I have only brief memories of my last couple of times in Adelaide. I remember a city of churches, a small boring slow city more suited to oldies than a young hip Melburnian, where you walked everywhere, traffic wasn’t a problem, and it’s streets needing more people shopping.. On our last trip Down Under I gave Adelaide one more try and instead of flying direct from Perth to Melbourne stopped over, and spent a few delightful days exploring Adelaide. I now think of Adelaide as a city with charm, elegant beauty, and a fun way of living; a city that doesn’t drain your energy like Sydney and Melbourne.
The Majestic Old Lion Apartments in North Adelaide, Adelaide’s affluent inner suburb of heritage pubs and workers cottages, incredible food, high-end boutiques, and the Oval was our Adelaide home for the next five days. The extreme hot weather followed us from the West, and Adelaide was being predicted to have its hottest November in over 50 years. Catastrophic fire warnings had been issued for the Adelaide Hills and the nearby surroundings. Even though the soaring heat pushed the temperatures above 100 degrees F, the city fell just short of setting a November temperature record.
The Old Lion Apartments was next door to The Lion Hotel, on hand to spend late afternoons sitting at an outdoor table cooling off with a few ice colds. The first time I felt the misting water, I pretended it didn’t happen and reached for my pot of Coopers. The second time, I looked up at the underside of the curved verandah roof and saw a series of metal tubing spraying a cooling mist every few minutes. What better was there to escape Adelaide’s extreme heat than sitting at a table on the footpath outside of the Lion with a steak sandwich, throwing back a few Coopers, being misted with water, while watching the good people of Jerningham Street go about their business.
Most of Australia’s best wine regions and wineries are just a short drive from Adelaide. Instead of touring the well-travelled wine trails of the Barossa Valley, we indulged ourselves with a Tour, Light Lunch and Tasting at Mollydooker Wines, a winery we discovered in Omaha. Mollydooker is a small untypical winery nestled in the heart of McLaren Vale; at most a 45-minute drive from central Adelaide. Left-handed Sarah Marquis and her left-handed husband Sparky crushed their first grapes in 2005 and called their new wines Mollydooker; Australian slang for left-handed. They’ve since parted ways, and Sarah is now the exclusive owner of Mollydooker. She’s continued with the whimsical southpaw label idea of telling stories about being left-handed, as well as a character theme for each of the wine names.
Since discovering Mollydooker, whenever the mates put me in charge of organising a game of The Tide’s Gone Out, I insist Left Hand on Mollydooker wine labels as a must-have category. It’s an adult drinking game with a few simple rules. The first rule is, players decide on a list of different categories before the game. A typical list could be:
the left hand on Mollydooker wine labels
canned spaghetti recipes
drongo losers you’ve known
Australian slang for beer
what you put chicken salt on
different types of meat pies
The second rule is that players take turns to shout out an example for each category. Each time a player comes up with a new suggestion for a category, they empty their glass. Imagine the excitement, and the sense of devil may care as the room becomes filled with shouts of:
the boxer has two left hands
budgie smuggler wearers
curry scallop pie
the boy on the scooter is using his left leg and foot
chicken salt and avocado toast
hit the turps
We met our tour guide Liza, pronounced Leeza, Van Pelt, who was wearing a fluro lime green-yellow vest outside the entrance to Mollydooker’s cellar door tasting room. She ushered us inside for a before the tour pit stop and safety vest. As Liza handed me an orange vest I couldn’t help but think, the tour’s off to a flying start; Mollydooker’s following the safety vest colours specified in the Australian high visibility safety garments standard 4602.1: 2011 that states construction workers, traffic flaggers, and labourers wear yellow vests, contractors and visitors orange, management tricolour vests personalised with their name and company logo, and public safety wears different colour-coded vests.
Liza was out the door as soon as she handed me my vest, assuming I’d be right behind her. But I was still inside the reception area, checking my vest for reflective strips. A few days ago, I’d read a West Australian tradie suffered first-degree burns when the reflective strips on his high visibility work clothing magnified a case of sunburn. He was undressing after work and noticed a painful red rash, and so he took himself off to the hospital. The doctors diagnosed first-degree burns and treated him with aloe vera and painkillers before sending him home.
Until I was sixteen or seventeen, I’d spend every day of the Christmas school holidays at Williamstown beach. Back then Australians took sunburn as a rite of summer. Every primary school student memorised Dorothea Mackellar’s My Country and could recite the start of the second stanza.
I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror-The wide brown land for me!
There were so many times I’d be burnt to a crisp and ride my bike home from Willie Beach with red, sometimes blistering, painful skin. Mum would dab calamine lotion on the sunburn or cut a tomato in half and rub the cut ends over my red, burning skin.
I couldn’t find any reflective strips on my orange vest, so I quickly suited up and set off after Liza. The tour group was us, and it quickly became a personal tour of the winery. As we wandered into and through the vineyards, it was as if we were strolling around a long lost friend’s backyard, chatting and catching up on things, and now and then pointing to something and asking what’s that. Mollydooker is known for full-bodied, silky red wines and it’s three vineyards are planted for Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
I learnt Mollydooker crushes about 1300 tons of grapes a year and produces around 90,000 cases of wine and it sells about half of its wine in the US. Lisa proudly talked about the Mollydooker trademarked vineyard watering system that Sparky and Sarah came up with when they started the business. They theorised that ripening the vine ripens the fruit and you can control the sugar level of grapes by precise watering using coordinated irrigation. All of my other well thought out questions and comments had gone over well with Liza so I thought I’d add an observation about droughts and flooding rains and evaporative cooling,
I think the overhead footpath water misting cooling system used at the North Adelaide Lion Hotel is similar to the Mollydooker watering system.
Liza answered my Lion Hotel evaporative cooling, flooding rains observation, in the same thoughtful way she answered all my other questions and comments. After a short pause, she responded with, and that leads us into the next stage of Molldooker winemaking. I’m not exactly sure how the theory of overhead footpath evaporative cooling systems led to Fruit Weight. But as we went from the vineyards, through grape crushing and blending, and into a warehouse of stacked casks of maturing wine, she explained how Sparky and Sarah came up with the concept of Marquis Fruit Weight. They declared the Fruit Weight baseline for their Mollydooker wines had to be at least 65%.
We were surrounded by casks of maturing wine, which seemed to send Liza off. She began describing Mollydooker’s family of wines, finishing with the intimate details of Two Left Feet,
this wine has been barrel fermented and matured in 97% American and 3% French oak, using 35% new, 55% one-year-old and 10% two-year-old barrels. The required Marquis Fruit Weight for the Lefty Series is 65%–75%. The actual Fruit Weight for the 2018 Two Left Feet is 68%
I could only hear Two Left Feet as it continued to echo off the wine casks, and I couldn’t help myself blurting out my heartbreaking story of Two Left Feet. I was a shy and bookish, post-pubescent adolescent with a pot cut, that I was frantically trying to grow into a long sixties style and my best clothes were my going out loose baggy blue blazer and long grey trousers when I took learning to dance classes. Mum made my clothes back then, and she made the blue blazer and grey long trousers about twice the size they should have been; she said I’d grow into them. I took dancing classes in the hope of meeting girls, and to have dancing machine feet that would allow me to majestically conquer the Waltz, Pride of Erin, Foxtrot, and Evening Three Step. When it was time to practise our just learned dance steps, it was usually the boy’s choice to invite a girl onto the dance floor. I don’t remember ever practising a dance at learning to dance classes, because I never made it onto the dance floor even when it was the girl’s choice. Each week the refusals repeated themselves, and I started searching for a reason for the constant rejection. Was it my going out clothes, the loose baggy blue blazer and long grey trousers, or the pot cut that I was growing into a sixties Mick Jagger style.
As I neared the end of my long-suffering tale of rejection, my voice trailed off, and I stood with my head bowed. I didn’t see Liza approach. She extended her right hand and asked if I would partner her for an Evening Three Step.
Forward, 2, 3 Tap
Turn, 2, 3, Tap
Turn, 2, 3, Tap
Back, 2, Side, Close.
Liza shared she was once a professional dancer and was the dancing partner of David Wirrpanda, a one time West Coast footballer star, on Australia’s 2010 Dancing with the Stars. I could have danced, danced, danced all day; but it was the end of the Mollydooker tour and the afternoon was to be spent, sitting outside, framed by the Adelaide Hills and surrounding vineyards, sipping velvety wines, and picking at a platter of brie, prosciutto, pastrami, a fresh chèvre log, mushroom pate, giant green olives, dukkah, and a delightful olive oil.