Flavors Unite: Marimar Estate at Coulisse Amsterdam

Flavors Unite: Marimar Estate at Coulisse Amsterdam.

Last month we were invited for a lunch with Marimar Estate Vineyards. Imported by Walraven-Sax, Marimar’s wines can be found on the best wine lists of the country, and are known for their quality and flavours. Our lunch was hosted at Restaurant Coulisse, located in an old theater in Amsterdam’s city center. This event was covered by our own Martijn Coenen.

After a small chat with some other press and sommeliers, and meeting Marimar Torres, we headed for the tasting room in which we got a small introduction of the Marimar Estate.

A powerful leading lady in wine who took her knowledge from the Torres family from Spain to California back in 1975, and began planting vines in 1986.  She is 4th generation Torres (daughter of Doña Torres and Don Miguel Torres) and was the ambassador of Spanish wines in America for many years before living her dream of having her own winery in California. 

Vines and Vision: The Sustainable Legacy of Marimar Estate in Sonoma County

Established in 1986, the Marimar Estate graces the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. The vineyard’s initiation into the wine world began with the planting of Chardonnay on well-drained sandy loam soils, which are also ideal for Pinot Noir grapes. By 1988, Marimar ventured into planting Pinot Noir, a variety then little known and appreciated.

Marimar adopted an unconventional approach by planting around 2000 vines per acre, significantly exceeding California’s usual density. This strategy, aimed at keeping yields low, results in grapes with enhanced flavor concentration and a more elegant profile in terms of aromas, finesse, and balance. The estate boasts two single vineyards: The Don Miguel Vineyard, with 12 hectares each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the Doña Margarito Vineyard. This larger vineyard spans 72 hectares but dedicates only 8 hectares to Pinot Noir, reserving the remainder for natural conservation, horseback riding, and wildlife. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, just 11 km away, blesses it with cool nights and fresh breezes, creating an ideal microclimate for Pinot Noir.

1988 marked a milestone year with the birth of Christina, Marimar’s only daughter, who was destined to uphold the Torres family’s winemaking legacy in California. The following year saw the debut of the estate’s first Chardonnay, utilizing grapes from three different clones for a unique final blend, sourced from the Don Miguel Vineyard—named in honor of her father. By 1992, not only was the winery’s building completed, adorned with classic Catalonian furniture, but the estate also produced its first Pinot Noir. A decade later, in 2002, Marimar expanded her vineyard holdings with the acquisition and cultivation of the Doña Margarita Vineyard, employing an even higher planting density to stress the vines, thereby enhancing grape concentration.

Marimar’s exploratory spirit led her to experiment with Spanish grape varieties starting in 2004, introducing Albariño, Tempranillo, and later Godello in 2017. The initial attempt to grow Albariño on the Sonoma coast was relocated to the warmer Don Miguel Vineyard, where it flourished. Embracing sustainability, the winery transitioned to 100% renewable energy in 2015, utilizing solar panels and electric tractors to minimize its carbon footprint. Marimar continues to produce an array of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, along with exceptional Godello, Tempranillo, and Albariño wines, perfectly suited to the Russian River Valley’s climate.

The wines of the afternoon: Albariño, Chardonnay, Godello and Pinot Noir.

From Vine to Table: A Tasting Journey with Marimar Estate’s Finest

Before our lunch started we had a short introduction and tasting of 5 of Marimar’s wines. What follows is a review of each individual wine, complete with the dish it was paired with. 

We started our lunch with some small bites, a tartelette with mushroom and coquille and a shiso tempura with Castelfranco. Very tasty one-bite snacks, great start for lunch, and combined with a glass of Marimar Estate Albariño 2020 (91-point DWA score). An early harvested wine (2nd of September) which was whole cluster pressed and fermented in stainless steel. Bottled in May 2021 the wine gave us aromas of honeysuckle, star jasmine, some pear and peach. Classic minerality kept the wine fresh, crisp and even a bit salty. The ideal start of our lunch. 

The first course was a tartare of ‘Hollandse fles’ (Dutch Calamari), almond and chamomile. We were poured the Marimar Estate Chardonnay Unoaked Acero 2020 (94-point DWA score). A wine which has been made and perfected since 2005. Acero is the Spanish word for steel and refers to the fact that the wine has never seen any oak. Harvested around the 25th of September the wine was whole cluster pressed and cold fermented. After the primary fermentation the wine was bottled in May 2021. Intense bright floral notes such as jasmine combine with fruits like apple and pear. A touch of blossom and apricot in the finish are paired with nice fresh tropical hints. The wine was paired perfectly, matching with the almond milk in the dish and the savory touch of small basil leaves. The saltiness of the squid really extended the flavor of this perfectly balanced Chardonnay. 

We were also poured the Marimar Estate Godello 2021 (93-point DWA score), a beautiful mix between Spain and California. This grape is known to yield perfect wines in the rainy cool climate of Valdeorras in Galicia, Spain. Clearly this variety also thrives in Russian River Valley. The result is a glass of sunshine and fruit, lots of notes of pear, apple, melon, gardenias and apricot, as well as some floral notes and refreshing minerality. A nice aftertaste with some complex body and roundness, inherited from its vinification, 54% in stainless steel and 46 % in concrete eggs for over 6 months on its own lees. 

The second course was a nice ‘steak’ of monkfish with saffron beurre blanc and pine nuts. Perfectly cooked fish with a rich and creamy sauce, asking for a nice Chardonnay with a lot of body. The Marimar Estate La Masía Chardonnay 2021 (95-point DWA score) is exactly what we needed! The grapes were harvested in mid-September and then gently whole cluster pressed. Then barrel fermented in French oak, using 33% new oak. After undergoing 100% malolactic fermentation the wine was aged on its lees for nine months, and bottled in August 2022. Perfectly balanced wine with the right amount of fruitiness, such as lemon, apple, pineapple, tangerine, honey and lemon custard, combined with a pleasant touch of nuttiness, some brioche and vanilla. The mouthfeel is fresh, yet rich and creamy, great to drink now, specially paired with this monkfish, but this wine will also continue to develop for at least 15 more years in the bottle. 

Our main course consisted of Anjou Pigeon, breast from the barbecue and confit leg with ushi kuri of pumpkin and savoy cabbage. Served with the only red of the day, the Marimar Estate Pinot Noir La Masía 2019 (95-point DWA score). Harvested between the 4th and 14th of September, destemmed and fermented in small stainless-steel tanks. Aged in premium French barrels, of which 36% new oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, in August 2020. Packed with flavor, raspberries, cherry, orange peel, saffron and violets but also some rose petals, blackberry and a hint of pepper. Soft and balanced tannins in the aftertaste, with some hints of lavender and faded roses. Appealing and easy to drink now, especially for Pinot Noir lovers, but certainly still beautiful in the upcoming 15 years. 

Marimar Estate wines paired perfectly at Restaurant Coulisse.

Cheers to Marimar: A Culinary Harmony at Coulisse

We enjoyed a great lunch at Coulisse in Amsterdam with high-quality dishes, perfectly balanced to pair the wines. After this encounter we totally understand why Marimar Estate is well-known for her beautiful balanced wines, with their typical California taste and a zest of Spain. 

Marimar is a leading lady in the wine business, who has put much effort and passion in her wines, continuing the Torres Legacy overseas. A must try for California Chardonnay drinkers, but also suited for the experimental Albariño lovers. We say cheers to the female winemakers!   

This article is written by our own Martin Coenen. We would like to thank Marimar for her great stories and the excellent wines, as well as Restaurant Coulisse for the delicious lunch and well-choosen pairings. In addition, we want to thank Pitch PR for organizing this event and Dutch importer Walraven-Sax for the opportunity to join. Picture credits: Wesley Olland and Dutch Wine Apprentice.

Marimar Estate is imported by Walraven-Sax and available through associated resellers and hospitality partners throughout the Netherlands.