Monday, July 25, 2016
Who doesn't love a good summer rerun? I had a tough week or two. So I need a break. Not that anyone cares. And I sort of miss Lo Hai Qu. I haven't seen her for a while. Lo has always been my favorite voice, but she hasn't been seen lately. My theory is that she was kidnapped by aliens, or Natural Wine producers, which amounts to the same thing.
For those of you new here who haven't met her, Lo Hai Qu emerged from my dyspeptic brain because Joe Roberts, 1WineDoody, had an intern at the time, Shelby Vittek, who is now doing an abysmal job at Terroirist.com. She's like the librarian who always recommends Tom Clancy novels. I decided that if 1WineDoody had an intern, the HoseMaster needed an intern. Coincidentally, or was it Fate, I was watching the CBS Evening News with my gorgeous wife and there was a news story about China that mentioned a government official named Hai Qu. I said to my wife, "Wouldn't it be funny if his name was Lo Hai Qu?" And suddenly, unbidden but nearly fully formed, Lo Hai Qu came into my life.
This is her very first appearance on HoseMaster of Wine™. I won a worthless Wine Blog Award for this piece. I hadn't read it in three years before I decided to rerun it today, and as much as I like the concept (me using my Voice, the HoseMaster, who is in turn channeling a young woman's Voice--very meta), I hate how about two-thirds through I go back to my HoseMaster voice. I must have been in a hurry to finish it. I know Lo Hai Qu will one day return. In some very strange, borderline sick, way, I actually love her.
Here, from March of 2013, is the debut of my crazy and beloved Lo Hai Qu. Original introduction included:
I’ve turned this HoseMaster of Wine™ post over to my intern, Lo Hai Qu. It’s Lo’s job to catalog all the samples I receive for review, primarily wine, but a surprising amount of urine as well (Were it not for Lo, I’d probably mistake the latter for orange wines because they tend to have nicer labels). Lo also answers the phone, occasionally when it’s actually ringing, responds to my voluminous fan mail with prepaid restraining orders (I’m talking to you, Leslie Sbrocco and Jenna Talia Baiocchi), and massages my funny bone. Lo works voluntarily, and not because I lock her in a soundproofed room hidden underneath my Castello di Amorosa torture chamber replica dressed as Natalie MacLean and tied to a water bed filled with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Ah, but I do love the smell of cat pee in the morning.
Lo Hai Qu has some thoughts about wine and wine critics, and how Millennials differ from us old fucks.
Establishment wine critics are dead to me. I spent last week sending condolence cards to the people they left behind. “Sorry, Mrs. Parker, for your loss. You must be devastated. As for me, I never read The Wine Advocate, so, on the 100 Point Scale, my sadness is a 78—unctuous, with overtones of Schadenfreude.” “Dear Mrs. Laube, I can only imagine your grief. I’m sure Jim has gone on to a better place. I hear Hell is lovely this time of year. And there’s all the Lodi Zin he can drink.” “Dear Mrs. Heimoff, you must be Steve’s Mom. All the best. Please tattoo ‘I was wrong about Social Media’ on Steve before they drop him in the dirt hole. It’s comforting to know he’s met his final terroir.”
Me and my friends that like wine, we don’t care what wine experts think about wine. Since when do you need more than five years to understand anything? Medical school is like only four years, right? And you let those people poke stuff into you. Bartending school is only a few months, and then they make hella good drinks. How long is beauty school? And those geniuses have scissors near your neck. So, my point is, once you’ve spent a few years liking wine, the first thing you learn is it’s all a game. Everything you can learn from those old creeps you can learn from your friends on FaceBook, and the experts who write those cool wine blogs (not like the asswipe who writes this one) who have actually written about wine, ON THEIR OWN BLOG, for like years. Like I could see myself paying money for a subscription to Wine Spectator when I’m still living at home because the same generation you want me to listen to talk about wine is the generation who made this fucked-up world where I can’t get a job that pays more than $12/hour. Yeah, that makes sense.
So, you ask, when I want to learn about wine, or when I want advice on what wines I should buy, where do I go for that advice? I don’t go to those crusty old turds who write for established wine magazines. My friends and me, we don’t care about points. We don’t know what points mean. Points aren’t a conversation. Like Twitter, that’s a conversation! LOL, IMHO, MILF. #WINECRITICCORPSE. See? So if I want to know what to buy, I go on FaceBook, because the combined opinions of 40 people with an average of two years of wine experience is 80 years of wine experience! Who the hell has 80 years of wine experience? The Queen of fucking England, Elton John? And it’s 80 years of wine experience for free. This is the key word for Millennials, you dying old wine critics, “Free.” We like free. It’s why we invented the Internet, so we could get free stuff 24 hours a day—music, movies, pornography—which you idiots always paid for! We’re the smartest generation ever. So we expect free wine advice, too. And if you won’t give it to us, we’ll just make it up. It’s worked for Truth on the Internet, why won’t it work for wine?
Maybe the confusion, to be serious for a moment, comes from the definition of “wine expert.” In the old days, people had to spend years and years studying wine, taste thousands of wines every year to fine tune their palate, taste the “great wines” as often as possible in order to understand how high the bar is set, travel to wine regions and taste rigorously, keep notebooks filled with tasting notes, and read extensively on the subject from books written by acknowledged and respected wine writers. Eventually, you’d be thought of as a “wine expert.” That is so last century. I’m only 28, and I know like at least 50 wine experts! Not one is over 35! How do I know they’re wine experts? They have a blog. They not only wait tables, do the schedules and lock the doors of the restaurant at night, they’re the Sommelier! They go to wine tastings at the local wine shop and taste every single wine every time and THEY DON’T NEED TO SPIT! Some have tasted more than a hundred wines under $25. These people know wine. Plus, they’re not old and their advice is free. Why wouldn’t I listen to them?
Don’t feel picked on, Old, Dead Wine Critics. We just prefer the voice of the crowd to give us what we need rather than the solitary voice of a professional critic, whether it’s movies, restaurants, wine or opinions. We like to share all those things with our friends, it’s just more fun and if one of us looks stupid, we all look stupid! Why in the world would I listen to a wine critic who costs money when I can go to CellarTracker and read what forty strangers have to say about a wine? This is how you learn! It’s just like in school when you passed a test because you copied the answers of the stranger sitting next to you! Hell, he has to be smarter than you are, he wrote down an answer! Same thing with CellarTracker. This is time-proven wisdom.
Millennials, we are so done with so-called wine “gatekeepers.” Why? Mostly because we don’t even know where the gate is. But, also, we have each other. And, as I’ve shown, we’re the smartest generation ever. We’ll never get tired of FaceBook or Twitter. We’ll never stop Yelping. We love Yelp! Where else can you go to find out what people with no class think about stuff they don’t know anything about? Except FOX News? Wine criticism is changing because we want to be the wine critics! And when that happens, when the old fucks writing today are finally done, retired or dead, then everyone will be a wine expert because they know their own taste—like you can be your own doctor because you know your own body. It’s the same thing! Believe me, Millennials are every bit as good at writing impenetrably and meaninglessly about wine and wine criticism as any other generation. If anything, we’re even better.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Act One is here
The same Natural Wine bar in Hell. Four dead wine critics sit glumly sipping Cornelissen rosé. Their glasses, though they drink them continually, never empty. Hell is bottomless natural wine rosé. Behind the bar, the bartender, who has nothing to say to these idiots, stands and observes. He represents the readers of wine publications. Even with the evidence to the contrary right in front of him, he believes these critics to be worth listening to. A stranger is also in the bar. Not a dead wine critic, but clearly dead, he seems disoriented, confused about how he has landed in this horrible place. With a shitty wine by-the-glass list. It’s like landing in a Marriott, except the customers here know they’re dead.
Laube’s head is on the bar. Suckling is searching the place for a mirror, and trying to see his reflection in everything. Kramer is pontificating to the Stranger, who is clenching his fists and seems on the verge of violence. Parker is putting Laube’s finger into a glass of warm water.
Parker: Oh, this will be great! Laube’s pants will be like a great vineyard—all about the soil.
Suckling: Does my hair look alright to you guys? Where’s the fucking mirror in this dump?
Parker: Should I grab your balls and tell you to, “Coif?”
Kramer: (lecturing to the Stranger) I think you’ll really enjoy my newest book, Stranger. It’s called “Making Sense of Death.” I think it’s my finest work, and, as you know, I’m universally regarded as the greatest dead wine writer…
Suckling: Yup. Give the public what they want.
Kramer: (ignoring Suckling, which is nothing new to Suckling) I think you’ll be surprised at the section that explodes the biggest myths around death. For example, that a 96 point death is better than a 92 point death. That’s what most people think, right, Stranger? Well, it turns out death is utterly pointless. Harvey Steiman gives Gluttony a 97, it doesn’t matter. Choose the death that you like! I did!
Parker: Gluttony is clearly 100 points. Hey, look, Laube pissed his pants!
Suckling: Come on, Kramer. You didn’t choose your death. None of us did. We all died of neglect. Consumers just stopped giving a shit about us. Fucking Millennials. Put us all in this room and damned us to eternal irrelevance. After all we did for them.
Laube: (waking up in a puddle of his own making, he stands and the front of his pants are wet) Shit! Bob, what the fuck?
A woman enters on a cheap bike. She looks lost. She stares at the wet spot on Laube’s pants, which continues to grow. The dead wine critics look at her, then at each other, and they begin to laugh. Only the Stranger and the bartender are silent. It’s the laughter of the damned.
Woman: What are you assholes doing here? Fuck. And me without a cowhorn into which I could shove this roomful of shit.
Stranger: The question, Ms. Feiring, isn’t what these assholes are doing here. They belong here. They’ve been drinking their way here for forty years. The question is, how did you end up in this particular room with these particular pricks? You’d think that the woman who saved the world from Parkerization would end up in a better place. You’d think that a woman who expended all her energy trying to show consumers that she was the one who held the secrets to great wine, that she was the one to whom they should listen, that only she was incorruptible and sincere in her love for wine, you’d think she was nothing like these four old, dead, impotent wine critics. But you’re not different, are you, Alice? You’re just as vain, and just as incontinent. You…
Parker: (loudly interrupts) Hey, Stranger! Lay off her.
Everyone falls silent after Parker’s outburst. Laube tucks a napkin into his pants and spreads it to cover the wet spot. Suckling shuffles around the bar appearing to be lost in thought, though thought is as foreign to him as humility. Kramer is sullen because no one is listening to him, though he has the same point to make he made but a few minutes ago. The bartender sets a glass of rosé on the bar loudly and stares at Alice Feiring, welcoming her to Hell. Feiring seems bewildered.
Feiring: (quietly) Thank you, Bob. Gentlemen, I’m a little confused. Just a minute or two ago I was riding my bike through the hills of Provence. Oh, it was a beautiful day. I felt like a young woman again, vibrant and sensual. I could smell the French countryside, and it was like the aroma of a biodynamic wine. You know, Bob, like inhaling the armpit of a French hooker with one leg named Eileen.
Suckling: What do you call her other leg?
Laube: The grip.
Parker: Shut up. Let the lady talk.
Kramer: I’d like to say something…
ALL: Shut up, Kramer!
Feiring: (sipping from her wine glass) Hey, this is good. (She strolls seductively over to where Parker is leaning against the bar. She stands very close to him.) Why are we here, Bob? I mean, we’re all famous wine critics, right? I get that. Well, except that Stranger. Who is he? I don’t like him. But why are we here? I have a lot of things to do. I don’t have time to sit around and drink with a bunch of old, dead, white guys. Like I ran for Congress. I have to save wine from you, Bob. (She leans in as if to kiss him.) I hate you.
Stranger: (angrily) Hate him, Alice? You are him. You’re all him. Every goddam one of you is him. You wasted your lives and your meager talents emulating him, or deriding him, or stealing from him. Laube, his fawning panty boy, pretending his opinions were different, but longing to worship at Bob’s feet. Suckling, the self-parody, the mockery of a critic, like imitation crab—looks like the real thing, but leaves a shitty taste in your mouth. And Kramer, the faux intellectual, the flipside of the hedonist, the “thinking man’s” Parker, the one who knows how to speechify but never feel, the one who puts the acid in flaccid. And you, Alice.
Feiring: What about me, Stranger? What about me?
Stranger: The Doña Quixote, the nut in shining armour, tilting at windbags. You might be the worst of them. These guys are buffoons, exaggerated parodies of wine power, the Walking Dead of the wine world, misogynists, the NFL owners of wine. And you? You pretended you were trying to slay these monsters when all you were really doing was finding a way to stand on their shoulders. Bob’s shoulders.
Feiring: Oh, they’re big strong shoulders, Stranger.
Laube: Fuck me. I think she’s in love.
Monday, July 11, 2016
HoseMaster Note: This tall tale inspired by recent events chronicled, among other places, here:
Billionaire Resnicks' Justin Vineyards Bulldozes Forest of Old Oaks, Sparking Uproar
Howdy, pardners! I’m goin’ to tell you about the great Justin Appleseed, and how he done shaped the West. Now most of ya ain’t goin’ to believe my tale, and I cain’t say as I blame ya. But it’s all true, and you can look it up on your goldarned phones if you want. Hell, in my day a “search engine” was what we called the proctologist’s index finger. Ain’t much different today, I guess. Diddlin’ around on your phone is exactly like puttin’ your finger up your own butt. Feels like you’re doin’ somethin’, but you’re really just stirring around some shit.
Anyhow, we’re here to talk about ol’ Justin Appleseed. Now that weren’t his real name, but that’s what folks called him back in the early years of the 21st Century when his legend began. His real name was Justin Fijiwater, and he was one of the richest men on the planet. Yessir, he had a lot of money. In them days, people with a lot of money could do anything they wanted. You could sell two cents worth of water in a nasty plastic bottle for two dollars! Mostly just to yokels, mind you, the kind of folks who think nothing of homeless vets eating out of trash cans so long as their own drinking water comes four thousand miles in a plastic bottle from a tropical island’s aquifer, but there's a lot of stinkin’ ignorant yokels in the world. Yep, you can get mighty rich off folks with no class and imaginary phobias. And Justin Appleseed did just that!
Well, sir, Justin Appleseed had a hankerin’ to make wine. You see, Justin Appleseed believed that all the water in the world was his to do with as he pleased. Now, you own all the water in the world, see, you pretty much own everything. You are God, and you don’t have to answer to nobody, and if ever you do, you have lots of people to sacrifice. That’s the thing about rich folks, they always got people they can toss under the ol’ bus and blame for what their money does. “‘Twaren’t me,” they can say, “I didn’t know nothin’ about it. But, hell, I guess I’m sorta to blame, so, here, take this human I own and do what you want to him. I can buy another one. Hell, they’re cheap right now.”
But I’m gettin’ ahead of myself. Don’t matter, you all know the legend. I’m just tryin’ to set you straight, get to the truth behind the legend. Not the facts, but some truth. What happened done happened, you can stick that search engine up your ass and look it up. The truth can be a lot harder to figger.
So Justin Appleseed starts walkin’ the world looking for a winery to buy. Why didn’t he just start a new winery, what with all the money he had? Well, that takes talent and skill, and he just had money. Money from selling water to people who think their lives are better cuz they drink water out of plastic bottles instead of faucets and drinking fountains like the rest of us. Justin Fijiwater was just like that rancher who fills up the trough with endless water so that the cattle live long enough for him to slaughter them. Only in his case, the cattle done paid him for the privilege.
Well, everywhere Justin Appleseed went, all’s he noticed was trees that was standin’ around doin’ nothing. Suckin’ up his precious water and not givin’ nothin’ fer it. It made him madder than a billionaire with a cellarful of fake wine. He wanted to whip his Koch out and screw everything and everybody. Why, the trees he owned, them beautiful fruit trees, guzzled amazing amounts of his water, but at least they made pomegranates. Johnny Appleseed could sell the pomegranate juice by makin’ up tall tales about how it helps prostate cancer and fixes a limp dick at the same time! And yokels believe that shit! Now that’s a tree that’s worth somethin’! Nothin’ like a hard wood tree, and having hard wood is what folks want. But those other trees, just standin’ around, doin’ nothin’, well, they were gettin’ on Justin Appleseed’s nerves.
Now when Justin got to a little place called Paso Robles, he found the perfect winery to buy. Now, you have to understand, Paso Robles is dry! Paso Robles is drier than a sommelier fart in a service exam. Is that mercaptans, or are you just nervous to see me? So when Justin Appleseed bought his purty new winery, and lots and lots of land around it, he knew he needed lots more of his water to grow them grapes. It waren’t no big deal. He’d just take more of his water, the water he’d been lettin’ the other winegrowers use for a long time, but now he needed for himself. Hey, what’s an aquifer? Fer stealin’! Yeah, I wrote that joke. It’s a knee-slapper.
Now walkin’ around his property, Justin just couldn’t help but notice all these ol’ native oaks just standin’ around suckin’ up all the water and givin’ nuthin’ in return. Acorns. What the hell are acorns? What a-holes get on their feet? Justin walked and he walked around his Paso Robles property, an old sauce pan on his head to protect him from the sun, and because he’d heard it stopped radiation so’s he wouldn’t get brain cancer. And then one day he figgered it out. A perfect plan. It was almost too perfect!
Justin Appleseed called on his ol’ friend Paul Bunyan (he called him “Paul Bunion” because he was an a-hole with acorns) to come to Paso Robles. “And bring that goddam blue ox of yours, Paul, so it can leave big blue piles of fertilizer behind. Them piles of crap look like Smurf remains, but they’ll help my grapes grow! I hear blue wine is the next big thing.” When Paul arrived in Paso Robles, Justin Appleseed tol’ him, “Paul, now go on out there and chop down all those good-fer-nuthin’ oaks, the ones drinkin’ up all my precious water, and don’t tell noboby it was my idea! Hell, might as well just clear everything out while you’re at it. I want to hear my voice reverberatin’ when I walk around after you’re done. Yep, fuck Nature, I’m creatin’ my own kind of echo-system!”
And mighty Paul Bunyan done just that.
Now when Justin’s neighbors complained about all them oak trees being chopped down by some giant Village People guy in a plaid shirt, Justin Appleseed was astonished. “Why it was just a mistake, and I had every right, and, besides, I had no idea it was happenin’.” Now this was a lie, but Justin Appleseed knew that lyin’, and lots of money, work in your favor. ‘Member that Pom baloney ‘bout making your dick hard? Some kind of strap-Pom, I reckon. “But I’m gonna make it right,” he told his angry neighbors, “just you wait and see.”
And when Justin Appleseed pledged to give the folks his now treeless property to make up for destroyin’ the place, the legend was born. Oh, it cost him a little money, and by little, I mean like takin’ a flake of gold out of Fort Knox, and it cost him some embarrassment, but you know what? Them oak trees was gone forever. I guess they learned a valuable lesson. You take legendary Justin Appleseed’s water, you have to pay. It ain’t about the environment, stupid. It’s about money. And hubris. And having plenty of fall guys bought and paid for and ready to toss on the Smurf dung heap you left behind.
And, oh, them yokels is still buyin’ the water, and still buyin’ the fruit juice, and still in the wine clubs. And Justin Appleseed? Well, sir, if you walk around that ol’ property, you can still hear the echoes. The ones of him laughin’ all the way to the bank.