My wife and I have been visiting Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery in the Sonoma County town of Graton for quite a few years now. Founded by Marimar Torres, a member of the prominent Torres winemaking family in Spain, Marimar Estate produces very high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as Spanish varietals such as Albariño and Tempranillo. Although she hated all California wines, I’m certain my mother would have loved Marimar Estate wines, Marimar Torres herself, and the great food-based events that they hold throughout the year.
My mother was born and raised in Spain and lived there until she was over thirty years old. By the time she passed away, she had lived more than half of her life outside of her native country, most of those years in the United States. Nevertheless, throughout her life she maintained a strong identify as a Spaniard and loved the food and wine that she grew up with. My brothers and I all have memories of Mom’s food – Spanish tortilla, croquetas, bacalao, the giant blocks of Manchego cheese she would bring when she visited. Without question, though, Mom had a signature dish – paella. Every time she visited she would make many of her delicacies but alway would make at least one paella. Coupled with the paella? Red wine of course. What kind of red wine? Red wine from Rioja, Spain.
Over the course of my adult life I tried to impress my mother by taking her to fancy restaurants that purported to make good Spanish food. All of these efforts ended in failure and, occasionally, disaster. As soon as the paella was placed on the table my mother would begin her meticulous inspection and quickly find something wrong with it: it was too watery (“this is soup, not paella”); or had the wrong ingredients (“you don’t put this in paella”); it lacked the saffron necessary to turn the rice yellow; or it was seasoned improperly. On one occasion in a Spanish restaurant in Hollywood my mother even called for the chef to come out and asked him a single question: “Does this paella have cilantro?” “Yes!” the chef replied enthusiastically. “This isn’t paella, then,” she answered, and proceeded to explain to him how paella should be made. He attempted to defend himself by saying the paella was “his take” on the classic dish and, admittedly, had some more Mexican and South American influences. “It’s just rice, then,” she concluded, and did not take a second bite. This scene repeated itself in different forms, but equally embarrassing (for me) moments, many times.
We have visited Marimar Estate many times for regular tastings as well as their “big events” such as their library tastings and their paella dinners.
I can say confidently that Mom would have loved both the wines and the food and would have seen a lot of herself in Marimar. No, my mother did not make wine, but she had an energy and spirit that I see in Marimar Torres each time we visit the winery. Growing up in Spain during the rule of dictator Francisco Franco, both my mother and Marimar experienced a Spain where women were not equal to men and certainly not encouraged to pursue their own careers. Certainly when Marimar was a young woman in Spain the notion of a female winemaker or winery CEO would have been almost unimaginable. Despite the expectations that society and family had for her, Marimar had big plans. For starters, she obtained a degree at the University of Barcelona – in economics and business! After graduating she was able to convince her father to permit her to sell their wines abroad, including in the United States. It was during her time in California that she fell in love with Sonoma and found the parcel that would become the estate property for her vineyards and winery.
The Marimar Estate is located close to the town of Sebastopol on the top of a hill with amazing views of the Sonoma Valley (facing east). On the estate property there are 60 acres planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes; this property is called Don Miguel Vineyard, an homage to Marimar’s father. About four miles west, closer to the Pacific Ocean, is Doña Margarita Vineyard named after Marimar’s mother.
All of the grapes on the Don Miguel estate are farmed organically and Marimar powers her winery with solar power. We really appreciate this commitment to the environment and the results are evident in the wines: whenever we share them with friends they tell us how “clean” the wines taste. Our favorite Marimar wines include the several Pinot Noir offerings as well as the Tempranillo. Although my mother mostly refused to drink anything other than Tempranillo from Rioja, I know she would have enjoyed Marimar’s Pinot for its full-bodied flavor, balance and sophistication. She would also have enjoyed the paella.
We assure you that this paella was 100% authentic and did not contain cilantro! On this visit our 19-year old daughter came and ended up serving as designated driver so that we could enjoy all of the fantastic wines. She did, naturally, enjoy multiple servings of the paella. If anyone was counting, they would have noticed that after finishing the first plate I went back for seconds. And thirds.
We toasted to Mom while we enjoyed the paella and wished that we had found Marimar earlier so we could have taken her to the winery and one of their paella dinners.
John & Irene Ingersoll
January 17, 2017