Moderately Priced Wines from Australia — “Two Hands” and “Mollydooker”

Last week, I was on the road and tried very much to be satisfied with the wine offered in the hotel. I was out for five days in Philadelphia, and I could take it for only so long. I had enjoyed a good bottle with a dear friend at dinner one night, yet found myself longing for a richer and deeper expression of the grape. I found the wine store and set my sights on Shiraz. I do so knowing that an Aussie wine will be a big, lush and very approachable. I shy away from young cabernets, since they do need some time to unfold.

“Two Hands” is one of my favorite wineries from “down under,” as they have consistently delivered complex wines across their portfolio. I first became acquainted with the winery by tasting Lilly’s Garden Shiraz and was knocked out by the depth of flavor and smoothness of the wine. Luckily, I found a more modest priced wine at the store and was happily on my way. I purchased a bottle of Two Hands Angels’ Share Shiraz, 2012. It was all I had hoped for in the bottle. The price was under $30 and ready to go. I understand that the 2013 vintage is a winner as well, yet will still need another year in the bottle to be its best. Another Shiraz from Two Hands that is in that price range as well is the Clare Valley Fields of Joy, 2013. 2013 is stacking up to be a good year for many Australian wineries.

By the way – “angels’ share” is the term used to describe that wonderful aroma when walking into a cave where the wine is stored and resting in barrels.

Angels' ShareIf you are looking for value, also consider another Australian winery called Mollydooker. Their 2013s should also provide excellent drinking pleasure in this price range. The cabernet titled “The Maitre D’,” the blend called “Two Left Feet,” and their Shiraz, “The Boxer,” should all be ready to drink. All these wines can be found for less than $30, and they’re worth every penny in my opinion.


Wineries Galore!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the wine industry was concentrated on the West Coast. But, just the other day, I read an article that simply amazed me with some facts. First, there is a working winery in every state in the United States. Yes, there is a winery in  Alaska and Hawaii. While I have never visited our Alaskan friends, I have tasted wine at the one in Hawaii. It is on the Island of Maui and named Tedeschi. While not the most complex wine I have tasted, it was a fun visit.

Here is something else I found most interesting. This is taken from an article printed in Wine & Vines, March 2015. This is a monthly magazine focusing on the wine industry itself. The headline said that North American winery numbers grew by 7.1% in 2014. That obviously includes Canada where they make a lot of ice wine (more about that in a later blog). In this article, the numbers of states that have 100 or more wineries were listed:

California – 3913
Washington – 704
Oregon – 632
New York – 333
Virginia – 257
Pennsylvania – 200
Ohio – 158
Michigan – 143
North Carolina – 138
Missouri – 132
Colorado – 113
Illinois – 104

Wow! That is a lot wine being produced. My question is, “What does it taste like?” I have drunk wine from the West Coast and New York. I have even tasted wine from Missouri, yet who knew that these other states were working hard to crack the code of fine wine?

From these numbers, it is clear that no matter where you live, the opportunity to visit a winery and taste the fruits of their labor is close at hand. Time to get out there and explore!


Mi Sueño — My Dream

While Napa Valley has grown, there is still an interesting fact that remains true: 95% of Napa Valley wineries are family-owned. This is an amazing fact when considering that the number of wineries in the valley is over 400. In an even smaller number of wineries, the owner and winemaker are one and the same. Such is true for Mi Sueño: Rolando Herrera is both proprietor and winemaker.

I first drank Rolando’s wine when visiting Vintner’s Collective – a small boutique tasting room in the heart of the city of Napa. It is here where I was impressed with the richness, lushness, and balance of his big cabernets. The cabernet, though, is only one of the excellent wines that Rolando crafts. The line-up of Mi Sueño includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. All are well-structured and a pleasure to drink.

While Rolando’s wines are impressive, his story is inspiring. Rolando moved to the Napa Valley with his family from Michoacan, Mexico. As a young boy, he grew to love the valley; and, even when the family returned to Mexico when his father retired, Rolando committed to return to Napa Valley for a better education and future. Upon his return to the Napa (yes, he made that happen), he started as a dishwasher and then moved up to a line cook at Mustard’s Grill. At the age of 17, he went to work at Stags Leap Wine Cellars, building a stone fence. The owner of the winery was so impressed with his work ethic that he took Rolando under his wing to work in the winery.

Here is where the real dream takes shape. To own a winery and craft great wine – that became Rolando’s commitment. After Stags Leap, he spent many years mastering his craft while working at Vine Cliff, Chateau Potelle, and with Paul Hobbs. Each experience contributed to the knowledge, skills, and expertise that have led to the wines of Mi Sueño. It is through hard work and great effort that, today, Rolando owns his own winery, consults for several other wineries, and delivers excellent wine every vintage. The Dream is alive.

Visits to Mi Sueño are by appointment only, and the winery is located in the southern part of the valley. Here, they are set in an industrial park, yet the feeling and experience are quite warm and welcoming. This is truly a working winery, and the visit will leave you well informed and much wiser on how wine is made. This is the chance to sit, explore, and learn. The wine is well-crafted, and the experience warm and inviting. I do recommend a visit and encourage you to experience the Dream.