Marimar Estate, 2020 Don Miguel Vineyard, Albariño Russian River Valley
Marimar Torres lives on a hill bordered by vineyards. Her house is a stone’s throw from where she makes wine. It’s a result she might not have imagined before.
“In Spain, winemaking was not for women,” said the winemaker of the Marimar estate in Sevastopol. “My family has been growing vines since the 17th century and the business has been passed down from father to son since 1870.”
Torres, 75, said when she was 29 she started dreaming of having a vineyard and later having a winery.
“I’ve always said we had dreams because we’re supposed to make them happen,” she said.
Torres created our Wine of the Week winner – Marimar Estate, 2020 Don Miguel Vineyard, Russian River Valley Albariño, 13%, $34. It’s a refreshing albariño with racy acidity and gorgeous stone fruit. It has layered flavors of nectarine, white peach and mineral. Although vibrant, the fruit of this albariño returns its crunchy acid. It’s impressive.
Other tasty exotic whites are Gloria Ferrer, 2019 Estate Carneros Pinot Blanc, 13%, $26; Gundlach-Bundschu, 2020 Sonoma Coast Gewurztraminer, 13.5%, $25; Husch Vineyards, Mendocino Chenin Blanc 2020, 13.2%, $16; and Guillaume de Guers, NV Picpoul de Pinet, France, 14.1%, $14.
As for the winning albariño, Torres said she really likes the varietal with its Spanish heritage.
“When I visited Galicia (in northwestern Spain) about 20 years ago, I thought Albariño was the best white wine in Spain and decided to bring cuttings,” she said. “It’s a great pairing with many types of foods popular in our region, such as raw or grilled seafood, smoked salmon, sushi and Asian cuisine. And, of course, with tapas.
When it reaches its potential, the albariño is flavorful and crunchy and has a minerality reminiscent of wet stones, Torres said.
Torres planted his vineyard in 1986, studied at UC Davis in 1988, and built his winery in 1992.
The Marimar Estate team had already picked the albariño grapes before smoke from the 2020 wildfires could affect them.
“We were able to get the bright flavors and complex aromas that we are looking for in our albariño,” Torres said. “While ours shares some similarities with those from Spain, such as minerality and good acidity, it has a hint of our California sunshine.”
Albariño, Torres said, can be tricky to grow in vineyards.
“It can be quite vigorous, so balancing the vines is very important,” Torres said. “We remove as many clusters as necessary to achieve this. We divided the canopy using what we call a “crocodile tooth” pruning system, with alternating spurs on the cord arms.
The bite of crocodile teeth gives way to dappled sunlight on the bunches of grapes.
“Once you’ve planted the vines in the right place, picking the grapes at the right time of maturity is key,” Torres said. “I like to say, ‘Listen to the grapes.’ They will let you know the wine they want to become.
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at [email protected] and 707-521-5310.