Monday, December 31, 2012

The HoseMaster's Favorite Moments of 2012

It’s been just about a year since I returned to writing HoseMaster of Wine™ for the seventeenth time (don’t get cute, now, I’ll walk away again, I swear, I mean it, just lay off or I’ll quit again—or worse, I’ll just publish tasting notes—you don’t want that, do you? I didn’t think so). Turns out, I picked a perfect year to restart this foolishness. In the wine business, 2012 was filled with scandal, stupid trends, fraud, and the contagious optimism that goes along with them. It began with Jay Miller and ended with Natalie MacLean. It was the Year of the Boobs.

In the grand tradition of taking the easiest premise possible every chance I get, I thought it would be fun to quickly revisit my favorite moments in wine from 2012. One can only hope that 2013 will be half as much fun.

The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Scandals of 2012

The Jay Miller Affair—Any scandal that results in an M.W. resigning has to be good. Though, as it turns out, Pancho Campo actually sold his M.W. to Natalie MacLean for $2.10/month. He threw in his integrity for free. She threw it back because she had no idea what it was. And it was really small. Dr. Miller, the Wine Advocate’s Spanish wine reviewer, and Spain’s favorite dictator since Francisco Franco, retired soon after the scandal broke, though he claims he had planned to quit long before that. Which is like being drunk, tripping and falling into a table loaded with drinks and food, then getting up and saying, “I meant to do that.” Campo was essentially forced to resign from being a Master of Wine (one always uses an audio echo effect when saying, “Master of Wine!”) because he used his superpowers for evil, and the other superheroes just didn’t like that, especially Jancisman and Doug Frosty the Snowman. This was just a superb scandal. (See “Parkenstein” in my December 2011 and January 2012 Blog Archives.)

19 Perfect Wines—Perhaps not so much scandal as farce, Robert Parker awarded 19 different wines from the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux a perfect 100 points. In retrospect, it seems a pretty smart move to demonstrate your power and influence when you’re about to sell your publication to the Three Singapore Stooges. Prices of those 19 wines immediately rose, and rose quickly, from their giant dose of Parker Viagra, and, indeed, the value of the Bordeaux vintage increased significantly. After the sale of The Wine Advocate, Millennials rushed to remind us that Parker’s influence was waning anyway. Jenna Talia, as head wine mouth of the Somebody, Please, Listen to Me generation, wrote in Wine Spectator, “Nobody my age cares what Parker thinks. He smells like my grandfather’s laundry hamper, and his last taste bud died in Michel Rolland’s butt.” This “scandal” was lots of fun. (See my “Parkenstein! Explains Perfection” from March 2012.)

Natalie MacLean--She dared use dull and virtually interchangeable wine reviews from wine experts on her blog without attribution. Though this gave the reviews value they otherwise lacked, the experts were outraged. Funny thing about experts, outrage is what they’re really good at, and little else. Taking yourself seriously is an absolute requirement for writing about wine—it’s like every wine description you write is an Oscar acceptance speech except you never thank anybody. But the experts’ outrage opened the floodgate, and poor Nat was deluged with her past indiscretions. Turns out she’s about as beloved as genital herpes. Which probably means she’ll return at an awkward moment, and be even nastier than the last time. Clearly, this was a fabulous, and probably the best, scandal of 2012. Bravo, Nat! (See Below, “Nat Defrauds.”)

The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Fraud of 2012

Dr. Conti—Rudy Kurniawan, referred to by his friends as Dr. Conti because of his legendary cellar of DRC Burgundy, seems to have made a small fortune faking famous and rare wines and selling them at auction. But for slipping up and labeling a Domaine Ponsot Burgundy with a vintage that was years before the winery existed, he might still be doing it. The auction houses weren’t worried about it—they religiously check provenance like Marlee Matlin checks her voicemail.  When I lived in Southern California, I sold Rudy dozens of bottles of Screaming Eagle; which he drank, and are now featured on some of the finest wine lists in Las Vegas. Ah, but there’s something sweetly appropriate about hedge fund managers and bank executives drinking expensive forgeries. It’s like they had a long night of drunken sex with a hooker and didn’t see her penis until the morning. In his defense, Rudy was just following in the footsteps of legendary California fake wines Inglenook Chablis, Gallo Hearty Burgundy and Korbel Champagne. A fraud for the wine ages! (See “Dr. Conti, Prison M.D.” from March.)

The HoseMaster’s™ Favorite Stupid Trends of 2012

Low Alcohol—I’m not sure when the habit of checking the alcohol content on a wine label began, but I’m thinking it’s the about the same time wineries started printing it as small and as hidden on a wine label as legally possible. Like they’re ashamed of it. The ABV has nothing to do with the quality of a wine, not on its own anyway. Only stupid people think so. The alcohol, my friends, is WHY we drink wine. It’s the only damn reason we drink wine. More isn’t better, less isn’t better, not by definition. We just don’t want to taste it when we drink it. Drugs don’t taste good. It’s why you stick your dog’s medicine in meat. And he doesn’t check to see if it’s too much, he just eats it. Let’s just drop the alcohol debate. Checking the alcohol on a wine bottle is like a junky checking to see if his needle is clean. Why? He’s going to use it anyway.

Orange Wine—There was a lot of talk about orange wines in 2012, but I don’t know a single person who likes them. Orange wines are the Kardashians of wine. Please, just quietly die.

Natural/Authentic/Real Wine—What do all of these stupid trends have in common? Simple. They’re each about the denial of pleasure, about dictating tastes, about superiority. There’s always been a lot of that in the American wine culture, such as it is. It’s the leftover Puritan in us. The alcohol is too high—that has to be bad, you can’t drink that! It doesn’t smell good? Too bad, just drink it, someone went to a lot of trouble to make that! Don’t waste it! Your wine isn’t authentic? It isn’t natural? How can you enjoy a wine like that? Atheist! In the case of “natural” wine, it’s a return to mystical beliefs combined with the guilt of having ruined the planet for future generations. We can make up for it by drinking “authentic” wines, which have “soul.” Who’s buying this pretentious, mystical crap? The “Real” wine movement is the exact equivalent of the old Medicine Show, and the hucksters selling it just the usual snake oil salesmen. Hell, it’s entertaining, I’ll give ‘em that, but it’s utterly worthless.

Yup, it was a fine year, ol’ 2012. Can’t say I’m sorry to see it go, but it was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nat Defrauds

Photo from Nat Defrauds--source unknown
Dear Splooge Estate,

I’m a gi-normous fan of Splooge Estate, but, then, who doesn’t love Splooge? I wanted to introduce myself to you, and tell you about all the benefits of joining me on “Nat Defrauds,” my award-winning website. Together, we can move a lot of Splooge.

I’ve been in the news lately, and not just from my lawsuit against those inflatable love doll manufacturers who blatantly stole my patented hair style for their own uses. Sadly, there have also been slanderous untruths published in online wine forums about Nat Defrauds, but that’s the price I pay for being one of the world’s most important wine personalities. I want you to know the charges stem from simple jealousy. Some wine writers will say that they stand on the shoulders of giants like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker. Not me. I wipe my feet on them.

Nat Defrauds is the most important wine website on the Internet, and I am the foremost wine authority in Canada, and probably the world, if you don’t count the other countries. If you don’t believe me, here are a few quotes that easily could have been written by famous wine writers if they could get over their envy and speak from their cold, dead hearts so I wouldn’t have to fake them:

“Nat is not only one of the great palates in the wine business, she has fabulous tits.”Hugh Johnson, author of “The Story of Wine—A Tribute to Nat MacLean”

“I urge everyone to carefully read everything Nat has to say about wine. She’s the foremost authority on the subject, and should win every award, especially for her fabulous hooters.”Jancis Robinson, author of “Vines, Grapes, Wines and Nat”

“The 100-Point-Scale was Nat’s idea…I learned almost everything I know about wine at Nat’s feet…though her boobs are even nicer.”Robert Parker, author of “The World’s Great Wine Estates and What They Owe to Nat.”

I’m almost embarrassed to repeat those quotes, but you can see for yourself that they’re real. And notice that I gave full attribution, though my jealous wine critics claim I’m not that good at it.

Now that you know who I am, I know you’ll want me to talk about your wonderful Splooge Estate wines on Nat Defrauds! Let me tell you a little bit more about my site, and how it’s designed to show your wines in the brightest light.

My site has a gi-normous data base of my wine reviews. I have some of the finest wine reviewers in the world writing for my site, and they all work for me for FREE! That’s how loved and respected I am. (“Nat is the most loved and respected wine writer alive, and what knockers!”Eric Asimov, author of “How to Love Wine, and Nat’s Knockers”) I collect their reviews from the special Nat Defrauds Cloud that Google has designed specially for me, cut and paste them on my site, and, Bingo, eh (as we Canadians say), the most authoritative collection of wine reviews on the planet! I do make certain to give credit where credit is due, though. Each review is clearly initialed so that my subscribers know the source. I’ve created what I think is a perfect system—really, the initials are so obvious to anyone who knows anything about wine! Here are some examples:

FB/FD—Fat Boy with Flatulent Dog (So obvious it’s a Wine Advocate review)
TOMW—Tired Old Master of Wine (Sorry, Jancis, somebody has to say it)
RAD—Rabid Australian Dingo (My love handle for James Halliday)

I’m all about transparency! (“Nat Defrauds is all about transparency—you should see her gazongas in lingerie!”Paul Lukacs, author of “Inventing Wine—How Nat Did It”) I’m not sure how any of my subscribers could be confused about who writes the reviews on my website, except, of course, that they’re mostly Canadian.

I know you’re very anxious at this point to see Splooge Estate wines featured on Nat Defrauds. And that’s why I’m writing. Yes, I could purchase your wines and review them in a very objective manner, but what good would that do either of us? I’ve made it much simpler for a fine winery such as Splooge Estate to get reviewed on Nat Defrauds. It’s easy as 1-2-3.

1. Go to my website,, and become a subscriber. It’s only $2/month, far less than you’d pay for buying a meal for a sommelier, or the price of entering a worthless wine competition. Make sure and leave a valid credit card number! Fair warning: I hate people who use stolen credit card numbers—stealing numbers is just wrong. Unless it’s from chumps like BurgHound!

2. Send me your fabulous Splooge Estate wines. DO NOT SKIP #1! Of course, the only way to get my shipping address is by subscribing, it’s behind the pay wall, which is also where I store my integrity.

3. Get ready for your website to light up with hits and orders from my 128,000 subscribers. (“Nat Defaults has 128,000 subscribers!”Marvin Shanken, editor of Wine Spectator, and Nat Aficionado”) When the Best Wine Writer in the World says put some Splooge in your mouth, people eat it up!

I look forward to hearing from you right after I see that your subscription to Nat Defrauds has been activated. Don’t confuse this with pay to play. It’s entirely ethical. Ask yourself this, if it weren’t ethical would the Best Wine Writer in the World be able to do it? If it weren’t ethical could it even be on the Internet? Send me the money and the wine and let me worry about what’s ethical.

And please feel free to forward this informative and entertaining letter to any of your friends and fellow winery owners. There’s only so much time in the day for the Greatest Wine Writer Who Ever Lived, and there’s one of you born every minute.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Uncle Milton's Biodynamic Ant Farm

Christmas is my favorite time of year, just nudging out jury duty. And what I like most about Christmas is shopping for loved ones. That moment of knowing you’ve purchased the perfect gift for someone you adore, already envisioning the joy on their face when they open it, and imagining the greater joy they’ll feel as they return it for store credit. It sets my heart aglow like nothing else, aside from barium enemas. I’m not a religious soul, so the “true meaning” of Christmas is a mystery to me. I see a manger scene with the three wise men and I always think their names are Salmanazar, Nebuchadnezzar, and Threesevenfive. He’s the short one. I grew up in a home where Christmas meant decorating the tree, baking Christmas cookies, and leaving a bottle of Smirnoff for Santa to enjoy with Mom after he slipped down her flue. Christmas is, after all, also flue season. And from all the sounds coming from the living room, Mom and Santa had a grand time, until Santa had to leave to deliver more presents in the same ’68 Impala “Uncle” Larry drove.

Christmas, they say, is about giving. And it’s about this time each year that I am repeatedly asked for recommendations of gifts for wine lovers. This is yet another reason I love Christmas—endless stupid premises. Here, then, are the HoseMaster of Wine™ Gift Ideas for the Wine Aficionado in your life. In the St. Nick of time.

A Gift Membership in the Wine-of-the-Month-Club-of-the-Month Club™

Victoria's Secret Wine Club Selection
I only recently learned of the existence of the WOMCOMC™, and I think it’s a terrific concept. Each month your beloved wine lover receives a shipment of wine from a different Wine-of-the-Month Club! This is a stunning array of wines available nowhere else, and for good reason. Not a wine buyer in the world wanted them. These are the best wines rejected by the finest sommeliers and savviest wine shop owners all over the world, delivered right to your door, and at impressively exaggerated prices. You’ll want a membership for yourself. January it’s 12 bottles from the Wall Street Journal Wine Club, $60 of wine for the introductory price of only $9/btl. How do they do it? February look for a shipment from the New York Times Wine Club. Yes, I know, too good to be true! The New York Times actually has nothing to do with the selection of wines for their club, the Newspaper of Record only lends their name to the enterprise for a tidy profit. Exactly like Roy Rogers did for chicken. Haven’t heard of that Bordeaux in the February shipment? What are you worried about? It was carefully selected by someone smart enough to buy off the damned New York Times!  In March, it might be the selection of the Victoria’s Secret Wine of the Month Club. You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted crotchless Old Vines Zin—smells like punt. And for the final shipment, just in time for next Christmas, The Rudy K. Wine of the Month Club! Word to the wise—don’t drink ‘em, auction them off to pay for your Christmas spending! At least in the Rudy K. Club, the fake labels are fake labels of actual wineries.

The Wheel of Fortune™ Wine Rating Game

Ever wonder how the pros rate wines? Many people believe that wine scores are arrived at purely randomly. Oh, pish-posh. Like these Wine Gods simply swirl the wine in their glass, breathe deeply, accept a few ounces into their Blessed Facial Cavities, gracefully expectorate into their adoring assistant’s mouth and declare it an 89. Don’t be so naïve. Now Wine Enthusiast along with Merv Griffin Productions has released this game that actually recreates the method used by all the top critics, and Tim Fish. The wine lover in your life will be grateful and excited to learn this once closely guarded technique, the same technique used to make or break real wineries, often after years of toil and financial jeopardy (coming next Christmas, Wine Country Financial Jeopardy, with Alex Trebek--“I’ll take “Wine Barrels” for $1200, Alex.”). It turns out giving scores to wines is fun! You’ll need a partner to play. The partner sets up the Wheel of Fortune™ puzzle board with the name of the wine you’re going to be served blind. You taste the wine, and then spin the wheel. The wheel lands on an adjective, which you write down for your final description of the wine. The wheel is based on the dreaded Aroma Wheel created by Ann Noble, which also has little basis in reality. Solve the puzzle and you’ve solved the mystery of what’s in your glass, and you’ve got a convincing description as well. Just like the pros do it! Now you move to the bonus round. Spin the Points Wheel and see what score the wine will receive. It’s uncanny how well this works, and how often the description and scores you end up with match the reviews found in prestigious publications. It’s damned exciting to see a wine only get 86 points knowing it will ruin the winery's reputation and slow sales to the pace of $50 Australian wine! It’s fun, and it’s educational. I played a very long round with Natalie MacLean—she just kept landing on “Bankrupt.”

Uncle Milton’s Biodynamic™ Ant Farm®

If your wine lover is like most wine lovers, he doesn’t have a clue about Biodynamics™, the system of agriculture derived from a series of lectures delivered by Rudolf Steiner. Which is like developing a clown school based on the writings of John Wayne Gacy. Now any wine lover can get up close and personal with the principles of biodynamics with Uncle Milton’s Biodynamic™ Ant Farm®. It’s almost exactly like the Ant Farm you remember from your childhood, the one where you spent hours and hours watching those horrible little ants farm using pesticides and RoundUp. In the Biodynamic™ version you learn how to run your Ant Farm® so that it doesn’t harm the big plastic thing they live in. You’ll learn how to do everything on your ant farm according to the cycles of the ant calendar. Is it a Dead Bird Day, or is it a Picnic Day? It matters. Maybe it’s an Along the Walls and Into the Greasy Cupboard Day. What day it is on the ant calendar is important to the biodynamic farming. It doesn’t need to make sense. It’s all spelled out for you on the Ant Farm® Biodynamic™ Calendar. You don’t ask why it’s called Monday. Hypocrite. It just fucking is. See, you’re learning already! And you’ll have hours of fun putting together the Biodynamic™ Teas which you’ll need to put into your Ant Farm® at every solstice. You need to grow your own herbs for the Teas, so you might also want to get your wine lover the new Biodynamic™ Chia Pet®--my favorite one is an exact replica of Randall Grahm’s head. See, this is hours of fun! And when it’s all done and the ants have finally died, your wine lover will understand that Christmas, Biodynamics, and Life are all based entirely on faith, ritual, and endlessly moving one grain of sand at a time until you die.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Eulogy for the Wine Writer

“The creature which we used to call a ‘wine writer’ has died.”—Andrew Jeffords

I’d first like to say how honored I am to have been asked to deliver the eulogy for Wine Writer. I think I speak for all of us here when I say that it’s been a very difficult stretch since we learned of his untimely demise. Yes, Wine Writer had been horribly sick before he passed, a pathetic shadow of what he once had been, reduced to a kind of Laubotomized babbling, a sad and tired victim of Parkerson’s Disease, covered in nasty Suckling wounds, his Hugh Johnson Feiring nothing but blanks. In the end, it’s true, he had ceased to have anything meaningful to say. The last time I saw Wine Writer I asked him how he was feeling. “Full-bodied and unctuous,” he replied, possibly referring to what he’d left in his bedpan. Yes, he was very near death for a very long time, and I’m happy that Wine Writer is finally out of his misery. You’ll pardon me for being religious, but I like to think of Wine Writer having successfully crossed over to that glossy and pastoral place where all wine writing goes to die, Wine Spectator. There is no greater death for Wine Writer. Unless there’s blogging in the afterlife.

It might be comforting to think that Wine Writer died of natural causes. Comforting, but wholly uninformed. It would be more accurate to say that Wine Writer was tortured, abused, and then neglected like the Syrah aisle at your local wine shop. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Who of us will ever forget Wine Writer in his prime? Remember those days? Most of you younger people don’t remember a time when wine writing was about two, and only two, things—Wine and Writing. I know, that’s hard to believe. Wine Writer was somebody in those days. He taught us about wine. He had insight and he was articulate, he was free of marketing jargon and the only numbers he knew were for his local bars. The only 100 Point Scales he knew were from his psoriasis. Don’t be surprised, friends, Wine Writer and flaky go hand-in-hand. In those days he couldn’t be bought. Leased, with an option to buy, absolutely; hey, it’s the wine business! But why buy that used ’57 Balzer when you can go out and get yourself a new 2012 Jay Miller, with plenty of plush upholstery and built-in airbag? Those were different times. The writing was as important as the subject. Remember those days? That’s what we’re here to mourn. There will always be wine, and there will always be writing. But now they’re seen together about as often as sommeliers and humility. It seems M.S. is always a disease.

Maybe it’s the changing times that helped kill Wine Writer. He became an Everyman, an Everywoman, an Everymoronwithacomputer. Maybe he died trying to be everywhere, his talent diffused and useless like an Alka-Seltzer dissolved in 10,000 gallons of water—sort of like Pinot Grigio. Maybe it was that Wine Writer was ultimately confused with Wine Typer. Typing is not writing any more than epileptic fits are dancing. Though there are a lot of Typers that should be allowed to swallow their tongues.

In his day, you could find Wine Writer in every major newspaper, as common as horoscopes, but far less accurate, of course. Any significant food publication had to have Wine Writer onboard to give them legitimacy. Now they have panels. Who wants panels? Panels are for protecting cotton underpants. I don’t want them telling me what wine to buy. It’d probably be orange. Now the glory days of Wine Writer in newspapers are gone. You have only to pick up The Wall Street Journal to see his bloated body swimming in Rupert’s cesspool. It’s best that we bury him today.

Or maybe we killed Wine Writer. Yes, I said “we.” All of us, like in “Murder on the Orient Express.” (Oh, sorry, I meant to say, “Spoiler Alert,” which, by the way, they should install on bottles of Two Buck Chuck.) Maybe our device-driven attention spans killed Wine Writer, like so many pedestrians splattered on windshields like moths on a hot day in Modesto by Millennials talking on their iPhones instead of watching the road. Our slavery to email and Twitter and Pinterest (who knew an entire world could be built around Harold Pinter?) has diminished our attention spans to the size of bubbles in a bottle of Krug Le Mesnil. Maybe we killed Wine Writer with neglect. We only have time now for scores and vintage charts, not thoughtful and joyful wine writing. We’re always in a hurry. Right now, as I speak, most of you are wondering if you’ve received a text message in the last thirty seconds. You wait for the buzz or the chirp or the vibration like one of Pavlov’s dogs, the one who can’t keep his balls out of his mouth. You killed Wine Writer. As much as anyone else, it was us. Though, to be certain, we were just ending his suffering.

Perhaps most of you aren’t aware that for the past ten or fifteen years the Wine Writer you knew wasn’t the real Wine Writer. He was an impostor. The real Wine Writer wouldn’t have published Hedonist’s Gazettes or Buying Guides or Picks of the Week or Top 100’s--wine writing that is lazy and self-absorbed, easily digested like your own spit, redundant and trivial like watching “Entertainment Tonight.” Wine Writer was being insufferably abused while his impersonators cashed in on the simpleminded and sad who were reading their unoriginal and empty words, and florid and vapid descriptions. Wine Writer may have died just a few weeks ago, but he’d vanished like Ambrose Bierce many, many years ago.

Which reminds me of Bierce’s definition of “Critic,” from “The Devil’s Dictionary.” It applies to those Wine Writer impersonators.

CRITIC, n. A person who boasts himself hard to please because nobody tries to please him.

I like to imagine that one day Wine Writer will return. Perhaps he is already among us, waiting for all the noise that is the great democracy of the Internet to die down so that he can be heard. Waiting for all the iPhones to be turned off so he can have our attention for more than a few seconds. Waiting for people to value insight and original thought instead of recycled and inarticulate words. Waiting. Waiting. Death has all the time in the world.

Meanwhile, I miss him.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

God Sells His Kingdom

By Jose Saramago

Translated from Portuguese by Ronaldo Jose Meister

When God, who, when he is roaming the Earth tasting all the important wines his only son Jesus, who died for your sins, so in the future could you please make your sins at least worth dying for, is in charge of making, goes by the name of Bob, sold his kingdom to three guys from Singapore, all God’s children were stunned. God didn’t care about his children. He hadn’t cared about his children for a very long time, not even the ones that came to worship at his virtual heaven where they would heap praise upon his wisdom like one heaps more shit on a pile of manure. You have to heap that crap somewhere, and God had a loathsome Squire to carefully monitor it, a simple mark who believed nearness to God gave him remarkable powers, though it didn’t, he had little skill, but God wanted him to believe he had those powers, and the Squire was more than happy to believe him. Three wise men had appeared to Bob just as they had wisely appeared at the birth of his only son Jesus, guided by one of Bob’s dying stars, as though following dying stars was the smart thing to do, a mistake similarly engaged in by all of those jackasses at Bob’s virtual heaven website. Two thousand years ago those three wise men had brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, though how myrrh could be considered a baby gift God could never figure out, so he sent that wise man straight to Hell, Hell being one eternal baby shower, but this time around those three wise men had brought their checkbooks, and not just any checkbooks, but sycophantic, sizeable, Singaporean checkbooks. Bob was pleased. God doesn’t need money, he simply loves taking it from his stupider children, who send him money regularly in the form of a subscription, with the result that because the stupider children have given him money, they tend to believe his proclamations and commandments. No one believes advice that they haven’t paid for, though those that give free advice, for example, God’s lonely bloggers who believe they will one day replace Bob, are convinced that if they just act like Bob, talk like Bob, rate like Bob and, ultimately, bore like Bob, their advice will replace Bob’s. Ah, God thinks to himself, that old Oedipal myth I made up a few thousand years ago has them wanting to kill their father and sleep with their mother, poor things, not knowing that their mother is a flatulent bulldog, though if I gave her a hundred points they’d gladly pay to stick their arrogant noses behind her docked tail.

The three Singaporean wise men bearing checkbooks humbly approached Bob, and the first one, the tallest one, though he was shorter than the subscriber list at Wine and Spirits, acted as spokesman for the three. Bob, he began, we worship you and love you and we want to buy your kingdom, all of it if you’ll let us, but if you only want us to give you money for a portion of your holy kingdom we are prepared to do that, we only want your poor children living in ignorance of your wisdom and guidance in these Bobforsaken Asian countries to have their eyes opened to your word, and that’s not a racial slur for we are of that race and we can say that just like it’s OK for essentially dead wine writers to declare wine writers dead. God was silent. Please don’t misunderstand, the suddenly nervous spokeSingaporean continued, we only want to give you money, and we want to be able to say who will be your Popes and Bishops, your mouthpieces and surrogates, your blessed scribes, who, after all, have already sold you their own names and honor for the privilege of living in your Light, and so are meaningless to you, as they are to everyone who loves your kingdom and the kingdom of the grape, for there is only one Bob from whom all glory and adjectives flow, the rest is all steaming Schildknecht.

When God spoke, the three wise men quaked, for they had only ever dreamed of being in the presence of Bob with their checkbooks, and never really believed that they would be granted an audience with the holy father, for they had never made wine like his only son Jesus and his adopted son Michel, who breathed the very oxygen God had created into his wines so as to make them more holy to his adopted father, and God was pleased with his adopted son, and not so much with Singaporeans, unless they had large checkbooks. Many people, God said, want to buy my kingdom, but they all live in the world I already command, the world most dedicated to loving Bob, a world where I am worshipped in the manner I deserve, my name on everyone’s lips, my lips on everyone’s wines, my words the best they ever hear or the last they ever hear, my commandments obeyed, Thou shalt not filter or fine, Thou shalt honor no other God before me, especially one answering to Marvin Satan, Thou shalt not enter my kingdom without a subscription, and my many other commandments. But you three wise young men come from a world where I long to be worshipped, where I long for my name to be uttered in the same hushed tones as those of Mohammed, Buddha and Wilfred Wong, where I want to spread my gospel of good living, gluttony, and the useless pursuit of perfection that doesn’t exist chasing false numbers that do, where I want to convince your kind, my lost children, to seek out what I tell them to seek out so that they will know truth and, to honor that truth, give me money, as you wise young men are willing to do, and so I will sell a portion of my kingdom to you, how’s a cool 20 mil sound?

We are humbled and honored to give you our money, holy Bob, money we have earned screwing so many of your little children in ways that would most impress you, we believe, and we thank you, and we promise to help spread your gospel, the gospel according to our wise and all-knowing father, to every corner of our land in order to make it your land, where your word is final, your Book of Numbers the holiest of books.

It is done, God said, but, my sons, may I inquire what it is you get out of this, aside from being forever associated with me, with all that is right and good about my kingdom?

Yes, Bob, replied the middle wise man, finally able to speak through his tears, tears generated by Bob’s very presence, his Light, or perhaps by his relentlessly slinging shit everywhere, I will tell you what is in it for us. We want to rule the kingdom with you as our God. With prior access to your bimonthly Book of Numbers we can invest more of our checkbooks in your wise proclamations, corner the market in all of the nineteen future perfect scores from the next great vintage in Bordeaux, accumulate even more money with these investments, reselling your perfect Bob wines to the stupid, cash-laden brothers in our land. It should be easy, the Singaporeans agreed, and we thank you, God, for all these blessings you have bestowed upon us.

The pleasure, God said, was gold mine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The HoseMaster's Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

You were so good to me last Christmas. I got everything I asked for! Even The Alice Feiring Make Your Own Natural Wine Kit™, complete with the Frank Cornelissen inflatable doll! Funny place to put the oral inflation valve, but I guess that’s where Alice likes it. You even brought me a signed copy of Rudy K.’s new mystery novel, “The BurgHound of the Baskervilles.” I never saw the ending coming at all. Experts being fooled by fraudulent wines! Who’s ever heard of such a thing? Usually they’re fooled by ordinary wines. What a twist! So, thank you, Santa, it was my best Christmas ever. And what will I do with that fabulous collection of wines that was under the tree? Every single Jay Miller 100 point wine! Maybe I should do what my hero Dr. Miller would do! Ask for money and then lose myself in a bucket of foie gras.

This year, Santa, I don’t want anything for myself. Really. Life has been so generous and wonderful to me. I don’t need a single thing. Sure, I’d like to live long enough to see wine print publications die, but that’s not your department. But, although I don’t want any gifts for the HoseMaster this year, I do want to ask you for some things for the wine business, some things I think it desperately needs. Christmas is a time to focus on the less fortunate, and no one, Santa, considers themselves less fortunate than people in the wine business.

Would it be possible, Santa, to end the arguing about natural, authentic, and real wines versus just plain old wine? It makes me sad. Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because the arguing gets so bad and I’m fearful I’ll never be able to drink wine again without wondering if something terrible is in it, like flavor. The natural wine people scare me, Santa, they’re so sad and hopeless. They want to fix everybody, make them see that they’re horrible people if they don’t agree with their standards. They’re like Al-Qaeda, but, tragically, minus the suicide bombers. They’re so nervous all the time, these poor people. Nervous that people are adding stuff to their wine that will hurt them, as if it isn’t the alcohol that will kill them first. Nervous that wine will become too easy to understand for ordinary people and they’ll be rendered useless and unimportant, like James Suckling. Nervous that no one outside of their own flock cares what they think or ever will. Is it any wonder they’re all so short and skinny? They tremble like those little Chihuahuas that Paris Hilton uses as personal vibrators. They need your help this Christmas, Santa.

Can you just make it so we talk about wine on its own merit? That’s what I want for Christmas, Santa. That there be no Natural Wine, or Authentic Wine, or Real Wine, but that there just be Good Wine. That we judge a wine not by its upbringing or color, but by the content of its character. OK, I stole that from the great wine leader, Martin Luther Ray, but it’s important. Who gets to be the judge of whether a wine is “real?” (Bad enough I have to worry about Real Mayonnaise.) All these sad doomsayers who have found a hobby horse and are going to ride that poor nag until its hooves turn to dog food, or the special at Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen? Have any of them ever found a “real” wine that sucks? Not that I can tell. They’re too busy preaching the gospel to those other sad souls who think they can save the wine world by the force of their expectorations to exercise any discernment. If it’s natural, it’s good. And they can’t be fooled! There’s an “energy” to authentic wines. It’s that same energy harnessed to make the miracle that is the Magic Eight Ball and Ouija Boards. Sad folks, Santa. Can you make them see that there is an artificial ingredient in every wine? It’s called sales and marketing.

And, Santa, I’m really worried about all of these people I read about on the Internet who are going all alone on wine journeys but don’t know where the hell they’re going. They want me to join them on their journey to discover wine, but I don’t want to go. Could you find someone to help them, Santa? Maybe give them personalities or original thoughts? Or maybe you could get the Real Wine mujahideen to take them on a journey to Afghan wine country where they can be trained as Authentic disciples. No one would miss them. Oh, Santa, I’m so confused. So many people on wine journeys and so many of them lost. Can you help them, Santa? Give them all copies of Wilfred Wong’s new book, “Me Love Wine Long Time.” I can’t get my work done thinking about all of these hapless and unimaginative people on a journey. What will they do when they need their wits? Borrow a cup? Help them, Santa, please. They’re the homeless people of the wine world, wandering on a demented journey and filling the dead air with mindless and confused babbling that only they can make sense of while pushing a shopping cart filled with their dreary lives. Can you make it so we treat them like our far-too-numerous homeless? Shove them where no one can see them? I’d appreciate it, Santa.

There’s so much I want for the wine business, Santa. I won’t expect you to fix everything. But even just a few of my wishes granted would help. I know you’re busy; Alderpated wants more junkets and more respect, like those two go together, and Jenna Talia Baiocchi wants panties with different grape varieties embroidered on them (I love the one that says “Cot Naked!”). But can you also make the cork versus Stelvin controversy just go away? It’s not good for everyone to fight over closures. There’s room for all of them. Is it really necessary for Stelvin to plaster their new motto all over the media? “Stelvin—When You’re Too Fucking Drunk to Use a Corkscrew!” It’s so divisive, like that despicable Senator who said that women who get raped should “be like a cheap bottle of wine and get unscrewed.” Everyone is a loser in this debate. Can you just make it go away, Santa, please, for me?

I’ve been a good boy all year. I’ve been nice to everyone. Ask anybody. I don’t want anything for myself, Santa. I just want for the wine world what I give to everyone in it, love and understanding.

Your friend,
The HoseMaster of Wine

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Quality of Gramercy is Not Strain'd

Gramercy Wines I’m Yammering About:
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley $50
2010 Syrah Walla Walla Valley $55
2010 Grenache Olsen Vineyard Columbia Valley $55

I think the first wine made by a sommelier that I ever tasted was Bonaccorsi. Michael Bonaccorsi, who died suddenly and at a very young age in 2004, was sommelier at Spago Beverly Hills when he started his own label, I think around 1999. I’ve always been of the opinion that it should be illegal for sommeliers to make wine. Punishable by law. No prison time, but you’d have to listen to Michel Chapoutier speak, or serve 100 hours of community service, which is a shorter sentence. Be a winemaker or be a sommelier, for God’s sake, don’t try to be both. I never met a waiter in a steakhouse yet who wanted to be a butcher. Besides, sommeliers are not artists. If anything, they’re librarians. They buy things and put them on shelves, hopefully with some discernment. Wine lists are just card catalogues.

Mike Bonaccorsi called on me at work one day with a couple of bottles of wine for me to taste, a Chardonnay and a Syrah, I think. I bought several cases for the restaurant, more out of professional courtesy than passion for the wines. They were good, but not great that first vintage. But I liked Mike. Everyone liked Mike. Don’t think I ever bought wine from a sommelier again. You know, it’s  odd, but some of the most narrow-minded wine lovers I know are sommeliers (though Mike was never that kind of guy). You’d think they’d have more eclectic tastes, but they don’t. They might like wines with lower alcohol, or wines that are extracted and more intense than John Malkovich in musth, or wines from some obscure region like Coullioure or Waiheke Island or Ecuador, but they don’t appreciate them all. Sommeliers can be downright militaristic about their wine preferences. I tried to like everything.

Gramercy Cellars is new to me, though the winery has gotten lots of favorable press. Since I left the sommelier racket, I simply don’t read much press. Reading wine press is like death, only without the beckoning Light and cool wooden box. But somehow I ended up in the Gramercy Cellars Wine Club. I think I read about the winery on Paul Gregutt’s blog (the coward, giving up blogging for family and money—what kind of sickness is that?). Or maybe I saw the label and just liked that it reminded me of the classic old horror film, “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck. I think that’s the film where somebody gets impaled on a metal fence like the one on the Gramercy Cellars label—skewered and left for dead like the truth on FOX News. Whatever happened, I recently received a shipment from Gramercy Cellars, which turns out to be the winery of a Master Sommelier, Greg Harrington. But a very nice Master Sommelier. I was reminded of Mike Bonaccorsi.

I placed a reorder with Gramercy Cellars, six bottles. About an hour after I placed the Internet order, I received an email from Greg asking if I was buying the wines for review on my blog and offering to send me the wines for free. My first thought was, “He reads HoseMaster of Wine™?” That’s scary. Like seeing your sexting photo on Tosh 2.0. And you just stepped out of a really cold lake. I responded to Greg that I had been contemplating doing more wine writing on my blog, but that wasn’t at all what I was doing with the reorder. I don’t solicit wines, and I don’t have a tab on my blog that says “Where to Submit Samples” as if I were a fertility clinic. Though plenty of jerkoffs read my blog, I don’t necessarily want their samples. Anyhow, that wonderful Master Sommelier shipped me the six bottles at no charge, and with no expectation of a review. What was he thinking?

When I encounter a new winery, I’m always looking for style. Any good winery has one, every great winery has one, and the rest of the sorry wines produced in the world have all the style of that guy you see on ATM surveillance cameras. And you can’t get any sense of style until you taste several wines from that new winery. So I started tasting my Gramercy Cellars wines in no particular order and with no particular agenda, except I wanted to drink them with a meal, and over the course of a couple of days. I don’t think I’ve ever had a young, great wine that wasn’t better the second day. Like chewing gum.

With a selection of wines in front of me from Gramercy (Every time I type Gramercy, I hear Marvin Gaye in my head. “Ah, Gramercy, mercy me/Ahhh, things ain’t what they used to be, no, no/Where did all the blue skies go?/Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east.” I just have great Gayedar, I guess.), I gravitated first to the 2010 Grenache Olsen Vineyard. I love Grenache. Not the sort of cheap crap from Spain that tastes like hard cherry candy. I can drink that stuff, some of it is pretty tasty for the tariff, but I don’t think of it as Grenache. It’s often from vineyards more overcropped than JFK assassination photos.

Grenache, for me, comes down to Chateau Rayas. I cannot open a bottle of Grenache without comparing it to that legendary Chateauneuf-du-Pape. I love Rayas. I would marry Rayas and birth little Rayasses. I dream about Rayas, and wake up stickier than the floor at a Justin Bieber concert. I first tasted Rayas in 1987. I was with three other wine guys having dinner at Pacific Dining Car, where I was the sommelier. We occasionally convened there and would bring the best wines we could to try to top each other, bring the consensus best wine on the table. It wasn’t a blind tasting. Half the fun was drooling over the famous labels on the table. That first night I tasted Rayas, which sealed my doom and made me a Rayas buttboy, there were a couple of other very memorable wines on the table, 1985 Sassicaia and 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. And then there was the 1978 Rayas. It changed my life. The ’85 Sassicaia was truly remarkable, and the Martha’s was still in its infancy and a brilliant bottle of wine, but the Rayas was majestic. I’d never heard of it. You can argue about the greatest Grenache on planet Earth, but not with me. It’s Rayas. Yes, Rayas went through some tough transition vintages after Jacques Reynaud died and his nephew took over, but it seems he has the place back on track recently. If you have a Life List of great wines you hope to taste, you must have Rayas on it. I hope I can land some of the 2010. But I was saying…

Gramercy produced all of 95 cases of their 2010 Grenache. It’s very nice, and it’s clear to me that Greg Harrington loves Grenache, but it’s no Rayas. Nor did I expect it to be. That's asking far too much. During dinner, a bit of lamb loin, I kept mentioning Rayas, hoping the Rayas fairy would drop by with a glass or nine. It’s never fair to compare a wine like Gramercy Grenache to a legendary wine from your memory, but that’s what we do. I don’t want to drink wines that I don’t have high expectations for, anyway. I do drink them, but I wish I didn’t have to. Drinking those sorts of disappointing wines is like buying a book by Dan Brown—you know it’s going to suck, why buy it? The guy writes like Mickey Spillane with brain damage. But there are days you just make mistakes.

I did have high expectations for the Gramercy Grenache, just from the alliteration. And it was quite good. I’m anxious to try another vintage of it. The 2010 left me yearning for a more powerful finish is all. The lead-up was terrific. There's beautiful Grenache fruit here, bright red and fresh. Over and over I kept mumbling to my wife, “It goes down nice, but it doesn’t have a great finish.” “Yeah,” she said, “tell me about it.”

Based on the Grenache, I was very eager to taste the Cabernet and the Syrah. If the Grenache fell short for me, I still very much liked the style—restrained, fresh, impeccably balanced, and beautifully layered.

A few nights later, after a rat ate my Prius, I decided to open a bottle of each and taste them with a Chateaubriand I’d roasted. We’d drink half of each bottle with our meal, then drink the rest of each bottle the following night. With young wines I don’t bother to gas them or pump them over night. That’s sounds a little too much like you’re holding teenagers hostage in your basement.

I wonder how many Cabernet Sauvignons I’ve tasted in my life. I’m certain more than any other variety. It’s my wine equivalent of French fries. But I still love Cabernet. I don’t buy it as often as I once did though. Is there another grape variety around the world that so often underdelivers when it comes to price versus quality? When Cabernet comes up you often hear opinions like, “When it’s good, it’s really good, but otherwise, it’s overpriced.” Forget Rayas, it’s more like Jose Reyes. Constantly underperforms.

Drinking the Gramercy 2009 Cabernet (and I’ll just assume that everyone understands how different it is to drink wine than to taste it) with dinner I must have said three or four times, “I think this will be really good tomorrow.” It had that sort of muscle and acidic structure that I thought would fill out over night. It was darn good Cabernet, though, with that whisper of tobacco that I find fulfilling in fine Cabernet. I love Columbia Valley Cabernet, and have often expressed the opinion that Washington Cabernets will one day equal, even surpass, the great wines of Napa Valley. But, as good as this wine was, it didn’t dramatically improve. It didn’t deteriorate either, which is a good sign. I get the feeling after tasting his wines that Greg Harrington’s passion is the Rhône varieties. That’s obvious from his lineup, but I sensed it when I tasted the Cabernet. Winemakers always say their wines are like their children and they don’t have favorites, but now and then you can tell which kid is the one that would make Sophie’s Choice easy.

Or maybe the Cabernet suffered alongside the 2010 Walla Walla Syrah. I wouldn’t even blink at the $55 price tag for this wine. Simply put, this is brilliant wine. In the great big world of Syrah, it’s vastly underpriced. My HoseMaster brain thought of it as Raymond Chandler might have:

“I smelled the blood when I walked in. The wind was blowing, that hot wind that blows across the city urging neglected housewives to sit on their husband’s face, only with a pillow in between him and the twin hills of Côte-Rôtie. I was nervous as a dog with a bladder infection. It was dark, a saturated kind of dark, and I could smell meat and blood and smoke. There was a familiar taste in my mouth. Fear. But I like the taste of fear. It means you’re alive.”

The second night the Syrah went from bombastic to fascinating. Like a guy who is the life of the party the first night, but the second night he’s not “on” and is far more interesting. It was sensational with my simple little Chateaubriand, which was also nice and bloody, and the second night, well, it overwhelmed the roast chicken, but was still wondrous. And I think there's still some for sale on the website. It comes with my enthusiastic recommendation. Yeah, I know, so what.

If you read all the way to here, you might want a link:

Gramercy Cellars

Monday, December 3, 2012

What We're Reading

Compiled by the Editors of HoseMaster of Wine

TERROIRIST: Finally, a wine club! And not just an ordinary wine club, but a wine club that selects wines and ships them to you. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before now? You can join the Wine Club, writes David White, “and know that every wine you receive is guaranteed full of terroir! And plenty of pure, sweet alcohol, too.” Oh, you could pay more for these wines elsewhere, if they were actually good enough for Weygandt to get them placed on wine lists, but why would you when you’re paying plenty here? And each shipment comes with a brief tasting note that will tell you what you’re tasting, because you’re clearly incapable of it yourself, as well as recommended food pairings, many available at any 7-11 microwave. Savvy wine lovers are canceling their Rudy KurniaWine of the Month Club and signing up for Terrorist’s. Their motto, “If they weren’t delicious, would UPS deliver them?” ‘Nuff said.

WINE SPECTATOR: The current issue dedicated to the Pinot Noirs of the Williamette Valley, “OreGONZO!,” is packed with delectable reading. More than 275 Oregon wines are rated over 85 points, which is certainly helpful the same way it’s helpful to have 300 cable channels on your TV. Matt Kramer wonders if Oregon will ever merit the same passion as Burgundy. “I know there’s a BurgHound already, I’m just wondering if there will ever be a CoosHound.” Yeah, Matt, I know a couple. Harvey Steiman checks in on the vibrant Oregon restaurant scene. “What’s the hottest trend in Portland’s fine dining establishments? Lap dances! And plenty of them. What wine to order with your lap dances? Hell, something bone dry!” Harvey’s been drinking. Talia Baiocchi takes on “What to Wear to a Tasting Room,” and advises, “Dress like a Kardashian, but Drink like a Lohan.” Tim Fish on being lost in the Portland airport.

DECANTER: Andrew Jeffords revisits his European Wine Bloggers Speech where he declared “the wine writer, as we know it, is dead.” “I think it was misinterpreted,” Jeffords writes, “I was looking at Michael Broadbent at the time.” Michael Broadbent reviews the wine list in Hell, “It looked pretty much like the second issue of Alice Feiring’s newsletter.” Tom Stevenson has an interesting take on vintage Prosecco in a piece entitled, “I’d Rather Drink Serena Sutcliffe’s Depilatory.” And Hugh Johnson on why he loves rose gardens more than wine writing, “Not nearly as many pricks.”

STEVE! HEIMOFF: A rainy day has Steve wondering if his dog is corked. Like he’d know.

SAVEUR: The 2013 Saveur 100 List has a few odd items this year. Gael Greene writes about collecting toothpicks made from the remains of famous food luminaries. “After a fine roast chicken on the weekend, I love to remove what remains between my teeth with a Julia Child pick—it’s my own version of Saturday Night Femur.” Another entry on the list is “Natural Wines Imported That Burn Ungodly Amounts of Fossil Fuel.” Finally, I have no idea how this got on the list, “Sesame Street’s New ‘Tickle Me, Prostate’ Doll."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Jay McInerney visits with the new wave of young California winemakers, not one of whom knows who the fuck he is. In another article, Jay is invited to a Henri Jayer vertical at Lady GaGa’s house. “How does one describe the ’85 Cros Parantoux,” writes McInerney, in his usual passionate and self-entitled voice, “except to say it tasted like marrying money? If you ever get the chance, try it.” As for GaGa, “I think she was dressed as a dirty Burgundian wine cave.” Lettie Teague weighs in on natural wines, “They smell bad, like hippies.”

PALATE PRESS:  For those of you who can’t get enough of vapid wine articles, yet want to help Save the Planet by not buying glossy, oversized lifestyle magazines (how many trees have died to glorify Marvin Shanken?—remember, with magazines, the bigger the page, the smaller the intellect), there’s always Palate Press! Blinky Gray writes about his recent junket to Turkey, alongside the likes of Alder Yarrow. Turkey, notorious for imprisoning journalists, could not have been safer for them. And Meg Houston Maker explains what wines go best with the stuff you eat in the dark and hope nobody smells on your breath.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Secret Official Sommelier Manual--Leaked!

I’m not supposed to do this. I signed a document when I became a full-time sommelier that prohibits me from revealing the contents of the Official United States of America Sommelier’s Manual. But I think every restaurant patron should read it. I sent it to WikiLeaks, but Julian Assange wouldn’t touch it. “Too incendiary,” he wrote to me, “and, besides, I only accept secret documents from gay servicemen, or members of the Village People.” To which I say, “I like to stay at the WHY EM SEE AY.” Everybody now! So, at great personal risk, I am publishing excerpts here on HoseMaster of Wine™. I think you’ll find that everything you long suspected about sommeliers is not only true, but a requirement of the job. Failure to live up to the standards outlined here is punishable by significant fines, or, in the case of the worst violators, by mandatory attendance at Evan Goldstein lectures.

From Chapter 1 “Creating the Wine List”

The wine list is your personal fiefdom, a reflection of your bizarre taste in wine, and in no way is it meant to offer customers wines with which they might be familiar. The crap they drink at home has no place in a fine dining establishment. The reason for this is twofold. First of all, if no one needs your assistance in selecting a wine, you’re out of a job. Secondly, if a customer knows a wine, he is also likely to know its normal retail price. The wine list is the one vulnerable area of the restaurant where people can see that you are gouging them. And, boy, will they bitch. Sure, they’ll pay six bucks for ten cents worth of coffee at Starbucks, but mark up your wine to four times cost and they just won’t shut up about it.

Always try to offer wines from off-vintages. When a winery gets a big score on their 2009 vintage, make them an offer on their lousy 2008’s. You get a big discount. Then “accidentally” list the 2009 on the wine list at its normal gigantic markup. When a guest orders a bottle, simply bring out the 2008. They won’t notice. If they do, act surprised at the “typo,” and offer to bring your incomprehensible wine list back for them to select a different bottle. Guests will simply accept the 2008, and, BANG, you’ve got a big profit.

Never arrange the list by price. It’s best to arrange the list under annoyingly cutesy categories meant to reinforce the neurotic guest’s pathetic self-image. “Adventurous Whites,” “Powerful Reds,” “Sexy Alternatives,”—crap like that. Be creative. Try “Big Girth Imports,” or “Remarkable Stamina Whites,” or “Penetrating Deep, Dark Aussies.” People will pay anything to feel better about themselves.

From Chapter 2 “Attitude”

You’re a god. No, you’re God. You’re Karl Rove with a tastevin. You’re Rush Limbaugh with breast reductions. You’re Paul Ryan with a boner. You’re Barbra Streisand with replacement rhinoceros hormones. You’re Larry Mathers as The Beaver. You’re Michel Chapoutier with lifts. You’re God with a Robert Parker complex.

From Chapter 3 “Wine List Pricing”

Always remember that wineries make up prices haphazardly and without any sort of rational reasoning, and that you’re entitled to do the same damn thing. This is just how the wine business works. It doesn’t have to make any sense. You can’t fix it, don’t even try. Being known for a reasonably priced wine list only attracts the sort of people who really should just stay home and eat dinner.

When calculating prices, always round up to the nearest hundred.

White wines should be marked up higher than reds. No one orders white wine in a restaurant anyway. The chumps that do need to pay for it.

From Chapter 4 “Stemware”

That Riedel crap breaks like old people’s hips, and costs damn near as much to replace. Use knockoff brands in various sizes. The more expensive the wine, the larger the bowl of the wine glass you bring to the table. Ideally, you want to empty the bottle into four glasses equally and have it look like each glass is virtually empty. The optical illusion leads to sales of a second bottle. Especially if the fourth person poured, the host, gets less than everyone else.

Never offer to bring fresh glasses for the second, or third, or any other, bottle of wine. Remember, dishwashers are on your team, the clients are the opposing team. Remind the offending customers that they wouldn’t use fresh glasses at home, would they, and your job as a hospitality professional is to make them feel at home.

From Chapter 5 “Service”

Flunkies are attentive and eager to serve. Professionals make you wait and give the impression they are doing you a favor by taking care of you. Which are you? Take the wine order, open the bottle, then stay the hell out of the waiter’s way.

It’s always best to appear with the bottle of wine when the meal is half-eaten. It just tastes better.

Oh, there’s more…if I live long enough to publish another installment.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Golden Age of Wine Writing?

I like to write about wine. I don’t think I have any particularly interesting insights about wine, but that doesn’t seem to be one of the qualifications for writing about it. On HoseMaster of Wine™, of course, I spend my meager talent writing about wine, or, more accurately, the wine business, from a satiric point of view. I suffer no illusions that my work on HoseMaster has any influence or benefit. Nor do I think very many people care what I think. But you don’t have to be in the wine world long to see how it drags the pretentious out of almost everyone. Casting a cold, hard eye on the “tastemakers” and wannabes in the trade is what I try to do. That, and try to exorcise my comedy demons. 

What amazes me is how wonderful and entertaining and fascinating wine itself is, whereas wine writing is, with few exceptions, dreary, pedantic, insipid and repetitive. Perhaps that’s because so much of it revolves around descriptions of aromas and flavors we, as humans, are poorly equipped to perceive, much less express. Wine outmatches us. I can summarize an awful lot of people in a few concise phrases. Describing Chave Hermitage, however, seems beyond my capability. And everyone else's.

It is often said that what’s interesting about wine writing is capturing the “story” behind a wine. Yet so much of what passes for the story is simple marketing propaganda, the glorification of a winemaker, or the Grimm’s fairy tale of an owner on a “journey,” or some mystical talk about the magic of their terroir. There’s more truth in an election year political ad. As soon as I read the word “journey,” my eyes glaze over, anyway, and my patented BullShit detector goes off.

I’m all for romance in wine, but romance, as we all know, ends most often in disappointment. Don’t fall in love with falling in love. So much of what I read about wine on wine blogs and in wine porn rags (Wine Spectator and such) is just that. Someone in love with the idea of being in love with wine, a new wine producer, or a new region. That’s not wine writing, that’s infatuation.

I have been kicking around the idea of doing some wine reviewing here. Though I’m no longer a sommelier, and no longer taste thousands of wine every year, I’m still constantly around wine, constantly tasting wine, and I thought it would be fun to add my voice to the cacophony (accent on the “phony”) of voices on the Internet. I go to winery open houses, I go to industry tastings, I judge in professional wine competitions, I still try to be involved in my trade, but, honestly, who cares what I think? Does the world need my opinions of Siduri wines, to pick an example? I know Adam Lee doesn’t. Does anyone care about my favorite wines at Family Winemakers? Now that I don’t have any direct buying power they sure as hell don’t. My opinion won’t sell wine, nor will it ruin anyone’s reputation. And God knows there’s not a marketing director in the country who’d send free samples to the HoseMaster for review. So why bother to even consider writing wine reviews?

I had myself convinced that I could bring my experience, along with a somewhat jaded eye, and a large dose of honesty, and that might result in something interesting to read. Maybe some long form pieces that focus as much on my personal history with a winery or winemaker, the setting where the tasting was held (at the winery, at home, in a cattle call tasting at a huge hall), the mood I was in at the time, as much as my impressions of the quality of the wines. It would be interesting for me to write. But I questioned whether it would be interesting for anyone to read.

Much of what bothers me about wine writing is how uncritical it is. I love wine as much as anyone I know, but I also really dislike boring wines, stupid wines, and what I think of as fatuous wines. And there are lots of them. I see them getting 91 points, or A-, or somewhere between 9 and 9.5 (so, 9.23567?) from people with the qualifications of a raccoon. I think, more worrisome (though it’s only wine), is the exclusion of wines from review that are subpar or overrated or stupid for the simple sake of not burning bridges, not offending someone, or, worse, no longer getting free samples. I understand it, wine is a gentleman’s sport and we abide by the rules of courtesy, integrity be damned, but it means I dismiss most of what I read for the propaganda or ill-informed opinion or ass-kissing it is. It is, I still believe, primarily the attention-barking of lonely poodles. I wonder, at times, if I could do better. The barking, I mean.

What’s always missing is context. Or maybe truth. (And usually talent.) Perhaps that the blogger is thrilled to have received free samples in the first place. After all, 1WineDude and Vinography get so many, and they can’t stop reminding us of how many. 1WineDude has an indentured serf to manage his, apparently. We’re meant to feel sorry for them when they tell us their tales of UPS shipper woes, though wine reviewing is the damn job they’ve chased for the past seven years. Talking about their free samples is a way to remind us of how successful they are, how important their opinions are. It’s notches on their conjugal wine headboard. I’ve been there, I’ve done the junket circuit, had my ego stroked like a soft kitty, I know the seduction. And I can’t claim at the time that I was any less affected or less blind to it. But I think I am now. Now that no one cares what I think.

There is so much blather about the influence the blogosphere has on wines sales. It may have some, though it’s so immeasurable as to be meaningless, maybe the equivalent of .01 of an inch of rain. The wine blogosphere is about the wine blogosphere, and almost nothing else. I think most of the bloggers I know personally understand that. It’s a strangely isolated island that the outside world doesn’t know exists, and even if it did, it would have no desire to visit. And it’s an island of humans prone to the usual human catalog of fallibility—jealousy, greed, hubris, narcissism, intellectual dishonesty and pettiness.

Which is what makes it fun for me to be here, hurling insults, pointing fingers and, I hope, making folks laugh.

So I'm still chewing on the idea of writing about wines from my admittedly limited and peculiar perspective. Those pieces may appear here, and, I'm sure, that will be a shock to everyone's system, all eleven of you. I won't be abandoning the satire you've all come to abhor, but I feel like doing something else now and then. Feel free to criticize, unsubscribe, belittle, or bemoan. Just don't act surprised.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


For Black Friday
Didn't we use to give them a Month?

For the 100 Point Scale
I love the 100 Point Scale. It reduces something wondrous to an easily understandable number. I'm simply surprised it hasn't been adopted in more miraculous areas. Healing Lepers--88 points "Nice, but really just a parlor trick." Yosemite Valley--96 points "Spahn and Sain and pray for moraine." Sofia Vergara's caboose--95 points "Worth a special search." 

What do dyslexics use to buy wine?

For Quercus Suber
Even if one miserable day the Stelvin triumphs, it will be this noble evergreen tree that changed the way we preserve wine. Unique in its ability to regenerate its outer bark, try to imagine the history of wine without corks. And now all the selfish whiners want to discard it like last month's issue of Wine and Spirits. Make that this month's issue of Wine and Spirits. For plastic and aluminum. Will we ever be happy with what God provides, or will we decide we need the wine equivalent of breast implants?

For Sommeliers
Som-mel-ier / noun / A hospitality professional with an exaggerated knowledge of wine, and the rare capacity to completely offend wine novices, amateurs and connoisseurs alike. See My Hero.

For Wine Blogs
That comforting and incessant barking of so many sorts of Poodles--Standard, Miniature, and Toy--in all their many colors--Black, David White and Blinky Gray. May we all continue to lift our legs in the vain desire to flagrantly, make that fragrantly, let people know we're here.

For Masters of Wine
Who bless us with their very presence among us, like the micro-organisms in our colons. We wouldn't know shit without them.

For Saccaromyces
One cell can change the world. Ask Al-Qaeda.

For Georg Riedel
Who took wine snobbery to a new level with an entirely innovative way to make wine drinkers feel inadequate using the tongue map as validation--"science" proven incorrect fifty years ago. I'm grateful that a Riedel wine glass at a wine tasting makes spotting the jackholes a lot easier--it's the pocket protector of wine dorks.

For Everyone Who Reads HoseMaster of Wine
God Bless You, Happy Thanksgiving, Get a Life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Decorating My Thanksgiving Tree

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s just nothing about it I don’t like. Decorating the festive Thanksgiving tree with human scalps, what a marvelous tradition! In our family, we used real ones collected from the special education class at the local Barber College. And, boy, was it hard making sure our dog Lung Oyster (I named him after our chain-smoking nanny, whose name was Spotty) didn’t eat most of them before we could get them on the tree! But I’m sure most families have the same problem.

My family was also very musical. My father was a banjo player, though his fingers were webbed, a genetic trait that pops up in our family every now and then due to a quick dalliance an ancestor once had with a platypus. “Lips are fine,” she said, “but a bill really enchants the little man in the boat.” Mother played raw kidney. I can still hear it slapping against her leg in time to one of our favorite Thanksgiving Carols, “Blessed be Those Who Shove Stuffing in Cavities.” Our family would go house to house on Thanksgiving Day playing our instruments and singing everyone’s favorite holiday songs. I was the least musical of our family, so I would carry Lung Oyster and play him like a bagpipe. The neighbors would gather on their porches, most of them wearing their traditional Thanksgiving crotchless bicycle pants, just like the Pilgrims wore, their blunderbusses dangling, to listen to our renditions of classic Thanksgiving Carols like “Grandma’s Stuffed Yams in Her Girdle Again,” “O Come All Ye Butterballs,” and “We All Know Sis Prefers the Dark Meat.”

It seems like Grandma would be preparing the Thanksgiving feast for the whole week before the big day. She’d usually spend an entire day just baking up her famous Thanksgiving specialty, cat pie. She made enough cat pies for dinner, and for everyone to take one home with them. I liked Siamese the best because after a slice I’d have less fur in my teeth. Sis liked Abyssinian. I still laugh when I think about how after every Thanksgiving meal she’d grab her favorite cat pie and say, “Abyssinia guys next year!” as she walked out the door. Grandma didn’t really enjoy making cat pies, but she respected all great American traditions. “The Pilgrims offered cat pies to the Indians,” she used to tell us, “so they’d teach the Pilgrims how to grow marijuana. That’s why the Pilgrims came to this country. For the dope, you know. Now light your old granny a splif while I whack the tail off this Persian.” If we were good, we got to hang the fresh cat tail on the Thanksgiving tree! If Lung Oyster didn’t eat it first.

Our family also believed in helping the less fortunate on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the morning we’d spend volunteering at the local homeless shelter, serving up big helpings of loose screws and lugnuts from Dad’s jars he kept in the garage. Sure, it was sacrifice, but the looks on the faces of those needy people were heartwarming. Every year I thought we’d run out of loose screws. But not in my family! We were never out of loose screws. After we were finished, when every last person in line had had his fill of lugnuts, Mom would always invite a few over to the house to join us in our Thanksgiving celebration. They always added so much color to our feast. We’d all laugh and give thanks as Lung Oyster grabbed their legs and wouldn’t let go. “Those screams,” Dad reminded us, “take us back to that first Thanksgiving, and the Indians decorating their Thanksgiving tree with Pilgrim scalps.” That always made us think about what it must have been like, that first Thanksgiving, how bloody and disgusting it was. Which we thought was cool. And at the end of the evening every one of the invited needy guests went back to his cardboard box where he slept with his own cat pie. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Sprinkle a little bit of tropical fish food on top of a warm piece of cat pie, and, man, that was mighty good eatin’!

During the meal, everyone had to talk about what his favorite food was on the table and how it related to Thanksgiving. Of course, all of us usually picked the same food and the same story every year, just like everyone probably does in your family. I always chose the creamed leeches to talk about. How the Pilgrims had come to this country to escape religious persecution and grow pot, but almost starved to death because they’d forgotten to pack eating utensils. But they were lucky, those Pilgrims, they’d come to America, the land of leeches. You could eat leeches, even as they were eating you. And you didn’t need a fork. So we eat creamed leeches on Thanksgiving to remind us of that miracle, and of what the Pilgrims’ descendants, now called Tea Party Republicans, believe. America is full of leeches. Eat them before they suck us dry. You know, no matter how many times I tell it, it still touches me.

So I’m sorry for writing just another boring Thanksgiving wine blog post. But, you know, we all just have to. Our readers want to know what wine to drink with the Thanksgiving feast, and I know that almost everyone in America now turns to wine blogs for their wine and food pairing needs. And it’s a good time to remind everyone to be grateful. For sulfites. For the blessing that is an alcoholic blackout. For 89 point wines, and not that crap with lower numbers. For drunken harvest interns and their genitalia. For genitalia. For the miracle that is the Internet, which replaces the voices in our own head with the voices of even sicker people, and for pennies a day. For back labels, the mattress tags of wine. For laughter, for joy, for armpit orgasms.

Every Thanksgiving, it’s my job to go down to the wine cellar and bring up a surprise to serve with our dinner. Most years, I bring up Grandma, wondrously taxidermied, more carefully stuffed than the bird on the table, usually a cassowary. And I bring up wine. Lots of it. What kind of wine goes best with Thanksgiving’s many bounties? The good stuff, the stuff you share with the people you love. You know what it is. Go get it.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Blind Book Review--"Wine Grapes"

I don’t know where my review copy of Jancis Robinson’s new tome, “Wine Grapes,” was sent. I never got it. I wrote a brief email to the publisher, ECCO (How smart can they be when they publish books and their damn name is a typo? Is it ECHO or ECO? Morons.), asking politely what happened to it. “It’s 175 dollars! Maybe your name should be GECCO, like Gordon in the cheeseball Michael Douglas movie. I can’t afford to buy a copy, and now you’ve gone and shipped mine to some inarticulate, marginally literate blogger who will get all hot that he got my free copy, touch himself, and then the damn pretty pages with the naked grapes on them will be stuck together.” I didn’t hear back.

But, honestly, is there a point to actually reading a wine book before reviewing it? None that I can think of. You already know when you see the author’s name what it’s going to say. If it’s Robert Parker, it’s regurgitated tasting notes remolded to create something new. Basically, a new Parker book is the equivalent of Spam. Almost meaty, but not quite. Not a wine book, but a wine book byproduct. Matt Kramer? He’ll “make sense” of something you didn’t even know you were confused about. He’s the guy at the party everybody hates because he’s constantly correcting everyone about things that couldn’t be less important to the conversation. (You get the feeling from the way he writes that if you met him his voice would remind you of Stephen Hawking.) You don’t have to read their books to review them. It would only prejudice you. Reviewing books without having read them is the most objective way to review them. Just like wine reviewing is done blind. The more you know, the more your intelligence can guide you, and that’s not particularly desirable in wine reviewing. This is the same philosophy behind as well.

Television hosts never read the books of the authors they interview on the air either. Yes, they pretend to have read them, and they have interesting questions, but they have people who read the books for them. Yeah, Charlie Rose reads all those books. Yup, and “Survivior” isn’t scripted. Listen, if it ain’t on a teleprompter, those talking heads can’t read it.

I haven’t read Jancis Robinson’s (and two other no-names who probably did 90% of the work but won’t get squat out of it) new book, “Wine Grapes.” So you can count on the HoseMaster’s review to be objective and honest. Can you say that about any other wine blogger who received a free copy for review, one of which had my name on it and the bastard still kept it? Those bozos who proudly review any crap wine they get for free, and never say anything bad? OK, yeah, trust them.

“Wine Grapes” is the long-awaited book about the DNA of grapes. Yawn. If you read the entire book you may need a DNR from whomever has your medical power of attorney. The book is massive. It’s seven pounds. Seven pounds of DNA. Sounds like a party at Silvio Berlusconi’s house. Everything you ever wanted to know about how grape varieties are related is in this book. Turns out, most of the grape varieties are more closely related than you think, sort of like your hill people relatives.

The book is pornography for wine geeks. I know this, and I haven’t even read it. They’ll start to look at it, promise themselves they’ll only flip through it for another ten minutes, I swear to God, just another ten minutes, but they won’t be able to stop. It’s kinky wine grape smut that, honestly, should be enjoyed behind closed doors, and only by consenting adults. “Wine Grapes” has dozens of big, lurid, full-color reproductions of paintings of the reproductive organs of your favorite variety. Just hanging there making you wish you could pop them in your mouth. Bunches of them, plump and juicy, dripping with moisture, staring right back at you from the page like the strumpets they are. God, I want this book.

Robinson and the two other authors, who don’t matter and will almost never get mentioned in reviews, and why should they, have written entries about all 1,368 wine grapes currently grown to make wine. It’s amazing to think that there are 1,358 grapes nobody gives a crap about, but they’re all here. And you’ll learn some amazing things about them. If I’d read the book, I could probably give you some examples of amazing things. Like Grüner Veltliner is a natural cross between Riesling and some sort of snot. Harsh, I know. But, hey, don’t blame me. It’s DNA. DNA is like the Internet, it’s always true, and if your girlfriend checks its history, you’re so screwed.

I read somewhere, or else I made it up, doesn’t matter, that “Wine Grapes” took four years to write. At least someone accomplished something the past four years, not like Congress.

Not having read “Wine Grapes,” I reluctantly want to point out some of the book’s shortcomings. No blurbs. Come on, ECCO, the big wine book of the season needs blurbs! The big damn book is in a slipcover, which looks just lovely propping up the 1968 Fiat in my front yard, but, honestly, you need blurbs. Here’s a few:

Wine Grapes is just like what comes out of a wine press—a must!”—Randall Grahm

“Finally, a wine book that costs more than my Special Selection Cabernet!”—Caymus Vineyard

“I couldn’t put this book down. Because I couldn’t pick the damned thing up.”—Karen MacNeil

“I loved the recipes!”—Lettie Teague

Another shortcoming is the lack of a pronunciation guide. I’m fine with the grapes, but how the hell do you pronounce, “José Vouillamoz?” The closest I could get is “Chell-a-cheff.”

There’s no doubt in my mind after not reading “Wine Grapes” that it is a major accomplishment. In book binding, anyway.

Thursday, November 8, 2012



Chapter 9  Yeast the Size of Nerf Balls

It had been a while since I’d last lost consciousness. I’d forgotten how much I liked it. The way you wake up and your mouth feels like you could dry Moscato in it and make Passito di Pantellaria. And how you also Passito a little bit in your own Pantellarias.  I think the last time I’d lost consciousness was reading Lettie Teague. Which will teach me not to read the Wall Street Journal in the car. Damned air bags save your life, but they smell like James Suckling’s blow dryer. Funny how a nasty blow to the head makes your mind wander. I was wondering what wine went with head trauma and wanted to call Alice Feiring because I knew she’d know. Her work sounded like she had been trying to find out through trial and error. Maybe a nice red blend of Barbaresco and something from Croatia. A nice, big CroBar. That’s what I’d been hit with, I thought. And why does it take so long for wine to ferment? Wouldn’t you think it would just take three or four days? Maybe we need bigger yeast. Like the size of Nerf balls. Though it’s getting harder and harder to find Nerfs that will drop their pants. Whoa. Who hit me?

It took me a few minutes to gather my thoughts. One of them was way in the corner covered in dust. But I wasn’t surprised; I have a lot of dirty thoughts. Mallory was gone. The look in her eyes right before somebody did a punch down on my skull cap told me that she knew the person. It wasn’t just fear on her face, but also recognition. Like when you see Silver Oak on a wine list. My hunch was that whoever had cold-cocked me had also taken Mallory O’Lactic. Or had she gone along voluntarily?

I used my desk to help raise myself from the floor, and, there, right in the middle of my blotter, right next to my autographed picture of Veuve Clicquot (“HoseMaster, You put the Yellow in my Yellow Label. Love, Veuvie”), was Avril’s bracelet. Just to make sure it was Avril’s I checked for the inscription I had had engraved in it. It was there alright. “Avril—Happy Trails to You, Till We Meat Again.” Still made me tear up.

The bracelet left behind was clearly meant to deliver a message. I was getting the bracelet back, but not Avril. At least, that’s what they thought. Whoever they were.  

A shadow appeared beneath my office door. Someone was outside. After several minutes, there was a knock.

“Come in,” I quipped.

Biola Dynamic
She was a knockout. So I knew I was in trouble. Beautiful babes bring trouble like Santa brings gifts, and Pancho Campo brings cash. You think they’re going to be worth the trouble, but they never are. Like opening a wine with a waxed capsule. Sure, you can get in, but when you pull out it’s a big mess. But I had been having nothing but trouble since Chapter 1, so more wasn’t going to make much difference.

“How can I help you?” I was looking her up and down, reading her like a wine country map. I’d already figured out a few places where I wanted to stop and taste.

“Are you the HoseMaster?” Even her voice was sexy. She had a very slight lisp, so the “s” slipped out with just the slightest hiss, like uncorking a great Champagne, or when Tim Fish walks into a winery.

“I am. But I’ve just awakened from a blow to the head from my previous visitor, so you’ll have to excuse me if I seem a bit dazed. Who are you?”

“My name is Biola Dynamic.”

“So you’re a natural blonde.”

“Yeah. Look, HoseMaster, I don’t have a lot of time. There are some men after me, bad men, men who want to hurt me. I need your help.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Dynamic, I don’t have the time right now. I’ve got more problems than a one-armed sommelier with his corkscrew in the wrong pocket. You know I knew a one-armed sommelier once. Lefty Zraly, M.U. Bastards wouldn’t give him a W. Worked at Hemingway’s Bar and Grill. His nickname was Farewell to Arm. Better than the ugly waiter, For Whom the Bell Troll. But I digress. I’m pretty sure my girlfriend has been kidnapped, my last client was murdered, and I just got a free concussion. I wish I could help, but…”

“Did you say sommelier? That’s why I’m here, in Healdsburg, to study for my M.W. But everything’s gone wrong. Those people are evil, HoseMaster. If they think you’re going to pass their exams on the first try, they kill you! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. They’re the most powerful people in the wine business, and the power has driven them insane. And if you do pass the first level, somehow avoid being murdered beforehand, maybe because you’re a gorgeous blonde and they think you’re stupid, then they want you to kill for them. You have to help me. They want me to kill an M.W. candidate. And if I don’t, they’ll kill me. Please, HoseMaster, I’ll do anything.”

I didn’t like where this was going. But I knew that somehow it would lead to Avril Cadavril and Mallory O’Lactic and the stink at the center of an M.W. I didn’t see that I had a choice.

“OK, Biola, I’ll help. Tell me who they want you to kill. We have to warn him.”

“Mallory,” she said. “Mallory O’Lactic.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

What We're Reading

Compiled by the editors of HoseMaster of Wine 

WINE SPECTATOR: It’s the much-anticipated Top 100 Wines issue for 2012. And for the first time ever, all 100 wines are from the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. “Hey, the 2012’s will suck from there so, God knows, they could use the help,” writes the magazine’s publisher, Marvin Shanken. James Laube has a rebuttal post, which had to hurt going in, and he also spends his column offering up the 10 Best Things he put in his mouth this year. Write your own joke. Matt Kramer reflects on the meaning of being the smartest wine writer to ever live, and decides it’s his humility that sets him apart. That, and the array of solar panels installed above his eyebrows. And don’t miss Talia Baiocchi’s new blog post in which she realizes old, fat, rich white guys can, in fact, buy young white women and make them do what they want. Tim Fish wonders where fruit flies live.

THE FEIRING LINE: The premiere issue of Ms. Feiring’s independent newsletter, subtitled “The Real Wine Newsletter” (using “real” in the exact same sense as “Real Housewives of New Jersey”), specializes in “honest viticulture and minimal intervention wines.” As it turns out, “minimal intervention wines” are not what you drink while watching Kitty Genovese get murdered. Nope, Ms. Feiring explains, “minimal intervention wines are wines the winemaker manipulates as little as possible,” preferring, instead, to spend his time manipulating admiring, starry-eyed wine writers. No one knows what “honest viticulture” means.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Lettie Teague has a fascinating column about South Africa and all the innovations in winemaking coming from that country. “California wineries could learn a valuable lesson from their South African counterparts and begin harvest in February,” she notes. “It’s also a lot easier to find seasonal help that time of year. And the lions aren’t as active.” Jay McInerney finds that tasting white wines makes him think of female breasts. “Is it just me, or does everyone think that California Chardonnays have humongous hooters? Whereas, say, a good German Riesling has those little girl perky tits that will age nicely and are just a touch sweet. Champagne has perfect breasts, though Dom’s are fake.” When it comes to red wine, McInerney writes, “I think of testicles. And, when it comes right down to it, most of us would rather have balls in our mouths.”

PALATE PRESS: Discerning readers have discovered that Palate Press isn’t just a place for industrial wines to be reviewed by simpletons. A quick visit yields an informative article on pruning shears, tracing them back to their roots in the bris ceremony. (Note to PP: don’t use “root” and “bris” in the same sentence.) There’s also an opinion piece by Meg Housonfirst Maker about Wine Spectator. “I don’t understand why they hired that Talia Be-ach and left me in this Godforsaken virtual hellhole.” She makes a good point. “Talia may be the voice of her generation, but I’m the snore.” W. Blinky Gray wonders why wines that are lower in alcohol aren’t cheaper than other wines, “We buy wine to get drunk, so less alcohol should be less expensive. It just makes sense. Wineries should get on the bandwagon and lower both.” Refreshing to read someone with years of experience who doesn’t actually seem like it.

WINE JULIA: Julia won Best New Wine Blog at this year’s Wine Blog Awards, and a visit shows why. There’s an in-depth report on Oregon’s 2012 Harvest, a spirited discussion of Oregon terroir, and fantastic tasting notes on hundreds of Oregon new releases. OK, no there’s not. There’s notes about free wines she received, free junkets she participated in, and free tastings she got invited to. So, yeah, they got it right, she’s a wine blogger.

WINE ENTHUSIAST: Don’t miss Wine Enthusiast’s 2012 lists of Top 100 Cellar Selections, Top 50 Spirits, Top 25 Beers, Top 10 Cheapass Moscatos, Top 7 Cocktails for Pukeathons, Top 5 Sommeliers with Harelips, and Top 3 Wine Magazines with Inflated Scores. Steve Heimoff pays a visit to the Sta. Rita Hills appellation only to discover, to his dismay, that Sta. Rita isn’t short for Strawberry Margarita. Paul Gregutt walks in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and finds that even then tasting room employees were surly. “They even carded Sacajawea.” Roger Voss on the back roads of the Languedoc, “Look at all the trees…!”

ON THE WINE TRAIL IN ITALY: Alfonso Cevola with a haunting piece about how much in common Texas and Italy have. “My native Italy, land of my ancestors, the womb I gwew up in, is, after all, shaped like the iconic footwear of my adopted home Texas—a boot. As I worship my beloved Italy, am I not just another Texas bootlicker?” Alfonso makes an interesting observation about the two cuisines as well. “Where Italy has garlic, Texas has iced tea.” As usual, Alfonso leaves you wondering if there’s a plate in his head that sets off airport security alarms On the Wine Trail in Italy.