30 Sep 2010
Are you looking for a wine that will kiss you on the lips, smack you on the ass, and leave you feeling completely satisfied? Mollydooker just might do it. In my 11 months of wine blogging and five years of wine consumption, I have yet to experience anything so over the top and hedonistic as the Mollydooker wines. In fact, it’s not even until now that I understand the use of the word hedonistic when describing wine. Even at their lower end price points $25, the wines are full of big and rich fruit with an emphasis on flavor. It’ll feel like a flavor orgy in your mouth. Be careful, however, the bold wines come with bold alcohol levels of 15.5% and higher! Too much of this booze and you’ll get a smack on the ass from falling on it!
Mollydooker has put together a winning combination of wine, marketing, and consistency since coming on to the scene in 2006. Their web site is fun, quirky and educational, the labels are catchy and carry a personal connection, and the wine has garnered praises including five 99 point scores from Wine Advocate, Top Value Wine (under $20; 2006), and the Carnival of Love has been selected as a Top 10 Wine in the World (2 years running).
Owners and Winemakers Sarah and Sparky Marquis spent 12 years making critically acclaimed wine for others companies before starting Mollydooker in 2005. Based in Australia’s premier regions of McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and Pathway, Sarah and Sparky claim that it is their Marquis Vineyard Watering Programme and Marquis Fruit Weight focus that sets their wine apart. Two pretty cool, although heavily marketing focused, videos are on their web site at www.mollydookerwines.com.
The watering program manages the growth of the vines and canopy to create a healthy and vigorous crop. At specific times the plants are deprived of water to drive the energy into the grape clusters. A repeating cycle of starvation and watering leads to the high fruit weight the Marquis’ are aiming for. Marquis Fruit Weight is a non-scientific measurement of WOW. It is an attempt to quantify the percentage of your palate that’s covered by the smooth fruit flavor.
I was pretty skeptical and intrigued by the Fruit Weight concept, so I thought I’d put the three sample wines to the test in a blind tasting format. I had the wife bag and tag the wines after removing the colorful foil identifiers. I knew I was drinking Mollydooker, I knew they were 2009 Shiraz, but I had no clue as to which wine was The Boxer ($25), Blue Eyed Boy ($50), or Carnival of Love ($90). Watch the video for the surprising results.
*So far, this may sound like a sales pitch for Mollydooker, instead of a review. I’m just providing the back story (and theirs is an impressive one). I did review a 2008 vintage of Blue Eyed Boy and didn’t give it so glowing of a review.
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from vineyards in McLaren Vale, Langhorne and Pathway. The wine spent 12 months in 57% new 43% year old American oak; 3.6% residual sugar, 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure (as are all Mollydooker wines) – 70% Marquis Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: Thick and inky in the glass with a heavy purple. Wine leaves a film on the glass edge when swirling.
- The Sniff: A Shiraz masquerading as a big Malbec with blueberry and vanilla on the nose. There are subtle hints of sweet residual sugar and cedar too.
- The Sip: Good flavor but not overwhelming. Starts off feeling a little syrupy and then gives way to dark black and blue berry fruit. A stronger pepper finish than I expected and a good amount of acidity to clear away the sweet fruit.
- The Score: At $25 this is a great wine that easily outperforms Aussie Shiraz in the $15-$20 range. The flavor is more intense but not over the top. Great price point. 3+/5
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from the Mollydooker vineyard and Langhorne Creek; aged 12 months in 71% new and 29% used American oak; 3.6% residual sugar, 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure – 80% Marquis Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: Great light refraction around the edges. The wine looks like a pristine calm glassy purple lake. Thick and very weighty
- The Sniff: A very well layered aroma profile that includes perfectly balanced amounts of fruit, licorice, powdered sugar, and deep blackberries. Love the subtle cracked pepper on the finish
- The Sip: A massive wash of soft plum, bright blackberry, and warm milk chocolate. The luscious and round mouth feel is accompanied by a good amount of firm tannin on the finish. This is a young wine that drinks very well now, but is crying out for sausage, cheese, and beef dishes.
- The Score: For those wine drinkers that are accustom to laying down $50 for a good bottle, this is a fantastic wine. There is more here than just a giant fruit bomb. The layers of flavor will ease the pain of parting with the cash. This is a special wine whose taste and aromas are burned into my memory. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% Shiraz from the Gateway vineyard in McLaren Vale; 97% new and 3% used American oak for 12 months. 3.8% RS; 16%ABV, screw cap enclosure – 90% Fruit Weight
- The Swirl: As with all the MD Shiraz this wine is pure purple passion. Very thick and pure like liquid glass. The Enchanted love is one of the darker wines I can recall seeing.
- The Sniff: Beautiful scents of violets, sweet sugar, bright blueberries, rich plums and spice. I think about 10 minutes went by before I quit smelling this wine. An enjoyable experience even before the sip.
- The Sip: A wonderful evolution of flavor happens on this wine. Tasting the wine gives you an understanding of what “fruit weight” is. The flavor seems to wrap every square inch of your mouth. Not a single taste bud is left out of this experience. Great presentations of fruit, spice, and even some dried tomato and coffee components.
- The Score: The Carnival of Love is a sensory experience not to be missed. This is truly a wine event, if ever I’ve had one. A huge step above in balance over the previous vintage and crafted with subtle intricacies that keep you wanting another sip. Keep in mind this is not a subtle experience of strolling through a park enjoying the serene waterfalls and flowers, this is a high octane double loop roller coaster at 70MPH! At $90, a challenge for most but if you want to really impress a wine lover (especially one who enjoys Aussie Shiraz), you’ll score big points here! 4+/5
In August, Ben Simons of Vinotology announced his free agency. In a brave move, he left the comfort of his paying job to pursue the uncertainty of the free market. His pursuit of passion is an admirable and brave quest for those of us surviving in the cube farm of corporate America. Immediately after entering the market, suitors began calling. Potential candidates were Arizona, Oregon, California, Washington and even staying in the home state of Texas.
Ben has been an active champion for Texas wine, blazing trails by getting Texas wine into the hands of influential wine writers. Ben scored an amazing journalistic coup by being the lone blogger to cover the unsuccessful Gruet bid for CapRock winery. Ben’s video and story were syndicated by several sources.
California recruited Vinotology heavily with their fast cars, fast women, and endless supply of sunshine and wine. Ben’s visit to Napa resulted in some time spent with several powerhouses in the industry including Rick Bakas, Hardy Wallace, and the boys from Wine Biz Radio. An investigation has been opened against the state of California for recruiting violations.
Today, Ben calls a press conference to reveal his decision. Where will Ben take his blogging talents? Which wine region will retain the massive talent that can help propel them to the championship?
In a Lebron James-like move, Ben calls a press conference and holds the wine blogging world captive with his announcement. Watch the press conference for the announcement!
Ben is my friend. You should hire him! Here is his resume and credentials.
Each month I review between 17-20 wines on camera. The total has climbed above 200. However, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t always wait until the film is rolling to drink wine. Several wines are enjoyed at trade tasting events or even in the casual company of friends over dinner or just for fun. Some of these wines, while embedded in my memory for their amazing quality, just don’t receive the time and attention that is needed for a quality review.
Below are six wines that I tasted during the month that didn’t see the bright lights of the video room but did receive the attention for a review. The best phrase I can use to describe these are ‘beauty and beast.’ These wines left indelible impressions on my palate and not always in a good way. Below are some of the best AND worst wines I’ve tasted this year.
Former Chateau St. Michelle wine maker Michael Januik continues his quality tradition at Januik Winery. During our visit to Woodinville in September 2009, sister properties Januik and Novelty Hill were a favorite stop. The ultra modern facility provided one of the more unique tasting room visits we have experienced. The Klipsun Vineyard Merlot was bold in flavor but soft in presentation. The multiple layers of fruit included raspberry and red currants along with thick milk chocolate layers. The wine leaned toward a medium full body and offered an extremely well balanced and soft finish that whispered hints of vanilla and candied cherries. At $30, this Merlot was perfect for a night cap sip, with desert, or along-side chicken parmesan, lamb or roasted duck. 4/5
I am a fan of Zinfandel. I’ve been on a search for the quintessential Washington State Zin, and hoped I had found it at Hard Row to Hoe. This big full bodied fruit attack is from Milbrandt Vineyards and is a blast of jammy strawberry and blackberry in the mouth accompanied by a pinch of pepper on the finish. Sadly, I learned that Milbrandt removed their Zinfandel vines after the 2006 vintage leaving me on the continued quest for a sinful Washington Zin. The wine is big and slightly hot and best enjoyed on its own. The $35 price tag may seem hefty when comparing to quality Seghesio from California, but the Hard Row stands tall as a big and dynamic wine. 4/5
Rated 90pts by Wine Enthusiast
Maison Bleue has burst on to the scene with quality Rhone varietal wines from Horse Heaven Hills and around Prosser, WA. As I tasted through the line-up of wine, the Roussanne stood out among the others for its unique flavors of honey, apples and sweet peaches. Beautiful floral notes permeate the nose. Even with a 4.7% residual sugar, the sweetness of the wine is perfectly balanced with the acidity. A refreshingly “low” alcohol of 12.7%ABV is hardly noticeable in this dangerous summer delight. A bright crisp finish surprises at the end. The Alder Ridge and Six Prong Vineyards provide great fruit for this stainless steel fermented wine. At only $20, this is easily one of the more memorable wines I’ve experienced for the month. 4+/5
Rated 91pts by Wine Enthusiast
A glass of sweet elegant gold is a good way to describe this opulent desert wine. The 2007 R.A. Harrison Nobility is an addiction waiting to happen. I’m not a lover of syrupy sweet wines. I tend to avoid dessert wine tastings. I kept waiting for the opportunity to get the Nobility on camera. Just sitting in its 375ml bottle, it boasted super star qualities. The casting call never came and the 78% Napa Sauv Blanc and 22% Sonoma Semillon ended up stealing the supporting role for the month. The 12.2% residual sugar may make you think simple sweet Taylor Swift but this wine has a dangerously sexy and seductive quality of the mature Heidi Klum. Amazing flavors of honey, almonds, peach syrup and gardenias fully envelop the entire palate. While I know to enjoy this wine in small quantities, the bottle kept beckoning me back for more. $75; 4+/5
The Osborne Seven non-vintage red blend is available in the Octavin Home Wine Bar packaging. The premise is a four bottle package that utilizes a non-oxygen permeable bladder and spigot that keeps wine fresh for up to six weeks. If you could stomach this wine for six weeks, then this would be a value. At only $22 ($5.50 per bottle) the blend of 25% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 18% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Tempranillo, 8% Grenache, and 8% Graciano makes for a less than desirable combination. The juice is thin, tepid and extremely disjointed. The berry flavors seem tart and under ripe and while the tannin is smooth on the finish the blast of alcohol and bitterness ruin any hope this wine has. This wine is not a value at any price. It was given several chances to perform over a three week period and ended up down the drain. 1/5 – There are better ways to spend your money.
The eclectic mix of 51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Gruner Veltliner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling offer a unique tasting experience. Flavors of melons and sweet tropical fruits are gentle on the palate. An unfortunate steely bitterness pervades the finish causing a very disjointed tasting experience. At $22 for the four bottle Octavin packaging, some may consider this a good value. Personally, I prefer the Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc or the Monthaven Chardonnay for wine bar value whites. Combining this wine with spicy chicken and serving extra chilled helped considerably. 2/5
27 Sep 2010
“It’s definitely a ‘come to Spokane’ for me. The visit exceeded my expectations,” says Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report. “The people here are passionate about wine, a lot of interesting stories, a lot of interesting (wine) going on here.”
For months I’ve been trying to coax some west side writers to Spokane to experience the quality that I get to experience every day. In June, I was honored to be a part of a trip that included Joe Roberts (1WineDude), Ben Simons (Vinotology) and Eric Hwang (BricksofWine). For the last two weekends, I’ve had the privilege of drinking wine and touring wineries with Sean Sullivan (Washington Wine Report) and Bean Fairbanks (Wine Beer Washington). This weekend was my turn to play host here in Spokane.
Spokane IS a destination for wine and is earning recognition for quality and value production. 90% of Spokane wines are under $30 and are receiving many 90+ scores in trade magazines. Robert Parker recently called out Spokane’s Arbor Crest as one of the best in the state for value and quality. With 20 wineries pouring at 17 tasting rooms, you can experience a wide variety of styles.
For Sean and Bean’s trip, I was able to show them some key wineries and give them a tour of the area. In all, we explored 8 of the 18 wineries from Downtown to Liberty Lake.
Sean and Bean arrived in Spokane around 6pm and Sean hosted the first Spokane focused tasting for his monthly virtual tasting on twitter. A handful of people tasted through the Townshend Vortex NV Red Blend. As we drained that bottle, we moved on to wine from Smasne Cellars and Nodland Cellars before calling it a night around 1AM.
Bean’s focus was the Spokane Oktoberfest happening in Riverfront Park, but she joined Sean and me at Latah Creek. Sean, with clipboard and temperature pen in hand, is a machine when it comes to wine reviews; sipping, spitting, jotting down notes with every wine. Mike Conway and team were bottling their popular Huckleberry Riesling. Mike’s daughter, Natalie and wife, Ellena gave a grand tour of the wines and we even got a sneak peak at Latah Creek’s new label direction (see picture). Latah Creek was the 18th winery in the state. Their leadership and direction has paved the way for all the other Spokane wineries. Our next stop was Arbor Crest for a chat with Jim van Löben Sels, director of operations and viticulture manager. Progress on restoring the Cliff House mansion after December’s fire is coming along quickly. The renovations should be complete in November. Arbor Crest is the city’s most majestic space to enjoy wine with views of the entire Spokane Valley. A stand out wine during the tasting was the 2008 Malbec and 2005 Dionysus Bordeaux style blend.
After lunch we headed to Robert Karl where we chatted with Joe and Rebecca about their focus on old world flavored Bordeaux wines. Joe and Rebecca Gunselman moved to Spokane in 1998 to open their family winery using the greatest grapes in the world, which they believe to be in Washington State. With grapes grown in Horse Heaven Hills, Robert Karl has garnered major acclaim for consistent quality being recognized with 90, 91, 92, and 93 point scores in Wine Enthusiast. One stand out wine was the 2006 Inspiration, a Bordeaux style reserve blend.
The final winery stop of the day, but far from the end of the evening activities, was Spokane’s newest winery, Overbluff Cellars. I wanted to make sure the trip included a variety of experiences that included heritage, majestic views, and fresh energy. John Caudill and Jerry Gibson shared their story and we tasted through what little of the wine they still have left (sold out of the Reserve Cab and the Duality Cab). While not quite ready for release, we did get to try their newest wine, Hip Hip Syrah.
As if these four stops were not enough, we ventured to Vino Wine Shop because we got wind that they were pouring Maison Bleue wines. Sean’s excitement about the wines meant that I had to experience them. The Rhone focused wines were incredibly well made. I was especially impressed with the white wines Chardonnay, Viognier and Roussanne. With my newly acquired Roussanne in tow we headed home for pizza and, presumably, more wine. Sean and I polished off the Roussanne while tweeting and chatting by the fire and then headed downstairs to watch a movie. Admittedly, I’ve never seen Sideways, so we tried to find it On Demand. With no luck, we settled on the classic Napoleon Dynamite and after my step-son beat Sean in two games of air hockey, we laughed our way through another bottle of Smasne Cellars wine. Sleep.
I’m a fan of each of the areas I took Sean and Bean, but I was particularly excited about Saturday’s visits to Barrister, Nodland and Liberty Lake. Each winery was buzzing with fun activities. Before starting our day, I took Sean on a tour of downtown pointing out the wineries we were not able to visit, key restaurants and other tourist spots. A highlight for Sean was the Davenport Hotel. The beauty cannot be captured on film. Sean, obviously a wino rock star, was spotted by an adoring fan in the lobby. “Are you Sean Sullivan?” Slightly embarrassed, but mostly flattered, Sean chatted with the blog reader for quite some time.
At Barrister Winery, the first grapes of the season had arrived. Volunteers were helping de-stem the Merlot to prepare it for fermentation. Greg and Michael treated us to barrel tasting in their amazing barrel room and a host of wines including a “sold out” library wine, the 2005 Syrah. A-MA-ZING. Probably one of the 10 best wines I’ve ever had. In chatting with Sean, it was obvious that Barrister made an impression on him.
After a long visit at Barrister, we headed to the Valley for a stop at Nodland Cellars. Tim and Tracy Nodland have made a name for themselves with their one red wine, the Red Blend. The Bordeaux style wine includes all six of the original varietals, including Carmenere. The Nodland’s also produce a classic Riesling and are branching out into very small productions of reserve Cabernet, 100% Carmenere, and a new Rockin’ Red Blend. Tracy was in the middle of punching down their Merlot and let Sean get in on the action. Luckily, Sean didn’t embarrass himself by falling in and ruining the 2010 vintage.
The final stop of the weekend was Liberty Lake Wine Cellars. This small 500 case production winery is on the edge of beautiful Liberty Lake and makes for a fantastic destination to enjoy wine. Impressed with their Red Mountain fruit, Sean chatted with Doug and Shelly Smith about their story and wine making philosophy. The Smith’s were celebrating the release of their first reserve wine, a blend of Cabernet and Syrah, called the Heritage. At $28, the wine is an over achiever at its price point and a stand out wine.
I was honored to share my home with Sean and Bean and extend an offer to any wine writer to come enjoy the beautiful surroundings, fun activities and quality wine that Spokane has to offer. While Spokane may not have the number of wineries that are in Walla Walla or Woodinville, it certainly is deserving of adding to your day or weekend trip plans.
24 Sep 2010
A weekend of beer AND wine! Need I say more? Fall has arrived, but the sunshine has decided to hang out for another week. Wineries are busy harvesting their grapes and you can be part of the buzz. Check out all the events below and stay tuned weekly for the event update!
Take a tour of the local wineries. Most are open. Visit this link for hours, reviews, wine recommendations, videos and more. http://drinknectar.com/spokane-wine-tour/
Crush Rush 2010: The Spokane Winery Association invites you to join the CRUSH RUSH. Join the fun with a wine scavenger hunt across all 17 Spokane association wineries. The hunt continues through October 17. Details available at Spokane Wine Magazine >> http://bit.ly/clIAGB
Spokane Oktoberfest: 20 Washington wineries pouring 50 outstanding brews all in the Riverfront Park Central Meadow.
Friday, September 24
Cathedral Wine Festival – Enjoy hors d’oeuvres while tasting over 30 wines from Europe and the Western United States. 7-10 PM Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside Ave. $50, $35 65 and older. (509) 358-4290.
Wine Styles – TGIF Wine tasting, 4-5 different red and white wines, LIVE MUSIC and lots of fun! 6pm. $10 / $7.50 for Club Members 8801 N Indian Trail Rd
Rocket Market – South American Exploration. This is my kind of expedition! Enjoy nine wines that are big on value and light on price; 7pm. 343.2253; $16 726 E 43rd Ave.
Vino Wine Shop: A special tasting with award winning Maison Bleue Winery 3:00-5:30pm; 222 S. Washington – Maison Bleue Family Winery may be the most compelling new producer uncovered in my 2010 trip to Washington.” - Jay Miller
Davenport Hotel: Live music from 8pm – midnight
Left Bank Wine Bar: Live music with Robert Dwyer starting at 8pm, no cover –60 wines by the glass and a wonderfully eclectic atmosphere – 108 N Washington.
Bottles on Argonne: Enjoy a tasting through California’s Steel Wines. With 40 years of winemaking experience, the Steel family has a rich heritage for good wine. 5-8pm; 3319 N. Argonne Rd
Liberty Lake Wine Cellars: LLWC releases Heritage, their first Reserve Red Wine. This luscious blend of 2007 Syrah and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was hand-crafted from the best barrels of each wine. With plenty of dark fruit flavors and a hint of spice, this is the perfect wine for fall. 1018 S. Garry Rd
Valley Fest Taste of the Valley: This fun event is only $30 and includes dinner, music, wine and beer, it’s all part of the weekend long annual Valley Fest, a celebration in the valley that includes a parade, entertainment, wine/beer garden, a fun run, classic car show and more. < DrinkNectar is a proud sponsor.
WineStyles: Chili Cookoff! All you mean chefs out there- bring a Crock Pot of your best homemade chili! A panel of judges determines who takes home a special prize package with Cougar Football tickets, and a basket of goodies valued at $200 dollars! Bring 10 items for First Harvest Food Bank and receive a special gift. 6-9pm; 8801 N Indian Trail Rd
Back of The Boat Book Signing: Support local authors Bonnie Clark and William Maltese as they sign their great food and wine pairing book at Aunties Bookstore from 1-3pm; 402 W. Main Ave
Vino Wine: September wine of the month club selections 2-4:30; 222 S. Washington
Rocket Market: Saturday drop in tasting from 4-7pm: Join winery rep Allan Williams from Jones of Washington as he pours through some of their great wines. 726 E. 43rd Ave
Rocket Market: Live music at 7pm with crowd favorite Sam Endress– High energy pop rock & soul music are the hallmarks of a Sam Endress performance. Get in here and see for yourself, you will like him or we’ll give you your money back. 726 E. 43rd Ave
Huckleberry’s Bistro: Meet Joe and Rebecca Gunselman from Robert Karl Cellars. Enjoy five wines for $5 from 2-4PM
Left Bank Wine Bar – Live music. While you’re there ask Jen or Lauren to make you a special wine flight. They’ll surprise your taste buds. 108 N. Washington
Sunday, September 26
Get out to a winery! – Always a handful of Spokane wineries open. Enjoy! Trezzi, Townshend, Lone Canary, Mountain Dome, Latah Creek, Arbor Crest, Knipprath and Caterina are open.
Arbor Crest Summer Concert Series – The summer concert series comes to an end with a high energy delight from Hot Club of Spokane! Swing’s the thing with these 7 talented musicians! Try a sultry Cabernet with the sounds of this group! Come early, the weather looks great and the place will be packed. $5; 4:30-9:00pm
- Riedel Glassware Comparative Demonstration – Open to the public, you’ll be led by family & company representative Maximilian Riedel through a comparative tasting, PLUS you’ll take home 4 “Vinum XL” glasses valued at $122.00. The event is a sit down style tasting which compares Riedel glassware to more conventional restaurant wine glasses lasting approximately 1 ½ hours. – Call Vino! – 838-1229; $65 at the Spokane Club
- Next Friday is First Friday! Always a fun event!
- Latah Creeks Annual Oktoberfest – October 1-3 from 8AM- 5PM with wine specials, events, and more. Always a fun time. Mike and Ellena put on a fantastic shindig.
- March of Dimes Signature Chef – Enjoy an intimate dinner with local celebrity chefs and wine. This elegant evening includes one of a kind auction items that benefit the local March of Dimes efforts to help save babies from pre-mature birth. October 2, 6-10pm at the Lincoln Center, $100 < DrinkNectar is a proud sponsor.
- Epicurean Delight (Nov 12) – One of the signature events of the year. More than 1000 people enjoyed last years event to benefit the Inland Northwest Blood Center. Enjoy fine dining, wine and microbrews at the Spokane Convention Center
- Cork & Keg (Nov 13) – Mirabeau Park Hotel; $45 http://www.spokanecorkandkeg.com/
- Save the date for Spokane Winery Association Holiday Wine Festival (Nov 19-21)