“Have you seen the water feature?” asked Sparky Marquis in his delightful Australian accent.

We had, in fact, already been informed of the waterfall outside the office at the MollyDooker winery in McLaren Vale, located about 45 minutes driving south of Adelaide. Our tour guide, Russell, mentioned it and guessed Sparky, the owner and CEO, would too.

Her and I and seven other guests were in the midst of a delicious lunch in the winery boardroom: bread from the local bakery, locally grown produce (including some from Sparky’s mom’s garden), and a bottle of every wine MollyDooker makes, including their highly rated Velvet Glove shiraz ($185/bottle).  Like Russell before him, Sparky proudly informed us that the bright and open room we were currently eating in had recently been surrounded by shrubs and trees. Over the previous couple of weeks they cleared the bushes to build a patio and, in the process, discovered a pump-powered waterfall that had been shrouded by shrubbery for almost a decade.  To their delight, it still worked!

We came to be part of this raucous celebration by showing up at 9:15AM at the MollyDooker office and simply asking if we could join their free 10 AM tour. The winery generally requires an advance booking, but Lozzie at reception graciously squeezed us in.

“This is our favorite wine,” Her blurted. “We came all the way from Florida.”

“I thought I detected an accent there,” Lozzie said in an Aussie accent as strong to us as I assume ours was to her.

Her extended her right hand, and Lozzie shook it but then grasped Her’s left too.

“We shake with the left here,” she said. “That’s what ‘MollyDooker’ means.”

The term, we would come to learn through Russell’s tour, originated in the late 1800s as a slight to left-handed boxers, who were considered somewhat girly. As a family with several left-handed members, however, the Marquis clan happily adopted the name.

In addition to Her and I, the tour group consisted of an American couple from Chicago, their son who was playing soccer professionally in Brisbane, an older Australian couple whose daughter works for MollyDooker and a young couple from Denmark who had just finished up a semester of graduate school in Sydney and were now touring the country in a camper van.

Russell, a long-time employee of MollyDooker and friend of Sparky’s, explained their grape growing process to us in tremendous detail, walking us through the vineyards to view the pea-sized Shiraz grapes and learn how scientific management of water affects the canopy, reproduction and survival of the vines.  We then progressed past the crusher, open-air fermenters and a barrel shed containing thousands of oak barrels. The thought of all the wine sitting in each of these 300L barrels combined with the pungent smell of wine that permeated each of the buildings we toured made me crave a glass of perfectly chilled shiraz.  Luckily, the time was just past noon and the wine tasting portion of the tour was about to begin.

Russell lead us to the large 100,000L storage tanks outside and each of us filled a wine glass directly from a spigot on the tank containing the 2012 Boxer shiraz. After watching several others fill their glasses with a couple ounces of wine, I followed suit and poured myself what I felt to be an “appropriate” tasting volume.  I immediately wished I had poured a larger glass.  The wine….was…delicious.  When I commented on how tasty the wine was, Russell encouraged me to pour myself a little more.  I didn’t require any further convincing.

At this point, Russell began to explain the “fruit-weight” measurement system MollyDooker invented for measuring the quality of the wine they produce.  Throughout the growing and wine-making processes, the wine tasters individually measure the percentage of their palate covered by the flavors from the grapes and wine.  They determine which batches become the varying wines: a fruit weight of 65%-75% becomes The Boxer, fruit weights between 75% and 85% become Blue-Eyed Boy, 85% to 95% becomes Carnival of Love, and fruit weights greater than 95% become MollyDooker’s top-of-the-line Velvet Glove.

Once we all had a grasp of the basics of the fruit-wight system, we were presented with a much smaller container (5,000L).  Russell had us pour ourselves a glass of this and asked us to guess the fruit weight.  I realized immediately that this wine was very good.  In fact, it was the best I have ever tasted.

“85%?” I asked.

The woman from Chicago agreed that it was good, but said she thought it was closer to 90%.

“This wine and the wine in the tank adjacent to it are competing to be the 2012 Velvet Glove.” Russell informed us. Its fruit eight was 95%+.

“This is probably the only time we’ll get to try this wine,” Her said to me, “so you better enjoy that glass!”

“In that case, why don’t you pour yourself some more?” Russell implored us.

Last year, MollyDooker made international headlines when a forklift dropped $1 million worth of 2010 Velvet Glove at the Adelaide loading docks.

They took the epic loss in stride, however.

“When Sparky went down to look, he opened the door [to the storage container] and said, ‘It smells fantastic!'” Russell said with a smile. “We learned you don’t put all your Velvet Glove in one basket. It was a painful lesson to learn.”

At lunch in the boardroom, Sparky Marquis came into the room, poured himself a glass of wine and proceeded to share stories about how he started in wine making and where it’s taken him all these years.  He explained the origins of the “MollyDooker Shake” and told us about the winery’s wonderful charitable works in Southeast Asia providing for hundreds of orphans.  Sarah, Sparky’s wife and wine-making partner, was visiting the orphanage at that time to oversee the Christmas party they were throwing for the kids.

After a couple of hours of lively storytelling and numerous laughs, Sparky excused himself and returned to the serious business of making killer wines. We returned to the serious business of drinking his wine which meant Her was soon asleep once we hit the road.

The MollyDooker family is a tight-knit group of individuals who all have a single goal: producing wines that make people say “WOW!”  And they have succeeded.  They treated us like old friends and the experience is one I will never forget. In fact, the tour has ranked as our favorite experience on this World Trip — so far.