Monday, July 18, 2016

Wine Critics in Hell Act 2

Act One is here

The same Natural Wine bar in Hell. Four dead wine critics sit glumly sipping Cornelissen rosé. Their glasses, though they drink them continually, never empty. Hell is bottomless natural wine rosé. Behind the bar, the bartender, who has nothing to say to these idiots, stands and observes. He represents the readers of wine publications. Even with the evidence to the contrary right in front of him, he believes these critics to be worth listening to. A stranger is also in the bar. Not a dead wine critic, but clearly dead, he seems disoriented, confused about how he has landed in this horrible place. With a shitty wine by-the-glass list. It’s like landing in a Marriott, except the customers here know they’re dead.

Laube’s head is on the bar. Suckling is searching the place for a mirror, and trying to see his reflection in everything. Kramer is pontificating to the Stranger, who is clenching his fists and seems on the verge of violence. Parker is putting Laube’s finger into a glass of warm water.

Parker: Oh, this will be great! Laube’s pants will be like a great vineyard—all about the soil.

Suckling: Does my hair look alright to you guys? Where’s the fucking mirror in this dump?

Parker: Should I grab your balls and tell you to, “Coif?”

Kramer: (lecturing to the Stranger) I think you’ll really enjoy my newest book, Stranger. It’s called “Making Sense of Death.” I think it’s my finest work, and, as you know, I’m universally regarded as the greatest dead wine writer…

Suckling: Yup. Give the public what they want.

Kramer: (ignoring Suckling, which is nothing new to Suckling) I think you’ll be surprised at the section that explodes the biggest myths around death. For example, that a 96 point death is better than a 92 point death. That’s what most people think, right, Stranger? Well, it turns out death is utterly pointless. Harvey Steiman gives Gluttony a 97, it doesn’t matter. Choose the death that you like! I did!

Parker: Gluttony is clearly 100 points. Hey, look, Laube pissed his pants!

Suckling: Come on, Kramer. You didn’t choose your death. None of us did. We all died of neglect. Consumers just stopped giving a shit about us. Fucking Millennials. Put us all in this room and damned us to eternal irrelevance. After all we did for them.

Laube: (waking up in a puddle of his own making, he stands and the front of his pants are wet) Shit! Bob, what the fuck?

A woman enters on a cheap bike. She looks lost. She stares at the wet spot on Laube’s pants, which continues to grow. The dead wine critics look at her, then at each other, and they begin to laugh. Only the Stranger and the bartender are silent. It’s the laughter of the damned.

Woman: What are you assholes doing here? Fuck. And me without a cowhorn into which I could shove this roomful of shit.

Stranger: The question, Ms. Feiring, isn’t what these assholes are doing here. They belong here. They’ve been drinking their way here for forty years. The question is, how did you end up in this particular room with these particular pricks? You’d think that the woman who saved the world from Parkerization would end up in a better place. You’d think that a woman who expended all her energy trying to show consumers that she was the one who held the secrets to great wine, that she was the one to whom they should listen, that only she was incorruptible and sincere in her love for wine, you’d think she was nothing like these four old, dead, impotent wine critics. But you’re not different, are you, Alice? You’re just as vain, and just as incontinent. You…

Parker: (loudly interrupts) Hey, Stranger! Lay off her.

Everyone falls silent after Parker’s outburst. Laube tucks a napkin into his pants and spreads it to cover the wet spot. Suckling shuffles around the bar appearing to be lost in thought, though thought is as foreign to him as humility. Kramer is sullen because no one is listening to him, though he has the same point to make he made but a few minutes ago. The bartender sets a glass of rosé on the bar loudly and stares at Alice Feiring, welcoming her to Hell. Feiring seems bewildered.

Feiring: (quietly) Thank you, Bob. Gentlemen, I’m a little confused. Just a minute or two ago I was riding my bike through the hills of Provence. Oh, it was a beautiful day. I felt like a young woman again, vibrant and sensual. I could smell the French countryside, and it was like the aroma of a biodynamic wine. You know, Bob, like inhaling the armpit of a French hooker with one leg named Eileen.

Suckling: What do you call her other leg?

Laube: The grip.

Parker: Shut up. Let the lady talk.

Kramer: I’d like to say something…

ALL: Shut up, Kramer!

Feiring: (sipping from her wine glass) Hey, this is good. (She strolls seductively over to where Parker is leaning against the bar. She stands very close to him.) Why are we here, Bob? I mean, we’re all famous wine critics, right? I get that. Well, except that Stranger. Who is he? I don’t like him. But why are we here? I have a lot of things to do. I don’t have time to sit around and drink with a bunch of old, dead, white guys. Like I ran for Congress. I have to save wine from you, Bob. (She leans in as if to kiss him.) I hate you.

Stranger: (angrily) Hate him, Alice? You are him. You’re all him. Every goddam one of you is him. You wasted your lives and your meager talents emulating him, or deriding him, or stealing from him. Laube, his fawning panty boy, pretending his opinions were different, but longing to worship at Bob’s feet. Suckling, the self-parody, the mockery of a critic, like imitation crab—looks like the real thing, but leaves a shitty taste in your mouth. And Kramer, the faux intellectual, the flipside of the hedonist, the “thinking man’s” Parker, the one who knows how to speechify but never feel, the one who puts the acid in flaccid. And you, Alice.

Feiring: What about me, Stranger? What about me?

Stranger: The Doña Quixote, the nut in shining armour, tilting at windbags. You might be the worst of them. These guys are buffoons, exaggerated parodies of wine power, the Walking Dead of the wine world, misogynists, the NFL owners of wine. And you? You pretended you were trying to slay these monsters when all you were really doing was finding a way to stand on their shoulders. Bob’s shoulders.

Feiring: Oh, they’re big strong shoulders, Stranger.

Laube: Fuck me. I think she’s in love.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Legend of Justin Appleseed

HoseMaster Note: This tall tale inspired by recent events chronicled, among other places, here:

Billionaire Resnicks' Justin Vineyards Bulldozes Forest of Old Oaks, Sparking Uproar

Howdy, pardners! I’m goin’ to tell you about the great Justin Appleseed, and how he done shaped the West. Now most of ya ain’t goin’ to believe my tale, and I cain’t say as I blame ya. But it’s all true, and you can look it up on your goldarned phones if you want. Hell, in my day a “search engine” was what we called the proctologist’s index finger. Ain’t much different today, I guess. Diddlin’ around on your phone is exactly like puttin’ your finger up your own butt. Feels like you’re doin’ somethin’, but you’re really just stirring around some shit.

Anyhow, we’re here to talk about ol’ Justin Appleseed. Now that weren’t his real name, but that’s what folks called him back in the early years of the 21st Century when his legend began. His real name was Justin Fijiwater, and he was one of the richest men on the planet. Yessir, he had a lot of money. In them days, people with a lot of money could do anything they wanted. You could sell two cents worth of water in a nasty plastic bottle for two dollars! Mostly just to yokels, mind you, the kind of folks who think nothing of homeless vets eating out of trash cans so long as their own drinking water comes four thousand miles in a plastic bottle from a tropical island’s aquifer, but there's a lot of stinkin’ ignorant yokels in the world. Yep, you can get mighty rich off folks with no class and imaginary phobias. And Justin Appleseed did just that!

Well, sir, Justin Appleseed had a hankerin’ to make wine. You see, Justin Appleseed believed that all the water in the world was his to do with as he pleased. Now, you own all the water in the world, see, you pretty much own everything. You are God, and you don’t have to answer to nobody, and if ever you do, you have lots of people to sacrifice. That’s the thing about rich folks, they always got people they can toss under the ol’ bus and blame for what their money does. “‘Twaren’t me,” they can say, “I didn’t know nothin’ about it. But, hell, I guess I’m sorta to blame, so, here, take this human I own and do what you want to him. I can buy another one. Hell, they’re cheap right now.”

But I’m gettin’ ahead of myself. Don’t matter, you all know the legend. I’m just tryin’ to set you straight, get to the truth behind the legend. Not the facts, but some truth. What happened done happened, you can stick that search engine up your ass and look it up. The truth can be a lot harder to figger.

So Justin Appleseed starts walkin’ the world looking for a winery to buy. Why didn’t he just start a new winery, what with all the money he had? Well, that takes talent and skill, and he just had money. Money from selling water to people who think their lives are better cuz they drink water out of plastic bottles instead of faucets and drinking fountains like the rest of us. Justin Fijiwater was just like that rancher who fills up the trough with endless water so that the cattle live long enough for him to slaughter them. Only in his case, the cattle done paid him for the privilege.

Well, everywhere Justin Appleseed went, all’s he noticed was trees that was standin’ around doin’ nothing. Suckin’ up his precious water and not givin’ nothin’ fer it. It made him madder than a billionaire with a cellarful of fake wine. He wanted to whip his Koch out and screw everything and everybody. Why, the trees he owned, them beautiful fruit trees, guzzled amazing amounts of his water, but at least they made pomegranates. Johnny Appleseed could sell the pomegranate juice by makin’ up tall tales about how it helps prostate cancer and fixes a limp dick at the same time! And yokels believe that shit! Now that’s a tree that’s worth somethin’! Nothin’ like a hard wood tree, and having hard wood is what folks want. But those other trees, just standin’ around, doin’ nothin’, well, they were gettin’ on Justin Appleseed’s nerves.

Now when Justin got to a little place called Paso Robles, he found the perfect winery to buy. Now, you have to understand, Paso Robles is dry! Paso Robles is drier than a sommelier fart in a service exam. Is that mercaptans, or are you just nervous to see me? So when Justin Appleseed bought his purty new winery, and lots and lots of land around it, he knew he needed lots more of his water to grow them grapes. It waren’t no big deal. He’d just take more of his water, the water he’d been lettin’ the other winegrowers use for a long time, but now he needed for himself. Hey, what’s an aquifer? Fer stealin’! Yeah, I wrote that joke. It’s a knee-slapper.

Now walkin’ around his property, Justin just couldn’t help but notice all these ol’ native oaks just standin’ around suckin’ up all the water and givin’ nuthin’ in return. Acorns. What the hell are acorns? What a-holes get on their feet? Justin walked and he walked around his Paso Robles property, an old sauce pan on his head to protect him from the sun, and because he’d heard it stopped radiation so’s he wouldn’t get brain cancer. And then one day he figgered it out. A perfect plan. It was almost too perfect!

Justin Appleseed called on his ol’ friend Paul Bunyan (he called him “Paul Bunion” because he was an a-hole with acorns) to come to Paso Robles. “And bring that goddam blue ox of yours, Paul, so it can leave big blue piles of fertilizer behind. Them piles of crap look like Smurf remains, but they’ll help my grapes grow! I hear blue wine is the next big thing.” When Paul arrived in Paso Robles, Justin Appleseed tol’ him, “Paul, now go on out there and chop down all those good-fer-nuthin’ oaks, the ones drinkin’ up all my precious water, and don’t tell noboby it was my idea! Hell, might as well just clear everything out while you’re at it. I want to hear my voice reverberatin’ when I walk around after you’re done. Yep, fuck Nature, I’m creatin’ my own kind of echo-system!”

And mighty Paul Bunyan done just that.

Now when Justin’s neighbors complained about all them oak trees being chopped down by some giant Village People guy in a plaid shirt, Justin Appleseed was astonished. “Why it was just a mistake, and I had every right, and, besides, I had no idea it was happenin’.” Now this was a lie, but Justin Appleseed knew that lyin’, and lots of money, work in your favor. ‘Member that Pom baloney ‘bout making your dick hard? Some kind of strap-Pom, I reckon. “But I’m gonna make it right,” he told his angry neighbors, “just you wait and see.”

And when Justin Appleseed pledged to give the folks his now treeless property to make up for destroyin’ the place, the legend was born. Oh, it cost him a little money, and by little, I mean like takin’ a flake of gold out of Fort Knox, and it cost him some embarrassment, but you know what? Them oak trees was gone forever. I guess they learned a valuable lesson. You take legendary Justin Appleseed’s water, you have to pay. It ain’t about the environment, stupid. It’s about money. And hubris. And having plenty of fall guys bought and paid for and ready to toss on the Smurf dung heap you left behind.

And, oh, them yokels is still buyin’ the water, and still buyin’ the fruit juice, and still in the wine clubs. And Justin Appleseed? Well, sir, if you walk around that ol’ property, you can still hear the echoes. The ones of him laughin’ all the way to the bank.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trump, Brexit, and Other Endangered Grape Varieties

Estimates of the number of varieties of vitis vinifera in cultivation vary widely. In the seminal work, “Wine Grapes,” the grape expert Dr. José Vouillamoz (pronounced “Wham-O”) asserts that the number is “close to a shitload.” (A “shitload” is defined as way more than eight thousand, or whatever Terry Theise writes in “World of Fine Wine.”) Interest in unusual varieties has grown quickly in recent years, fueled by consumer boredom with the usual suspects like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and that red grape that makes wines that are bitey.

Both sommeliers and people who actually love wine have grown more interested in unusual grape varieties. The varieties don't necessarily have to make great wine. In fact, sommeliers prefer the varieties that are obscure rather than really good. It's much like preferring minor league baseball for all its attendant inferiority. For those who love the oddball varieties, I've compiled a list of very rare grapes. You'll have to leap to Tim Atkin's site to read about them, but you'll find it worth the trip. As always, leave your comments there, they're more valuable now after Brexit, or you may leave them here where they are greatly devalued.