Peter Ranscombe begins his journey through the 12 wines of Christmas with Marimar Estate in California.
HEAR the name “Torres” and its natural to think of the family’s Spanish vineyards.
Yet the country’s most famous winemaking dynasty is now arguably equally as famous for its vines in Chile.
What’s perhaps less well-known is that the clan also makes wine in Sonoma, one of the most interesting parts of California.
Away from the glitz and glamour of neighbouring Napa Valley, Sonoma feels like it’s a step closer to wine’s farming origins, as I found out while visiting back in 2017.
Marimar Torres planted her first vines in 1986 in a former apple orchard in Green Valley, the coolest and foggiest part of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.
She named it “Don Miguel Vineyard” after her father, and added a winery on the site in 1992.
Eight years later, she planted pinot noir vines along the cooler Sonoma Coast, naming her second vineyard “Doña Margarita” after her mother.
A recent online tasting hosted by Marimar and her daughter, Cristina, who joined her mother’s company earlier this year, focused on wines made from the grapes grown in their Don Miguel vineyard.
Their 2017 Marimar Estate La Masia Chardonnay (£29.95, Fareham Wine Cellar) has that classic Californian chardonnay nose – all tinned peach, ripe melon, and pineapple, complete with a drizzle of honey.
This is no over-ripe monster though; there’s sufficient acidity to balance the ripe fruit, with a lick of butter on the finish too.
It’s the texture that’s most impressive though, with classy lemon rind and red apple skin sensations along the gums.
Thirty quid is a lot of money for wine, but this chardonnay is worth every penny.
Offering equal value for money is its red twin, the 2017 Marimar Estate La Masia Pinot Noir (£35.95, Fareham Wine Cellar).
It too offers everything you want when you pick up a bottle of Californian pinot – the rich and ripe fruit, the sweet and spicy oak, the bright yet balanced tannin.
Lots of complexity among the attractive aromas and flavours, ranging from cloves and cinnamon through to red plum, red cherry, and raspberry jam.
Forty pounds would buy some excellent pinots from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or even Chile, yet this bottle from Marimar’s Don Miguel vineyard would easily hold its own among the best of them.
Tomorrow: the 12 wines of Christmas continue with Argentina.
In the meantime, read more of Peter’s vinous adventures on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.