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
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
30 Aug 2010
Chardonnay, the grape conjures up many thoughts ideas and opinions. One of the world’s most planted grapes, and planted in more wine regions than any other grape, Chardonnay seemingly has developed a love / hate response. With many people practicing their ABC’s, “Anything But Chardonnay,” many say this regal grape of Burgundy has fallen out of vogue from its prominence in the 80’s and 90’s.
While American, particularly heavily oaked and buttery California Chardonnay, has developed a bad reputation among many, the grape is still a winemaker’s delight as it responds to the subtle nuances of the winemaking process and the surroundings in which it’s grown (terroir). Chardonnay can be crisp and subtle, as in a Chablis, it can be tropical and refreshing, as a un-oaked California Chardonnay, or it can be smooth, round and full bodied apple pie when aged in oak and undergoing secondary malolactic fermentation.
Even though Chardonnay is THE most planted white wine grape in California and Washington, it could be arguably said that the grape is the countries most maligned (although Merlot could compete for that crown too). I recently read an article on Corkd about the results from a survey of 5000 Esquire Magazine readers (male). When asked their beverage of choice (consisting of beer, cocktail, liquor or wine), only 10% chose wine. More interesting was their response to the following question.
“Would you rather order a Chardonnay or get beat up?”
The results, 51% said “Chardonnay, please,” the other 49% took the beating. While the Esquire man may not be keen on Chardonnay, someone must be. Who is drinking Chardonnay? It has to be more than just the desperate housewives of Jersey Shore. With Chardonnay plantings being as they are it certainly isn’t getting poured down the drain. Armed with this information, I decided to review three Chardonnay from three regions of the world. While I didn’t have Chablis to sample from, the wines below are from California, Washington and Chile. What is your favorite Chardonnay? Do you prefer oak or naked (un-oaked)? Sound off in the comments below.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley. 14%ABV, no other information found
- The Swirl: Light gold color in the glass with a nice clean presentation.
- The Sniff: A moderate aroma of vanilla and pear with some hints of toast that indicate some oaked barrel storage or fermentation.
- The Sip: Crisp and clean on the palate with a full mouth-feel but very little fruit on the front or mid-palate. A single note of pear strikes a chord toward the end of the finish with a hint of tart lemon zest at the end.
- The Score: At $10-$12 the wine is an average offering but provides a decent value. It won’t embarrass you at a party but it won’t leave people talking either. 3/5
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Preston Vineyards. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and stored in 50% oak for 6 months. 13.5%ABV, 500 cases produced
- The Swirl: Lighter straw color reminiscent of wheat. In the glass the wine gives off a thicker viscosity
- The Sniff: Subtle nose (as typical of Chardonnay) with hints of toasted almond, honey, and cinnamon.
- The Sip: Very impressive with thick juicy flavors. A subtle effervescence greats the tip of your tongue and then gives way to an abundance of fruit. Lots of subtle layers in this full bodied white wine with honey, crisp pear, vanilla, and peaches. The finish on the wine has moderate acid and dissipates quickly.
- The Score: At only $12 this wine outperforms many at twice the price. This is a strong recommend and a definite re-buy for any food appropriate dinner or Chardonnay lover. 4/5
90pts Wine Enthusiast; Paul Gregutt
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from 30 year old vines in Napa, CA. 28% new French oak with 8% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation. 14.3%ABV; 640 cases produced
- The Swirl: In the glass the wine is a beautiful golden honey and coats the glass nicely.
- The Sniff: Subtle candy aromas with baking spices, vanilla and cedar.
- The Sip: A great example of how Chardonnay should be made. The fruit comes before the oak but the oak treatment adds a great balance of flavor to the wine. Never-ending flavors of peach, honey, butterscotch, vanilla, pear, and pineapple grace the palate of this wine. A slight lemon zest finishes out the flavor on the back palate. The finish is incredibly long with a wonderfully matched acidity that prepares the palate for the next sip.
- The Score: At $40 this may be out of reach for the typical consumer. For those looking / needing that perfect Chardonnay to compliment a nice meal or special event or for those with discriminating palates and the wallet to afford it, this is a must try! 4+/5
93pts Wine Enthusiast; Steve Heimoff
19 Aug 2010
Thirty-five wineries in a one minute radius? That is where you’ll find Woodinville’s William Church Winery. Located on NE N Woodinville Way, you’ll find a wine lovers walking Mecca. In a single afternoon, you can explore all areas of the states wine growing regions and the diversity that Washington wine has to offer. Don’t forget your designated driver…all that sipping can sneak up on you.
William Church winery is the second career for Rod and Leslie Balsley. Rod left the high-tech corporate world in 2004 and he and Leslie immediately looked to expand their garage wine hobby. With the help of some friends, they jumped into the booming Woodinville wine scene in 2005. Rod and Leslie enlist the help of assistant winemaker Marcus Rafanelli to craft big bold Bordeaux style wines and Syrah. With a case production near 2000, the Balsley’s are getting some top notch recognition for their wine. It doesn’t hurt that they are WSU alums either…GO COUGS!
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier slow cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. 14.1%ABV, less than 1% residual sugar, 240 cases produced
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw color with a thin viscosity
- The Sniff: Moderate aromas of tropical fruit and apricots. Beautiful and floral through and through
- The Sip: All aboard for a taste bud trip to the South Pacific. I love the layers and layers of tropical fruits that keep coming in waves like the ocean. Guava, melon, cantaloupe, papaya and more. A very well balanced acidity keeps everything in check.
- The Score: At $21 this is one of the better made Viognier’s that I’ve had. While you may be able to pick a good Viognier up for $15-$18, the extra few dollars here are worth it. 4+/5
2008 William Church Bishop’s Blend
- The Stuff: A proprietary blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc, 14.1%ABV, 750 cases produced
- The Swirl: Big bright purple colors with a thick plum center
- The Sniff: Blueberry vanilla pie in the nose. If you’re not careful you might sniff a blueberry up your snout.
- The Sip: The blueberry comes through on the palate with a pinch of sweet blackberry on the front of the tongue. Good fruit flavor continues on the mid-palate as a slight pencil lead settles and then opens up to finish with medium spice. The finish is rounded without having any strong tannins.
- The Score: At $20 this is a very approachable wine that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. A slight bitterness (probably from the oak) comes through on the finish but all in all this is a very well done wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: A left bank inspired blend of 40% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot; 18 months in a combination of French and American oak, 12 months in bottle, 14.2%ABV, 250 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dark in color with good structure out to the edge of the glass. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: The wine is alive with aroma before you even get your nose to the glass. Big notes of dark berry fruit, violets and cassis. The alcohol comes out just a hint on a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Elegant and full of fruit and structure from the front of the palate to the end. Good layers of dark berry fruits along with deep ripe cherries. A velvet texture lines the mid-palate with a finish of medium tannin on the finish. This wine rivals some I’ve had at twice the price in complexity and depth of flavor.
- The Score: At only $28 this is a steel of a Bordeaux style blend. The marriage of fruit is well done resulting in a fantastic wine to sip or to pair with strong hardy meals. 4/5
21 Jul 2010
Lush green vineyards that roll over the hillside, majestic mountains in the back drop, Italian Villa tasting room, interactive cooking classes, and big bold Cabernet Sauvignon. These are the things that make tasting wine in Napa Valley, California a world class destination. Signorello Estate Vineyards embodies this ideal. While I’ve never been to their estate vineyard, the wine in this review provides the perfect backdrop for me. I hope the enjoyment of the wine comes through the video and the review.
Visiting Signorello offers you a wonderful experience of a 50 acre boutique winery that offers personalized tastings, Kobe beef and Cabernet Saturdays, Italian Pizza Sundays, private dinners and interactive cooking classes. Owner Ray Signorello and winemaker Pierre Birebent take great care seeing your visit is special and memorable. Signorello produces about 7000 cases of premium wine annually.
2008 Sinorello Estate Seta
- The Stuff: 60% Semillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc; aged for 10 months in 25% new French oak; 630 cases; 14.1%ABV
- The Swirl: Light pale yellow in color, very clean and clear, great light refraction
- The Sniff: The wine presents an immediate strong odor of white peach. Once you get beyond that there is a definite presentation of toasted cedar and nuts. A very interesting note of caramel presents itself as well.
- The Sip: A full bodied white wine reminiscent of melons, lemon zest, and a medium toast component. A very refreshing wine that has a lot of layers and a crisp acidity. The finish is delightful and lingering.
- The Score: At $32, this is out of the price range for a daily sipping porch wine. The great layers and complexity earn a 4/5. Find this wine on sale at $20 and you have a heck of a bargain!
92 Points Wine Enthusiast
2006 Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet, 17% Merlot, 8% Cab Franc; aged 20 months in 43% new Troncais, Nevers, and Alliers oak. Extended maceration of 25 days; 2750 cases produced; 14.3%ABV
- The Swirl: Cloudy deep plum and crimson colors that are about 90% opaque. Lovely colors of ruby and garnet at the edges.
- The Sniff: Very pungent aromas of dark current, dark cherries, roasted coffee beans and spiced tobacco. A very dynamic and powerful nose full of character and intrigue.
- The Sip: Medium to full bodied wine with modest integrated tannin on the back end. Very enjoyable presentation of dark red fruit with a more smooth vanilla offering on the mid-palate. A good wine that lacks the layers that were hinted with on the nose.
- The Score: At $50, this is certainly a full, lush and powerful wine that could be drunk now. I recommend another 2-5 years prior to opening to allow the fruit to soften and the wine to become more dynamic. 3+/5
89 points Robert Parker Issue #186, December 2009
2006 Signorello Estate Padrone
- The Stuff: 83% Cabernet, 12% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc; aged 20 months in 70% new Troncais, Nevers, and Alliers oak; 25 days extended maceration; 625 cases produced; 14.3%ABV
- The Swirl: Incredibly dark and inky nearing some deep black undertones. A dark stormy night of a wine that is 100% opaque.
- The Sniff: A more subtle coy nose with elegant aroma of cranberry, cocoa, pepper and leather.
- The Sip: The muscular mouth feel on this wine is as impressive as the hefty bottle it come in. Pure deep red fruit on the front palate that move quickly into a full bodies mid palate of raspberry and tobacco. The tannin is big and thick and demands a hearty meal to accompany it. This is a special wine that could and should lay down for another 10-20 years. Buy and hold.
- The Score: Very impressive and full of flavor and intensity. At $110 is certainly out of the price range for most but make note of the label and pick up a bottle for the special occasion or to hold in your cellar. 4/5
92 points Robert Parker Issue #186, December 2009
Blind Cabernet Tasting Results
The Signorello reds participated in a blind Cabernet tasting that included a 2007 Walla Walla L’Ecole 41, The Edge and Fuse (reviews coming the week of 7/26). The wines were bagged and tagged and 12 participants were asked to rate them with 1 being their favorite and 5 being their least favorite. The interesting results (from lowest to highest) are below:
- 2006 Signorello Estate Cab ($50) – Avg Score 3.8 – Received 4’s with a 2 and a 5
- 2007 Edge Cab ($20) – Avg Score 3.6 – Received several 2’s and several 5’s
- 2007 Fuse Cab ($25) – Avg Score 3.5 – Received all 3’s and 4’s
- 2007 L’Ecole 41 Cab ($32) – Avg Score 2.2 – Received mostly 2’s with a 1 and a 5
- 2006 Signorello Padrone ($110) – Avg Score 1.3 – Received all 1’s and a 2 (almost unanimous)