Saturday, December 5, 2020

Horizontal Tasting of South Australia Shiraz - Mollydooker "The Enchanted Path", GoDolphin, BCH and '9'

Horizontal Tasting of South Australia Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon Blends - Mollydooker "The Enchanted Path", GoDolphin, Branson Coach House and '9' 

The gala family celebration of life continued with a tasting of a series of Shiraz based wines from South Australia. 

Mollydooker "The Enchanted Path" Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz McLaren Vale 2005

I write about Mollydooker in my blogpost on their premium Shiraz Carnival of Love. As I've written before in these pages, Mollydooker is the handiwork of the then husband-and-wife winemaking team of Sarah and Sparky Marquis

Sarah and Sparky Marquis met as students studying winemaking at Roseworthy College. They shared a vision and passion to craft wines people would love. Academically, Sparky was accomplished, winning awards, prizes and trophies including Dux of the College and the prophetic award for the ‘Student most likely to contribute to the Australian Wine Industry’.

In 1994, they debuted as a winemaking team at Fox Creek Wines in McLaren Vale (owned by Sarah’s parents). Their success was immediate, taking out the title of "Bushing King and Queen" for their McLaren Vale Shiraz, a feat they repeated in 1998 and again in 2000. The pair was selected as ‘Winemakers of the Year’ for the wines they produced under the Henry’s Drive and Parson’s Flat labels. They went on to also produce wines for Fox Creek and Shirvington. Robert Parker and Wine Spectator both lavished high praise and highest marks on their handicraft. 

In their first move to starting their own label, the pair produced under the Marquis Philips brand in a partnership with their American distributor Dan Philips. Sarah and Sparky did not own their own vineyards but sourced fruit from selected growers in McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek and Padthaway.

Robert Parker wrote “Sarah and Sparky who live by the motto ‘We make wines that make people go 'wow’ through attention to detail and commitment to excellence' have hit pay dirt with their brilliantly packaged wines... with labels that resemble vaudeville acts from the mid 30’s.”

In 2005, they set out on their own launching "Mollydooker", the Aussie slang term for a left-handed person as both Sarah and Sparky Marquis are left-handed. 

Since 2005, they've focused exclusively on making their own exuberant wines which include a range of Shiraz labels and a variety of Shiraz/Cab/Merlot blends, as well as some adventuresome white wines such as The Violinist, a Verdelho varietal. Their branding features whimsical names and labels with cartoonish characters and illustrations resembling carnival or circus posters in the premium labels 'Carnival of Love' (right) and this 'Enchanted Path' (below).

They source their fruit from 116 acres of vineyards at their winery in McLaren Vale where about 50 percent are planted in Shiraz, with the rest made up of Cabernet, Merlot, Semillon and Chardonnay. Most of their wines bear distinctive whimsical and humorous names and labels with cartoon characters. Never-the-less, many of their wines, while modestly-priced, Mollydookers are often highly rated. Their premium label, 'Velvet Glove' Shiraz retails for $175, however.

As I wrote the other day in a these pages, Sparky and Sara split up a couple years ago and Sarah took over the business while Sparky spent time traveling and contemplating his next chapter. Interestingly, Sparky is a racing car enthusiast buddy of my colleague who manages the ANZ APAC region for me from down there in Adelaide. I'll hope to meet him through our mutual acquaintance if and when I travel there on business, or better, on a wine trip.

Mollydooker "The Enchanted Path" Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz McLaren Vale 2005

This is Syrah (2/3) based accented by Cabernet Sauvignon (1/3). 

This unique blend really works with the Cabernet adding breadth and depth to the big black inky purple colored full bodied Shiraz. The result is a powerful full bodied complex wine with concentrated forward chewy tongue coating black berry and black cherry fruits accented by ripe plum and spice, a layer of vanilla and hints of mocha and anise with fine silky tannins on the long finish.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this wine a whopping 96 points and wrote in their review: "The 2005 Enchanted Path (66% Shiraz and 34% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in primarily American oak, 60% new) is fashioned from relatively young vines. It reveals an amazing opaque purple/blue/black color (always a hallmark of Marquis wines), a full-bodied, powerful, smoky nose, extravagant layers of fruit, spice, glycerin, and extract, full body, superb intensity, tremendous richness, and a seamless personality. It is a textbook example of a southern Australian red at its richest, fullest, and most pure. For consumers with open minds and progressive palates, this amazing red should age beautifully for 10-15 years. Drink through 2021+

Opaque black inky garnet colored, full bodied, rich, thick concentrated yet balanced harmonious black berry fruits exude aromatics that leap out of the glass with notes of plum, vanilla and black pepper, followed by notes of mocha and licorice flavors of vanilla and dark chocolate are accented with spice and black pepper. Velvet smooth tannins are accented by long pronounced notes of vanilla and spice. 

RM 94 points.

For a comparison tasting, we opened another South Australia Cabernet-Shiraz Blend from the same 2005 vintage.

Ben Glaetzer Godolphin South Australia Barossa Valley Cabernet-Shiraz Red Blend  2005

This label was awarded 95 by points James Halliday, 94 points Wine Enthusiast, 93 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinou.s 

This is another blend of Shiraz, 80%, from 85-year-old vines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, 20%, from 60-year-old vines, aged in 100% new oak. 

Deep inky black dark garnet-purple colored, medium-full bodied, complex, intense, concentrated black berry black raspberry and blueberry fruits with notes of graphite, cassis, pain grille, vanilla and spice turning to a long lush smooth tannin laced nicely balanced oak finish. This had a very similar profile as the Enchanted Path but lacked its harmonious balance, elegance and smooth mouthfeel.

RM 92 points.

I added to the mix, pulling from the cellar this Marquis Phillips '09' Shiraz from the same era 2007 vintage. I can't help but wonder if and have to presume this is the same Shiraz juice as in the Mollydooker, just without the blended Cabernet. This suspicion is strengthened by the fact this is the last vintage of this label in our cellar, of which we own every release of this wine since its inception. 

 Marquis Phillips '09' McLaren Vale Shiraz 2007

Like the other Marquis Philips/Mollydooker branding, this features a whimsical cartoon characterization, this time of a 'roogle', which is 1/2 eagle, and 1/2 kangaroo, representing the American Australian partnership of Marquis and US distributor and partner Dan Phillips. As noted above, this partnership disbanded and the Mollydooker brand was born, launched in 2005.

Consistent with earlier review notes, "this 2007 vintage '9' is dark, big, full bodied and concentrated. It is not as complex or polished as some of the other vintage releases. In addition to the black berry fruits accented by mocha, tobacco and leather, there is a layer of graphite in this that has an edge that tends to detract from the fruit."

Lacking the blend of the Bordeaux varietal (s) would explain this wine being more single-dimensional and less complex, yet no less bodied or concentrated.

RM 89 points.

To extend the horizontal tasting we opened another 2004 South Australian Shiraz.

Branson Coach House Barossa Valley Single Vineyard Greenock Block Shiraz 2004

I discovered and tasted this wine with Wine Manager Bill and the Aussie wine buyer at the wine desk at Binny's in Glen Ellyn back upon release. I liked it so much I bought their entire allocation which was a couple six packs.

This property was taken over by Two Hands after the passing of proprietor Malcolm Asden, the result being these wines are now made alongside Two Hands by their winemaker Matt Wenk. The acquisition was made possible by capital from outside foreign investors.

Along with the winery and brand came eighteen acres of Greenock vineyards planted in mature high quality Shiraz which will continue to be produced under the BCH label. Subsequently, Two Hands wine production is also done at the BCH Greenock facility.

They continue to produce BCH premium single vineyard designated labels Coach House Block Rare Single Vineyard and Greenock Block Single Vineyard Shiraz's sourced from the vineyards that surround the winery.

At sixteen years of age, this is aging gracefully, but starting to show its age with slight signs of diminution of the fruits.

Upon opening it was slightly obtuse with a bit of an edge, but over the course of an hour it opened, softened and became more approachable.

Dark inky purple color, full bodied, thick, chewy layers of aromatic flavors of tangy black fruits, raspberry, black cherry and black currants, accented by tones of clove spice, graphite & hints of creme de cassis on a smooth polished moderate tannin finish.

RM 90 points, two points less than the last tastings back nearly four years ago on Aug 6, 2016 and then Oct 11, 2017


Fisher Vineyards and Lewis Cellars Masons Cabernet

With the family gathered for our family matriarch's funeral, Linda served an extensive dinner paired with a flight of select wines from our cellar including this Napa Cabernet based Bordeaux Blend served in large format magnum and a favorite producer Cabernet. 

Fisher Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Coach Insignia 2000

Fisher Vineyards was founded in 1973 when Fred and Juelle Fisher bought 100 acres in the Mayacamas Mountains in Sonoma County. They later added 57 acres on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. Both had backgrounds in business -- Fred with General Motors and Juelle was an investment analyst -- before starting the winery. 

Today the winery is still owned and operated by the Fisher family, which includes three adult children who are part of the management team. The estate's first successes were with Chardonnay, then turning to crafting Cabernet Sauvignon from purchased grapes. Now the estate includes many acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, as well as Chardonnay and Merlot. The Fisher brand features several estate bottled signature Cabernet Sauvignons including this flagship Coach Insignia and two select vineyard designated cabs from Lamb Vineyard and Wedding Vineyard.  

Coach Insignia honors the Fisher family's heritage and tradition of craftsmanship from their legacy as one of the legendary automobile businesses of the 20th century with 'Body by Fisher' in General Motors automobiles followed by Fisher Vineyards' wines of the 21st century

The Coach Insignia Cabernet is a blend of grapes from three geographically diverse vineyards: the estate vineyards on the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley, Stagecoach vineyards above Oakville and Feingold vineyard on Sonoma Mountain. 

The Coach Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of the finest selected lots of Bordeaux varietals from the Estate vineyards including those near Calistoga nestled at the foot up against the Palisades mountain range. There, the vines grow on an alluvial fan that slopes gently west, following Simmons Creek to the Napa River. The Estate’s well drained soils are remarkably consistent, comprised primarily of cobblestones and loam.

It is a blend of classic Bordeaux varietals with predominant Cabernet Sauvignon accented by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These varietals and diverse vineyards offer Fisher the option to craft exceptional red wine that has become an insignia for Fisher Vineyards.  

At twenty years of age this is still holding its own and just showing minor signs of diminution from aging indicating it is starting to decline from its apex and moving to the next phase of its profile and drinking window.

Classic California in Bordeaux style. Dark garnet colored, a bit tight and firm  blackberry fruits with notes of black tea, flinty mineral and leather with crisp acidity on a moderate tannin lingering finish. 

RM 89 points.

Lewis Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Mason's 2012 

For the family dinner, we continued with a family favorite brand, Lewis Cellars which we have featured often in these pages. The portfolio consists of three labels named after the Lewis grandsons including Alec, who shares the name with our son, hence, Alec's Blend is a one of our favorite collectables. This label, a Napa Valley Cabernet is named after their grandson Mason. Alec and Viv visited Lewis Cellars on their honeymoon last month so it was fitting to include this in our intimate family dinner. We visited Lewis during our Napa Wine Experience 2017 and wrote about it in these pages here.

We selected this wine to pair and compare with the Fisher Coach Insignia. 

This was awarded 91 points by Wine Spectator and Connoisseurs Guide

Connoisseurs Guide warned us of the firmness and tight structure of this wine, which resembled the profile of the Fisher Insignia. It suggested holding the wine for six to ten years. At eight years we're within their suggested drinking window, and likely drinking this at its apex. 

Connoisseurs' Guide wrote in December of 2014 about this wine: "Subtlety may not be its strong suit, and there is no question but that this bottling flirts with excess, but it is so deep, so rich and so solidly fruited that its exuberant ripeness and back-palate heat are easily forgiven as mere misdemeanors. Make no mistake, this is a big wine of great amplitude and substance, as those of its maker tend to be, and, yet for all of its largesse, it is fairly tight and well-structured and never gives in to glyceriny fatness. It is sufficiently tough as to warn off drinking anytime soon, and it is best laid away for six to ten years." 

I found this lighter and softer than expected or indicated by the review, and more approachable in that regard than the Fisher, never-the-less, very similar in style and profile. 

Dark garnet colored, black berry fruits with note of cedar, wood and toasted oak with hint of mocha on the tight firm tannin laced finish. 

RM 90 points.