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Tempranillo showing potential in Sonoma, says Marimar Torres

Early signs suggest Tempranillo could find a new home in northern California's Sonoma County, says local vineyard owner Marimar Torres, part of Spain's Torres family of winemakers.

The recent 2013 harvest at Marimar Estate. There are high expectations for the 2013 vintage wines.

After experimenting with just 400 vines of Tempranillo in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley area for most of the past decade, Marimar Torres believes the quality is now good enough to produce a single varietal wine.

‘We were not able to make a single bottling until this year and it’s beautiful,’ Torres told Decanter.com during a visit to London this week during which she showed her estate’s signature Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, including the unoaked ‘Acero’ Chardonnay.

Tempranillo has seen a sharper increase in global plantings than any other grape variety in the past decade, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

It is still early days in California, and industry figures show it accounts for less than 1% of the state’s total vineyard area.

Most of that is in the Central Coast area, but Torres planted Tempranillo in Russian River in 2004 and began blending it with 80% Syrah in 2007, using wine from the 2005 vintage.

There is currently only 0.4ha of Tempranillo in the ground at her Don Miguel vineyard in Russian River’s Green Valley sub-appellation, but she intends to plant more in the next year.

That is likely to mean a single varietal Tempranillo won’t hit the market for another four years. ‘You have to be patient and expect a long life, because it takes time,’ she said.

More immediately, Torres is launching a single varietal Albarino in the UK, having first produced the wine from the 2010 vintage at her Dona Margarita estate, around five miles down the road from Dona Miguel, just inside the Sonoma Coast appellation.

The Albarino will replace the Dobles Lias Chardonnay in the UK. ‘It costs a lot to produce and it wasn’t really selling very well,’ Torres said, ‘but we’ll still sell it direct through our Club Marimar’.

Torres is a shareholder in the Spanish Torres business algonside other family members, including her brother, Miguel, but she has always run Marimar Estate separately since first planting vines in California in 1986. ‘I’m a shareholder, so I keep an eye on what’s going on, but that’s it,’ she said of the Torres business.

Written by Chris Mercer

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