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
22 Sep 2010
I first met Cheryl Hodgins at Taste Washington in Spokane. This fireball of energy nearly tackled me when I saw her from across the room. We chatted about Skylite Cellars and even did a brief interview for the Washington Wine Commission (which either I dreamed up or got lost in cyberspace because I can’t find it anywhere). One thing I learned from chatting with Cheryl, she is passionate about wine and Walla Walla.
Skylite Cellars brings together a big city radio entrepreneur and a small town farm girl. Tom Hodgins was busy in the radio industry and Cheryl was content driving a tractor around the farm. Wine and travel brought these two love birds together. That love eventually led to diving into the wine business. In 2000 the Hodgins’ invested in Ash Hollow Vineyards with several other winemakers and the following year, Cheryl’s father planted a few acres of wine grapes in what would eventually be known as Skylite Vineyards. In 2003 the journey to full fledged winery was complete with the addition of wine maker Robert Smasne.
With only a few vintages under their belt, Skylite Cellars is making quite a name for themselves. Their 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon received 90 points from Paul Gregutt, Gold in the Seattle Wine Awards, and Double Gold at the Finger Lakes Wine Competition. During the #Cabernet day review, the wine performed very strong against two Caymus Vineyards Napa, CA wines with a strong 4/5.
Skylite Cellars has two locations in Walla Walla. Their production and main tasting room is located off the old Highway 12 close to L’Ecole, Woodward Canyon and Waterbrook Winery. You can also visit them in downtown Walla Walla in the historic Quinn building on 2nd and Rose Ave (just steps from the Marcus Whitman Hotel).
- The Stuff: 100% Walla Walla Cabernet that was aged 22 months in new American oak; 14%ABV
- The Swirl: A nice dark crimson purple color with about 90% opacity. Rich in color.
- The Sniff: Big a$$ cherry fruit. One you get around the bright cherries you pick up some campfire smoke. Dark red fruit dominates the aroma.
- The Sip: Amazed at the integration of the American oak in this wine. The mouth feel is dominated by big red cherry fruit that is smooth and lush. The tannins are medium and very well balanced. A quick finish ends up with a touch of alcohol head.
- The Score: At $28 the Skylite Cabernet is a very well made wine with a slick polish. If you like cherries, you’re going to love this wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: 51% Malbec, 33% Cab, and 16% Carmenere make up this blend. Each barrel was chosen for their unique character and quality to be considered for the Reserve. Various combinations of French and American oak; 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Glassy purple center with bright purple pearl colors around the edges of the glass
- The Sniff: Strong aroma of blueberry and vanilla. A subtle hint of cinnamon rounds out this opulent nose. There may not be a lot of dynamic scents but what is there is full bodied.
- The Sip: A wine you want to just let sit in your mouth. Lush layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit envelop your tongue. After a few seconds a perfectly balanced spice of cracked black pepper and cinnamon create an additional layer in the wine flavor. The finish is bright and the acidity prepares your mouth for the next stip.
- The Score: At $47 this is a wine that is out of reach for quite a few people. If you have a chance to buy this by the glass or find it on sale (especially if you love Malbec), don’t hesitate. This wine would be a treat for any special occasion and the massive blueberry and vanilla flavors would win over almost any non red wine drinker! 4/5
15 Sep 2010
Audio issues at about the 5 minute mark…darn gremlins
With summer winding down, it was time to head to the cellar for something magical, something that could beckon the yellow orb to make an extended presence well into October. Rumor has it that there are magical powers in Rias Baixas. Each September the mythical creature Albariños stumbles from its cave, shaking off the prior evening’s rager to make a proclamation on the extended season. One wine glass, and the warm nights are cut short for crisp cool evenings. Two wine glasses (probably from seeing double), and the warm rays of the sun are enjoyed for six more weeks. With this in mind, I made careful preparations for the ritual.
Rias Baixas is in the Northwest portion of Spain and boasts a coastal lush growing area. The region, known as the wines of the sea, is moist and cool. Grapes are grown on a trellis to maximize the sun and air exposure. The grape Albariño, is the most widely planted in the region and is known for its Riesling and Viognier complexities. Albariño can be crisp, tropical, and full of citrus and apple, while providing a massive acidity that pairs well with the regional seafood.
I slowly peeled back the foil, in hopes to arouse the great Albariños from his slumber. As the cork popped, a fragrant citrus, apple, peach and pear aroma filled the room. The Albariños, enticed by the fragrance, restlessly stirred in his cave. The wine poured into the glass, and the creature awoke from his nap, rubbed his drunken eyes, and peered across the room. What did he see? Would there be six more weeks of summer? Would fall and frost come early?
- The Stuff: 100% Albariño from Rias Baixas, Spain; Whole berry crushed and fermented in stainless steel; 40% malolactic fermentation; 12.8%ABV
- The Swirl: A nice crisp and clean straw color in the glass.
- The Sniff: During a blind tasting I could potentially mistake this for a Riesling with the petrol, citrus and apple aromas. The fragrant aromas help drive the point home on the palate
- The Sip: Slightly tart, slightly crisp and slightly tropical describes the flavor profile on this wine. A very enjoyable flavor that has a slight steely minerality on the finish. A nice full mouth feel is present from the malolactic fermentation.
- The Score: At $12-15, this is a nice wine that leaves a feel good flavor in the mouth. Not a sipper for me, but definitely a fun wine to pair with light summer food and seafood. 3+/5 Recommend
- The Stuff: 100% Albariño from Rias Baixas, Spain; stainless steel fermented; 12.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Lightly golden in the glass, slight effervescence and mildly cloudy
- The Sniff: Soft and gentle on the nose with aromas of pear and peach
- The Sip: This wine is very even and smooth from front to back. It lacks the tart pucker of the first wine as well as lacks the acidity. Slight fruit components of pear, and tropical fruit. While this wine may be more enjoyable to many as a sipping wine, there was a lack of depth and character to really make me go “wow.” 3/5
Overall, very enjoyable wines for the price. Albariño is certainly a grape you should keep your eye out for, especially if you’re looking for a fun alternative to your daily Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. Keep poppin’ the corks on summer sippers in the hopes to lure the yellow orb to the sky!
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
09 Sep 2010
I don’t usually make a habit of travelling 3000 miles to taste wine, but this occasion deserved the trip. I packed my bags and headed east to the city they call the “big apple” to taste wine from Clare Valley, Australia. I mean really, how often does one get to taste Australian Shiraz?
Actually, I lie; we were in New York City (specifically Manhattan) for our annual family vacation. We gave our son the choice of NYC or Washington DC. He chose NYC, which means next year we’ll be headed to DC. Timing couldn’t be better as we can coordinate the trip with the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference and visit my family just a few hours south in Roanoke, VA.
Before I get back to the wine, let me just say that Manhattan is a-ma-zing! The energy, the vibe, the fashion, the hustle, the passion, the art! Walking the streets felt as if we were walking in the center of what makes the United States (and even the world) run. The eye wall of Times Square rotates out spinning its massive energy force touching the corners of our globe. Would I want to live there? Nope. I couldn’t afford to, but it sure is a fun place to visit.
While on our travels, through the wonders of Twitter, I learned that Cork’d was hosting a wine tasting at the Roger Smith Hotel. In a previous business trip to Manhattan, I had the opportunity to tip a glass with Jon Troutman of Cork’d and Kristen Murphy of Wine Library. Any opportunity to reconnect with these ambassadors of wine immediately shot to the top of my priority list. A quick tangent here – my social media experience has been amazing. Because of the relationships I’ve established on Twitter and Facebook, every city I travel to results in cheers and toasts with “old friends.”
On To The Wine:
When I say Australia, you say?
Okay, when I say Australian wine, you say?
Well, yes, that’s quite true. Most people have narrow thoughts when it comes to Australian wine and it is usually the little kangaroo of Yellow Tail, Jacob’s Creek or Penfolds. The wine tasting at Cork’d hoped to shed some additional light on a region that exports over 1 billion bottles of wine per year (fourth largest in the world).
After a long day of meandering through the Metropolitan Arts Museum, the family was very accommodating and semi-enthusiastically agreed to accompany me to the Roger Smith Hotel (just off Park Avenue and 47th). The eclectic, warm and urban vibe of the hotel made me re-think my lodging choice at a national chain.
At the tasting I was excited to finally meet Lindsay Ronga, CEO of Corkd.com. We’ve spoken via phone and twitter, but in person, Lindsay is infinitely more adorable. She’s also smart as a whip! Lindsay and Jonathan introduced us to their guest, Tom Barry, a third generation wine maker for Jim Barry wines and explained the tasting “rules of engagement.” Immediately the ladies, and some of the men, were smitten with Tom’s thick accent. Most of the crowd was armed with laptops, but I committed to my family to leave mine at home, so I attempted to document the journey with a smart phone whose battery was about to go the way of some of the art exhibits we had just discovered.
Due to the nature of the tasting, these are my initial thoughts and observations of Jim Barry wines. This is not the full attention that I typically try to give to one of my reviews, but should give you a general framework of my thoughts.
Jim Barry Wine Tasting
2007 Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling
The dry Riesling (under 2% residual sugar) had surprising aromas of toasted nuts, white pepper and that standard petrol aroma of a well aged Riesling. The wine was clean fermented with no malolactic and zero oak. With 13%ABV the wine is slightly off balance with only mild acidity. Great flavors of apple, lemon zest, lime and a tart finish. Quite a surprising wine and at $17-$20, could be a good selling price point in the US. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2008 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon
This 100% Cabernet is a blend from various Coonawarra fruit. The name, and labeling design is inspired from the 30 acres of Cabernet that grow on former Cricket playing fields. The wine receives 12 months in American oak. In the glass there is a good thick color to the edge of the glass. Aromas of bright cherry, are offset by vegetal components, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. In the mouth the wine is slightly thin on fruit with heavy tobacco mid palate and a sweet zing at the end. A bold chalky tannin begs to be decanted, paired with food, or cellared for 5-7 years. $20. 3/5
2008 Jim Barry The Lodge Shiraz
We ended the evening by looking at two Shiraz; one, a new release, and the other from 2004 that should give an indication of age ability. In the glass, the 08 is thick and leaves a crimson residue on the edges of the glass. The 14.5%ABV is low comparatively speaking for some Aussie Shiraz. Fragrance of blackberry and clove present themselves to me. I love the way the wine feels in the mouth. A lush velvet coats the tongue. The black pepper is perfectly balanced with the sweet fruit. The wine is big without being jammy. $20 and a great buy. 3+/5 (Recommend)
2004 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz
The final wine of the night is dark and inky in the glass; a brooding color similar to moonless foggy night. The nose offers up green berry twigs, sour black cherry and some hints of what I would guess coffee syrup would smell like. In the mouth the wine is big on fruit, but it is slightly sour. The finish offered moderate tannins with well integrated acidity. Many of the tasters were very impressed with the wine but this one left me feeling a little empty; a perfect example of taste variance and subjectivity. At $45 this was the highest priced wine of the night. 3/5
Tom Barry of Jim Barry Wines. Follow them on Twitter @JimBarryWines