Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mollydooker Wines

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with Sparky Marquis, the winemaker for Mollydooker wines, at the JW Marriott in Orlando, FL. I haven't posted the pictures from this event and wanted to share them with you. Sparky and his wife, Sarah, have been making wine in Australia for many years now. In 1999 they were Australia's winemakers of the year. Mollydooker wines have received numerous accolades and high ratings over the years.  Mollydooker is Aussie for left-handed, because both Sparky and Sarah are left-handed. The winery is located in McLaren Vale area of Australia. 

Before we entered the main dining room, we had the 2010 Violinist ($25). This wine is made from the Verdehlo grape. This grape is normally used in Portugal and associated with the island of Madeira. The grape also grows well in Australia. This vintage was given 90 points by Wine Advocate. This is Mollydooker's only white wine and it was amazing. I just thought it was refreshing, light, and lovely. 

Next, we entered the main room for dinner and a wine blending seminar. The event started with a talk by Sparky Marquis and his mother. They discussed the history of Mollydooker wines and how to do the Mollydooker shake. This shake is for people to use so that Mollydooker wines can drink well when opened at a young age. This shake is not meant for the The Violinist, The Sparkling Shiraz, or for wines older than 2 years old. The shake releases nitrogen gas which is stored in the wine to protect it from oxygen so the amount of sulphites in the wine is reduced. The nitrogen tends to flatten the fruit flavor of young wines. Shaking the wine releases the nitrogen. You can watch the video HERE to see how to properly execute the Mollydooker shake. 

We had a blending seminar before dinner. We blended the Boxer (Shiraz), Maitre D (Cabernet), and the Scooter(Merlot). Sparky explained that this is how he creates the Two Left Feet wine. This wine is a blend of the Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot. He tweaks the blend of this wine each year. This was a fun experience where we had a beaker and tried to create the best "Two Left Feet" wine at the table. 

Sparky Marquis

Wines that we tried to blend
 Finally, we were given a tasting of all the BIG Mollydooker wines. We had the Gigglepot, Blue Eyed Boy, Enchanted Path, Carnival of Love, and Velvet Glove. These wines were paired with an amazing filet mignon. All of these wines are very big and need to be paired with a big and bold piece of meat. 

Filet that paired with Mollydooker wines
Sparky holding the Velvet Glove

creme brûlée dessert 
Today, Mollydooker wines consist of: 

  • 2010 The Maitre D $25 -- Cabernet Sauvignon (90 points by Wine Advocate, WA)
  • 2010 The Two Left Feet $25 -- Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Blend (90 points by WA and Wine Spectator, WS)
  • 2010 The Scooter $25 -- Merlot (90 points by WA)
  • 2010 The Boxer $25 -- Shiraz (91 points by WA) 
  • 2010 Miss Molly $25 -- Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is the girlfriend of The Boxer. 
  • 2010 Gigglepot $49-- Cabernet Sauvignon. (92 points WA, 91 points WS)
  • 2010 Blue Eyed Boy $49 -- Shiraz. (93 p0ints WA, 91 points WS)
  • 2010 Enchanted Path $90 -- Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. (94 points WA, 93 points WS)
  • 2010 Carnival of Love $90 -- Shiraz. (95 points WA, 94 points WS)
  • 2010 Velvet Glove $185 -- Shiraz. ( 97 points WA, 96 points WS)
The evening was really fun and very memorable. It isn't every day that Sparky Marquis is in Orlando to share all his amazing wines. 

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Maryhill Winery

Maryhill Winery has found a distributor in the sunshine state! They will be distributed by the Opici Wine Company of Fl. Our friend Mary, who works for Opici,  had a Maryhill representative in town and we were able to taste the incoming wines. 

Maryhill Winery was the 2009 Washington State Winery of the Year. The winery was established in 1999 by Craig and Vicki Leuthold on land that was originally used as a farming community along the Columbia River in the early 1900's. In 2001, Maryhill Winery opened its doors as one of only 100 wineries in the state. Today, Washington has more than 600 wineries. That is one crazy influx of wineries in only 11 years. The winery now has a very nice tasting room and large amphitheater for summer concerts. The winemaker at Maryhill used to be the winemaker at Paraduxx. 

Some of the wines that will be available for purchase in Florida are below: 

1) 2010 Maryhill Riesling  ($14) This wine had flavors of citrus and fruit. The winery suggests pairing this wine with shortbread cookies. 

2) 2010 Maryhill Winemaker's White ($12) This wine had flavors of pineapple and pear. The blend is 42% Viognier, 25% Semillion, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, and 15% Chardonnay. 

3) 2010 Maryhill Winemaker's Red ($15) The blend is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Franc. 

4) 2007 Maryhill Merlot (approx. $18) 

5) 2010 Maryhill Viognier ($16)  The viognier was a fan favorite. I really enjoyed this wine and the price is great. I can't believe the prices are so low for these wines. I'm not complaining though! haha 

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

La Luce By Donna Scala at Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando

I surprised my mom for mother's day by taking her to stay at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando. We went to La Luce for Mother's Day dinner. Chef Donna Scala created the menu and dishes at La Luce. Donna visits the restaurant three or four times a year to revamp the menu and make necessary changes. 

The restaurant looks and feels very modern with an open pizza kitchen and huge chalk art installations. The restaurant brings different artists into La Luce to create pieces of art on these boards. The art changes within the restaurant throughout the year. This is a new and innovative way to showcase different artists. 

We brought our own bottle of wine to pair with the dinner. The restaurant charges a $20 corkage fee. We brought a 2010 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel. This wine accompanied our meal perfectly. Our waiter's name was Michael S. and he was excellent. This was our first visit and he answered all our questions regarding the menu. 

We started by sharing the tricolor salad with Arugula, Endive, and Radicchio. This salad was super light and refreshing. 

Next, we shared the margherita pizza and fettuccini con bolognese. Michael told me the restaurant imports its pizza dough from Italy. This is why the pizza made me feel like I was sitting in Piazza Navona. My mom really enjoyed the fettuccini con bolognese with meat and duck ragu. This dish is amazing and we both liked it with fettuccini pasta. 

Finally, we shared the butterscotch pudding dessert with toffee. This dessert is made in-house and it was SOOOO GOOD! I don't even like toffee that much, and I loved this dessert. 

I would come back to La Luce in a heartbeat. I would also like to visit Donna's restaurant in Napa Valley, Bistro Don Giovanni. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Wine

I would like to wish everyone a happy Mother's Day weekend. 

Here are two nice inexpensive wines that you could gift to mom or open with a nice dinner. 

1) 2008 Two Iron Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley 

This wine is made by Chris Dearden who also makes the Argus Pinot Noir, the Trainwreck Cabernet, the One Iron Petite Sirah, and the awesome Sleeping Giant Cabernet Sauvignon. Chris Dearden has been making wine in Napa for over 20 years. 

The Two Iron is composed of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot. I love Cabs that include a bit of Cabernet Franc. The grapes are sourced from St. Helena and Rutherford Bench vineyards. There were 298 cases released in May of 2011. This is a great wine at only around $30. The Sleeping Giant Cabernet sells for around $70. 

2) 2010 Starry Night Cabernet Franc from Lake County Terre Vermeille Vineyard 

Most people know I'm a huge fan of Starry Night wines. The winemaker, Bruce Walker, has a great collection between the Starry Night and Bruce Wayne wines. I have been enjoying these wines for about 4-5 years. Two years ago Bruce took my mom and I on a tour of his Nervo Station Vineyard where The Caboose Zinfandel is grown. 

This is the inaugural bottling of this wine for Starry Night. The vineyard is located 1,200 feet above Clear Lake in Lake County. This is a 100% Cabernet Franc and is aged in American and French oak barrels.  There are only 340 cases of this wine. This is one of my favorite wines at the right price. The wine sells for $22 and is worth every penny. I love this wine! 

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Bern's WineFest (Part 2)


The event continued from inside SideBern's to Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits store. The wine store was filled with boxes for the event. All wine at the event was available for purchase by completing an order form on the event tasting notebook. 

After walking through the wine store, attendees entered the Moet Hennessy Oasis where champagne was flowing freely. This champagne lounge offered glasses of Domaine Chandon ‘Etoile’, Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial, and Moet & Chandon 2002 Grand Vintage. This tent was all white with white flowers and chandeliers with a bright red carpet. 

Moet Hennnessy Oasis 

Finally, we entered tasting tent two. This tent offered wines from Spain, Italy, Germany, and France. I spent too much time tasting in the first tent, because many of the better wines in tent two were gone by the time I arrived. This tent had an amazing display of tapas dishes and cheeses. I loved the cheese assortment and made a huge plate to enjoy back in tent one. 

2007 Mas Doix 'Costers de Vinyes Velles' 

Cheese Tasting Table

The seminar tent featured two different seminars. First, the Chateau Ste. Michelle  offered a vertical tasting of the Artist Series Meritage with winemaker Bob Bertheau. I tasted this wine at table 16, and it was one of my favorite wines at the event. The second seminar featured the winemaker from PlumpJack, Anthony Biagi. This seminar discussed the heated debate of cork vs. screw-cap. I did not attend the two seminars as I barely had time to taste and see the entire event. 

Seminar Tent

I made my way back to tent one for the last 30-40 minutes of the event. I had a few more wines on my list to try. I also managed to try a few more desserts along the way. 

Overall, I really enjoyed attending this event and would return in a heartbeat. My group of friends shared this sentiment. I can’t wait until next year’s sweet sixteen Bern’s Winefest. 

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bern's WineFest (Part 1)

Last week I attended one of Florida's top wine and food events, Bern's 15th annual WineFest. Bern's Winefest has been on my list of "must attend" events since I started writing about wine. I have loved Bern's since my first visit as a child. I did not return to Berns for many years so Bern's was always this magical memory of red velvet walls and a maze of rooms and desserts upstairs.

I returned to Bern's a few years ago after I took the Florida Bar exam and fell in love with it again as a foodie and wino. Bern's is my favorite restaurant in Florida.  This is why I decided to drive across the state for the Winefest with five friends. This event went above and beyond any preconceived expectations.

Bern's Winefest features over 200 wines with culinary creations from Bern's Steak House and SideBern's. The event actually takes place at SideBern's with large tents attached to each side of the building. The event also featured a Moet Hennessy Champagne lounge and samples of Belvedere's Lemon Tea and Grand Mariner Slushies. The wines are divided by country, and the food complements each wine region.  The event started at 11:00 AM for VIP, and the general public was allowed to enter at 12:30 PM. The tasting went from 12:30 to 4:00 PM.  The event was crowded, but I never had to wait more than a minute or two for wine. I never had to wait in line for food, as the food was readily available. 

Each attendee is equipped with a festival tasting notebook/guide and a tasting glass. The wine tasting guide listed wine prices and categorized the wines by region and table number. Each wine at the event could be purchased on the order form attached on the back of each tasting guide. 

Tasting Tent #1
Attendees entering the pearly white tents of Bern's WineFest are treated to a feast for the senses. Visually, the event is stunning with different themes, lighting, and moods for each room. The first tasting tent held 26 tasting tables with wines from the Southern Hemisphere and United States. The food in this room consisted of wild game, gastro pub dishes, and new southern cuisine. Tent #1 also contained a giant dessert display with hand-made chocolates and parisian desserts with a southern comfort influence. Below are a few pictures of my favorite wine, food and dessert from this tent.
      Rabbit with lentil wild game dirty rice, stinging nettle, chardonnay reduction

Dessert Table

Chocolate Malt Marshmallows

Favorite "unlisted" wine made by the wife of Tom Hedges from Hedges Family Estate

Tasting Tent 
Maple Bacon Brownie (My Favorite Dessert!)

Sous Vide Pork Belly BLT

Illy Coffee and Espresso Station
Cakebread Cellars
Hand-made chocolates 

Pecan Divinity and Valrhona Chocolates 
I did not get to taste all of the wines but some of my favorite wines from tent #1 are listed below with prices: 
  • 2008 Darioush 'Signature' Cabernet Sauvignon  - $92.95 (Table 7)
  • 2008 CADE 'Cuvee' Cabernet Sauvignon  - $39.95  (Table 8)
  • 2008 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon - $77.95  (Table 9) 
  • 2008 Silverado 'SOLO' Cabernet Sauvignon - $88.95 (Table 11) 
  • 2007 Rosenblum 'Carla's Reserve' Zinfandel - $23.95 (Table 15)
  • 2007 BV "Georges de Latour' Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $97.95 (Table 15) 
  • 2008 Chateau St. Michelle 'Artist Series' Meritage - $57.95 (Table 16) 
  • 2007 Frias Merlot - $34.95 (Table 17) 
  • 2009 Carte Blanche Proprietary Red - $95.95 (Table 18) 
  • 2009 Saldo Zinfandel - $29.95 (Table 21) 
  • 2008 Quintessa - $121.95 (Table 21) 
  • 2008 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon - $68.95 (Table 23) 
  • 2009 Palazzo Cabernet Franc - $79.95 (Table 24) 
After tasting many different wines in tent one, I headed into SideBern's to see the Grand Marnier Patio, Belvedere Vodka Bar, the wonderful band, and the silent auction. The Grand Marnier Patio and Belvedere Vodka Bar were sampling the Belvedere's Lemon Tea and Grand Mariner Slushies. SideBern's was also making the "Back Nine" cocktail.  Pictures of these fabulous looking drinks are below. 

Grand Marnier Patio with drinks in the red containers 
The 'Back Nine' cocktail
Back Nine Cocktail Recipe 
  • 1.5 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka 
  • .25 oz Grand Marnier 
  • 1 oz Strawberry Syrup 
  • .75 Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice 
  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice 
  2. Shake and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass 
  3. Garnish with orange peel 

The event had an amazing band with a very talented violinist. The band's music was pumped through the first tasting tent, so everyone could hear the music. I kept finding myself dancing to the different songs, because the violinist was very good. SideBern's also had a silent auction during the event. Funds raised from this auction help Bern's offer scholarships to students seeking degrees in culinary, hospitality, or viticulture degrees through the James beard Foundation-Bern Laxer Scholarship. 

Silent Auction Wines
The next post will include picture and information about the Moet Hennessy Lounge, Tasting Tent Two and Seminar Tent.