Mollydooker Winemaker Sparky Marquis

Kris Chislett and Mollydooker Winemaker Sparky Marquis

Believe it or not, me and Sparky go waaaaaaaay back! I’m talking 2009, here!
Mollydooker winemaker Sparky Marquis was actually the first ever winemaker I interviewed when I started blogging. This week he came back to Jacksonville for the release of his 2010 wines. The interview was supposed to last about 15 minutes. We ended up talking for closer to an hour.


<Sparky starts pouring every-single one of his wines into glasses lined up in front of me.>

….so any big changes with this vintage, I mean stylistically…?

I guess the main thing with all of these, when we start talking about style it’s an interesting factor, because we base all of our wines on fruit weight. So because the fruit weight stays the same, stylistically the wines are going to be identical every vintage. We do get a slight variation from regional variances, but in terms of style it’s identical.


So let’s get this out of the way first. The “Crash Heard Around the World”, when you lost 1/3 of your Velvet Glove production to an unfortunate container accident. What’s come of that?

It was an incredible story. Back in July, there was the press release about $1 million dollars of our wine in Australia being dropped, and it was the 2010 Velvet Glove…it was incredible. The whole time since then has been amazing. It was just “one of those things”, a mechanical failure. Nothing you could do about it.


I’m sure the guy who dropped it felt pretty bad!

<Laughs> Oh yeah! The forklift driver was devastated. We ended up bringing every-single box back to the winery, and we had them all laid out, and it was just like a cemetery! Tombstone, after tombstone, after tombstone. We inspected every single case, and nothing was recovered. All 462 cases got destroyed.


But looking on the bright-side…you did get a good amount of publicity of out it!

Yeah! The number of people that have heard of Mollydooker as a part of the crash, there are probably a few balancing points going into it as well!

Interview with Sparky Marquis from Mollydooker

When we first met, back in 2009, Mollydooker didn’t have much of a Social Media presence, not that many other wineries did. Now you’ve almost come up to be one of the leaders.  Can you talk a little about that.

For us, social media has been such an important factor of what we do. I can remember, it wasn’t that long ago that we were in a process of writing individual emails to people, then it gets to a point where email just wasn’t cutting it. We have around 22,000 people on our mailing list.

Mom was always super excited about social media, Facebook and Twitter, but none of us really understood it…

…that’s funny! Since she’s the older one…

That’s right! I mean, she couldn’t quite work out how it get it to work properly, but we knew that we needed to get on-board, and quickly. What we were seeing in the wine world was an interaction of people, so we started implementing social media. We started badly, as we had setup ourselves as a personal account instead of a company account.


Everyone makes that mistake.

Lesson learned, you know. From Facebook, we started looking at Twitter, and again we went at it the same way we were doing in the email days….one-on-one…

Mollydooker  - The Big Boys!

Well, I know what you’re saying, but I think that’s admirable. I know it takes time, but I personally watch your Twitter account, and I know that if someone mentions Mollydooker on Twitter, they’ll receive a personal message from the Mollydooker winery. I think that’s very powerful, from a customer service stand-point.

Yeah…well it’s funny. Just yesterday, a Twitter post went up about a Mollydooker tasting that’s going to happen tomorrow in Florida. The only thing is, we didn’t know about it! So we were like “Great! Alright!”, ok, we better work that into our plans then! So it’s lucky we saw it on Twitter, and it just so happens that we’re in the area.

So now, we monitor all the airwaves with what’s happening when people talk about Mollydooker. We do respond personally to every person.


So you do see a return on investment in social media for the winery?

I would say very definitely! It was slow at the start, but now we’re in a massive acceleration phase, and what’s interesting is that, at Mollydooker, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of things. So we when start things people are always like “what are they doing!?!? They’re a bit weird!!!” Then, all of a sudden, we seem to have almost become the leaders of the field, and then everyone else is like “Oh wow! We should have been doing that!”
Luckily for everyone else, we’re happy to share our experiences.

Mollydooker Two Left Feet with the New QR Code

I noticed that you’ve started putting QR codes on all your wines bottles, now.

Yeah, first vintage we’ve done that. So you can zap our bottles, and it goes straight to our mobile website. We’ve added to our mobile website, so you can now plug-in your postcode, and you can find exactly where-else that wine is available, which bottle-shop, which restaurant.
I think we’ve definitely been awoken to the possibilities, and now we’re much quicker to react.


I see you’ve been working with Rick Bakas (ex-social media manager for St Supery winery). I mean, you have to get bombarded by all the different huge PR companies wanting to work with you. So, out of all the companies you could have chosen to work with why chose a single-guy, small operation?

For us, we really don’t think there’s anything new with all this social media stuff. It’s just a better way to service people.
Rick happened to be down in Australia, and Mom went to a conference on social media in the wine industry, and Rick was presenting at that.

What I think most of the problem is that, most companies that approach us, think that they should be telling us what to do, instead of asking what they can do for us. There’s a difference.
So we took Rick on, as we liked the way he approached our business. So we started working together, and our very first project coincided at the exact same time as the Velvet Glove crash. It’s funny because, we were working on a viral marketing campaign, some way to create buzz and excitement around our brand. We devised this plan to name one of our wines, and people would submit their suggestions on our website. The winner would get a trip to Australia to our winery.

So we we just about to launch this huge marketing campaign, and we were going to release the name of the winner on a Monday. Problem was, the Friday before was when the container dropped! And the press on the container drop went TOTALLY VIRAL! So we had spent all of this time, all of this effort on a viral marketing campaign…


..when in-fact, all you needed to do was break $1 million in wine!

<laughs> EXACTLY! So we ended up having to delay the whole project, because there was so much viral press going on in every single media! So we held the original program back for about 4 weeks, before we felt that noise had died down from the container crash.

Mollydooker Blend a Hand Wine Tasting

So you’ve chosen a name for your new wine?

Yeah, it’s Miss Molly, Sparkling Shiraz.


When are you launching it?

Errrrm…first week of December.


So it replaces Goosebumps?



Is that just a one-off thing, or is that a long-term project?

No, it’s a long-term thing. We’re super excited about it! We’re actually using the proper Champagne process, no carbonation. I just spoke with Sarah not that long ago…she was actually at the printers getting the labels done. <Thinks for a few seconds> You know what? I could actually send you a mock-up! Nobody has seen it yet! I’ll get your email address once we’re done, and I’ll send it to you!


That would be great!

Below is the first-ever look at the new Mollydooker Label: Miss Molly.

Mollydooker Miss Molly Sparkling Shiraz


Alright, last couple of questions.
With the huge wine glut that seems to have been going on in Australia for the last few years, you have still been selling out of all your wines every single vintage. So what are you doing that the rest of Australia needs to be doing? I mean…you have great wine bottle packaging…but there’s plenty of other Australian wineries emulating that. And of course the quality of the juice in the bottle plays a big role. Let’s face it, most of your wines aren’t inexpensive.

Yeah, well, we start at $25 for our Lefty wines…and go upwards from there.


Understood…but I don’t know that the majority of people are even spending that much.

Our overall philosophy is that we always wanted to make sure that the wine in the bottle is 2x quality levels above the price on the outside. We want people to say, “WOW! We’re drinking the Boxer, and we can’t understand why we’re only paying $25 for it.” That then honors them for the work that they do, so they can buy our wine.

The second part to it is a three question test, that we ourselves go through with all of our wines.
The first question is: would I drink a glass of it?
That’s a question that we ask ourselves through the whole maturation process. If they answer’s, no. We don’t use that parcel of wine. We sell it off. If the answer’s yes, it moves on.
The second question is: would I drink a bottle of it? Again, same result.
Question three is, we just add: by myself? Would I drink a bottle by myself?
I think our main point is that we can answer without hesitation that we would drink a bottle of every-single one of our wines, by ourselves. We want people to know that we aren’t making our wines for any type of commercial or economic program. What we did is create something we are super-passionate about, that we love, are totally focused on, that’s part of our life, and they can taste it.


So almost like, you’re just making wine for yourself, but you’re making too much of it, so you have to sell it.


Mollydooker Blend a Hand Wine Tasting at the Jacksonville University Club


  • November 1, 2011


    Where was that last picture taken?

  • November 1, 2011

    Kris Chislett

    At the University Club, top floor of the Wachovia building in Jacksonville.

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