As I pulled up the gravel road leading to Scribe Winery, I could already see the signs that this place is different. Groups of 20- and 30-somethings sat at picnic tables in the mid-afternoon sunlight while their dogs bounced around in the grass. When we made our way up the hill, my travel companion and I were invited to sit at a table under a tree, and soon an ever-so-slightly scruffy guy with blue eyes and a wide-brimmed hat sauntered over.
It was Andrew Mariani, who owns Scribe along with his brother Adam. Hospitality manager Lauren Feldman, who was preparing for the Wine & Spirits Education Trust exam, brought over a bottle of Riesling and explained the philosophy behind Scribe, which is about the connection of people to a place.
“We want the wines to speak of this place with this amazing history, but also to have a connection to us and to each other,” Lauren said. “Wines are always best when shared around a table with good conversation and a warm, serene environment.” That’s exactly how visiting Scribe feels.
Napa has been changing as of late—becoming hipper, more design-conscious and laid-back, but in nearby Sonoma, Scribe Winery is paving the way for the next generation of winemakers and consumers. Since they bought the property in 2007, the Mariani brothers have been restoring the land (a run-down turkey farm when they acquired it) to its original state, creating sustainable wines, and encouraging people to taste them on their own terms. There’s no fancy tasting room and minimal presentation. Instead, Bay Area techies and creative types lounge on Mexican blankets on the grass or sit at picnic tables in front of the winery, sampling the offerings and snacking on fruit and nuts grown on the property. Rather than lecturing about the grape varietals, the brothers and their team take a more conversational approach.
This is the place to go to try California’s new wave wines. On the 40-acre property they grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sylvaner grapes, and they’ve got another 150 acres nearby. Their Riesling is pleasantly dry, and the Pinot Noir is delicate, but the most intriguing wine they’re currently producing is the Chardonnay made with fermented grape skins, done in the style of Slovenian orange wines. Golden in color, it tastes complex, earthy and funky on the palate. Their fans are a who’s who of the Bay Area’s best chefs: Alice Waters and Jérôme Waag of Chez Panisse, Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine, Thomas McNaughton of Central Kitchen, and Sylvan Mishima Brackett of Izakaya Rintaro, to name just a few.
After the tasting, we wandered the grounds, admiring the olive trees and peach trees. Just beyond, we could see the century-old hacienda. The Mariani brothers are currently renovating it with plans to make a tasting room, rooms for visiting friends and suppliers, and a sort of subterranean speakeasy (though they balk at that term) to revive the tradition. In digging up the property’s history, they found that the original owners—also two winemaking brothers—operated a speakeasy during Prohibition. A visit to Scribe will show how they’re paving the way for the winery’s future while honoring its past.