Molly’s Cradle Wines
Winemaking business established by Steve Skidmore and then wife Deidre Broad in 2000. Now a family concern: son Ben Skidmore is general manager; daughters Kate Walker and Monique Skidmore run marketing and design respectively. Employ 12 out of Warriewood office on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Hunter Valley, Mudgee, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Pyrenees region.
The story so far
Steve and Deidre spent two decades running their own marketing agency with a client list that was dominated by some of the big alcohol players. “It’s a little simplistic,” says Steve, “but after 20 years of helping other people build their brands we decided we would have a go ourselves.”
They started with their first vintage at Rothbury in the Hunter Valley in 2002, eventually producing a brut sparkling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, verdelho, merlot and shiraz as part of the now core Estate Range. More recently, they’ve added Molly May – what they refer to as their entry-level range – which includes sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay, a cabernet merlot blend and shiraz.
As well, an offering pitched at the more premium end of the market. The Cradle Reserve Range consists of shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and vintage brut sparkling.
“I guess the feeling we had out there in the market place was that while we were marching along nicely with Molly’s Cradle, introducing entry level and premium has really broadened our consumer appeal,” says Steve.
Recognition has followed: the Cradle Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 was awarded 94 points by James Halliday and named among his Best Cellaring Wines for 2014. The 2012 shiraz was a finalist in Winestate Magazine’s 2014 Wine of the Year, and the Cradle Cabernet Sauvignon scored a bronze medal in the 2014 Royal Queensland Wine Show.
The turning point for Molly’s Cradle, if you like, came three or so years ago when they were approached by a consortium to buy one of their Rothbury properties (100 acres, five-star accommodation, cellar door seven days a week and under vine). “That was a little bit unexpected … we put a lot of thought into it – at that time 95 per cent of our product was all Hunter Valley,” says Steve. “The feedback we got, rightly or wrongly, was that consumers were invariably reaching for SA products as a general preference, over other growing regions.”
The gamble has paid off. Today, they have properties under contract in Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and the Pyrenees. And, crucially, in a relentlessly tough market, sales are good. Steve: “In the past 12 months, they’ve doubled actually.” He adds that they still call the Hunter home.
And winemakers? Adam Jacobs looks after the premium end Cradle Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. “They’re both off single blocks in McLaren Vale, so you start to get nice continuity,” says Steve. “He prepareds these wines just the way we like them.”
Blue Pyrenees owner Andrew Koerner looks after the vintage brut sparkling, John Loxton has been involved with Estate Range products along with Rob Hooper, who also takes care of the entry level Molly May.
Steve says the diversification of winemakers made sense when they were starting to get varieties from different sources. “It’s too difficult to crush locally and bring all the way back to the Hunter, for example.”
A key element of their strategy has been choosing not to sell into the chains. “Yes, we do business at a retail level,” says Steve, “but smaller boutiques and invidually owned group operators. It’s easy when you reflect backwards, but that’s one of the smartest things we’ve done.” He says it’s about protecting long-time on-premise customers – which include the Accor hotels group. “Nobody likes customers coming up and saying they bought it cheaper at one of the chains.”
The Estate range also sells into Indonesia (“though I’d probably drink more than we sell over there,” says Steve) and they’ve been plugging away at the tough Chinese market. “China is a big opportunity – we stuck our toe in the water there and have had some victories, with the range being sold in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhong by a major distributor and the entire range listed and showcased in the prestigious Hilton Wangfungjing Beijing,” says Steve.
Now, for Steve, working with family is a big part of what it’s all about. “It’s the driver for me; it’s not the easiest business to be in.”
Ben, who has come up through the ranks and is now general manager, reckons up to now the missing link an opportunity for Molly’s Cradle has been online sales. “With our new website, we’re hoping to grow this segment and chase some of the big players who are selling lots of wine online,” he says, ambitiously.
In their words – three of Molly’s Cradle’s finest
Cradle Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale SA 14.8%
Our 2013 Cradle Shiraz is deep red brick in colour, bordering on back. The nose carries a first up chocolate and mocha aroma evolving to a suggested waft of Christmas cake.
The well-balanced combination of oak introduces a rich, smooth and velvety palate, with intense sweet grape and fruit flavours underscored by tones of liquorice and Christmas cake.
Cradle Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
McLaren Vale SA 14.3%
This wine is deep purple to red in colour, on the nose aromas of chocolate and cigar box dominate, whilse on the palate tones of mocha are added to hints of chocolate. The palate further exhibits a deep richness and wonderful mouthfeel, a result of well-managed oak integration.
Cradle Sparking 2010 Vintage Methode Champenoise
Pyrenees VIC 12.3%
Our 2010 vintage is a brilliant straw green in colour with a pale pink hue and fine consistent beading. The nose exhibits complex aromas of toast and freshly baked biscuits. The palate exhibits a lovely balance of red and green apple tones along with subtle hints of lemon, added to this a fresh acidity and a lingering mouth feel with aged complexity. The wine is method champenoise, made with cuvees from classical and premium varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Just-launched wine club, The Cradle, at mollyscradle.com.au
. “All the benefits of a general wine club,” spruiks Ben. But no locked-in commitment – purchase as little or as much as you want. And receive 20 per cent off across the range, including specials, plus first-release vintage opts, and city escape hotel packages.