Blog Archives

The Wine Ratings Business…Is a Business?

It’s been reported over recent days that Jay Miller from the Wine Advocate charges wineries a fee in order for him to visit the winery and review their wines. (Key shock and disbelief). A group in Spain has published a list of preparation needs for Miller’s visit to a select number of wineries. Preparation ‘needs’ include a 200 – 300 euro fee per wine tasted and a 1,000 euro fee for each visit to a single winery.

While many in the wine world may act like this is a shock and failure to the wine rating system, it should not be that surprising. After all the wine ratings business, has become well a big business. And who’s to blame? Me, you, the wineries…but mainly me and you. As retailers and consumers, we’ve become reliant on letting someone else tell us what’s good and bad in a wine. There are wines that are sold everyday (thousands of them) based on a rating from someone like Miller or Wine Spectator alone. It’s not uncommon that a purchaser may not even know who the producer is of wine, where its from, or even what’s in it! Unfortunately, some wineries and retailers have taken notice of that trend and have maybe even adjusted the flavor or structure of their wine in search of a better score. And so has increased the power of the wine critic.

But for those of us who search out wineries for ourselves, form our own opinions (and maybe even yes use the ratings and critic reviews as a resource to help develop those opinions), the news of Miller’s fees and ultimately him stepping down from The Wine Advocate doesn’t come us a shock. Wine is a business of passion, but it is still a business. Fees will be paid, advertisements will be placed, and lots of us (myself included) will go on selling wine and (shock and disgust!) may even make a profit.

*Sidenote: In terms of The Wine Advocate, they pride themselves on being one of the most ethic journalistic sources in the business, and this is something that we have found very true on behalf on their staff. A link to their entire ethics policy can be found here.*

Wine Review: Orin Swift’s The Prisoner 2008

Dave Phinney’s story is one of the most unique and admirable in today’s wine industry.  After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Political Science, Phinney began pursuing his team by working harvest at the Robert Mondavi winery.  The next year he began Orin Swift Cellars with just two tons of purchased Zinfandel grapes.

Orin Swift has now become one of the top, if not the top, cult wineries in Napa.  Their flagship wine, The Prisoner, which made the winery famous has recently been sold to the mother company of Quintessa.  We are anxious to see what happens to the brand and the blend as the winery goes through some big changes the next couple of years.

However, we are now reviewing 2008.  Which we found to be a fantastic vintage for The Prisoner, one of our favorites.  The wine is composed of 46% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Petit Sirah, 2% Charbono, and 1% Grenache.  The wine is a deep dark garnet hue.  On the nose hint at cherry, vanilla and new oak.

The flavors and mouth feel of The Prisoner is what really gives this wine its character and personality.  Round and soft on the front palette, dark berries and a slight caramel taste fill your mouth.  A perfect touch of acid rounds out the wine and leads into the very soft and supple tannins on the finish.  For a soft wine, the finish is long with the perfect balance of dryness and fruit.  One of Phinney’s best vintages to date.

Decanted’s Wine Rating:  2.75 glasses

The other guys ratings:
92 points, Wine Spectator
90 points, Wine Advocate (Robert Parker)

Buy Orin Swift’s 2008 The Prisoner
$35 at, 10% discount on a case.

The Mollydooker Shake

Mollydooker "The Boxer"

There are so many gadgets these days to decant your wine.  You can use a Vinturi ($40), Soiree ($20), Decanter ($20 – $500), and now you can even shake (Free) your wine.  Although I think there is a need and purpose for each of the above contraptions, this new concept of shaking is most intriguing.

Can you shake all wine?  Well you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  I reserve the shaking process for one particular brand who has created the Mollydooker Shake.

Mollydooker is an Australian winery developed by husband and wife team, Sarah and Sparky Marquis.  Both nationally renowned in the own projects, the pair left their jobs in 2005 to fully focus on their own winery.  Since the launch Mollydooker has received great press and some fantastic reviews from wine critics around the world, most notably Robert Parker.  Mollydooker produces a breadth of Shiraz, Verdelho, Cabernet, and various Blends.

So what is the Mollydooker Shake?

At Mollydooker, the Marquis’ make their wine in a specific manner.  Infusing Nitrogen in the wine making process, they are able to skip the process of adding sulfites in order to preserve the wine and prevent oxidation (For more about sulfites in wine click here).  However, the nitrogen tends to flatten the round fruit flavors in the wines making the shake necessary.  Here’s how you do it…

1. Open the bottle and pour half a glass (so the wine just hits the top of the shoulder of the bottle).

2.  Reseal the bottle (All Mollydookers come with a screw cap).

3.  Flip the bottle over and shake like hell.  If you really want to do it Dooker style, use your left hand (Mollydooker is Aussie for Lefty).

4.  You’ll see little bubbles rise to the top of the bottle (this is the Nitrogen).  Put the bottle back down and open to release the bottle.

5.  Pour yourself a glass!

Although skeptical at first, I have done the Dooker shake multiple times now and it has never failed.  Sure you can also decant these wines, but why wait?  The Shake takes a matter of minutes…decanting a bit longer.  Still don’t believe it?  Reserve that half glass of wine you first poured and compare it to  the glass after the shake, I guarantee you’ll notice a difference.

Start Shaking

Mollydooker “The Boxer” 2008
100% Shiraz
McLaren Vale, Australia
91 Points Wine Advocate & Wine Spectator (Best Buy)

To read more about Mollydooker and the shake, click here.