of wine judging is giving medals!
Every December I anxiously await the publication of the New York Times Ten Best Books list. The five that are non-fiction I ignore. Like most wine bloggers, I despise facts. But every year for the past I don’t know how many, I’ve made it a point to read their five picks for best fiction. Some of them suck. And I mean really suck, like self-published-autobiography suck. Like college-student-poetry suck. Like Best-of –Mutineer-Magazine suck. But not very often. Often I’ve read one or two of the books already. But at least, unlike the Top 10 Wine Spectator Wines of the Year, I can buy the damned things--and at their original price. (By the way, in a year when the legendary 2010 Bordeaux were released, and the great 2010 Napa Cabernets, as well as astonishing wines from the Southern Rhone and fantastic wines from Barbaresco and Tuscany, it was nice to see an old Spanish Gran Reserva Rioja named Wine Spectator’s #1 Wine of 2013. Reminiscent of the year Bert Parks was actually named Miss America.)
I’ve spent countless hours this year not reading countless wine books. Christmas is nearly upon us, so I thought it might be helpful to present The HoseMaster’s Best Wine Books of 2013. Plus, it’s a really easy premise. They make perfect gifts for the wine lover in your life, who will happily place it unread among his hundreds of other unread wine books. Nobody reads wine books, after all, like only weirdos read cookbooks; but they look mighty pretty on the bookshelf, and serve to convey the wine lover’s dedication to his chosen method of getting fucked up and ruining the Holiday for everyone.
THE SAME OLD CALIFORNIA WINE by Tim Fish
Sure, there are a handful of experimental winemakers in California, but, as Tim Fish writes in his provocative new book, “They’re just historical farts.” Fish dismisses the current trend for seeking out unusual varieties, using interesting but little-known facts. “Ribolla? How good can that be? Humans got that from chimpanzees.” Consumers who want to understand wine, and appreciate wine’s long history in California, should focus instead on The Same Old California Wines. Fish profiles luminaries such as Mike Grgich. “Grgich has made the same damn wine for almost fifty years. You want history? Well, my friends, Grgich is definitely history.” Of Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de la Tour Private Reserve, Fish reminds us, “If it weren’t for Georges de la Tour, there wouldn’t even be a Napa Valley. It was his buses that filled tasting rooms.” And Fish conveniently lists the only twelve wine grapes in California you really need to know. “Any more than that, and, frankly, you’re just showing off.”
WHY TO LOVE WINE by Eric Asimov
A sequel to his blockbuster “How to Love Wine,” “Why to Love Wine” focuses on, well, why to love wine. Asimov, in his usual Annoyingly Patient Parent voice, explains in simple terms why everyone should love wine. “A glass of wine represents history, agriculture, car wrecks, unwanted pregnancies, and terroir, that’s why.” Along the way, Asimov relates interesting personal stories. “I think I was born to love the feeling I get when I drink a couple of glasses of wine. You would think the same thing if your uncle made you dress in tinfoil and obey the Three Rules of Robotics.” Asimov writes convincingly about so many of the reasons you should love wine. Among them, “The wine industry is the largest employer of misfits and drifters in the developed world.” Also, “Do it just to piss off the Mormons.” And, best of all, “Wine makes you seem important.”
I SAVED THE WORLD FROM PARKERIZATION, I SAVED WINE FROM BASTARDIZATION, WHO WILL SAVE ME FROM DEMORALIZATION? by Alice Feiring
Everyone knows it’s not easy to be Alice Feiring. Just ask her. Traveling the world, alone, talking to the kind of men your mother warned you about. Men living in remote places with little income and a few too many farm animals residing in the house. In her indefatigable campaign to preach the gospel of the One True Living Wine, the Only Wine Thou Shalt Worship, she has forgotten one thing. Her own peace and happiness. Wait, that’s two things. Never mind. In this unforgettable book, called simply “SAVED!” by both its admirers, Feiring confesses to self-doubt, “with absolutely nothing else added.” She writes about the early days of her wine religion, “when everyone drank wine more manipulated than a teenage boy’s dingdong.” In the end, it’s a book about the three P’s of self-promotion: Perseverance, Proselytizing, and Prevarication. It’s one woman’s struggle with a business that just doesn’t love her for who she really is, just uses her, like everyone else always has. Eric Asimov, in his blurb, insightfully remarks, “Hell, at least you didn’t have to wear tinfoil panties.”
MAKING FUN OF CELEBRITY WINES by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
What in the wine business can deliver a healthier dose of schadenfreude than lousy wines made with celebrity money? Oh, sure, rich Mammon worshippers buying fake DRC from an Asian dork triggers the same lovely glow, but the damn prison sentence ruins the laughs. Johnson and Robinson examine the recent glut of celebrity wines and find that the power of stars only works for biodynamic wines, not highly-paid consultant wines. “I’m not sure which is more offensive,” writes Johnson, “the idea that people will pay more for wine because there is a celebrity behind it, or the insipid marketing materials that imply the celebrities actually do any work.” Among the wines discussed and dismissed, Yao Ming’s Napa Valley Cabernet (“It’s 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Pituitary Gland”), Drew Barrymore’s Pinot Grigio (“Thin and empty. And the wine’s no good either.”), and Dave Matthews’ Virginia Viognier (“If you think his singing is flat, wait until you put this in your mouth. Yes, Virginia, there is a de-alc machine.”) All in all, Making Fun of Celebrity Wines is an indispensable guide to everything wrong with our culture.
I've been writing an annual letter to Santa Claus since I was old enough to write. The first letter I wrote I was in high school, and I asked Santa for "hair down there." Life has come full circle, and now I need to ask for "hair up top." My 2013 Letter to Santa appears over in Dickens country, at Tim Atkin's Louis Roederer Award Winning Site. I hope that you'll jump in your magic sleigh and go there to read it. It's hard for me to believe, but this completes my first year writing for Tim Atkin MW. It has been a great pleasure, and Tim's site has given me a kind of exposure that I would probably never have gotten on my own. So, thank you, Tim. And God Bless Us, every one!
Feel free to leave a gift of language over at Tim's site, comments there are much appreciated, or, of course, you can wrap them up tastefully, slide down my chimney, and leave them under my Christmas tree here. Gift cards and cash much appreciated.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"...that guy Hosemaster has real talent...if you ask me sign him up for Comedy Central...he's the funniest guy since Adam Carolla's hilarious book...IN 50 YEARS WE WILL ALL BE CHICKS..."
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
"In my opinion, and that of many others, his blog is one of the best. And in terms of satirical or parodic wine blogs, it has no peer. Ron’s alert eye catches every pretense and skewers it with laugh out loud mercilessness."
"This site should carry a warning label. It's sort of a Dave Barry/George Carlin approach to wine. The Hosemaster (real name Ron Washam) skewers fellow bloggers and industry savants with glee, while offering hilarious wine guides such as his Honest Guide to Grapes..."
--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
"...I consider Ron a very talented writer and I’ve long been an admirer of his scathing wit..."
"And if any free sites think they can conquer the world, there’s always the Hosemaster to take ‘em down a notch."
--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
"Those of you who know Ron either love or hate him, because he throws jabs like a punch drunk boxer, and we’re all in the firing line. He’ll throw them if he hates you, and he’ll throw them if he loves you. He’s a satirist of exceptional quality."
--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."