This is a story that has its beginnings when Sarah met Sparky whilst studying Winemaking in South Australia in 1987. The two students soon discovered that they shared the same values of integrity and commitment to excellence. When these two achievers began to make wine together in 1994, it was the beginning of what was destined to become a huge success. Sarah and Sparky combined their strengths and talents to produce wines that seriously make people go “WOW!”
Sarah’s desire to create something that people would love and enjoy spurred her on to pursue studies in Oenology (Winemaking) at Roseworthy College. At the age of 24, Sparky was already an award-winning Scientific Photographer, but when his parents established a vineyard and winery in Tasmania, he eagerly volunteered to complete a Winemaking course so that he could assist them. He began his degree at Roseworthy in 1986. His enthusiasm and commitment to his studies won him many awards, prizes and trophies, including top student of the College, the award for the student most likely to contribute to the Australian Wine Industry, and an overseas trip to France and the US to present his Canopy Management Thesis. Sparky had commenced the research for this thesis long before attending college, and over the past twenty years he and his team have continued to further test and develop his ideas. This research is the secret to Sarah and Sparky’s success today.
After completing their studies, Sarah travelled to Western Australia and Japan to make wine, whilst Sparky ventured overseas. Sparky later returned to Roseworthy College as a lecturer in Sensory Evaluation. Despite their time apart, Sarah and Sparky’s relationship continued to strengthen and they eventually married in 1991.
In 1994, Sarah and Sparky went to work with Sarah’s parents, Jim and Helen Watts, at Fox Creek. The very first wine they made together was an instant success. In 1995, the day after the winery received its producer’s licence, the Fox Creek Shiraz took out the top award at the McLaren Vale Wine Show and Sarah and Sparky became the Bushing King and Queen. They won the title again in 1998, the first dual Winemaking team ever to win the award twice. Wearing their gowns and crowns and accompanied by their young son, Luke, they soon became well-known ambassadors for the area.
For almost 20 years now, Sarah and Sparky have been dedicated to the crafts of Vine Canopy Management and Winemaking. Their success is due to a combination of their vision, planning, commitment and determination, along with their wine-blending skills. The result has been their signature style: Wines That Make People Go “Wow!”. They devote long hours to the tasting bench and to ensuring that their team work with their trademark “attention to detail and commitment to excellence” in winery procedures and in the intricacies of the Vineyard Watering Programme.
In 1998, Sarah and Sparky formed their own company, intending to produce modest volumes of high quality wines for Henry’s Drive of Padthaway and for the Shirvingtons of McLaren Vale. The phenomenal 1998 Henry’s Drive and Parson’s Flat wines saw them selected as “Australian Winemakers of the Year” in 2000. The stunning 2001 Shirvington Cabernet earned them the title of “McLaren Vale Bushing King and Queen” for a record-breaking third time, and the 2002 Shirvington Shiraz received 99 points from Robert Parker. They formed a joint venture, Marquis Philips, with a first release of 8,000 cases in 2001.
After rapturous acclaim in the USA, it sold out almost immediately. By vintage 2004, Marquis Philips’ production had increased to 120,000 cases. Its icon wine, “Integrity”, twice gained 99 points from Robert Parker, and Marquis Philips was selected as one of Wine Spectator’s “Top 20 value oriented wineries in the world”.
In 2005, Sarah and Sparky’s ultimate dream came true: they began to develop their own label. After 10 years of building five successful brands they are now focusing all their efforts on their new brand, “Mollydooker” (an Aussie term for left-hander, which describes both Sarah and Sparky!). With Sparky’s parents helping them run the company and the vineyards, and with the dedicated Mollydooker team, Sarah and Sparky aim to continue doing what they love: creating incredible wines that make people go “WOW”.
© Carl J. Kanowsky