Sun 28 Nov 2010
I receive wine samples almost daily, but they come, delivered by the friendly personnel of UPS or FedEx, from wineries, importers and marketing firms here in the United States of America. Recently, however, I received samples directly from a producer in Spain’s Toro region, part of the state of Castilla y León, nestled right up against Portugal, where the Duero river, flowing west and south, becomes the Douro. The producer is Bodegas Fariña, and the wines were made primarily from tempranillo grapes, or, rather, from tinto de Toro, a clone of tempranillo. The snug but scary little plastic foam box arrived at my doorstep despite the fact that my name, the street name and the city were all misspelled. I mean, there might be a mysterious town called Menphis somewhere in Tennessee, emerging now and then like Brigadoon, and the box could have gone astray, but fortunately (miraculously?) it arrived safely.
The town of Zamora, “the museum of the Romanesque,” is the center of the Toro region (and the capital of the province of Zamora) and the headquarters of Bodegas Fariña. The nearest airport, apparently — reports are slightly contradictory — is at Valladolid, the capital of the state of Castilla y León. So the package was assembled in Zamora and taken to the UPS store, driven, one assumes, to the airport at Valladolid, loaded on an airplane and shipped to — Cologne! That’s right, the sticker you see in the accompanying image carries the abbreviation CGN, which happens to be the code letters for the Cologne-Bonn airport, where UPS has a giant European hub. Checked out by the authorities there — no bomb! whew! — from thence, it was flown across the cold, gray, dolphin-flecked Atlantic to land, eventually, at my front door.
The Dama de Toro line is a new label for Bodegas Fariña, at least in the U.S. The winery was founded in 1942, when the region’s wines were rustic and rough and reached alcohol levels on 17 percent. Salvador Fariña revolutionized production by moving the harvest forward, to lower alcohol to 13 or 13.5 percent, and introducing stainless steel tanks. Salvador’s s son Manuel ran the property for many years; his son Bernardo now operates the family-owned winery.
Dama de Toro wines are imported by Specialty Cellars, Santa Fe Springs, Cal.
Aged four months in half-and-half French and American oak barrels, and containing a dollop of garnacha (grenache) grapes, the Dama de Toro Tempranillo 2008 offers aromas of pure fresh and dried red and black currants with dried baking spice and touches of dried flowers. It gets a little earthy, a little mossy and funky and then draws up flavors of plum and black raspberry, shale and a sort of minerally-tannic-oaky dusty character as foundation. Nothing profound, but a pleasing personality and delicious effect. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2012 or ’13. Very Good+. About $12, a Great Bargain.
An older vintage, longer time in barrels — eight months American oak — and undefined “old vines” lend the Dama de Toro Crianza 2004 more depth and dimension than its counterpart mentioned above can assay. The color is dark ruby-purple. A seductive bouquet of dried currants, orange zest, plums and violets entices the nose; after a few moments touches of briers and brambles, woody spices and black tea emerge. This complexity is reflected in the mouth in an amalgam of tightly-woven black and red fruit flavors permeated by dried porcini and forest floor, potpourri and violets and, as in the previous example, a plethora of dry, dense, dusty, granite-like features slicked with fairly formidable but finely-milled tannins and balanced by acute acidity. If you’re going to drink this now, try it with braised meat dishes — veal or lamb shanks, short ribs and so on — and rich, mature cheeses or hold on until 2012 or ’13. Alcohol level is 13.5 percent. Very Good+. About $15, another good price for the quality and for an interesting tempranillo experience.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________ The top of this line is the Gran Dama de Toro 2004, made from 80- to 90-year-old vines and aged 15 months in 30 percent French oak, 70 percent American; besides the tempranillo, there’s six percent garnacha in the wine. This is wild and exotic, a creature unto itself, and I found it a little more approachable and drinkable than the Dama de Toro Crianza 2004. What’s here? Macerated and spiced plums and fruit cake; blueberry, mulberry and pomegranate; moss, clean earth, burning leaves and mushrooms; lavender and vanilla, smoke and sandalwood; a dense, dusty velvety texture imbued with fully loaded tannins and a packed-in granite-shale character. This strikes me as a world-class wine that will develop more complexity and be at its best from 2014 or ’15 to 2020 or ’24. Alcohol content is 14 percent. Excellent. About $45.