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harvey steiman at large

Sparky Marquis, Home Wine Taster

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 26, 2007 11:55am ET


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.
Brian Loring
Lompoc, CA —  June 26, 2007 3:21pm ET
Harvey... you have to look no farther than the Off-Line Events forum to see that this type thing has been going on for years. Granted, maybe not in such a co-ordinated way... but I know of many winemakers who hook up for dinner at restaurants or in private homes all the time. I try to make it a priority when I'm on the road working with distributors.
Stephanie A Hubbell
winter —  June 26, 2007 5:07pm ET
Brian, My house is available any time your in Portland!
Michael Twelftree
Barossa, Australia —  June 26, 2007 5:32pm ET
Nice Blog Harvey, you have got to marvel at the energy Sparky and Sarah create. As a fellow producer you have got to admire how hard they work and how much they are prepared to stand by there brand.
William Strickler
June 28, 2007 10:46am ET
Brian, Michael, Sparky & Sarah, Harvey,
I will host the dinner at my place anytime any of you are in the DC area. I'm very serious.
Truly a grassroots marketing effort.
Brian is right that he and many other winemakers regularly attend off-lines (which make me jealous I don't live in CA), but this seems unprecedented in a pro-active marketing strategy.
I can't tell you how much positive buzz Michael T. created in his tasting of Two Hands (and his at a DC restaurant sponsored by a local retailer). It was our great privilege (and enjoyment) to sit at the table with him.
Howard Bernstein
Des Moines —  June 28, 2007 2:33pm ET
Sarah & Sparky: I think you should specifiy to your distributors to only sell your wines to left-handed retailers(me) and that we should sell the wines to only left-handed customers. What a conspiracy that would be. Sure would create quite a stir.
Debra Rios
Salem, Oregon —  June 29, 2007 8:10am ET
Does Mollydooker have a distributor in oregon?
Constance Young
Charlotte, NC —  August 1, 2007 2:54pm ET
Yes, this couple is full of energy and surprises. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from Sparky himself on Memorial Day in response to my email asking when I would receive the wine I ordered from them. I missed the call, but saved the voicemail!! and my house is available in Charlotte.
Adam Abramski
Livermore, CA. —  August 8, 2007 12:51pm ET
My home in Livermore, California is available anytime as well :) In fact, I'd be happy to introduce Sparky and Sarah to any of the winemakers in Livermore who are producing some nice Cabs and Shiraz's now.
Adam Abramski
Livermore, CA. —  August 8, 2007 12:53pm ET
Hi Harvey,How are the 2006 Mollydookers tasting in your opinion? Sincerely,Adam

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