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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Effortlessly Hip - Scribe is one of Sonoma’s hottest wineries

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
It would be easy to miss the road to Scribe if not for the iconic mile-long palm tree lined dirt road that leads to an epic white Hacienda.  At the end of this road, we alighted at a magestic white edifice. Strangely, it looked to be abandoned and would have caused us some confusion had we not heard music wafting through the air coming from a rustic, chic building just a short way up the road. Realizing that this other building was the Scribe tasting room, we quickly changed course, passing organic gardens, wildflowers, and sun-speckled pristine grapevines to get there, a couple minutes away. Though the tasting room sits just a mile off the road, we felt like we had entered a new wilderness of wine country that was authentically sexy. 

Scribe is part of a growing revolution of winemakers who are electing to share their wine in intimate settings sans fancy tasting rooms, and in the process scoring a robust following of evangelists and fans. After Scribe's opening in 2009, the young owners and vintners, Andrew and Adam Mariani, quickly became darlings of the wine world, known almost as much for their incredible parties at Scribe’s Hacienda as for their beautifully austere wines.

30 year old Andrew Mariani purchased the Scribe estate, which lies three miles east of the Sonoma Square, in hopes that the old hacienda and surrounding acres of land would be the perfect spot to make wine using wild yeasts.  The now dilapidated hacienda was built a century ago by two bootlegger brothers from Germany and renovation is set to start in July, 2014, to build it into the central winery and tasting room.  For now, Scribe wine can be tasted by visitors in the most natural agrarian style - set out on picnic benches with a side of organic fruits, nuts, cheese and olives under hundred year old oak trees overlooking the Carneros region all the way to San Pablo Bay.  While Scribe is sold at a few restaurants (such as Bouchon, Napa), it's not widely distributed and mainly available for sale only via the wine club or purchased at the tasting room.

The Scribe credo is to experience wine is in a natural way; people sitting down together and eating, drinking and talking while enjoying the wine as a complementary sensory experience. When we arrived at Scribe, we were welcomed by several staff who all had a genuine camaraderie and pride in the Scribe winery, its philosophy and its patrons. Our host, Emma encouraged us to plop down at any location outside on the hilltop underneath the oak trees. We settled into the relaxed environment from our perch on a sunny picnic table overlooking the valley. As upbeat music played from the outdoor speakers, we were delivered an artisanal plate of cheese, green olives, one beautiful fresh organically grown apricot and walnuts, sourced locally from from Andrew’s uncle’s farm.

We first tasted a star bright Sylvaner (a German varietal similar to a Riesling), one of the original grape varietals planted on the Scribe estate. Later moved on to a beautiful Riesling, Chardonnay, and several Pinot Noir wines, notable was the 2013 unfiltered Pinot Noir a beautifully balanced and elegant wine. Rare is it to find the owner of a trend-setting new winery available on a Saturday to join in and genuinely connect with visitors, but Andrew is the exception. He came to sit and talk with us, welcoming us as if we were guests at his home.  We tasted the Riesling together as Andrew recounted his passion for winemaking at the young age of 24 while working on a winery in Greece. Mariani’s philosophy is to give the wine “the freedom to do its own thing”, including allowing the wild yeasts that live on the grapes to start the fermentation process, instead of adding commercial yeasts.
Mariani and his partners, wine-industry veterans Kristof Nils Anderson and Andrew Avellar (Mariani's uncle), are now growing 35 acres of Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner. Scribe Winery also buys grapes from Carneros and leases vineyard property in Napa on Atlas Peak, which they call Scribe Outpost East making a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon both of which were sold out at the time of our tasting - how’s that for creating demand?

In addition to growing vines, Mariani has planted an acre of organic fruits and vegetables, rotating plants seasonally, has 150 acres of nature preserves brimming with wildlife, and an apiary that produces honey. One friendly staff mentions that one of his roles working at the winery is to pick fresh produce (and often give it away to visitors), collect eggs from the chicken coops and handle other farm-related tasks.  Scribe is of the recent trend of wineries trying to stay true to being a farm first and foremost. More and more California wineries are offering unique experiences that are becoming more about a style of winemaking and how wine is shared with people which is progressively moving away from overcrowded fancy tasting bars that showcases wines only after they’ve been bottled. 

As the name denotes, Scribe starts with the story of how the wine came to be, told and tasted in the actual environment that the fruit grows in. Andrew quotes, “farms generally don’t have grand tasting rooms”, and so the outdoor picnic benches fit the bill. There is a hip-looking demographic at the winery - it’s buzzing with people, but not overcrowded. Scribe doesn’t do any traditional marketing; word of mouth has garnered the cult following that continues to grow. They host parties for their wine club, partnering often with local chefs to create perfect food and wine pairings, and partner with popular DJ friends. Authenticity, family, farmers...Scribe tells the story of the wine and its history and it is beautiful with exciting chapters to come.

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