Despite my long love affair with wine, I am really not very educated about it. I know what wine I like, and I know what wine I will drink. (And I know they aren't always the same thing.)
Nearly a year to the day after we visited the McLaren Vale with Robert and Jaki, we have returned with our friend David. David's a genuine wine buff with great understanding and passion for the stuff. If you watch him when he arrives at a wine region, he acts pretty much the same as when a degenerate gambler lands at Las Vegas Airport or I find an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Unlike me, David is very knowledgeable about wine, but he, LK and I were all to end our first day in the McLaren massively more knowledgeable than when we started. It all happened at a winery called Mollydooker.
A couple of years ago David had written to me to ask if I could find any Mollydooker wine because it had been very highly rated in the American wine magazines. I had no luck, but the name stuck with me. And on Thursday we drove to an intersection and saw a sign for the Mollydooker Winery. If it wasn't fate, it was the best luck I have had in a long time.
The sign at the gate said tours were by appointment only, and there was no mention of wine tasting at the cellar door. Forging ahead regardless, we went to the office to be told there was no wine tasting facility and you did need to book ahead if you wanted a tour. Playing the pathetic tourist card, I explained that my friend from the US was so keen to learn about Mollydooker and what a shame, blah blah blah.
That was enough to check with Janet, the general manager who gives the tours. She was just wrapping one tour up and she was happy to take us out. It turned out to be the most fun and the most interesting time I have had at any of the hundreds of wineries I've visited in my lifetime. And the bonus - the wine was among the best-tasting I've tried.
Janet is massively knowledgeable about the science of growing vines. She took us to the edge of the vineyard and pulled some leaves aside to show us what the grapes were doing. She explained how the weather was affecting them and how the winery was watering them. And she spoke of the vines as living creatures: They have memories; they protect their babies (the fruit).
But most remarkable, she was never ever a know-it-all. She was fun and had the perfect knack for telling you something without making you feel you didn't know as much as her. (Or perhaps I should say without making you feel dumb because you don't know as much as her.)
The look at the vines was followed by a visit to the room where Luigi and the team were monitoring the state of the various vineyards via reports and computerization. Sounds very technical and it is. But it showed me something I had not realized - how complex it is to get the grapes just where you need them and how much of a science it has become. And yet, it's nice to know that some of the critical decisions aren't made by computers but by several of the staff sitting under the trees and tasting the grape juice from the various vineyards.
I won't bore you with the details of the things we learned in the winery itself, although none of it was boring to us. Let me just tell you that one of the highlights of the tour involved walking out to the 11,000 liter vats, turning the tap and having a healthy taste of this year's wine that is developing inside.
"It's only 80% and has been moved today so it's a bit jumbly so you need to use your imagination," Janet warned us. But it tasted soooo good that it was hard to imagine it getting better.
And by the way, we tried about six wines that way. And somewhere around the third we all agreed that it was far too tasty to be spitting out. And who could waste the rest left in the glass?
I hope I haven't made this sound like your stock standard winery tour. It was very, very interesting, but even more importantly the people at Mollydooker are just great folks. They're passionate about wine and are obviously enjoying the work immensely.
There's a family feel to the place. Their employees had the smiles and looks of people who enjoy coming to work. And there's a real family feel because Janet is the mother of Sparky, who is married to Sarah, and together Sparky and Sarah are the winemakers at Mollydooker. Sarah's parents are involved, as well.
And the folks here are fun - from the left-handed handshake everyone uses (mollydooker is Oz slang for left-hander) to their sense of humor about themselves. When I told Janet the tour was great and the wine was fantastic, she said thanks, but if the wine wasn't any good the rest was all bullshit, wasn't it?
Well, it is good. And after an amazing couple of hours here I can guarantee I will remember Mollydooker for a long time. Anyhow, a few pictures from our great day out.
|Janet, Luigi and Mollydogger|
|David is very close to heaven here|
|Checking out how the crushed juice flows|