[Thanks to the San Francisco International Wine Competition 2012 for these two images of Ron Washman.]
The Hosemaster of Wine® comes clean, when it’s all said and done, and he’s just a great guy who’s very good at satire.
As with all satire, it’s either love or hate. Satire is very pointed, and if you’re on the side of that point, you’ll most like take offense. I never have with The HoseMaster’s antics, because I know where he’s coming from… I always have. When I saw what he was writing, after years of already playing ball, I had great relief. As in all business, there are those who enjoy making life difficult… Very few of them in the wine business, I have to be very truthful, but we hang onto messages like, “Tell her to NEVER call me again!” Yeah… it was like that, and someone who didn’t have a vested interest could tell this person to take a hike.
There’s something evilly delicious in someone being able to take the bull by the horns, and Ron Washam is doing just that. He calls it satire. I call it poetic justice…Like, there is a God. I’ve been working public relations for over 30 years, and I do believe you can get more bees with honey, than you can with vinegar… But sometimes, I want to open up that vinegar bottle… I resist about 99 percent of the time. When I come up against anything, including wine, that’s too acidic, I tend to avoid it…
Ron’s satirical sense of humor was long overdue, from my armchair newspaper reading point-of-view. So, I watched, I waited, I submitted his name for a wine blogger’s award… long before there was any consideration for someone humorous. Wine, at that time, was still taken just too seriously. It’s just liquid food, com’mon, when it’s all said and done. That’s something that both Ron and I “got” a long time ago. Some is better than others, some are more expensive than others – and some are for good reason. But, being worth thousands of dollars is a bit ridiculous, unless one loves living on the yacht side of life… and that can be fun, don’t get me wrong… It’s just not my day-to-day style.
Coming clean… I asked Ron to join my list of writers, because he’s an important one, demonstrating a style that’s never really been associated with wine that I had seen, since my own publishing of Road Warrior Survival Guide. And, never in a million years, did I really expecte that to be published. My great friend Cyril Penn, however, published it in Wine Business Monthly, and it got great reviews from their readers. So many industry people knew exactly what I was writing about. LET THE SATIRE ROLL! And it has, most appreciatively by Ron.
Ron took my standard list of questions and had a great time with it. Wit, wisdom, and wildly informative of a guy we all love (or hate… And if you do, he’s still great with writing, that cannot be denied).
[Q] Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?
[RW] I started writing HoseMaster of Wine™ in 2008, shortly after I resigned as Wine Director of a small, private golf club–I think it was an 8-Iron. My mother died shortly after that, and I took a bunch of time off. During that time, I began my blog. In hindsight, it was a way to deal with the grief. I have worked only part-time jobs in the wine business since then, and I honestly believe writing the satire I write on HoseMaster has hindered me in finding another real job in the wine business. It’s that sort of humorless business. I’m OK with that.
[Q] When did you start writing about wine?
[RW] I just told you, Jo, in 2008 after my mother died. Man, do you have to keep bringing it up? She died. I had nothing to do with it. She tripped. How the bus happened to be going by, I’ll never understand.
[Q] What prompted you to start writing about wine?
[RW] Oh, for God’s sake, Jo, really? I was grieving! Aren’t you paying the least bit of attention? Sheesh. I needed to write. I’d written comedy and satire all my life and felt that the business needed someone to make fun of it. Folks often pay lip service to the idea that wine needs to have more humor in it, but, truthfully, they want Noel Coward, not my kind of ribald and tasteless lampooning. I started the blog, no one read it, of course, but then Tom Wark “discovered” it, and I suddenly had a readership. Now I write a few days a week for a couple of hours a day, and it’s very rewarding for me personally. That’s the only reason I do it. That, and the big money.
[Q] What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?
[RW] Oh, the scandals and the hypocrisy, of course. Wine itself has been my passion for thirty-five years. Nothing gives me more pleasure. OK, aside from huffing Private Preserve. But there’s so much hooey that surrounds wine, and I see it as my job to make it a lot worse.
[Q] How has your job changed since you’ve started?
[RW] Strangely, the HoseMaster has become pretty famous in the wine world. So when I go to wine tastings and events, I’m now recognized. This isn’t always a good thing. There are a lot of folks who don’t like what I do, who don’t think I’m funny. But that’s how it goes with satire. If you’re not pissing off somebody, you’re not doing it right.
[Q] What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?
[RW] Now there’s the question every sommelier, and former sommelier, hates. I wonder, what do you ask a proctologist along similar lines?
If I took an hour, I could probably list thirty or forty wines that are very memorable. The 1985 Rayas I drank on my 50th birthday with my gorgeous wife in a meadow in Yosemite. A 1952 Hugel Riesling, tasted in 1992, the only wine I’ve tasted from my birth year, that, at 40, was brilliant, vibrant and youthful. 1959 Margaux, a lovely bottle, one to cross off the bucket list. Champagne from a lover’s body…
[Q] What’s your favorite variety?
[RW] Another question sommeliers hate. You have a gift, Jo. The two varieties I’m most drawn to are Grenache and Syrah. But I love Nebbiolo, adore great Soave (so Garganega), and have a big time crush on Chablis (Chardonnay, of course). And then there’s Tempradillo, which, unsurprisingly, is crushed by automobile. And German Colombard, to which French Colombard surrendered.
[Q] Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?
[RW] I’m sure the tendency is to say yes, but I’m the contradictory type. If there are better quality, cheaper wines, it’s because cheaper wines are so much more manipulated than they were many years ago. Just as food scientists have manipulated cheap, fast food, so have cheap wines become products of technology. Not in every case, and it’s less true with imports, but too often. I find many of those wines contemptible. But they taste good. And they certainly get you equally drunk, which is the entire point for the vast majority of people who buy cheap wine.
[Q] What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?
[RW] The proliferation of insulting wine brands—Bitch, and Fat Bastard, and If You See Kay. Nice to see wine sink to the level of cable television.
[Q] What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?
[RW] Late Harvest Zinfandel and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Fried Chicken and Champagne. Toenails and Barefoot Moscato.
[Q] What are your interests outside of the wine business?
[RW] I’m something of a serious reader. I’ve always said that I’m not a wine snob, I’m a book snob. I love baseball. I love animals and wildlife. I like to juggle underpants. I collect punts. I volunteer for Habitats for Gerbils. I’m trying to build a fort from toejam.
[Q] Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?
[RW] Oddly, or perhaps cynically, I’ve drawn little inspiration from anyone in the wine business. I have many people I admire, but few that inspire. I’ve always drawn inspiration from the great comedic writers, though I am not, and never will be, in their league. Thurber, Twain, Benchley, Perelman, Woody Allen, Tom Lehrer, and the Usual Gang of Idiots at Mad Magazine. I think that the gift of laughter is the most undervalued gift of all. And know what a painful gift it is to possess.
And, lucky for me, I am married to a most remarkable woman, Kathleen Aspenns, who loves me for who I am, HoseMaster and all. Her inspiration, in its hundreds of forms, is the only life force I absolutely require.
[Q] For what would you like to be remembered?
[RW] My slider.
… Into what? We’ll just have to imagine…