TPFThis is going to be short and sweet…okay, not so sweet because I’m pissed off about this and have been for about twenty years…

A few days ago, a Washington winery with a deserved reputation for snotty attitudes and irrational hauteur – and just generally wildly over-estimating their place in the wine cosmos – released Part Two of a smarm-fest of a sheet called “Rules At A Wine Festival, Part 2“. The first one was the sort of crabbing people who pour wine do about those who come to taste wine, just as employees at McDonald’s bitch about disagreeable customers and I and other beverage writers heave sighs amongst ourselves about combative readers. It’s human nature to cluster with your group and trade miseries. It lightens the load. There’s nothing wrong with it…

…until it becomes public and starts alienating those being complained about. This list was NOT all a load of crap. No, you should NOT go to wine festival and monopolize the pourer’s time and you should never keep going back for pour after pour so you can get a buzz on. But a lot of it is sheer wine-weenie fluff: “If you sport facial hair, please keep it free of dangling pieces of food.” (The thought of just, maybe, y’know, not obsessing about the food  particle never occurs to these dorks.)

Wine geeks LOVE to be exclusive. That ravening desire to feel superior to the unwashed masses is at the core of wine’s allure for a LOT of people. They want to feel sophisticated and superior to the general run of humanity and wine has always carried that wonky allure of complexity and minutiae that these folks realize the average person who just drinks wine because they like it will never concern themselves with. Hard-core wine geeks divide into two groups: those who have managed to put their love of wine into the context of a sane and healthy life and don’t need to elevate themselves…and those whose insecurities and over-compensation lead them to erect a facade of sophistication that services their lifestyle and their need to feel like an Insider. This very attitude is why this blog – which was originally supposed to be a wine blog only – drifted away from its focus on juice and onto suds and booze: because a sole focus on wine meant that I would have to spend lots of time among the sorts of people who think crap like “Rules At A Wine Festival, Parts 1 & 2” is a witty and winning little benign bauble with which to feed their vast need for validation and inclusion. To be brutally honest, I find beer geeks and whiskey “connoisseurs” a little hard to take, too. (I also find foodies, car buffs, stamp collectors, people who collect tchotchkes, Republicans, Democrats, Baptists, Catholics, Europhiles, sports fans, movie buffs, and basically any other rationale that causes humans to cluster in obsessive little packs somewhat irritating, to varying degrees. The only exception, now, is those who enjoy glass-blowing, with which I’m currently fascinated, but give those folks time. They’ll eventually wear me out, too.) As people get together around a common interest, they always tend to be either a bit or a lot exclusive. We’re tribal animals, we humans, so it’s understandable. The degree to which we carry out that tribalistic exclusiveness is where the line is crossed between Common Interest and Common Rudeness.

I’m not naming this winery…barely. They released this snarky little diatribe under their own name, so I could give it here without all that much guilt but, as they really have not produced any wines that I find interesting enough to write about in at least the past ten years, there is no reason for their name to appear in this blog. My number one rule: I don’t write negative commentary about ANYBODY but A) Anheuser Busch, aka AB/IvBev, and B) people who sue small beverage producers over mythical “trademark infringement”. That rule and simple good taste prohibits stating their name here. What I will volunteer is that even forming the thought in your head that the after-hours griping about the public at wine festivals is okay to display on your Facebook page shows a callousness and arrogance that is unbecoming a winery in this state, a community of winemakers and winery owners for whom friendliness, cooperation, and good relationships have always been the core values.

I know, by actual count, THREE people in the entire wine culture in Washington (and only five, total, if we include Oregon) who are and have consistently been tin-plated assholes. This person who runs the winery in question is maybe the President of that group. So, the idea that he would fling this garbage out there and think it’s funny comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is that good people, whom I know personally, also climbed onto the bandwagon of condescension that surrounds that list. One told me that people who might be offended by such complaints “aren’t ever going to read this thing“. Really? There is NO possibility that someone who loves wine but doesn’t know all the insider rituals and fetishes that we “anointed” presume, might just be a follower of this winery? They won’t possibly check out the winery’s FB page and see this list – with the winery’s actual logo emblazoned across the top – find something there that they inadvertently did because nobody ever told them it was “wrong”, and be so mortally embarrassed that they never set foot into a wine fest or tasting room again? Is there not the possibility that those who chimed in so gleefully – many of them winery owners and/or winemakers or “wine professionals” – might not have their snark attached to their own wines, too? This epistle which, as one guy I know put it, “is just a little fun thing”  seems kinda…uh, stupid for people trying to build public awareness and acceptance of their wineries and hoping to move their stock. And for a winery to actually sponsor such a demeaning little smug-sheet – even when that winery hedges its bet on not being seen by the objects of their scorn by clearly labeling it “fun” – doesn’t obscure the fact that the complaints in which they indulge their bloated ego actually are things that they notice and DO feel some petty, vindictive compulsion to comment on. The idea of rising above the gripes and nit-picking for the sake of common courtesy and benevolence never occurs to them, I’m certain, because they operate according to the same haughty attitudes as a couple of businesses with which I’ve had occasion to interact: a costume shop I used ONCE for a play, in Greensboro, NC, that had an allegedly-clever sign prominently placed where no one could miss it, proclaiming “The Costumer Is Always Right“…or the little restaurant in Winter Park, Colorado that proudly displayed the two signs that you see on the right below and moessignsseveral others, to boot. Since my non-negative stance applies only to small, independent beverage producers, I’m naming this smirky little crap-sandwich: Smokin’ Moes BBQ – hands-down the worst barbecue that, in a lifetime of eating smoked meats, I have ever put into my pie-hole. These are the attitudinal equivalent of our unnamed winery…and it causes me no end of pain to say that about ANY Northwest maker of anything.

Here’s what I really want to say: If you like attending wine festivals and you were not raised by wolves, in a remote part of Alaska or Siberia, you know what basic courtesy is. Avoid violating your own standards of polite behavior, wait in line patiently, make your ONE pour count, and then move to the next table and do the same. (Smiles don’t hurt, either.) What both parts of this List boil down to is that some people have bad manners and some wine people think their s**t smells like strawberry shortcake. If you don’t act like a jerk at wine festivals, DO NOT WORRY about whatever rituals and fetishes the people behind the table or the people at the winery may harbor and insist are “important”. Those things are NOT important, except to pompous, judgmental, immature jackwagons like the guy who runs that winery and his like-minded industry “professionals”. Be polite, be patient, and be mindful of those around you. Aside from that – at wine festivals at which, regardless of what wine-weenies may feel, YOU are still the customer, the one whose money ALL these wineries desperately want – I’ll encourage you to handle any snot or snark or raised-pinky ‘Tude of which you might find yourself the object with either of two remedies…

Turn your back on the snob(s) condescending to you and walk away.

OR, if you’re a bit more irritated…

Before you go, glance over your shoulder, smile sweetly at the person and say these words…

Go Fuck Yourself.

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2 thoughts on “Rant #2: Your REAL Wine Tasting Rules

  1. Steve, as you know this isn’t the first piece of your writing that I’ve been raving mad about. This is just great! (Evidently, I’m being subjective here) Perhaps those who mill round objects which they adore should read the book A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bordieu to understand that it’s their way of excluding so they’re in (in what?). Learning, experiencing is so fascinating—I wonder why we always try to exclude instead of embrace?

    A warm hug to you from Catalunya.



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