The Official History of THWR

(Originally published January 2003)

As one year comes to a close and another begins, Hanes gets all reflective and shit. The path to becoming a World Famous Wine Reviewer has not always been an easy one. There have been many dangerous forks in the road, flirtations with financial insolvency, and bumps and bruises from falling down while drunk. So, now is a good opportunity for Hanes to provide a little history of his wine review, outlining where it has been and where it may be going.

Like most people, the youthfully naive Hanes knew nothing about wine. As an undergraduate at Columbia during the late 1980's he remembers going to a local Chinese food restaurant called Broadway Cottage because they offered all the free wine you could drink with any meal. More accurately, Hanes does not remember this introduction to wine as he was always successful in blinding himself with undrinkable swill and Moo Shu Pork. Upon graduation into the world-at-large, Hanes occasionally encountered a bottle of "fine wine," which he gulped without any real notice. In 1993 Hanes recalls having dinner with co-workers at a swank Manhattan restaurant called Sign of the Dove where he sampled a bottle of Californian winery Caymus's white wine blend called "Conundrum" -- he was floored by how good it tasted but there was really no moment of lasting epiphany. However, as Hanes more frequently ended up in situations where a knowledge of wine would come in handy, it became apparent that knowing something about wine would be a good thing.

So, in mid-1997, Hanes gathered his college fraternity friends together to have a "wine tasting." Each person would bring a bottle of a certain type of wine (e.g., one time Riesling, another time Merlot) and we would taste them blindly and thus learn about wine. The rough idea was to figure out enough that we would recognize quickly what we liked and didn't like and then we wouldn't have to think too much about it anymore; working from this basic foundation we would just select something from this new "tried and true" range. And so it went for Hanes's friends!

Alas, Hanes's analytical nature took over and the challenge of mastering all the information and variables took over. Learning the differences between grape types, vintages, blends, regions, etc. is a tough task and it never stops year after year. Hanes would scribble notes furiously during wine tastings, family dinners, major sporting events, dates and while chugging at home. He created a database in which to house this growing compendium of the wines he loved or hated.

Then came the fateful moment. In the summer of 1999, Hanes's friends said, "Hanes, you have all these notes, why don't you publish them and send them to all your friends?" Hanes's gargantuan ego could not pass up such a request, so in September of 1999 The Hanes Wine Review was born. It brings a tear to Hanes's eye to read a note from that first review: "Very harmoniously balanced, strong cherry upfront that diffuses well and allows other flavors to come to the fore. Playful tannins." Such admirable brevity! Yet captures the essence of the wine so beautifully! Ahh, those days are long past...

At this point in his life Hanes was struggling with writing his doctoral dissertation on the French philosopher Michel Serres (a work sadly never to be completed). He needed a part-time job for (a) cash and (b) to get out of the house once in awhile. Since he wanted to learn more about wine he said why not get a part-time job in a wine store? Indeed, why not! He stored his mighty seven case collection of wine at the professional storage facility of a retail store called the Chelsea Wine Vault. So that seemed like a natural place to apply for a job. Rubes that they were, they hired Hanes a few weeks later and the stuff of legends was born! With access to so many wines, many to be tasted for free during in-store customer tastings or when wholesale distributors poured samples, The Hanes Wine Review swelled in size. More importantly, unnoticed nuances of flavors such as leather or garrigues or cat pee suddenly became crystal clear to Hanes's expert proboscis and tongue. Unknown wine regions such as Alentejo, Paarl, Madiran, Alto Adige or Styria quickly became old hat. Hanes could actually not only answer a customer's question but -- gulp! -- he would be correct! Hanes worked part-time in retail sales for two years before deciding that working two jobs for six total days per week was just too much, necessitating an end to direct employ in the wacky world of wine.

Over the past three years The Hanes Wine Review has covered a vast range of topics and wines. Even given Hanes's vast international fame, he has never sought to pawn himself off as a true wine expert. Hanes holds no wine degree or certificate and let's hope he never does. The review was, and is, more intended as a "journal of discovery" and not a definitive statement on anything. It intentionally incorporates the zany personality of the wine reviewer you all know and love -- writing without the "Hanes voice" would bore him to death (thus answering the constant query of "Hanes, why don't you write for a wine magazine?"). Yet, it also strives to be of use to its readers, hopefully guiding future purchases towards or away from certain wines or mentioning some obscure bottle someone would never buy otherwise. And providing a chuckle here or there.

So, that's the past! What of the present and future? Well, today Hanes now has like 80 mixed cases of wine aging in storage and owes tens of thousands of dollars on his credit card. The database has over 4,000 tasting notes in it. The Hanes Wine Review gets sent out to around 400 poor victims each month. If you count the amount of time spent on scribbling while tasting, then typing up each note, checking accuracy of data, the monthly downloading from the database and formatting for email distribution, and then writing the beginning "rant" Hanes spends about 30+ hours per month on this damn wine review. And, in case you haven't noticed, he does it for free! Out of luv for YOU! Charging for The Hanes Wine Review still makes Hanes queasy, there's enough other "paid professionals" out there with all the clout and headaches associated with the responsibility of being paid for their questionable ramblings. Don't need that trouble.

But that does not mean that Hanes is without ambition or above reproach! Certainly not. One day before he dies of old age, Hanes would like to get his rants and raves onto a website. And the masses clamor for online access to his database of notes with full search capability (and maybe even downloadable for a PDA). But this shit costs major Benjamins and Hanes ain't gots no moolah for it. Why did that damned internet bubble have to burst? Maybe one day Hanes will figure out a way to at least come vaguely close to breaking even on this labor of love...

So, what can you, Hanes's adoring fans, do to help? Send him free wine! Hah! But besides that, the biggest thing any reader can do is to help increase the readership. With all the time, effort and money that goes into The Hanes Wine Review it would make Hanes feel much better if he knew it was helping or amusing more people rather than fewer. Hanes has no advertising budget. If you like the review, the greatest contribution you can make is to corral more readers for it. Think of people who might enjoy it and then send Hanes their full name and email address. It's the same amount of work if the review is sent to ten people, 400 people or 4,000 people. But knowing it goes to 4,000 makes it more worth doing.

Other than that, the only other thing that would make Hanes feel better is if you actually read the damn thing! Stop passing out unconscious around page 6 fer crissakes!