Thursday, February 16, 2012

Daveyboi. Mr. D. Dinner

I'm all over invitations to dinner, especially when I'm the invitee and not the cook. Daveyboi called up to say he missed our smiling faces ever so and that we absolutely had to come over to his place so that he could lavish us wildly with gourmet fare. Okay, maybe that's not the exact wording, but there was a dinner invite in there and he did say that it'd had been too long - and that we were as good an excuse as any to start up the BBQ for the season.

Mr. D. got the call as well and was able to join us. It might have been the day after Valentine's and there might not have been any romance in the air, but there was plenty of wine and vodka and I figure that makes us a foursome to be reckoned with.

As is often the case, I didn't know much about the wines that were opened until I looked them up after they had been polished off. Turns out we had a couple of "little brothers" tonight. Both bottles are from wineries with some serious cred or bragging rights.

1064. 2004 Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon (McLaren Vale - Australia)

I grabbed the Shingleback because I thought it'd be a good lead up to Boo's and my impending trip to Oz. We've got a quick visit planned to the McLaren Vale, south of Adelaide, and I don't really know much about the area except for the name. I have to admit that I was a tad apprehensive about Shingleback's label. A first glance comes awfully close to the whole "critter wine" dilemma - the range of wines that many claim are trying to capitalize on the popularity of [yellow tail] wines. They generally feature cute animals on the label, are widely available, inexpensive and are filled with an easy drinking wine that is approachable to consumers that might not otherwise know their way around the bottle shop. Critter wines are not always taken that seriously by folks that fancy themselves wine connoisseurs.

Good thing I got past any critter scare because this is far from a wine that is simply seeking out international branding. Indeed, the 2005 D Block Cab Sauv, the next level up of Shingleback wines, won the 2006 Jimmy Watson Trophy - perhaps the most coveted Aussie wine award. The Jimmy Watson is awarded to what is deemed the best one-year old red wine in Australia and its list of winners is legion when it comes to iconic Aussie wines.

Tonight's wine may not have been that big winner for Shingleback - different vintage and approach to what makes the wine - but it is the same varietal, from the same vineyards and should be a good indication of the direct the winery likes to take. And, most importantly for us, it matched up wonderfully with Daveyboi's steaks. I have to admit that the man has a way with meat.

A relatively new winery, Shingleback released its first vintage in 1998, it now produces 100,000 cases annually, with a good proportion being sold in export markets. I don't know if their more premium wines make it to Vancouver shores; however, I know their more entry level label, Red Knot, is available in our market and seems to be well received. Red Knot might be more on the level of a critter wine, but I think I'll have to give it a whirl - and we'll have to keep an eye open for the winery when we hit McLaren Vale.

1065. 2009 Tenuta San Guido - Le Difese (IGT Tuscany - Italy)

Mr. D. brought our second bottle and it's a little brother to Sassicaia, one of Italy's most iconic wines. Le Difese is the third (and newest) wine from Tenuta San Guido - the winery that many feel created the whole concept of the Super Tuscan wine when the 1968 vintage of Sassicaia was first sold in the open market.

Although Rochetta family roots go back to the Medieval and Renaissance periods of Italian history, the estate's history as a winery really only started in the late 1940's. Situated in Bolgheri, a coastal region of Tuscany, there was no history of Cab Sauv as a local wine as Tuscan tradition means Sangiovese. When Mario Rochetta looked at the family vineyards, he felt that the lay of the land and the soils bore a great similarity to the vineyards of Bordeaux and he dreamed of creating a quality wine based on the ideals of a great Bordeaux. Bolgheri, and Tenuta San Guido in particular, is now considered to be the cradle of Italian Cabernet.

Through the 50's and 60's, Rochetta's Cab-based wines were considered inferior and estate wines were limited for family consumption. The family began to see that the wines benefitted from ageing and they began bringing in renowned consultants to improve production standards and the quality of the wine. When the wine was finally deemed worthy of sale on the open market, the new Cabernet wine had to be sold as "table wine" as the non-use of Sangiovese meant that the wine didn't fall within the rules and regulations of local winemaking authorities. When the Cab-based wines started outshining many of the traditional Sangiovese wines, both in international acclaim and price, Italian authorities had to come up with a new classification - IGT or wines displaying typical characteristics of a geographic region - for the newly named Super Tuscans.

Le Difese isn't meant to challenge Sassicaia (or its $190 price tag in government stores), but its being a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese qualifies it as a prime example of what the whole Super Tuscan movement was - and remains - about. The winery looks at Le Defise as being a softer, smoother alternative to Sassicaia - one that is meant to be enjoyed without any need for ageing. I can't say that I recall ever having had an opportunity to try Sassicaia but I'm certainly glad that Mr. D. (and his contacts at Marquis Wines) introduced us to the younger brother. It didn't have the degree of fruit that the Aussie Cab had but I wouldn't turn a bottle away from our dinner table.

Being a school night, I needed to bow out on the evening but "Cheers" to a great dinner, little brother wines, and my brothers in booze, Daveyboi and Mr. D.

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