Note to selves: early afternoon wine tastings can be hazardous to the rest of your day.
Saturday, September 26th, we attended a Mollydooker wine tasting event at Johnny V’s restaurant on Fort Lauderdale’s trendy and chic Las Olas Boulevard. The event, which was a fundraiser for Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org), was hosted by Sparky Marquis himself! Our friends Mitch and Jen, fellow Wanderlushes through and through, decided to join us for this rare opportunity. Mollydooker (Australian for left-handed) wines are some of the most amazing Aussie reds we’ve ever tasted, hands down.
The event was well attended, with close to 40 eager wine lovers like ourselves, all on hand. Most of the Mollydooker wines we enjoyed this particular day were from the 2007 and 2008 harvests.
* The Violinist (2009), a crisp and refreshing Verdelho (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Shrimp Ceviche or Snapper w/fresh pineapple salsa)
* The Boxer (2008), a powerful shiraz (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Grilled Rib-Eye Steak w/ sweet carrot puree and creamy horseradish)
* The Two Left Feet (2008), a blend of shiraz, cabernet & merlot blend (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Herb-crusted pork tenderloin with sweet potato gnocchi)
* The Scooter (2008), a soft, vlevety merlot (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Grilled pork w/ garlic potatoes)
* The Maitre D’ (2008), a spicy cabernet sauvignon (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Roasted lamb or spice-rubbed chicken)
* Sip It Forward (2007), a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot renamed for a charitable Cambodian cause Sarah Marquis is involved in
* Blue-Eyed Boy (2007), a powerhouse shiraz (and our personal favorite!) (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Braised lamb shoulder w/ a prune reduction sauce and roasted pine nuts)
* Enchanted Path (2007), a shiraz and cabernet blend (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Peppered lamb loin with thyme and mushroom risotto)* Carnival of Love (2007), a very special shiraz (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: Rack of lamb w/ a cherry reduction jus on saged polenta)
* The Velvet Glove (2007), a complex and powerful shiraz (Pairing Suggestion from Mollydooker: For this wine they suggest to keep the pairing simple such as organically raised beef with garden veggies. It can even carry over into dessert.)
We were seated at a table with six glasses per guest, a large plastic beaker (to conduct an experiment, perhaps?) and a measuring cup. Sparky introduced himself and spoke briefly about Mollydooker wines, their origins, as well as the McLaren Vale, one of the largest wine producing regions of Australia. He then asked for three volunteers (myself, Jen and another young woman) to demonstrate what he affectionately calls “the Mollydooker Shake,” which is an innocuous method of uncorking the bottle and introducing air into it to open up the complex flavor profiles that have lain dormant in the bottle. The process is simple; open the screw cap bottle, pour a small amount into a glass; recap the bottle, invert it and shake it vigorously; then repeat one more time. There was a noticeable foam at the top of the bottle after all this activity, but no need to panic, wine lovers: Sparky informed us all (to our great relief) that Mollydooker wines are bottled with nitrogen in order to keep the sulfite levels as low as possible (which can make or break a wine’s taste, and give some people nasty headaches when consumed in high amounts.) The Mollydooker shake should be done with all but Goosebumps, The Violinist and any wines more than two years old.
Our class demonstration proved to be a boon to the three of us as we were all given a generous extra pour to sip and savor. Sparky then asked everyone to sample each of the wines on our table (plus my extra glass of the Boxer) starting with a comparison of the Boxer that had been opened with and without the patented “shake”. There was a noticeable difference between the two. Mollydooker wines are the result of putting quality ahead of quantity, an attention to detail that many wine makers simply don’t follow or bypass in order to create good, drinkable wines—but wines that are far from memorable. The aromas flavors are bold and intense with each of the Mollydooker wines, the Old World terroir of the McLaren Vale shining through with every sip. It’s hard to pick a favorite amongst these wines, much like a father trying to pick his favorite child. Each offers its own special reward to the drinker. Australia is known for Shiraz, but Sparky has taken it to a whole new level, a level all Aussie wine makers strive to achieve.
Next was an experiment in blending in a nod to the Sip it Forward. Winemakers the world over have been experimenting with blending since wine was invented. For our purposes, we were to blend the three Mollydooker wines used to create Sip it Forward, in 100-milliliter increments, to create our own magical blend to share with the other guests. Sparky told us what the original percentages were and we were to create a blend based on our own tastes. Each of the tables took to the task with great enthusiasm, blending bits of the Scooter merlot with the Boxer Shiraz with the Maitre D’ cabernet sauvignon. Kim and I decided on a 10% Scooter blended with 55% of the Maitre D’ cabernet sauvignon and 35% of the Boxer Shiraz. The result was a flavorful red blend, with hints of tannins and a velvety mouth feel in the middle, with enough fruity mellowness of merlot thrown in to provide a nice finish. The other table blends had more, and less, of our particular blend, but were elegant and simple as well.
It should be noted that by the time we had finished our initial tasting and the blending experiment, all pretense was gone from that room. We were talking a bit louder, our inhibitions were fading with each glass, and overall we were all experiencing a general feeling of wine-soaked giddiness. Damn, it was fun! Food came out, plates of cheese, olives and other light appetizer food, but it was too little, too late: the Mollydookers were knocking us all for a loop, and we were happy as hell about it. As the tasting wound down, Sparky was free to talk to each of the guests and take pictures. I told him about a delightful steak and Blue-eyed Boy pairing Kim and I enjoyed some months back. Sparky took great delight in this and told me that his wine, like any good wine, is good on its own but is even better when paired with food. Sparky was so touched by my comments that he came back a short time later with a gift of two bottles of Blue-eyed Boy shiraz, both autographed—one for us and the other for our friends Mitch and Jen. It was an extremely welcome gift—unexpected, yes, but very much appreciated.
(Note: At one point some young thieving magpie—a drunken surfer-looking guest who probably couldn’t taste the difference between a Mollydooker from a Boone’s Farm Reserve—decided he wanted one of our bottles and attempted a walk-by glomming. Before the offender could abscond with our bottle, an alert Sparky informed the young man the bottle was for our friends and that he should excuse himself, which the young man did. This was a low point of the tasting and could have been a spoiler for us all, but things turned out well. Son of a bitch; no one, but no one better lay a hand on our friends’ Blue-eyed boy.)
All in all this was one of the most entertaining and informative wine tastings we’ve ever been a part of. Sparky and his mother Janet are both delightful people who both share a passion for wine. Sparky’s wife Sarah wasn’t at the event, but Sparky did speak of her often, talking about her passion and dedication to the success of Mollydooker wines. By the time we made it home, a nice afternoon nap morphed into full-blown, blissful sleep till early evening, all with visions of Boxers, Scooters, Maitre D’s and Blue-eyed Boys dancing in our heads.