To the uninitiated, a Winemaker dinner can sound like a stuffy affair of wine snobs, rich food and some guy walking around telling you how great his wine is. Well, sometimes they are like that, but not usually. Bacchus and Beery Wine Blog, as you might imagine, has attended many winemaker dinners but never one so fun, entertaining and interactive as the wine dinner and blending contest recently put on by Australia’s Mollydooker Wines at Morton’s Steakhouse in the Denver Tech Center. Let’s not call this a winemaker dinner, not even an event. It was more like a carnival of wine, in the best of ways.
So who you might ask, is Molly Dooker and is she the winemaker? Well no, she’s not… Mollydooker is Aussie slang for a left-handed person. A silly name for some seriously powerful wines. To attend the meal one had to be a “mollydooker” or at least claim honorary “mollydooker” status as we did. The prime movers behind Mollydooker wines are the husband and wife team of Sarah and Sparky Marquis (both real mollydookers) along with Sparky’s mum, Janet.
The evening began by dividing the group of about eighty folks into tables of eight. Each table split into four blending team pairs. Janet took the microphone first and in a jovial yet motherly way introduced us to Mollydooker wines and shared a bit of the history surrounding both Mollydooker Wines as well as Sparky and Sarah’s successes with the Mollydooker brand and other wineries they’ve been involved with. Then it was time for Sparky to take the stage. Aptly named, Sparky is a bundle of energy with a penchant for go-cart racing and the perfect wine carny captain.
Three volunteers were called up to teach us all the Mollydooker Shake to get the wines ready to drink. Mollydooker adds less sulfur preservatives than other wineries. Instead the bottles (all screw caps) are capped off with nitrogen. Nitrogen flattens out the flavors and needs to be released from the wine by aggressively shaking the bottle then opening to allow the gas to escape. We tasted wine pre and post shake and there was a discernible difference. Plus it was fun to watch the volunteers shake around like Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail.
As for the blending competition, each team had the opportunity to blend their version of “Two Left Feet” consisting of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz. We were supplied beakers to measure and Sparky explained the easy conversion process. We tasted each of the three component wines, then each team decided on their blend. Samples of each blend were poured and we voted for our table champion. B&B Wine Blog made a strong #2 showing.
Sparky then had each table report the percentages their winning blend. The results were across the board. Our table’s winner was 80% Cabernet with Merlot and Shiraz both at 10%. There were other winners that were more evenly divided and some that were Shiraz heavy. Just goes to prove that blending is more art than science.
While our dinner of steak and mashers was served, Sparky gave a run-down on the wines being served and their “fruit weight.” The “Marquis Fruit Weight Scale” is the Mollydooker invention used to demonstrate the richness of each wine. The further back the wine is sensed on the tongue the higher the “fruit weight.” We also learned about their creative wine marketing which includes tear off label tabs so as your “enjoyment level” increases during the evening, you can pull off the tab, stick it in your pocket (or as Sparky suggested, on your date) and know the next day what wine you enjoyed. Back labels on Mollydooker bottles are printed sideways because, as Sparky explained, if you hold a bottle at your wine shop in two hands there is a 75% chance you will buy that bottle… tricky Aussies…
We flipped over our placemats after blending the three wines to reveal spots for five more glasses. The great staff from Mollydooker and Morton’s gave us measured pours of their upper-end wines so my first reaction was “another stingy pour dinner.” Man was I wrong… after we tasted each wine, full bottles of most were placed on each table. Plenty of wine and then some. It was a big night and as we tasted/drank the wine, the wine dinner slowly transformed into a wine carnival of fun.
As for the wines, the surprising thing was the drinkability at a young age. Remember, we were drinking their new 2010 releases. Big reds with supple tannins that were rich and smooth. No wonder Robert Parker consistently rates these wines north of 90 with five scores of 99. My personal favorite was the Cabernet Sauvignon called “Gigglepot,” which brought a smile, if not a giggle (maybe that was just the quantity of wine) to my face. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Carnival of Love Shiraz. The treat of the night was the pour of $200 Velvet Glove Shiraz. You may have read that a third of the production or 462 cases of Velvet Glove was lost in a dockside forklift accident. Read story here. It is a very sexy wine, extremely opulent and structured.
The evening ended with both Janet and Sparky leading the carnival crowd through their carnival ride of “miracles” or lucky coincidences of wine scores and investors who came into their lives at just the right time to keep Mollydooker afloat in the early years. Their good fortune has resulted in a number of children’s charities served under their Sip it Forward program.
It was a great time for all. Janet and Sparky were fun and approachable as the wine flowed. I didn’t say much about the food because there was so much to say about the wine…but both the food and service were impeccable. Mollydooker will be doing more dinners across the country this fall. See Schedule. Do yourself a favor, grab a couple of friends and head to the Mollydooker Carnival.