Fist sized stones click together and rattle gently into one another below your feet as you walk. To your left, trellised vines creeping towards autumn as orange begins to color their lowest leaves, and to your right, bush vines of Tinto de Toro, Tempranillo's local name. Beautiful mostly-flat countryside stretches out far as the eye can see, warmed by the sun beating down from above wispy clouds sweeping across the sapphire sky. A cooling breeze blows through the vineyard. Welcome to Toro, Spain.
You will find Bodegas San Román, of Bodegas y Viñedos Maurodos, here amongst country that would have been wasted on anything less than the vineyards where stunning wine gets its start. About equidistant from the small towns of Morales de Toro and San Román de Hornija, San Román sits just a couple of kilometers inside the Province of Valladolid, east of the border with Zamora about two hours northwest of Madrid. A remarkable characteristic example of what makes wine from the Toro DO region so unique, we found San Román and its cousin, Prima, to be spectacular fusions of Old World grapes and technique with the big and bold qualities so loved by many wine drinkers.
San Román wines are available in retail and restaurants in the United States. This list is by no means all-inclusive, just our recommendations close to where we call home!
- Washington, DC / Northern Virginia: Both San Román and Prima at The Vineyard of McLean (1445 Laughlin Ave, McLean, VA) starting on Friday 20 January 2017, show this post on Wine:Thirty Flight for a discount on these bottles; San Román by the bottle at SER Restaurant in Arlington (1110 North Glebe Road, Arlington, VA).
- New York: Available at Penn Wine and Spirits in Penn Station (Located in the Exit Concourse of the LIRR level, between tracks 16&17).
- Massachusetts: We believe that San Román can be available through Blanchard's in West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Revere, Marshfield, and Hyannis... but we have been unable to directly confirm this suspicion. Give them a call or go visit!
- Williamsburg, VA and Online: Available at La Tienda in store (1325 Jamestown Rd, Williamsburg, VA) or shipped via www.tienda.com.
Purchased to produce the bodega's first vintage in 1997, local San Román vineyards feature different soils, mixes of clay and sand, some at the higher elevations built up completely by a layer of stones. These are hearty vines -- some as old as 50 years -- that have penetrated the clay to reach the water table in a region that offers minimal rain, very dry summer sun, and less water in the soil. Indeed, typical soil in Toro is less nutrient rich relative to other regions, so though the overall production is less than (say) Ribera del Duero, the wine that does result is the distinctly bold yield of high quality vines. We arrived in late October, about three weeks after the end of a 2016 harvest whose wet spring followed by dry summer we expect to produce an excellent vintage.
San Román has historically produced all red wines, mostly Tinta de Toro with a bit of Garnacha included in the Prima, which is seeing about twelve months in barrel as opposed to (around) thirty-two months for the San Román. We had a lot of fun with our host, Juan, moving about the cellar tasting and comparing wine from barrel to barrel. We tried a new higher end wine they're working on from their El Pozo vineyard, straight from the barrel, and found silky complex tannins, licorice, anise, cloves, and caramel in its current state of evolution. They bottled the first 2012 vintage in 2015, so we're hoping to see the finished product available starting in 2017.
Our tasting notes here are unique because we were able to drink later vintages at the winery than are available today in the United States. We've therefor included our thoughts on both. Think of it as a glimpse into the future for North American readers. Retailing at around $60 for the San Román and $25 for the Prima, these are two wines that punch well above their price point to delight even the most discerning wine drinkers. Enjoy!
2012: The flagship San Román has been a market winner for Toro, taking in a well-deserved 95 point rating at #26 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2016. You know this wine is big, bold, and beautiful from the very first brush. We found there to be rather alcoholic hot weather fruit notes in the nose, cherry, and just a touch smokiness. Tongue-coating tannins give way to velvety cherry, with a richly warm sense of cedar and smoke. Made exclusively from Tinta de Toro, this is one of the finest examples of wine from Toro that we have found. It is robust personality meeting Old World styling, the perfect cross over wine for those who enjoy big New World reds. We recommend drinking San Román with food, particularly something cedar or hickory smoked.
2013: "Phenomenal and amazing" were all we could choke out at first. There's raspberry in front, followed by black currant. Truly exquisite, and a great paired with root vegetables. We drank this wine with one of the most incredible lunches we've ever had at a restaurant called El Chivo, just down the street from the winery in Morales de Toro. It was brilliant with the chickpeas and calamari of the first course, and particularly with the traditionally prepared lamb in the main course.
2013: A blend of 90% Tinta de Toro and 10% Garnacha, Prima is the cousin of the higher end San Román (indeed, "Prima" means "cousin"). Though younger and less expensive, it is equally amazing in its own class. More fruit forward with notes of cherry -- yet still a bit woody -- it is bright and expressive, like freshly cut wood rather than smoldering smoke. Though its freshness reminds us of the forest in springtime, we found Prima to be quite appealing in winter. It's a bit less bold than the San Román, but also less aggressively tannic. We first tried this in the barrel room at the winery, and enjoyed it again at home as a wonderful pair with balsamic and garlic aioli on our balsamic onion burgers. Also consider drinking with semi-sweet baking dark chocolate, which brings out incredible spice notes in this great wine.
2014: We tasted the 2014 Prima out of the bottle at the winery, where the blend changes a bit from 2013 to include 85% Tinta de Toro and 15% Garnacha. Nice acidity, yet jammy, we found it to be equally impressive with new notes of prune and raisin in the nose, cacao powder and a hint of vanilla blending in the palate with similar fruit sensations as its older brother from 2013.