Bloggerview #20: Ron Washam

Bloggerview #20
Who: Ron Washam
Blog: Hosemaster of Wine
Where: http://hosemasterofwine.blogspot.com/

Ron Ron Washam is not your typical wine blogger. Nor is HoseMaster of Wine your typical blog. And this is why he strikes such a chord with me. It helps that he's a good writer; in fact, he's a former professional comedy writer who eventually put down his pen to pursue a career in wine, which he did with great success. When I first came across HoseMaster of Wine I really wasn't sure what to make of it. Nudie pictures and wine? Biting satire. Insightful and personal reviews of wine. Something of a disdain for the entire blogging world. After spending time with both Hosemaster of Wine (I read it for the blog posts) and with Ron, I came to an even greater appreciation of his mission, such as it is. What's fun about Ron is that in addition to making everyone else (including me and this blog) a target of his wit, he often points his words at himself. It's a good sign.

1. When did you begin blogging and why?
 I began blogging in August of 2008 after I was let go as Wine Educator at Silverado Vineyards. I suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands. I began HoseMaster of Wine simply as a way to channel my creative energy, never dreaming that anyone would want to read it. I was right. I didn't know anything about blogs when I started, I just knew that the wine blogosphere would be filled with semi-literate, sanctimonious, wildly dull voices. One more wouldn't hurt. I was coasting along with about eight unique hits a day when you "discovered" me and then suddenly my readership skyrocketed into the double digits.

2 In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
I think my tagline says it best, "Your Occasional Dose of Stupid Opinion." And trying to taunt the hypocrites that live on the edges of the wine biz.

3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
It's much harder to conceive and write pieces of satire than it is to publish searingly insipid wine reviews filled with regurgitated information gleaned from websites, or write three thrilling paragraphs of a poorly thought out opinion on Biodynamics, corks, and shipping laws. I have a great time playing the Fool, but it takes more effort than it ever seems worth. Oh, and naked cuties.

4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
More malignant than benign.

5. Do you accept sample for review?
Of course. But there aren't many wineries, or, more accurately, marketing departments, willing to submit samples to a guy with cheesecake photos on his website, who has a strong point of view, and can churn out interesting sentences. They want safe. Bloggers aren't going to criticize a wine for being insipid or lousy because that would inevitably dry up the sources of their free samples. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" is the motto of all the bloggers I've ever encountered (admittedly few), and that's what marketing departments want. I have read many glowing reviews of very mediocre wines on blogs, many of those reviews filled with misinformation. That's fine. I'm not on a crusade. But I think it was you, Tom, who said to me that as a marketing guy you'd never recommend a client send samples to me (forgive me if I'm wrong about that). But, oddly, the few folks who have submitted samples to me were very happy with my reviews. Though I play the Fool, I have more credentials and experience and knowledge when it comes to wine than 98% of the bloggers out there. I think that's what makes HoseMaster of Wine work.

6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I certainly don't assign numbers. I write about the wines in my HoseMaster voice and I think that conveys a strong sense of my opinion of them. I'm not exactly subtle. Wine is about laughter and enjoyment, not adjectives, numbers and dreary analysis.

7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
I write when I feel motivated. Comedy is, strangely, a contemplative pursuit. I have a thousand ideas at any one time, but I allow my subconscious to sift through them, select a few to work on, and then when the idea arrives in my conscious mind I sit down and take dictation from my subconscious, which I call the Comedy Channel. Because I write HoseMaster of Wine strictly for myself I don't feel any need to do it on a regularly scheduled basis.

8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Nope. I'm not trying to market anything. In fact, I've had several people in the wine business tell me that they believed my blog, well, basically the nude photos on my blog, was having a negative impact on my career, such as it is, in the business. If that's true, and I'm not convinced it is, it shows you what a conservative, close-minded business the wine business is. It's a far more conservative business than most people believe.

9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Wine writing for print demands more thought, editing for space constraints, editing for grammar and punctuation, and is much more permanent. I see very little in blogs that would even be considered for traditional print media, either because of the quality of the writing or the unoriginality of thought.

10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
I only occasionally spend time reading wine blogs. I find them difficult to wade through. The blogosphere is far too incestuous for my tastes, too self-referential. It seems to be considered taboo to go onto someone else's blog and criticize what that blogger is saying unless you have a terminal disease. It's too much "Great post, Steve! Keep up the good work," and "Wow, I can't wait to try out that wine you just wrote about you make it sound so delicious." And too many blogs begin, "I read a great post on WineMolestor.com and it got me to thinking…" I'm logging off before that sentence is finished.

11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
No, but I think the wine industry hopes that bloggers will be able to sell wine. A guy like Gary Vaynerchuk can sell wine because he has a wine shop and a license. (I've never seen him or his show and pray to God it stays that way.) When I owned a wine shop my satirical newsletter sold lots of wine too. But that's different than the opinion of a blogger actually triggering a ten-case sale. Blogs are just an easy wa
y for a lot of winery marketing "experts" to pretend they earned their money. "Look," they tell their employers, "we got a nice hit on Vinography, and a mention on MyAchingKidneys." GoogleAlert is a wonderful thing for these people. And I don't think wine blogs have changed the wine culture at all. Who reads wine blogs? Mostly other wine bloggers and winery marketing people. The folks shopping at Costco and Trader Joe's haven't read a wine blog and probably don't even know what a blog is.

12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
OK, there's a Paris Hilton joke here that I'll avoid (Non-smoking please). Though I once dated a Caribbean Queen.

13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
I have had a lifelong love of animals, a love even deeper than my love of wine. My wife and I have a Norwich terrier, an Arabian horse, an African Grey Parrot, a Meyer's Parrot, a canary, two owl finches, and two feral cats we take care of.

14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
Always wanted to publish in the New Yorker. People was used illegally by the Bush Administration, who forced Gitmo prisoners to read it cover to cover

15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Didn't we defeat both of them in WWII? I drive a Prius.

16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Yes.

17. Describe what you would have at your last meal?
Indigestion. And a bottle of Chateau Rayas.

18. What is Heaven Like?
No idea, but I know there isn't a 100 Point Scale in Heaven. I'm a spiritual person, but not a religious person. I don't believe there's a Heaven, but Hell is the Napa Valley Auction.

19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
You know, the last time I had four dead people for dinner my wife complained about the smell. This is the sort of question where I'm supposed to impress people with my intellect and wide-ranging curiosity by my choice of dinner party guests. Sure. So here goes. I'd invite Mark Twain, Linda Lovelace, Wallace Stevens and Idi Amin. If the party was dull, Idi Amin could eat the other three. I'd bring the wine.

20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Get a life.

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19 Responses

  1. Ron - April 10, 2009

    This guy’s an obnoxious moron!

  2. Jill - April 10, 2009

    I have to say that I think Ron’s answers in this bloggerview are interesting, intelligent and intriguing. They almost make me want to read his blog — almost…
    …the graphic graphics will continue to keep me away.
    I realize the absurdity of their inclusion is probably “the point,” but I still find them jarring, denigrating, and inappropriate. Overall, I just don’t get it!
    Sorry I can’t rid myself of this conservative/puritanical streak. Ron seems like a swell guy otherwise.

  3. Tom Wark - April 10, 2009

    Jill,
    I’ve learned not to question people’s conservative or puritanical streaks, so you won’t get any push back from me on your position regarding Ron’s graphics.
    However, you did hit it on the head in that he is a swell guy.
    Tom…

  4. Samantha - April 10, 2009

    Great post Tom! Keep up the good work….(smirk)

  5. Ron Washam, HMW - April 10, 2009

    Jill,
    For a thousand years the point of comedy and satire has been to be “jarring, denigrating and inappropriate,” so thanks for the compliment. I think in the context of my stupidity the very tame photos of naked women are hard to view as exploitative. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
    As I said in the Bloggerview, I do HoseMaster of Wine for my own enjoyment. When you do what you love your audience finds you. When you shill for bucks and attention and free samples you get the audience you deserve.
    And, as all my female friends will attest, I actually am a swell guy. Albeit with a twisted sense of humor.

  6. Thomas Pellechia - April 10, 2009

    “When you do what you love your audience finds you.”
    Ron, If that were true, shouldn’t I have more readers…
    Or are you implying that one must also be good at what one loves? That might be my problem. I’m not even good enough for you to lampoon me on your blog ;)

  7. Kathy - April 10, 2009

    I judged the wine writing category in Tom’s 2009 blog awards and it turns out you were my first choice…(I knew I was right).
    My note:
    “Funny, odd, insulting and I want more. He should spend a little more time incorporating his very funny thoughts so they don’t stumble over each other but otherwise, clever, well-written. I attribute some of this to the fact that for 19 years he was a sommelier and therefore had to learn how to converse with people. Most wine bloggers only seem to talk to the bottle and people they live with. Before wine, it was just the people they live with.”

  8. KenPayton - April 10, 2009

    Does he have banana tree in his yard? Or is his head just sprouting pricks? A blog Mr. Washam might find interesting:
    http://www.livevideo.com/video/myhumps/8AE1A37C7BE9497C8A451A007755971E/sexy-greek-police-lady-eats-.aspx

  9. KenPayton - April 10, 2009

    For the rest of us there is this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlfKdbWwruY&feature=PlayList&p=5BB211B0618B088E&index=0

  10. Ron Washam, HMW - April 11, 2009

    Hi Kathy,
    Thanks for the kind words and for making me your first choice in the writing category. I think “funny, odd, insulting” says it all. My voice, such as it is, has been with me for as long as I’ve been writing and the tone and pace are second nature. It seems to me that most bloggers are afraid of their own voice, afraid to let loose, or perhaps they think riffing off the tops of their heads is “writing.” Blogs are like wine–the cardinal sin for both is to be dull.
    Ken,
    That’s not a photo of me, that’s the very old Carmen Miranda.
    Thomas,
    I bet you have more readers than I do, deservedly so. Anyway, a bigger audience doesn’t equate to a better audience. I keep track of how many Unique Hits I get on HoseMaster of Wine, and I’d be worried sick if I started to get too many. I’m proudest of the mixture of responses I get, from Jill who gracefully voices the opinion of those who can’t stomach me, to many others, mostly in the business, who email me privately to encourage me. If you make ‘em laugh, you make ‘em think. The wine business promotes an image of sophistication and class, but at the end of the day it’s primarily about inebriation and its attendant joys. It’s in that crack that I insert HoseMaster of Wine.

  11. Thomas Pellechia - April 11, 2009

    Ken,
    Inebriation?
    Are you trying to tweak the geeks on ebob?
    I used to track readers–got too depressing.
    Readers ought to track me instead–much easier on my psyche, unless they start phoning and breathing weird.

  12. KenPayton - April 12, 2009

    Just trying to have a little fun, Thomas. I’ll spend 30 minutes composing a comment only to have, well, most often you my friend, respond with a trivial quip. Too much work for so little return! So I thought I would economize, downsize the ideas, hike up the entertainment value. Still you’re disappointed! There’s no winning, sigh,,,
    Happy Easter

  13. Thomas Pellechia - April 12, 2009

    Ken,
    Either you or I have a poor sense of humor. Maybe I should have used ;)
    Incidentally, I typed Ken in my post but I meant Ron. Makes me wonder what you thought I was responding to, since I wasn’t responding to anything you had written about inebriation, unless I missed something.
    Yet, since you chose to use the tactic of a true intellect–belittlement–I’ll refrain from typing the name ‘Ken’ in any of my responses and leave you to go blithely along believing that us trivials think you are perfectly correct in all your opinions.
    Need I put the :( here?

  14. Ron Washam, HMW - April 12, 2009

    Thomas,
    I don’t really give much thought to the Wine Trekkies on eBob. I do admire the skill with which Mr. Parker has turned wine appreciation into a beauty pageant. And is it any wonder that all those boys want to be the judges at the beauty pageant?
    I check the traffic on my site for laughs. An amazing amount of my page views show up because of the photos. I get a dozen “nude cheerleader” hits every week. I wonder who’s lonelier, eBob regulars, nude cheerleader searchers or me and every other blogger?
    And don’t make me get a Hose to break up you and Ken!

  15. Thomas Pellechia - April 12, 2009

    Ron, the real Ron, not the one I called Ken:
    I’m really a pussycat, until someone calls me names…
    Anyway, this medium sucks big time at conveying lightness and humor without the use of those keyboard crutches that us savvy people disdain, but those really in the know use to avert disaster.
    I was truly only kidding, about the site hits and the ebobers. The latter was a cryptic reference to a thread a few years ago that got one fellow a barrage of insults for hinting that some wine geeks do it for the 18%, and the poor guy referred to the once meek Zinfandel!
    As for site hits–no one pays me to write my blog, so who’s counting?

  16. Thomas Pellechia - April 12, 2009

    Oh, Ron,
    That site isn’t only a beauty pageant–it’s a skillful marketing device, too, as are most web sites, except for bloggers of course.

  17. Ron Washam, HMW - April 12, 2009

    Thomas,
    I realized you were kidding with all of your remarks. It’s just more fun to take all of it at face value.
    When I write I always fear people will misunderstand my intentions, but that’s my failure as a writer, not their failures as a reader. I don’t try to offend anyone who doesn’t deserve it, but my comedic voice has its own standards and I allow it to say what it wishes so long as it’s funny. As I have often said, blogging, to my mind, is the attention-barking of lonely poodles.
    eBob is certainly used for marketing, especially by beginning winemakers, but if those dimwits can’t see that then they end up with all the crappy, overextracted, overpriced amateur single-vineyard pinot noirs they deserve.
    Funny, I get more engagement on Tom’s site than I ever get on my own. I like to think it’s because folks are skeered of me, but, more likely, no one’s actually reading HoseMaster of Wine.

  18. Thomas Pellechia - April 12, 2009

    No, no, Ron. Your site appeals only to the lonely teens who haven’t seen a nekkid woman yet, and they look at the site while sipping from their recent wine shipment. The WSWA has you in its sights–ask Tom, he’ll tell you.
    I sent you an email. Don’t want to bore the rest with personal matters.
    Don’t feel bad about the writing thing. I get paid to write and no one understands my intentions, not even my real attention-barking standard poodle whose name is Oliver. You wanna see a picture of him?

  19. Phil - April 24, 2009

    Where did Ron’s site go? I’m bummed…
    Phil


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