farewell hosemaster of wine

Monday, November 15, 2010

For some months I have been nervously checking on the HoseMaster of Wine website, sommelier Ron Washam’s on-again off-again exercise in vinous exorcism. Humor is all too rare in the wine blogosphere, and Washam, who for a time wrote comedy professionally, excelled at it. His HoseMaster’s Honest Guide To Grapes feature, among many others, will still bring tears to my eyes every time I look at it. His scathing attacks on wine bloggers – or poodles, as he labeled them – won few friends, but hit the mark more often than not.

So it was with increasing concern that I noted no new entries as the months rolled by, and finally, unable to wait any longer, I sent Washam an e-mail asking what’s up? He wrote back immediately:

“I purposely avoided a goodbye post on HoseMaster. Those kinds of posts just attract maudlin comments, pleas to keep writing, and spam for penis enlargement, which I could use. I just wanted to vanish, without fanfare or hoopla or notice.

"I'm probably gone for good. I had a fun run, but I got what I wanted out of it and knew I was finished. I wasn't trying to make a name for myself, or begin a career in the wine business, I wasn't promoting a wine shop or a magazine, I was just having fun. And I was using the blog simply to see if I could find my old comedy writing voice again, and then when I found it, whether I could sustain it on a regular basis. I felt like I'd accomplished that, so I decided to be done flogging the Poodles and playing the Fool.”

He ended his note with a prediction: “My hunch is the wine blog world will slowly begin to fade, even now it seems there are fewer and fewer comments on blogs, and wineries will eventually stop giving away wine to nobodies, and Social Media ‘Expert’ will have the same clout as Porn ‘Star’ and wine bloggers will be reduced to the level of hell reserved for Trekkies.”

Ron and I have yet to meet in person, but still I feel as if I’ve lost a friend, or if not lost, then sadly misplaced him. And I wonder if he’s right about blogging – wine blogging – slowly fading. If you are of a certain age, you may remember when CB radios were all the rage. Nora Ephron has a new book out (excerpted on NPR) in which she recounts the six stages of e-mail, from infatuation to loathing. Texting and blogging are more current modes of communication, but it would be foolish to imagine that they are the last we will see.

Two leading Washington bloggers – the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman, and DrinkNectar – have opened up a wine shop (Walla Walla) and a tasting room (Spokane) in the past month. Now that their blogs are attached to commercial enterprises, I wonder what the impact will be? Will their transparency and credibility suffer? Will their blogs become more of a tool for commerce and less of a passionate calling?

My own blog has had its ups and downs, but like the HoseMaster, I’ll keep doing it as long as it challenges and stretches my abilities. It serves a professional purpose for the time being, though it generates not one cent of income. How good can bloggers be, and how long can they continue to sustain the work required to be good, when there is no financial return? I thank my lucky stars every day for the newspapers and magazines that make it possible for me to cobble together a living. Old media they may be, but they support writers in a way that new media does not.

17 comments:

Samantha Dugan said...

“I feel like I’m putting my head in the lion’s mouth but…I’m in” first comment I ever made over at HoseMaster of Wine as a fledgling wine blogger looking for a place, a voice that made sense to me…found it there with him. I had spent months zipping around wine blogs and was just about to give up on blogging all together, just too much either boring or just plain stupid stuff out there and then WHAMO! Ron Washam. I would sit at the dining room table and laugh so loud that my husband started saying, “Ah The HoseMaster must have a new post up”.

Most definitely one of the funniest men I have ever had the pleasure to know but for me there was always something more to HoseMaster than comedy, which would probably piss him off but I just found his posts so beautifully written, smart and cutting but the messages were things that truly needed to be said…no one could say it better, had the talent to pull it off or the ability to make us look at ourselves, (wine bloggers) and laugh. So very needed.

I was crushed when he told me he was hanging it up. I actually even cried if you can believe that, such a chick I know, but I so admired what he was doing and the talent with which he was able to do it. It is a very real loss to those of us that gathered there seeking refuge and laughter. I miss the thrill of seeing a new post and I miss my morning laughter....

Thank you for this tribute and Ron, thank you for….everything. I love you.
Samantha Dugan
The Internet Wife

Sherman said...

Sorry to see the HoseMaster roll up the hose, but things change. Rarely do I laugh out loud at something I read on the interwebs -- seems it was all Hose when I did.

PaulG said...

Samantha, you are the best iWife a man could ever wish for. I know Ron will always cherish your support. Sherman - me too!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Paul,

Thanks for the fond farewell. I'm hoping you and I meet one day, though I'm certain I'll be a big disappointment, like iPads. When I first explored the blogosphere two years ago I was dumbfounded and depressed by the astonishing lack of talent and voice, not to mention knowledge and experience. It hasn't gotten any better, but for the entrance onto the scene by experts like you and STEVE! Heimoff and Charlie Olken. At least 18 months ago I said, and I quote myself, "Wine blogging is the attention barking of lonely poodles." The din hasn't subsided. Just this Poodle has stopped yapping.

I am utterly convinced wine blogging will go the way of BetaMax, car phones, Foto-Mat and Barry Bonds. All gone and no one misses them. I do hope, in a weird way, that before that happens someone steps in to my HoseMaster clown shoes. The wine biz and the wine blogosphere needs more laughter and far less sanctimonious posturing.

Samantha, Love, you were the first person I told when I decided to hang it up. You flatter me here, as always, but, truly, I just wanted to make people laugh, burst a few bubbles, and flex my atrophied comedy muscles. I never aimed any higher than that. And, I'm certain, there's a lot of relief that I'm gone--though I flatter myself when I say that.

And anyone who doesn't read Samantha's blog, www.sansdosage.blogspot.com, is missing out on the most interesting and most talented writer on any wine blog. Her work approaches literature.

Sherman, thanks. The sound of laughter is certainly the most universally beautiful sound.

Charlie Olken said...

Paul--

There were so many sides to the Hosemaster. We may have been addicted to his deep, slashing humor and his word gag humor and his incredible imagination, but we also saw his depth, his ability to mix erudtion with eructation, his joy at making us go to the thesaurus and the library.

I always thought that you were the one who got that latter side of him best. You knew his literary references, you luxuriated in his reading list, you traded fancy words with him.

One of things that we sometimes do not mention is that his comments columns did not consist of a bunch of wine folks trying to one up each other, but a bunch of followers all enjoying themselves in the reflection of his brilliant stuff.

I am happy that Ron Washam has become my friend. I miss the Hosemaster. It is a bit like Koufax. He has signed off at the top of his game. Thanks for offering us your look at his work. I would strongly encourage your readers to follow the link in your text and go see for themselves why we all were addicted to his writings.

PaulG said...

Charlie, I couldn't say it any better. So few people sign off at the top of their game. It's yet another sign of greatness. As for eructation... damn! Gotta get out the dictionary (again!) on that one...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie and Paul,

I think that because I wrote that crap for myself, I never talked down to my audience. OK, my zipper is down from where I talk, but other than that, I just dropped whatever weird and obscure references and in-jokes occurred to me.

But let's not talk "great" in this company. Charlie is "THE" authority on California wine, and Paul is simply "THE" authority on Washington's wines. I was a Fool. And damned proud of it.

All that I miss about HoseMaster is the usual gang of idiots (and I use the term affectionately as it is a term I stole from MAD magazine) who commented regularly on my blog. A smarter and wittier (isn't that where the Nixon Library is?) group would be impossible to find. They scared away a lot of others with their erudition and wit, but, man, I loved it. I guess you had to be there.

Thanks, Charlie, for your enduring friendship and encouragement. I hate missing HoseMaster, but you have made me yearn for those days of MS Conspiracy, Vornography and the Honest Guide to Grapes.

But not enough to return.

1winedude said...

Ron and I talked (via email as well, and in person in Napa) about HWM shutting its virtual doors.

My fear is that the taking-themselves-tto-serioulsy contingent in wine blogging will take themselves even more seriously with Ron not cutting them down at the knees from time to time.

I totally and completely disagree with his predictions, and I'm willing to bet many thought the same way when The Wine Advocate started its circulation. It's not a matter of times a-changin' - the times have *already* changed, we're just now seeing where the boats are heading...

Jo Diaz said...

Paul,

If my memory serves me well, and I think it does, Hosemaster had a post once before (a couple or a few years ago... that's the memory lapse) when he wrote his farewell to blogging.

Then, he came back, and I thought, "Aha! Can't keep a good man down."

It's hard when you've got that much good comedy inside of you to not let it out.

I think the Phoenix shall rise again.

As for wine bloggers, I think you hit the nail on the head... Bloggers can rip down the establishment; isn't that the job of each new generation, to plug into antidisestablishmentarianism? (Ha! Haven't used that one in a while.) But, the final analysis will be, who's paying for the words to help pay for the rent. We can't call it a hobby. That wouldn't be fair; although, that's what my blog mostly is, as I understand clearly what I'm doing... Journaling my journey. It's the wine bloggers "writers' passion, that's got them hooked. Their challenge is to find a way to have the first thing they love in life pay for not having to do what is the second thing they love and which pays their bills... generally speaking.

Meanwhile, I suspect we've not see the last of our Hosemaster. As I noted, you can't keep a comedian down.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

1WineDoody,

Of course the times have changed. My point is they will change again. A few bloggers will rise above and make a buck or two, Charlie Olken thinks you'll be one of them, but my guess is it will be in another venue--probably print. Wine blogs are simply and predictably about one and only one subject--the blogger. That's while they'll die.

But I'm probably wrong.

It's hard for me to imagine that wine bloggers will take themselves even more seriously with my exit from the scene--how is that possible? They start to give themselves awards? Oh, they do that already. They give scores to wines on a sliding scale when they haven't a clue what the great and enduring wines of the world taste like? Oh, they do that already. I'm sure they'll think of something.

Erin McGrath Davis said...

As a pretty new (3 years) member of the wine industry, Ron's posts made me laugh my a$$ off prior to slinging wine from behind a bar six days a week. And, as a writer trying to find a voice for my own personal projects, it was inspiring. I remember a well-known local chef mentioned his blog to me in conversation, and my email to him was something like, "Claud referred me to your blog and I love it, it's so right-on." Now that I'm no longer quite the bottom-feeder behind a bar and more a bottom-feeder at a desk, I am glad that folks like Ron exist in my chosen industry as it keeps things in perspective for me. I love him.

Catie said...

It's with apprehension that I give a farewell to the King of Poodles for several reasons:
1. He might feel so much love that he will come back;
2. That my credibility will suffer and;
3. This might be viewed as a commercial for my new wine shop in beautiful downtown Walla Walla. Stop by Fast Catie's and let me give you a good deal on a used or new bottle of wine. Trade in that old empty wine bottle for a spanking new one with no money down.

Terry Christiani said...

I never had the pleasure to read Mr Hosemaster but am very glad to hear that humor in wine writing is appreciated and I am sure will evolve as the medium evolves, as all media evolve. We may not have car phones but we do have Droids. We may not have Barry Bonds (for which I am eternally grateful) but we do have Tim Lincecum. Texting and Tweeting and FB are today's flavors of the day and will certainly be replaced in the future. Blogging has its place and will evolve along with the rest of us into the next big communication wave; and we will definitely need our purveyors of satire and good humor to ensure that we all don't take it or anything too seriously.

Joe said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting Ron briefly in person. I'm delighted to say that he was exactly like he thought he would be- that is to say warm and without pretense. The Hosemaster was clearly a sensational character; an amalgam of those who needed to be taken down a peg. It absolutely blows my mind how many bloggers fell into his trap, and I laughed my ass off with one foot on the fly-paper.

Wine blogs- by their proclaimed evolution- are supposed to be honest and open...wine appreciation for the "non-conformist, the anti-snob, the regular joe". A few pull this off, but the amount of hubris among the mass can be astonishing. Blogging: never before have so many people had so much to say about so little.

I'd like to think my "wine" blog has always maintained an air of self-deprication and lack of importance/audience, but Ron could always bring me back to earth when delisions of significance crept in. Ultimately, the HMW entertained immensely, and I'll miss the lampooning (that which I was, regrettably, never important enough to garner).

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gee, nice to see I'm still getting lots of comments! Hard to believe Alice Feiring and Alder haven't chimed in...

Jo, I took down my original HoseMaster, the one that featured cheesecake photos (of women, not of actual cheesecake), because I began getting a lot of weird mail. I started what is on the Internet now shortly thereafter. I did take a six week hiatus from the current HoseMaster, basically because I hit a creative wall and just wanted out. But I wasn't through honing my voice, so I returned. I'm done now.

Erin, thanks. It was the kindness of strangers, their endless support and love that kept me going. That, and all the dimwits with computers.

Terry, I'm not sure pleasure is the word I would use for reading me, and most would argue the humor part doesn't fit either. Frankly, I never expected my foolishness to capture anyone's attention. I mostly did it to make my wife laugh. But you are right, the wine world, which certainly claims to not take itself too seriously but most certainly does, needs satirizing and lampooning in the worst way. That was my job. And I certainly did it in the worst way.

Joe, I'm always uncomfortable meeting people who only know me from my writing. There's an urge to play the part of HoseMaster (as he's called in this incarnation), which I resist. I'm far from that guy, though he is certainly my alter ego. Lots of folks, for some bizarre reason, wanted to meet the HoseMaster. I always felt I was a disappointment.

The vast majority of bloggers are not writers, they are simply typers. Sitting down and writing 500 words off the top of your head that are ill-informed opinion, and badly punctuated to boot, isn't wine writing any more than spacing
words randomly
and not using
capital letters
is
Poetry.

I was genuinely flattered that my insipid blog had fans like Paul Gregutt, Charles Olken, Eric Asimov, STEVE! Heimoff, Samantha Dugan, Tom Wark, Alfonso Cevola and Joe Roberts, among others. And I was even more flattered by the character of the bloggers who hated me. One is judged not only by one's friends, but by one's detractors as well. It is to those sad folks I send my fondest thanks.

Bill Smart said...

From Bill Smart (for reasons unknown, his original post did not go through):

"Ron - what about me? I was a fan of your blog too. Jeez, I'm not in the same breath as Eric Asimov and Steve Heimoff. I can't believe it.

Seriously though, your blog was awesome and for anyone that has had more than one cocktail with you can attest - you are a genuinely nice guy who cares a great deal about the wine industry. I appreciated your sense of humor and biting commentary. As everyone else has said here, it was refreshing and I'm sure kept your fellow bloggers in check.

Paul G is right - you are the Dave Barry of the wine industry."

Lousy Grapes said...

Thank you so much for this post. i have missed Ron's blog very musch and wondered where he went. About a year ago I set out to write a wine blog before i realised everyone and their grandmother was doing it. Now i maintian it mostly to make fun of the entire industry (something I began before I realized the Hosemaster existed). The voice Ron used on the Hosemaster is the same one that's rung in my head for many years in the bev industry yet more eloquent and funny. For example where Ron calls Chardonnay cougar juice, I call it paula dean surprise. You see? He's much better. I can only hope we will see more of Ron in the future and I will really miss his rants. I feel as though I'm alone in a sea of suck.

Post a Comment

Your comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted ASAP. Thanks!