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Wine Wonders from Down Under: Moollydooker and Bird in Hand

In 1989 I left my corporate agency job and went on a solo “walkabout” of sorts to Australia. It took 30,000 frequent flyer miles and 30 hours to land in Sydney where I stayed at a friend of a friend’s apartment near Bondi Beach. I spent the next six weeks hopscotching Australia on a cheap “kangaroo fare.”

I learned how to play a didgeridoo in Alice Springs, hitched a ride on a prop plane with the Outback mailman to deliver parcels, climbed Ayers Rock in the wrong footwear, took my first hot air balloon ride over some dusty dunes sprinkled with cheap sparkling wine, slept in a tent on a cattle station, snorkeled The Great Barrier Reef, sailed on an old brigantine through the Whitsunday Islands, gazed at the Southern Cross camping out on the deck of the boat and drank a lot of beer with assorted Aussie cowboys and sailors. My last stop was a drive to the Hunter Valley wine region where I tasted my first Australian Shiraz. I remember thinking, “This is what the earth must taste like if I licked the dirt.” It was a new sensation for someone who was brought up drinking Bordeaux and Chateauneuf- du-Pape thanks to my father, Chattanooga’s “Wine Professor.”

 

Climbing Ayers Rock: Good idea. Climbing Ayers Rock in the wrong footwear: Bad idea!

I never made it to Western Australia or the south which will be our next trip with a focus on wine and beach combing. And, despite over 30 years working in wine and food, my tasting experiences with Australian wines have been pretty limited, and some of the wines I have tasted were challenging to my palate.

Lettie Teague wrote an article on the resurgence of Australian wines in the January 25th edition of the Wall Street Journal saying “Wines regularly slip in and out of fashion, but few have fallen as far as the wines of Australia did over the past decade. Once among the world’s most sought-after bottles, they are now some of the hardest to sell. Recently, however, there have been signs of a small but steady recovery, thanks to some intrepid retailers, sommeliers, importers and, of course, the winemakers themselves.
Here is a link: WSJ

 

It was a treat to meet Sparky Marquis, founder of Mollydooker Wines, at Wine Spectator‘s New York Wine Experience last Fall. Sparky’s story is one of love, loss, recovery, reconnecting with what brings you joy and, ultimately, some very high scores. Mollydooker wines have some interesting (Aussie) rules like the Mollydooker Fruit Weight and the trademarked Mollydooker Shake. We read up, shook it up and tasted through the wines at a dinner party on Saturday. When Sparky’s brochures says they want to make wines with a WOW Factor he meant it! I had a week’s serving of fruit in one evening. And truly click here amazing fruit it was!

Sarah and Sparky Marquis

Sparky and Sarah met in wine college, fell in love and now run the iconic Mollydooker Wines. The word “mollydooker” means left-handed in Australia which both Sparky and Sarah are.  All of Mollydooker’s wine labels tell a story. The Boxer is actually and throwback (throwdown?) to Southern Wine & Spirits’ Mel Dick. The Violinist was named after Sarah, who was a young. Gigglepot was named after daughter, Holly, and Blue Eyed Boy named after son, Luke. As for the multi-award winning Carnival of Love…well, figure it out! And the top tier wine, Velvet Glove…well, it’s a knockout!

 

 

Nearby Adelaide Hills may seem geographically close but it is a world apart in terms of terroir with a more cool climate focus.  Bird in Hand Winery is named after the old Bird in Hand goldmine situated on Bird in Hand road. This region was littered with gold mines that were in operation through the 1800’s but nearly all were closed down by the early 1900s. Within 10 kilometres of property the gold mines ‘Two in the Bush’ and ‘Nest Egg’ were also in operation.

 

Bird in Hand winery is located on the site of old gold mines with the same name.

Kym Milne, MW, Bird in Hand Winery,was named Winemaker of the Year by Winestate Magazine in 2014, and the second Australian to pass the Master of Wine test.  An Australian native, Kym worked at Villa Maria Winery in New Zealand and overseas in Europe before joining Bird in Hand as Chief Winemaker.

Bird in Hand's Kym Milne is the second Australian to be named Master of Wine
Bird in Hand’s Kym Milne is the second Australian to be named Master of Wine

The wines are the antithesis of traditional Australian fruit bombs, elegant and austere in an appropriate minimalist style. Kym uses French varietal clones and French oak. Tasting the Bird inHand Chardonnay and its luxury level Nest Egg Chardonnay, we could have been tasting a fine French Burgundy with out eyes closed.  The Shiraz was more silky satin than deep velvet. What we learned from tasting both Mollydooker’s and Bird in Hand’s wines is that wine making in Australia should never be typecast to one style, and luxury labels deliver an exceptional tasting experience.  Bird in Hand Wines were recently introduced to the United States by HP Selections.

 

Listen to our February 1st show with Sparky Marquis, Mollydooker Wines,  and Kym Milne, Bird in Hand Winery, anytime, anywhere at this iHeart.com link. Click image to listen and share.

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A G’Day To Frankland Estate’s Hunter Smith in Western Australia

When your wine is called Isolation Ridge, it’s a pretty sure bet that getting to where its made will probably include a lot of driving, and not necessarily on major roads. Of course, once one leaves the relatively few major cities on the world’s smallest Continent, that can be said for much of Australia.

That said, driving to Frankland Estate, situated in a remote region of Western Australia about 250 miles Southeast out of Perth, one gets the feeling that reaching it may never happen (helicopter, please!). But it’s the wines that keep you driving, as Frankland Estate, founded in 1988 on a sheep station situated about 25 miles north of the Southern Ocean, produces some of that country’s best.

Vineyards at Frankland Estate in Western Australia
Vineyards at Frankland Estate in Western Australia

For all the wine Australia makes, and it makes a lot, the wonderful wines of Western Australia, (the most notably recognizable region of which is Margaret River, further West and closer to Perth), often get overshadowed by their more Easterly counterparts from places like Hunter and Barossa Valleys, two of Australia’s most well-known winemaking areas. Which is surprising, since Western Australian winemaking accounts for over 25% of the country’s total production of premium wines.

All that is starting to change however, and it’s thanks to people like the Smith family, owners of Frankland Estate, who are dedicated to not only making superb wines, but making sure that they do it the right way, through organic farming practices and identifying what grows well (i.e., not just planting what people seem to be drinking at the moment) and making that.

And what Frankland Estate is known for is Riesling and Shiraz, both of which adapt well to the cooler climate of the region and make wines of particularly exceptional and unique character. The Riesling is consistently rated among the country’s top wines in its category, and the Shiraz also produce wines that are internationally acclaimed and sought after due to their distinctly different characteristics (more pronounced tannins and aging potential) than the softer, fruit-forward, drink-it-now Shiraz coming out of the hotter growing regions of Eastern Australia.

Frankland Estate Wines
Frankland Estate Wines

Frankland Estate produces about 15,000 cases overall and has about 75 certified organic acres under vine. Wines include Isolation Ridge Riesling, Shiraz, and Chardonnay, and the same varietals under the Rock Gully moniker, and ode to the geographic area and also street address of the winery. Other wines include Poison Hill Riesling and Netley Road Riesling, and also the Estate’s flagship red wine: Olmo’s Reward Red, an award-winning traditonal Bordeaux blend using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Malbec.

The wines of Frankland Estate are worth a drive if you’re feeling adventurous, have a Roo Bar on your Land Cruiser, and happen to be in Perth. Or, thankfully, they’re also available in the U.S. which would probably be a bit more convenient, particularly once you run out and need to get more.

Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate Winerty
Hunter Smith, Frankland Estate Winery

Hear from Frankland Estate Co-Owner and Co-Vintner Hunter Smith, whose parents Barrie Smith and Judi Cullam founded Frankland Estate in 1988. Sheep farmers since the 1970s, Smith and Cullam were inspired by a trip to Bordeaux and working two vintages in that region of France. Hunter and sister Elizabeth joined the family business.  And then there’s Gladys the Guinea Hen, the winery’s mascot, who’s in charge of critter and pest control.  Can we have a “G’Day Mate” shout out for this show? January 27th, 2pm EST on The Connected Table LIVE! on W4CY.com.

Website: http://franklandestate.com.au

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/franklandestate

Twitter: @FranklandEstate

U.S. Importer: Quintessential Wines. www.quintessentialwines.com

Melanie Young and David Ransom, Hosts The Connected Table LIVE!
Melanie Young and David Ransom, Hosts of The Connected Table LIVE! Follow them on Facebook.com/TheConnectedTable and Twitter.com/connectedtable. Learn more about how The Connected Table helps connects people and brands and follow The Connected Table events and blog at www.theconnectedtable.com