When you name your new winery Mollydooker
(Australian slang for left-hander), you don't expect to do things the usual way. Sparky and Sarah Marquis, both lefties, unabashedly aim for crowd-pleasingly plush textures and ripe flavors in their wines, bucking a national trend in Australia toward more refinement and delicacy.
Sparky offered his left hand in greeting when we met for coffee. He was on a brief stopover in San Francisco heading back to Oz after a three-week tour of the United States to promote the 2006 vintage, just now being released. And when he described what he had been doing, I don't think I've heard anything like it.
The idea was to do a series of private tastings and dinners, so Marquis contacted five key retailers and restaurateurs in each city, and asked each of them to invite nine of their friends to a restaurant or hotel, where he would host them. That's not unusual. Tasting events like that are a common way to promote a new vintage.
But in almost every city, someone asked what it would it take to do a separate tasting for 50 people, just for them. "They couldn't limit it to just nine, so they were willing to foot the bill to hire waiters and caterers, about half of them in their own homes," he said. "In 21 days I poured for 1,000 people at 32 events."
Marquis was blown away by the enthusiasm and generosity of the winery's American fans. "Everywhere we went, they were bringing in some of our older wines for us to taste," he said. "At one tasting we did a complete vertical of all the Fox Creek Shiraz (where he and Sarah made the wine in the 1990s). Several times they brought in Henry's Drive Cabernets and Shiraz (where they were responsible for the first half dozen vintages). I couldn't believe the wines they were pulling out of their cellars."
The U.S. is Mollydooker's prime market. They sell 90 percent of their production here, 5 percent in Australia, "and 5 percent for the rest of the world," said Marquis.
But a home wine tasting winemaker tour? That's a new one on me.