WOMEN POWER IN THE WINE INDUSTRY: Introducing Marimar Estate
After a recent zoom tasting, I was inspired to share my learnings and thoughts on this interesting and dynamic winery run by mother Marimar Torres and daughter Cristina Torres. And yes, they come from the empire that is the Torres Family from Spain. In fact Marimar’s brother is the esteemed Miguel Torres who is running the show as President of both their Bodegas in Spain and in Chile.
In the 1980s Marimar, a real trailblazer, went off to Sonoma, California, at a time when this region was just apple groves. She set upon Green Valley which is the coolest sub-region within the Russian River Valley.
Why is Green Valley so cool?
There is an opening in the coastal mountains called Petaluma Gap. As Green Valley is the
most southern-western, and closest to this ‘Gap’, it receives all the cooling afternoon breezes and morning fog that takes ages to burn off. This process has the amazing effect of creating vibrant fruit flavours and great acidity.
It’s interesting to point out that if you go further inland in Russian River Valley to the North-East, it is Cabernet Sauvignon county due to being so much warmer.
Marimar likes to say they are on the ‘right’ side of the mountains. It is in fact on the LEFT side, but it’s the BETTER side – not Napa! So, don’t tell their Napa Valley friends.
The vineyard in the Green Valley is called Don Miguel, named after Marimar and Miguel’s late father. The property was purchased in 1983 and first planted to Chardonnay in 1986. It might be hard to believe, but at that particular point in time, Pinot Noir was not a thing.
The Second Vineyard
Right next to Green Valley on the western side is the Sonoma Coast and the location of their second vineyard, named Doña Margarita, after their mother.
The story of the suitcase cuttings
Now if you meet Marimar herself you will quickly see she is a woman full of spunk. Incredible energy with a real warmness of heart, and so I was not surprised at all, as I learned about the story of the suitcase cuttings.
You may already know of the progressive and pioneering nature of Miguel Torres who has spent the last 30 odd years hunting out forgotten and almost extinct ancestral varieties. Quite clearly the same spirit lies within Marimar who took it upon herself to fill suitcases, which looked more like big shoe boxes, with 20 cuttings of each chosen variety and ship them (perhaps slightly unofficially) back to California in 2004. An inspector did come to the winery to look around the vineyards, but according to Cristina Torres, Marimar’s daughter, her mother used her charm, and the inspector left happy but empty handed. Lucky for us, we now have some interesting sounding grape varieties Pirene, Moneu and Gonfaus growing slightly further away from their native Spanish homeland. Pirene is Marimars favourite, but we will need to wait until 2022 for the first tiny crop to be produced.
They also grow some more well-known Spanish varieties, Tempranillo, Albariño and Godello.
Being authentic and true
Although focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with some additional motivation from brother Miguel Torres, Marimar planted many Spanish varieties in her Sonoma Valley vineyard. To keep the Spanish connection truly alive, the Catalan inspired farmhouse and winery was built in 1992. It sits on a hill, surrounded by vines, planted in a very European style: much higher density than what is normally expected in California, and with vines trained very close to the ground. The vineyards are a testimony to what is now five generations of Spanish winemaking experience, devotion, and achievements.
Their sustainable ethos
Marimar Estate is certified organic, however over the years they have moved to taking a much more holistic approach. As Cristina explained, if you only focus on organics, you can be going through the vineyards many times with tractors applying organic treatments, however your carbon footprint isn’t going to be great. Sustainability is far more encompassing. To that end, their winery, tasting room and farmhouse are run 100% on solar energy. With regard to Biodynamics, Marimar very refreshingly mentioned that she did jump on the bandwagon when this word started being thrown about, however she never actually saw any difference, and so she stopped. “It is better to go with your own philosophy than just be searching for keywords” remarked Marimar.
Never ones to sit around, their latest project, that has got the girls rather excited, is moving to Diam cork in 2018. But not just any of the Diam corks – The Diam Origine. These corks are as expensive as natural cork, if not more. This is the only cork you can call fully natural. It is amalgamated with beeswax, whereby even ‘natural’ cork has some impurities. They are working with the Diam Origine 30 for their top Pinot Noirs. This guarantees a minimum ageing in bottle of 30 years.
And so that leads me on to the new releases from their Don Miguel Vineyard, that I recently tasted, and I can tell you, these wines are up there with the best of the year! All had vibrancy, were intensely aromatic and carried a powdery sherbet like texture that gave softness and ethereal beauty. See below my tasting notes:
Albariño 2019 £29.99 www.vinissimus.co.uk
Intense and aromatic with sun kissed peach, mango, jasmine, spicy pear and orange cream.
The wine is luscious, full bodied with a powdery, chalky texture. It’s floral with notes of orange sorbet and peach sherbet (if that’s a thing!)
La Masia Chardonnay 2019 £30.25 www.farehamwinecellar.co.uk
Intense exotic fruits; passionfruit, pineapple and guava along with some banana cream and vanilla bean – the nose is a delight!
Full bodied, smooth and creamy with ripe but sharp fruits of apple, pineapple and lemon sherbet and a touch of buttery pie crust. The wine dances, it has a lightness and lift mid palate.
Christina Pinot Noir 2017 £46 www.vinvm.co.uk
Ripe red cherries, red stewed plums along with a little darker cherry and even blueberries. Hints of licorice, star anise and wood smoke and even a touch of mocha and bitter chocolate shards.
Medium bodied, fresh and lively with intense fruits, powdery tannins and again this sherbet-like note!